ASA Norcal President’s Message for November 2011 – Robert P. Lentz III, ASA


The Extra Fruit


On October 18, 2011, my wife and I attended our monthly speakers group meeting, and heard Thomas Friedman, a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times and author of five best selling books. He is on a tour promoting his sixth and newest book. That Used to Be Us: How America Fell behind in the World It Invented, and How We Can come Back.


He (and co-author Michael Mandelbaum, a Professor of American Foreign Policy at Johns Hopkins) have made the point that America is in trouble. Without a single note in front of him, Mr. Friedman explained that America faces four major challenges on which our future depends, …and as a nation, we are failing to meet them. He feels that if we delay any longer, soon it will be too late for us to pass along the American dream to future generations.


This is indeed a wake-up call. Those four challenges are globalization, the revolution in information technology, the nation’s chronic deficits, and our pattern of excessive energy consumption. He contends that the end of the Cold War blinded Americans to the need to address these issues seriously, and China’s educational successes, industrial might, and technological prowess remind us of the ways in which “that used to be us.” The paralysis of our political system and the erosion of key American values have made it impossible for us to carry out the policies our country urgently needs.


To make a long story short, Mr. Friedman offered several interesting vignettes regarding individuals who have not lost sight of the American habits of bold thought and dramatic action. Two particularly interesting stories stuck with me. One related all the way back to the days before the Industrial Revolution, when true artisans signed the works they produced. And the other involved a waitress at, of all places, a Perkins Pancake House.


Messrs. Friedman and Mandelbaum like to meet over breakfast at Perkins in Chevy Chase, Maryland. One Sunday morning, Mr. Mandelbaum passed on the potato side-order and ordered fruit instead. When their breakfasts were delivered, the waitress apologized for the delay, and said she laid on an extra portion of fruit. When they left the restaurant, that waitress received a 50% tip.


About now you’re saying what do these stories have to do with the ASA or appraisals? I think at least two lessons come to mind. First, those artisans were proud enough of their work that they insisted on signing them. When you deliver an appraisal report, are you proud that you “gave it your best effort?” (Steve Jobs’ foster father taught Steve to paint both sides of the fence; he said no one else may see the back side of the fence, but you will always remember that you did a complete job. And didn’t Steve’s lesson serve his Apple clients especially well?)


And the waitress? She may not have had control over very much that went into producing those breakfast orders; but she had control over that ladle and how much fruit landed on that plate. She went out of her way in dispensing that over which she had control. When you produce an appraisal, do you do only the minimum that’s required? Or do you go out of your way to provide a complete explanation of the methodology and results that a non-appraiser reader can understand?


For me, the takeaway from Mr. Friedman’s talk was simple. If you don’t go out of your way and provide your clients with that “little extra oomph,” some competitor will quickly and easily fill that void. What do you bring to the table that nobody else does? Be proud of what you produce based on your education and experience. Your clients will return, and will refer other clients to you.


That thought leads into the topic for our November 17th Chapter Meeting: “Expanding Your Client Base in a Challenging Economy,” described elsewhere in this newsletter. (Please note this next Chapter Meeting is on the third Thursday of November, rather than on our usual second Thursday.) ‘See you there!



We always seek and welcome your input. Thank you for your support.




Robert P. Lentz III, ASA NorCal Chapter President 2010-2012       

Accredited Senior Appraiser                           

     in Business Valuation

Lentz & Company, Inc.

8 Waldeck Ct.

Oakland, CA   94611-1744

Direct:             510-530-0296            

Fax:                 510-530-0237