July 20, 2019, was my 32nd anniversary at CWS. After college, I moved down to Orange County to be with Roneet to start our lives together. She had recently begun her career at Nordstrom that would be the start of a meteoric rise to upper management over her 10 years there. I was not so certain about what I wanted to do other than to get into the world of investments. With her prompting, she told me to get out the door and get in the game and go find a job. I had no connections in Orange County so I pounded the pavement. To my amazement, I landed a job at CWS as a property analyst. I never knew I wanted to be in real estate. I have been with the firm ever since. And it was the best decision of my life besides marrying Roneet.
This is the first anniversary since Roneet’s passing and it is a cause for reflection. I gave a speech at my 30th-anniversary dinner that the company was so kind to hold for me and I said the following about how important and instrumental she was in my progress and success I have had in my career.
“You have always been there for me through thick and thin. You have been about investing in life and relationships fully by committing your boundless love to those who need you and who you need in return. You have been about being a devoted wife, mom, friend, daughter, and citizen. You have been committed to not leaving anything on the field when the game is over. Living life without regrets.”
Little did I know that 15 months later she would have left the field. I always thought we would be on that field together into our later years. I really enjoyed playing the game of life with her. We were always on the same page when it came to our goals, values, how we wanted to raise our kids, and our approach to life. We were very different but we overlapped in these important areas. Neither of us brought anything of financial substance to the marriage but together we possessed the drive, curiosity, a willingness to take prudent risks, energy, ambition, senses of humor, and enjoyed the pleasure of each other’s company.
Roneet was always so supportive and yet she was never afraid to hold me accountable to perform at the level she knew I was capable. She also knew my blind spots and she was the first person to make me aware of them when they were getting in the way of my growth or stopped me from addressing issues she thought I needed to handle.
I could never have done what I’ve done without the extraordinary partners in my life and she was the primary one. Next to Roneet the most important partners in my life have been Steve Sherwood and Mike Engels at CWS. They have truly made me a better person and I have been so blessed to have been tied so closely to them all of these years.
I am constantly amazed by their brilliance, wisdom, impeccable ethics, willingness to confront difficult issues, extraordinary competence, and their willingness to accept me fully and be open to my thoughts and ideas. In addition to my wonderful partners, I have also had the extraordinary honor of working with an amazing team of people that are so competent and such a delight to work with. It has been so gratifying to see so many people achieve wonderful levels of success and satisfaction as a result of committing to having their careers be with CWS. The culture we have at CWS is quite special and it is exemplified by the significant number of people that have been with us for more than 10 years as well as a number of people that, like me, have over 30 years as well. They are my second family and after Roneet passed away their outpouring of love and support is something I will never forget and could never repay. I will forever be grateful to my CWS family for being there for me in my darkest hours. I also could not begin to heal without having them to return to.
I’m now at a point where the benefits of what I was helping to create at CWS no longer flow to Roneet and I. Everything we created together was destined for our kids and others but now that has changed in that I don’t have my partner who was there from day one to share the successes and challenges. Now the focus is on my kids and beginning to educate them about how CWS works and the benefits of being invested with the firm. I want to do my best to make sure they are good trustees and not just beneficiaries. I am also very focused on allocating some of the resources in ways that honor Roneet’s memory philanthropically. This has been very gratifying for me and something I look forward to continuing for the rest of my life.
Now the focus is on my kids and beginning to educate them about how CWS works and the benefits of being invested with the firm. I want to do my best to make sure they are good trustees and not just beneficiaries.Click To Tweet
Over the last few years, Roneet became more connected to the company and this is something that made me very happy. She took on an important role in helping to plan and execute our annual investor meeting that has grown in attendance of 400 to 500 people each year.
She loved our investors and wanted to make sure that they had an extraordinarily positive and intimate experience at these meetings. She came to be friendly with a number of them and was committed to doing her part to bring to life our company purpose statement of Enhancing Lives The CWS Way. She left her mark in so many ways and for that, I’m so proud and I intend to continue to honor her memory and to do all I can to enhance the lives of the important stakeholders of CWS. These include our employees, investors, residents, as well as our key service providers.
So where do I go from here?
As I was working on my book I crystallized a personal purpose statement that has helped me continue to be able to come to work with enthusiasm and a desire to keep helping the company move forward in spite of having lost my wife and best friend. That statement is:
Creating wealth through discovery, effort, and teaching.
In my book, I discuss how wealth goes far beyond the financial realm. It involves a life of purpose and deep satisfaction part of which requires doing what is necessary to persevere and build-up the muscle of resilience that is needed as life can be very hard. It will inevitably throw us curve balls and pose immense challenges and we need that reservoir of strength and resilience to not let it defeat us. This is something I have come to learn even more intently in the wake of Roneet’s passing.
I love the research and discovery process and I enjoy committing myself to something that I care about and I’m interested in. This is the discovery and effort component. Once those insights have been generated I try to gain buy-in through teaching and explaining why I think these insights can have a meaningful impact on the company whether it be taking advantage of opportunities or avoiding risks that may lead to permanent loss of capital. I particularly enjoy communicating to our investors why we are doing what we’re doing as I think it’s important that they have an understanding of the thought process of CWS’ decision-makers. I hope to do my part to continue to generate important, trajectory-altering insights that can add to the wealth of our investors and employees that have the potential of deeply enhancing their lives.
I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished in the over three decades I’ve been at CWS.
I estimate that when I arrived on the scene we had a portfolio of 100% manufactured housing communities worth approximately $250 million and today we are almost 100% apartments with an estimated market value of about $5 billion. And during this time we have generated very compelling overall returns for which I am extremely proud.* Through these returns, many of our investors have been able to improve the quality of their lives. And now we are being honored with second and third generations of our investors being involved with CWS which also is a wonderful honor and testament to what we have been able to accomplish.
I lost my life partner with whom I was on a wonderful journey in which we were both strapped into the front seat come hell or high water. I never thought she would have exited so soon and, as a result, life will never be the same. Nothing is permanent and change is the only constant. I have no choice but to accept this and roll with the punches of life.
I’m not moving on but I am moving forward and I’ll be taking Roneet’s spirit and her love and commitment with me to play my small part to help create wealth and to enhance the lives of those with whom I have the honor to interact over my remaining days.
- A complete list of all CWS recommendations and current holdings is available upon request from our Investor Relations team. Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.
A beautiful and heartfelt piece. We are all so proud of what you have accomplished and all the great things that are ahead of you to experience personally and professionally.
Gary, you have made a huge difference in the quality and quantity of CWS’s growth and in growing the people around you. I am proud to be a friend, investor in CWS and one of your top supporters.