Tower 14 Capital Founder John Sauter
John Sauter believes working from home will have a long-term effect on U.S. cities. As the founder and president Los Angeles-based Tower 14 Capital, an investment firm focused on real estate, and a senior advisor at Dune Real Estate Partners, he’s focused on how to deploy capital as the world emerges from the grip of Covid-19. Markets that depend heavily on travel seem to be poised to have to the steepest recoveries, he said.
In an interview with Exec Edge, Mr. Sauter said the challenge of being an entrepreneur is striking the right balance in life and work. The full interview is below:
Exec Edge: What do you see as your three greatest accomplishments?
Personally, my greatest accomplishment would be my marriage and the family my wife and I have built. We have three beautiful children: Sam, Austin, and Grace. Professionally, I am very proud of the long-term relationships I have forged and maintained in the real estate industry. Over my nearly 30-year career, I have tried (not always successfully) to treat people fairly and to act with integrity. I have many long-term friends who have stood by me, brought me great joy, and consistently opened doors for me to interesting investments and partnerships.
Exec Edge: Who or what has shaped who you are?
I was shaped by the terrific education my parents provided for me, and by surviving a variety of disappointing setbacks in both my childhood and my adult-life. I have been lucky to realize that often only through suffering and sorrow come meaning and growth. For me at least, in these moments, I have noticed my character has improved, making me more grateful and more compassionate over time.
Exec Edge: Can you tell me about a tough day you had at work and how you pushed through?
The tough days at work generally involve an unexpected setback or problem. It is important to be patient and to make sure to gather as many facts as possible. In my experience, there is always an answer. The team just needs to create the right frame of mind to allow the optimal solution to present itself.
Exec Edge: How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be collaborative and consistent. For me it is important for a leader to be:
1) Technically Capable – Know your business, industry, role, etc.
2) Emotionally Open – Share the truth with your team and let them know that you are all in this together, whether on good days or bad
3) Reliable – Be on time, available, engaged, and kind
Exec Edge: What important lessons have you learned from this pandemic/national crisis?
We can find peace and our footing in even the most unusual and challenging of times. We can figure out a way forward with just a little patience, hard work, and compassion.
Exec Edge: Do you have a favorite quote?
There are so many. “Love they neighbor as thyself” is hopefully the one that most influences my choices and behavior. I also like “Be good and do good.”
Exec Edge: How has real estate investing changed over the last 10 years as technology has evolved?
There is a lot more capital and crowd-funding is beginning to have a meaningful impact on the market. One must now also pay very close attention to the impacts of technology and changing customer preferences. Not many imagined the near death of the regional mall, the impact of Airbnb on hotels, or the emergence of data centers as critical infrastructure. These types of impacts and disruptions will only multiply and accelerate in the coming years.
Exec Edge: Looking ahead to 2021, what are you looking forward to? What do you hope to accomplish in the year ahead and how do you intend to do so?
I hope to continue to grow Tower 14 and do the right thing for our investors. In particular, we will look for creative and careful ways to deploy capital as the world (hopefully) emerges from the grip of COVID. We will continue to hire the bright and the curious while partnering with experts that possess complimentary skills and resources.
Exec Edge: How do you maintain a balanced work and home life? Do you have any tips or tricks you can share?
Another one of my favorite sayings is: “The most important thing you do every day is what you do before you do anything.” For me it is incredibly important that I carve out 1-2 hours each morning to listen to inspiring music, pray, stretch, and exercise. In my opinion, we must recommit each day to our family, to our goals, and to values like charity, humility, and kindness. Even if I am super busy and travelling like crazy, I will make it a point to find at least 15 minutes to get grounded and keep myself on track.
Exec Edge: Many young Americans are joining an increasingly unstable workforce. Can you share the best advice you received as a young person searching for employment? Any other words of wisdom?
The best advice I received as a young person was to find peace in my relationships to God, to my family, and to my commitment to be kind. Circumstances will never give us sure footing, but these things certainly will. From there, it does not matter where you start. You will find your way. The road is always made by walking, so try not to worry. Many of the best things in life take a long time and patience more than anything.
Exec Edge: Some of the first and most prominent victims of the pandemic, especially in densely populated urban areas were commercial and residential real estate. How would you describe what has happened to real estate, where it is most pronounced, why is it important, and how is it connected to the long-term health of the country?
New York City, San Francisco, Boston, and Chicago are the major cities that have been the hardest hit. The density that made them so vibrant became an Achilles heel during Covid. People will come back to these cities, but it will take time. With that said, the realization that many of us can work from remote locations will also have a long-term effect on society. You will see some people not return to these cities because they do not have to, or do not want to go back.
I have always said people work for (in that order):
1) A Sense of Community
2) To Learn
3) To Make Money
In my opinion, it is hard to feel a real sense of community or to learn very efficiently without being together in an office. Therefore, the office is not going away, but it will be profoundly changed and must be re-imagined.
Exec Edge: Are there any particular markets about which you are excited for in the coming year or two?
From an investment standpoint, markets that depend heavily on travel like Hawaii, Las Vegas, and Orlando would seem to be poised to have to steepest recoveries.