Small Developer Advice - Second Week

Hey guys,

Started at a small developer a few weeks ago and I wanted to know what some other's did to keep track of different tasks and make the most of it. The firm has 4-5 people in different areas I work with on the development side (finance, legal, construction, asset management, etc). There is another associate and we both work under someone, but there are also side tasks with other guys in the office. Seems to point to wearing more than one hat at a lean shop. Guys are there to help, but it's also a learn on your own environment.

  • What have you done to stay organized? (I've used email reminders, notebook, sticky notes, and making a weekly to do list that I have it on my desk). No real tracking software.
  • Candidly it is also an aggressive environment, anything to do to get used to that or does getting thicker skin come over time? (Assuming it does). 
  • Part of the first point, but how do you organize your emails?
  • What to do about random non job related BS (help owners with any personal things they need) that as a part of the culture is what is expected and probably would not go over well if you declined so I don't think that's an option. - would never fly at a more corporate place, but at their own company there really are no rules, advice? Just part of the job?

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Comments (12)

Sep 2, 2021 - 4:02am

I use Trello as a to-do list. It allows me to make separate lists and new boards for different tasks and topics.

I don't have a email organizing method, although am curious to hear others.

For the irrelevant tasks the owners give you, I would definitely just suck it up and do them (assuming it's not anything illegal or out of the ordinary). The risk/reward of "standing up" for yourself is not skewed well in your favour in terms of stopping these asks. Best case he stops asking for favours. Worst case you get iced out and/or let go once they find replacement. I don't mean to sound cynical but just my 2 cents.

Most Helpful
Sep 2, 2021 - 10:43am

​​​​​​I too work for a smaller shop. 

  1. My firm uses Wrike ( to stay organized. There's a fee, but I don't believe it's very expensive. Prior to adopting this, I made my own checklists and to-do lists. I have an absolute terrible memory, so I'm religious about writing everything down. 
  2. My firm is also unnecessarily aggressive - mostly due to the in-house construction managers and lack of any real HR. You learn to deal with it. Just like in middle school, stand up for yourself and don't get bullied. Know your shit too - people ultimately respect knowledge and productivity. 
  3. I delete bullshit and mark anything I need to address as unread. The notifications bother me, so I address them in bulk to clear them out. 
  4. Pull your weight but don't be taken advantage of. You'll learn the difference. I order snacks and supplies for the office via Amazon since we don't have any secretaries or office managers and I sometimes organize happy hours, for instance, but I'm not about to go get the owner coffee or pick up his dry cleaning. Learn the difference between doing the blocking and tackling versus doing the bitch work. 

Commercial Real Estate Developer

  • 10
Sep 2, 2021 - 2:56pm

It's been pretty useful so far - particularly in the pre-construction phase when there are a lot of people on our team (me - the developer, our preconstruction manager, our construction operations manager, our finance director) all working to kick the deal off sometimes together, sometimes independently, sometimes on the same call, sometimes not on the same call, etc. It's almost an internal "social media" + a task list + note taking. 

Commercial Real Estate Developer

  • 1
Sep 2, 2021 - 12:55pm

I'm also at a small development shop wearing lots of different hats.

  • Here's what i do to keep organized
    • Notebooks/notepads for taking notes on calls/meetings
    • Sticky notes for anything i know that needs to be done and is immediate but I can't get to right on the spot
    • spreadsheets for tracking different criteria for each project, everything from utility status, project status, loan status, ap, insurance, etc. Those can all be separate or you can group some together to better summarize consolidate. I'll admit this can take some time until you find it's effectiveness just because there are so many different tools and it doesn't quite offer timing reminds that tracking software might be better able to
    • I'm not using any organizational software, but previously did in other roles and am thinking of using it here
  • You definitely have to be aggressive because your shop is lean. Everyone's attention is pulled in multiple directions, so you really have to be aggressive to get someone's attention whether that's with your own team or parties you deal with externally. You'll definitely learn to be more reactive when you realize passive actions don't really return much for you
  • organizing emails-- I generally try to keep pace and respond or take action as they come in. i try not to let them linger. I'll flag the stuff that is low priority or doesn't need an immediate response. If it's a high item i can't get to, use a sticky note so i see it. I've always been organized as it is and good at remember certain things so your experience with this may vary. I'll also add that I'm big on making phone calls and getting answers on the spot rather than typing up big emails so there's less back and forth
    • I might recommend start to read emails pretty early in the morning when the business day hasn't officially started so that you can focus on answering emails
    • For irrelevant emails or stuff that doesn't require you, delete those or move it to a separate folder so your inbox doesn't get cluttered
  • This just goes back to wearing different hats. It should really be small administrative things that aren't taking a significant amount of time. Things like ordering lunch for the team or a meeting, troubleshooting a copier jam, ordering supplies, etc. are pretty normal. These things shouldn't really occur all that much, and your boss should know what your main priorities are.
  • 9
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Sep 2, 2021 - 2:21pm

