Celebrating Abelardo

It was nearly 20-years ago when Goble Properties acquired Hopyard Village in Pleasanton. Along with the property came the perpetually smiling maintenance man, Abelardo. Always willing to take on any challenge, eager to learn, and ready to break into song when he wasn’t making small talk, Abelardo has been one of our most popular employees.

So when we found out he was just one history test away from becoming a US citizen, we knew we had to throw a party to celebrate. After daily jokes about his knowledge of Bunker Hill or how many justices sit on the Supreme Court, none of us were surprised when Abelardo passed the exam easily. So let the party begin!

Below are a few pictures from the party at the Goble Ranch. Staff, spouses, kids, and dogs enjoyed a catered BBQ and silly games (well, the dogs didn’t, but they really wanted to). It was a fun break from work and a chance to get to know each other in a different context. Plus, as a bonus, Abelardo sang his favorite song for us!

We’re proud of Abelardo and we think you will be too. Next time you see him, be sure to give him a high five (and ask him how long a Senators term is).

From all of us at Goble Properties, congrats Abelardo! Glad to have you as a fellow citizen!

Roy Goble
President and CEO



















Ignore the Naysayers

Ignore_all_naysayersSome of the best business advice I’ve been given is, “Ignore the naysayers.” The naysayers are the folks who are ALWAYS negative.

Most of us have an internal pendulum of confidence and fear. Our fear dreads failure, is unsure of the future, and hates risk. When naysayers talk, our fear is inflamed.

Naysayers point out the reasons to not make a business decision, and fear makes the reasons seem foreboding: the timing isn’t right, tough times ahead, not enough information, too risky, it won’t work, you can’t afford it.

Sometimes those warnings are reasonable and even accurate. There’s nothing wrong with heeding caution when it is warranted — we need those voices in our lives.

But naysayers are way beyond such thoughtfulness. If all we do is listen to the naysayers, we’ll be perpetually stuck in neutral, too fearful or confused to make a decision. We have to balance the voices we hear – some confident, some cautionary.

Naysayers hate that the future cannot be controlled. Launching a new endeavor and taking a risk can test our confidence. We can plan and plan, and still get it wrong. That’s the nature of business. It’s the nature of life. Naysayers pin all their negativity on their fear of the future.

So who gave me this advice? My father, and I remember the very moment it happened.

I was young, around 10, and we had gone to lunch with some of my dad’s business friends at The Spur in South San Jose. As lunch was served my dad described a small property for sale. It was old, lots of problems, poor visibility. Not a single one of my dad’s buddies liked it.

As we were leaving, I asked him if their negative opinions changed his mind about buying the property.

He grimaced, shook his head, and said something like, “Those are good friends. But they can be afraid of the future because they can’t control it. I try to ignore the naysayers because the future is coming either way. I can do nothing and lose, I can work hard and fail, or I can work hard and succeed. Might as well put myself in a position to succeed.”

Dad did buy the property and as predicted by his buddies, it was a load of problems to deal with. The tenants were problematic, the deferred maintenance was unending, and even the City had issues with the property.

But in time all those issues were overcome, and Dad made a nice profit. He put himself in a position to succeed by ignoring the naysayers.

Roy Goble
President and CEO

A Walk Down Memory Lane

One of my earliest work related recollections as a child is sweeping out a metal building on Goble Lane in South San Jose. My Dad purchased the property in the 1950’s to start a wrecking yard, and over the years he had built metal buildings that he leased to small businesses. We sold the property about 15-years ago.

Just recently a colleague sent a picture of Goble Lane as viewed from Communication Hill. The wrecking yard is gone of course, and so is the small trailer park next door. So is the concrete batch plant that always left a fine dust across everything nearby. Today the site is almost entirely houses.

I pulled up Google Earth views from about the time we sold the property, and then today. Below that is the photo my colleague sent.

A few lessons from this walk down memory lane:

  • No surprise here, but housing is in such demand that they even build it on old wrecking yard sites!
  • Though admittedly I don’t sweep warehouse buildings anymore, the foundation of our family business hasn’t changed much.
  • I really regret selling that property!

So a mixed feeling as I compare the past and present. A bit of regret – would love to own that property today! But a feeling of satisfaction that Goble Properties still specializes in serving small businesses. I’m proud of that.

Roy Goble
President and CEO




Leadership is an Art

Nearly twenty years ago I read Leadership is an Art by Max De Pree. The former CEO of the legendary company Herman Miller, De Pree was one of the great business leaders of his day. So naturally, I was eager to find out what he had to say.

The book had a profound impact on my understanding and practice of leadership. The most significant line for me was, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor.”

I’ve always loved the image of the leader (or leaders) defining reality. What will we be tomorrow, or what will our company be, even our world? A leader defines what might be, works as a servant to make it happen, and says thank you to all who contributed. It’s an enlightened, even Biblical perspective on leadership.

