Think Inc.
A forum for Hawaii's
business community to discuss
current events and issues

Happy now? | Legacy of leasehold


Happy now?

Does your company have
what it takes to put a
smile on your face?

By Susan Fox-Wolfgramm

Do you like going to work? Are you motivated to perform your best when you are at work? Are you proud of your work and your organization?


These are questions that everyone should periodically ask themselves for personal understanding and growth.

In these days of investor doubt inspired by issues like inflated compensation of top managers and sneaky accounting practices, it seems like a perfect opportunity to reconsider what is happening in organizations. But more importantly, what is happening to YOU within them? Does your stomach turn every time you think about going to work or are you excited to contribute to your firm's productivity?

Stop and think about the following ideas: What are the signs of a workplace that you would enjoy working in? A place that you would be proud to be affiliated with? An establishment that you know has a bright future ahead of it?

First of all, does the organization have a strong direction for the future? Look at the leadership of the company. Is leadership apparent? Does this leadership demonstrate, on a daily basis, being committed to the company's long-term interests? Does leadership stick to the company through thick and thin? Is the leadership a good role model for what it tells you to do? Are you comfortable with the leadership? Does the leadership communicate with its employees on a regular basis? Does the leadership get its employees involved in formulating the direction of the company? Without strong leadership, the company could be experiencing multiple weaknesses, such as confusion, conflict and doubt in its future course of action.

Does the organization strategically plan for its future? Are there clear objectives and plans to reach these objectives, based on a solid understanding of societal events, as well as the trends in the industry, and assessment of its stakeholders? Are there built-in evaluations and controls in place that monitor the ethical, financial and operational performance of the company? Are you aware of these? Does the leadership of the organization remind you of these controls and reassure you that these are being followed closely? If not, the secretive nature of this situation could make you question the actions and accountability being taken in the workplace.

Does the organization have a formal mission statement that is followed closely by all employees? Does this mission statement focus on more than just making a profit? If so, do you believe in your company's mission statement? Does it represent your personal values? The values of those around you at work? Does it motivate you to want to come to work each day? If not, the organization could have a false representation of itself and be disappointing to employees and those who deal with the organization on a day-to-day basis, making promises that it doesn't keep.

What about resources? Does your organization have the required resources to attain its objectives? Is it "actively" procuring the necessary resources to do so? Can you do your job with the resources that are at your disposal? Are you aware of the resource development or allocation process at your company? Could you get involved and make a difference if you wanted to? If not, your personal attitude about your job and the company's productivity could be in jeopardy for the long-run.

How are you treated as an employee? Is there a lot of communication about what is happening in your area, organization and industry? Do you have channels of reliable information open and available to you on a daily basis? Are you updated on your organization's activities, concerns and progress? Do you have opportunities to discuss what you are doing within your area as well as across your organization and outside of your organization? Do you feel like you have the proper background and training to do your job to your satisfaction? Are you compensated fairly for your work? Are you in a position that suits your personal style? Gives you the recognition you deserve? If not, this could be a very stressful position that does not bring out the best in you and your potential to make a substantial contribution to yourself, your customers or your company.

Although there are multiple points to consider in assessing your satisfaction with your job and organization, perhaps the final point says it all. Does your organization clearly make a difference in society to you? Or do you feel that it is taking valuable resources from society and not exchanging them for something of lasting value that enhances, in some way, the quality of human life.

Successful organizations are those that are proactive and creative in this regard. And, they should make you feel and behave this way too, in your daily life, even outside of the workplace.

Susan Fox-Wolfgramm is an associate professor of management at Hawaii Pacific University. She can be reached at




Leasehold reform does
a better job of taking
the land to the people

By Stephany L. Sofos

I will probably be called a loud-mouthed haole who does not understand the native Hawaiian plight and struggle for independence, even though I am keiki o ka aina.

However I support the City Council passage of Bill 53 allowing the ability for fast tracking of the selling of the leasehold land under residential condominiums to the individual apartment owners. The Council is scheduled to vote Oct. 16.

There are many reasons for my position, but chief among them is the future of the quality of life in our islands.

The concept of residential leasehold ownership was most popular from feudal times to the 19th century, when aristocrats, as a way of keeping their lands from going fallow and in need of food sources, rented the land to peasants. Today approximately 92 percent of all land in Hawaii is held by about 20 entities, including land trusts, corporations and government. In the 1950s and '60s, when the majority of residential leasehold was created, the numbers were about 98 percent and 30, respectively. The residents of Hawaii were forced to purchase the leasehold properties because there was very little available to them in the form of fee simple ownership.

In today's world, as in ancient times, when so few own so much there is a tenancy to control, no matter how benevolent the landowners appear to be in public.

There is also the probability of manipulation of land values and the people who reside on the properties. The system breeds terror in lessees and forces them to comply with the pressure of the landlords out of fear of retribution and the loss of their homes. This structure is antiquated and mean-spirited.

The question must be asked "Why do land oligarchies and trusts want to preserve this archaic system? Is it because of tradition, to protect the aina at all costs? Or is it just the simplest and easiest way to produce revenue through passive management and low risk?"

It would seem with this low threat of risk it does not take much effort to manage properties. It then could be imagined by an outsider that the reason behind supporting this ancient system is because the estate trustees and corporate boards do not have to work very hard and, in turn, there is little fear of jeopardizing their positions and excellent salaries.

When people say Bill 53 takes away the spirit of the land for the beneficiaries, I ask, did not the trustees of that land mortgage its soul years ago when they put the land into residential leasehold?

Would it not be better to allow the owners of the apartments who have lived and raised their children in their homes over decades to purchase their properties at fair market value and have that money go to the trusts to be used for more efficient growth of assets? The present leasehold situation does not offer the beneficiaries of these land trusts the highest and best source of income when the average apartment pays $50 to $150 per month in rent.

However, the money raised from the sale of these leases would bring millions into trust coffers. These dollars could be put into better-managed assets, which would give the highest and best yields and more stability for beneficiaries.

It is time we move out of this chapter of Hawaiian feudal land control and into the 21st century.

Leasehold owners should be allowed to own the land under their homes, where their lives have been made. All people should have a fair chance for the future and to offer a legacy to their children. The trusts and their beneficiaries would not be harmed, but would benefit greatly.

Let residential land be what it was meant to be, a traditional home for people to have comfort and safety and a place to live without the fear of a landlord's retribution and greed. Let us all agree to have a win-win situation and a positive future.

Stephany L. Sofos, president of SL Sofos and Company Ltd., is a licensed real estate broker and appraiser. She can be reached at

To participate in the Think Inc. discussion, e-mail your comments to; fax them to 529-4750; or mail them to Think Inc., Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813. Anonymous submissions will be discarded.

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