My recommendations: 

1. Create a different outlook folder for each project and file project specific emails accordingly. 

2. I like to separate my computer files and thoughts into a few different buckets: Due Diligence (environmental, geotech, tax, title/survey, zoning, etc.); Contracts (PSA, JV, consultant agreements); Entitlements (submittals, meetings, checklists, etc.); Design (floor plans, elevations, plan sets, etc.); Construction (schedules, permits, PCOs, submittals); Financial (accounting, financial report, pay apps, requisitions, expense reimbursements).  I personally don't keep written checklists (all mental) but find it helpful to think about each individual category and what i might need to do for each, specific to each individual project.

Sep 3, 2021 - 5:35pm

- I use a combo of my email inbox and notepad to stay up to date with items. If it's in my inbox it's either a to-do or a reminder to follow up. Definitely useful to just throw items on your calendar as well, especially if you remember something you need to do every week or month. 

- I think it's something you just need to get used to and get thick skin. It's obviously not supposed to be toxic, but it's a business where you need to be on the lookout for your interests because all the parties you're working with are going to be looking out for themselves. A GC isn't going to eat that cost because they're nice, consultants aren't just going to do additional scope because you asked nicely, so it might feel like a battle a lot of the time, and it kinda is. Working construction was great at getting into that mentality and getting used to just calling someone and telling them what to do (it was definitely weird being 22 and telling supers and PMs who were double my age what to do, but it get's better with time). 

- I have a pretty complex email folder setup. I manage 4 projects right now and each one has a similar "shell". First top level folder is internal, then GP partner, then LP partner, then Debt, then Design team, then Construction, then any misc people that pop up. Plenty of sub-folders in each (i.e. Internal will have general internal, accounting, asset management, etc., Construction will have GC, CM, other construction trades that are contracted with us, like a fencing sub, surveyor, geotech, etc.). Emails (ingoing and outgoing, it's important to file your sent emails, imo, helps keep track of what you've sent to who and when) all get filed as soon as they are no longer relevant aka I completed the action item I had to do. I try to file sent emails once a week, but I don't always get to it. I try to keep my inbox to under 30 emails at any given time, ideal is under 20. Right now I'm at 74 and need to clean it up, I can probably get it to 25 by EOD. 

- I'd recommend doing work that you can do and if you really start to get swamped just communicate that and say it might have to get pushed because of XYZ, etc.

Sep 7, 2021 - 10:16pm

I usually file them as soon as they're no longer relevant, so it happens all the time. Probably no more than 5 mins a day for my inbox. Sent mail I do in larger batches, every few weeks so that probably takes like 45 minutes. It goes by a lot quicker if you sort by who it's being sent to as opposed to the default date. 

And I developed a fairly informal method of determining who it gets filed under. I usually pick whoever is higher on the food chain/more important on the email chain, so to speak. So if it's a conversation between the electrician and the architect, it goes under the architect. Between the LP and the architect, under the LP. But it's a bit of an art at that point and less of a science. Luckily Outlook's search function is pretty good so even if it's not in the exactly perfect folder I'm still usually able to find emails pretty quickly.

  • Analyst 1 in RE - Comm
Sep 4, 2021 - 9:11pm

Guys great comments thank you - follow up question. So obviously what my focus is is getting ironed out, but I'm helping wherever is needed right now, I don't think I'll be getting a lot of modeling reps since there's someone who focuses on that and I don't think they have Argus.

Any advice for getting more of what I want to get out of it? Say going from this smaller developer to a Dev and Acquisitions role at a bigger/well known firm. They're probably expecting good technical understanding so how do I get that if my focus most likely isn't putting together pro forma and development budgets? (I'll be helping, but not the main one). Also, can anyone speak from a Related, Silverstein, Shvo, Witkoff, JDS (that type of brand firm doing large projects in NYC area which is my goal) how they would look at this varied experience. To me they're more siloed into one aspect of maybe one project on a team, where as I'm seeing and doing everything from agreements, to property/asset management, etc.

Is that experience just a strength in itself, for those who do similar and don't have a huge financial role how you compensating outside of work for this? Is it a given that you know it and better to not mention it if asked at new roles? Obviously still very early for me, but want to have a plan for moving in a year or two if I have an opportunity.

Sep 5, 2021 - 1:37pm

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