We don’t know everything
True, how little do we know! No I am not talking about the subject of our individual expertise area. I am just observing a fact that being for example an out and out academician when you face the problem of commenting on the price of a prime old property you may feel totally at sea. At least that was what I felt.
The trouble of being a problem solver
It’s not that I disclose to everyone that I am a Problem Solver. I know any normal person will raise her dainty brows and a half smile will indicate her doubt about my sanity. This friend of mine was though an exception. I have been visiting his little shop many years. Over a long time we came to know each other more closely and developed a mutual respect. I have forgotten when I told him that I am a problem solver. He apparently accepted that with no special reaction.
A few years ago when I walked into his shop, he just looked at me and with barely suppressed agitation muttered in a whisper, “Sir, please come out of the shop with me. I have something to tell you. It is very important and extremely confidential.” Apparently he wanted to be away even from his two assistants.
Reaching a relatively secluded corner of the street, he finally came out with his important secret. I concurred – yes, the case deserved to be classified as very important and confidential to him.
In a hushed voice he started his disclosure, “Sir, a big property is on sale and the aged owner would sell only through me. He trusts only me. Please give me your advice.”
I was duly shocked and conveyed my feelings to him in no uncertain terms, “What? Do you take me for a property dealer? How can I comment on anything related to a property?”
A problem solver can’t finally refuse to take up a problem
Being an aged and capable man, his methods were also tenacious. Finally with half a heart into the problem, I asked him the first crucial question, “What is the price you are getting?” A figure in terms of many Crores (a Crore is 10 million) was way beyond me. But I was in no position to back out now. Pushing ahead I asked for more details. He even showed me the hot property. He had the keys.
Specification and verification
We were not in a position to tape measure the rooms when the owner sitting still behind a heavy desk looked at me with deep suspicion, but being adept in assessing floor area of a room with only a look I could easily form an estimate of the total available space. It checked well with his figures.
When in a job, I never fully rely on statements made to me. I verify the facts myself. How can I bypass the powerful Principle of Verification!
Truly, such a real-estate doesn’t often come up for sale. It was a prime property, I had to admit.
But what should be my focus area – price or the buyer, I wondered. From the description of the buyer, I felt him not to be a totally acceptable buyer. I told my friend, “If possible, try to find a new buyer. This man seems to me not fully trustworthy. This is a high end property. Don’t go for the first buyer. Wait for some more time.” I felt it to be good general advice.
What about the price? I had no idea about the price. I told him, “At this moment I can only say, the price you are getting seems to me low. But I can’t comment anything more substantial than this.”
With a parting, “I will try to make a price estimate”, I took leave of him. His final request was, “Sir, please keep the details confidential.” I assured him, “You know me. It will remain confidential.”
Consult the expert technique
I was using consciously the technique of consulting a right man for many years.
First, you have to find the right man. Better, if you can find two or three right people.
Two advantages in this multi-expert consulting,
- Chances of effective advice increases greatly.
- Cross-checking is possible if more than one advice of value you get.
Second, you have to put the right question to an expert in the right manner. An inexperienced person may not get anything out of an expert even if I offer the expert to him on a platter. Two things are important,
- Right questions
- Right manner of asking.
Some amount of beforehand analysis always helps.
Analysis and Consulting
While coming home I remembered two possible men whom I can ask for a price estimate. But should I ask for the total price? No, I decided. Rate per square feet should be good enough in this case, I felt sure.
The difficulty lay in forming the question because of the strict confidentiality issue. I couldn’t give any hint about the location of the property to my expert and still I had to get a useful answer. What a problem! The situation was further complicated because of the fact that the expert, actually dealing with buying and selling properties won’t get any gain out of this.
My first contact failed, but the second one, a very capable and good man gave me rates prevailing in the main areas all along a long and wide road cutting through the middle of Kolkata, which I call, the spine of Kolkata. That great inside information was enough for me to form a good estimate.
I applied to this crucial rate per square feet in various important areas information, my further knowledge about the age, quality, environment and location of the property to form a final estimate. You have to apply your analytical acumen on the information gathered from the expert. Isn't it?
I conveyed to my shopkeeper friend just a single figure that was 50% more than his price and then promptly forgot all about it.
A year later when I entered his shop, he came rushing out and took me to the same quiet spot on the street. This time his face was beaming, “Sir you have done a great thing for me. We got the exact price you told me. The owner is so happy he wants to meet you.”
Quite alarmed I responded with forced calm, “Well, I spent only a little more than half an hour on this. It is nothing. It happened just by chance. If you are happy that is enough. The case is over.” I dragged him back to his shop.
Leaving aside all this rigmarole of problem solving principles and techniques, I feel I was lucky and the gains from my fortunate breakthrough was passed on to my good friend by the wish of the all pervading power that nurtures us. No sane man should undertake such an endeavour. At least I won’t again!
Note: Starting price was Rs. 12 crores and final price was Rs. 18 crores. Mark that I still have not disclosed any identification details. So the story may wholly be a product of my occasionally fertile imagination!