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Randy Thompson: My All-Time Favorite Relocation Project

Randy Thompson
Randy Thompson

For those of you who are regular readers of my D Real Estate Daily blogs, first off, bless you. And may I commend you on your good taste. Second, given how much you know about what I do for a living as a result of reading said blogs, I suspect you will understand I just might have one of the best jobs in the world.

Heading up Cushman & Wakefield’s North American corporate project management organization gives me an opportunity to travel extensively in both the United States and Canada, to meet with some of the best people C&W has to offer, and to work with some of our largest, most complex clients on some of their most challenging assignments. Each day is an adventure filled with new and exciting things to learn and new opportunities for both personal and professional growth. In a recent meeting with a new client, I was asked out of which office I normally work. I smiled as I answered, “My primary office is somewhere between 32,000 and 36,000 feet.”

On most assignments, my team and I are working with high-profile, high-power corporate real estate professionals, helping them refine their regional, national, and global portfolios, improve business processes, increase efficiency in their utilization of space, evolve new and cutting-edge ways of working, and leverage the investments they have in their factories, distribution centers, data centers, and office spaces.

But of all the projects I’ve had a hand in, I wanted to share with my you—my loyal readers who will at last catapult me into the Top 10 D Real Estate Daily readership ranks this year—one particular project I ran not long ago that gave me more satisfaction than any other.

It wasn’t the biggest project, not by a long shot. In fact, it only involved moving around 40 individuals. And it wasn’t the longest-lasting project either. It only took three days from start to finish. And the funny thing about this project, my ultimate client never knew my name, never bothered to thank me for a job well done, never patted me on the back, and never even sent my boss a letter of commendation suitable for publication in our internal newsletter.

But that’s because my clients were gopher tortoises. No, no, you read right: I got to move a “tribe” of gopher tortoises.

So about now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, hey Randy, why in the world did you have to do that?

Well, one of those major, complex clients I described above had secured land on which they were going to build a massive distribution center. But just as we were getting ready to start the earthwork, our contractor noticed telltale signs that the gopher tortoises who called that same land home hadn’t yet gotten their eviction notices. At the time, gopher tortoises were on the endangered species watch list. This meant they were not yet protected, but the feds were keeping a pretty close eye on how they were doing, as their ranks were getting spread pretty thin.

So why were they on the watch list? Well, among other reasons, for decades, the locals have held that such tortoises were best found in a bowl of soup. That’s right, soup. In fact, one of the locals, while hiking up his suspenders and chewing on his corncob pipe, said to me, “Now you listen here young feller: You ain’t never swallered nuthin’ quite so tasty-licious as my Grand-nana’s tortoise soup.” And he said this to me as though he was expecting me to smack my lips and ask for the recipe.

Truth be told, I thought the tortoises looked best in their original packaging. Besides, tortoise soup is full of cream and potatoes and fat and artery-clogging cholesterol, which can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and death. So with the public’s health in mind, we thought it best to simply move them.

As with any other relocation project, I started by writing an RFP for the services we needed. I next reviewed the proposals submitted by three qualified moving companies, then selected ‘AAA Gopher Tortoise Relocations Specialists R-Us’ (I may not have that exactly right, but you get the idea), whose first step was to locate and then dig up the tortoises. This was no easy feat, as these guys live about 15 feet underground.

One other tidbit I learned about gopher tortoises is that the burrows they dig also support some 300 other insect, animal, and reptile species, including rattle snakes. But because rattle snakes were not on the endangered species watch list, at least we had something to keep the local’s tummies full. And no, I did not ask for that recipe either.gopher

Loving that belly rub ...
Loving that belly rub …

Once we found all the tortoises, we collected them, gave them a little belly rub—they love getting their bellies rubbed, and who can blame them? Then we boxed them up safe and sound and moved them to their new home.

Was it worth the extra time, cost, and effort to move the gopher tortoises, when the alternative was a quarter of the cost? If every decision I help our clients make could be so easy, my already great job would be even better.

Randy Thompson is senior managing director and head of U.S. corporate project management for Cushman & Wakefield. Contact him at randy.thompson@cushwake.com.

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