Another influential line is, “Profit, the hoped-for result of the “how,” is normal and essential. Those results, however, are only a way to measure our resourcefulness at a point in time, mile markers on a long road. Why we get those results is more important.”

De Pree was telling us to “start with why” decades before Simon Sinek. He was also giving us a purpose beyond profits. More than one self-righteous young social impact entrepreneur should be reminded of this. It’s nothing new guys, and folks like De Pree were promoting it before you were born.

And then there is, “I do not know of a better system, but the capitalist system can be improved, both in practice and in theory, with the influence of an inclusive perspective. The aim is not primarily to improve the results, although that is a significant possibility. The aim is to embody the concept of persons, for a substantial concept of persons must underlie an inclusive system. A belief that every person brings an offering to a group requires us to include as many people as possible. Including people, if we believe in the intrinsic value of their diversity, will be the only path open to us.”

What a profound statement from a white man — a man of privilege no less. And this was practiced throughout his long career, which started more than 60 years ago.

More times than I care to admit, I’ve failed to live up to this high calling of leadership. But De Pree’s thoughts continue to shape how I lead, and I continue to learn from his book.

Roy Goble
President and CEO

Max De Pree

Scale Like an Investor to Mess Up Your Life

Mind if I brag a little bit?

Recently a friend invited me to an evening business event. I declined because of a family commitment. With sincerity, he asked how after three decades of marriage my wife still wants me home for dinner and my adult kids still want to hang out. I flippantly said because I don’t hang around with people who talk about scalability.

He asked for an explanation, so here goes.scalability

Investors worry about scalability because they need to generate returns. There can be other reasons; you make a real difference if you open 1000 pizzerias versus just one corner pizzeria (jobs, tax revenues, profits, etc.), but generally success is defined by return on investment. Plus an investor is passive. Perhaps they offer wisdom, but they are more or less just a wise ATM.

I’m not really an investor but instead a business owner. I’m in it for the long term. Thus I operate with a different set of values, a different definition of success, and a different perspective on scalability.

For instance, a good business owner sets down roots and says, “This is my corner pizzeria and I am now part of the community.” He or she would be thrilled to someday have 1000 franchises, but they first want to be rooted in their community. Go deep first, then scale (go wide).

A lot of entrepreneurs miss this. They want to change the world but don’t know their neighbor. They want to be first to market but can’t find time to volunteer for their kids’ events. They slowly fall in love with their vocation instead of their spouse.

Sadly, it’s not really an either/or decision. Capital can be used to go deep and wide. Both are needed and should be valued. But you have to go deep first, and that’s what a lot of people in business miss.

So you want to know why my family still likes having me around? Because I never became enamored with scale. I worked at keeping the values of the company the same as the values of my family. We embraced community, honesty, and balance. Yes, I mess up sometimes; so does my company. Sorry about that. But we know what we’re aiming for, and have generally done well.

The funny thing is investors would call me a low performer because their gauge for success is different. But other than a few family members, there is nobody to make the misguided accusation. And my family shares my values.

Which allows me to focus on the things that really matter. Like being home to have dinner with my wife, swapping texts with my daughter, and having a beer with my son. It is a luxury I relish, but one I worked for.

Now that’s true business success. And worth bragging about.


More is Less

A few years ago I read a marketing book that cited a Stanford University study. The Stanford researcher had gone to a high end grocery store and set up a small table with 24 jams to sample. A huge number of shoppers stopped to taste the jams, but there were few buyers.

Samples of 24 jams – but few buyers.

Then the researchers returned to the same store and only offered six jams to sample. Fewer people stopped to sample. But sales skyrocketed!

The obvious conclusion is that too many choices will overwhelm a buyer. Being overwhelmed, the shopper is unable to choose and no sale is made.

A lot of attention is being paid to this new insight, from TED talks to highly funded research papers. There are a whole slew of books, such as Kent Greenfield’s The Myth of Choice or Sheena Iyengar’s The Art of Choosing. Iyengar was the Stanford researcher who finished her PhD with her jam stand at Draeger’s.

Samples of 6 jams — and lots of buyers!

I’ve not read the books or watched the TED talks. In part because I don’t need to. The conclusions were taught to me decades ago by my father. In the wrecking yard of all places.

Dad had an operating philosophy: have a huge inventory of parts in the yard, but only a handful in the shop where customers would see them. It created a sense of scale people could understand. I saw this same philosophy in his leasing style. If Goble Properties had 5 vacancies, he’d only advertise one. If a prospective lessee wanted to see a space, Dad would only show him one. It created a sense of scarcity, but more importantly it kept the transaction simple and manageable.

A tenant who sees multiple spaces can easily be overwhelmed by the questions and possibilities — this one has more visibility, that one has more parking, in this one I could put the generator over here, but in this one it has to be over there, etc etc. Those questions and options — though important — can create decision fatigue that prevents a customer from making any decision at all.

So it’s fun to see my Dad’s marketing techniques finally be recognized. Dad was pretty smart and clearly understood that sometimes more is less. Maybe Stanford will give him a posthumous PhD!