When I joined the commercial real estate industry over a decade ago, I was surprised to discover how much of the everyday work matches the traditional way of doing things.
In nearly every other industry, that period of time marked a change to the norms and expectations. But when it came to real estate, there seemed to be a standard way of operating that few wanted to deviate from. So I learned as much as I could, got my feet wet, and listened to what I was told. It was a valuable experience at the beginning of my career to get the basics down.
As I thought more about starting my own company, SquareFoot, coming out of business school, I knew that my version of real estate and vision for the future would begin with my aspirations to change things up and to offer what nobody had ever seen before.
So much of the information and knowledge about this industry had long been buttoned up and kept secret by brokers. I wanted to bring more transparency and openness to that process, to give our clients more confidence to be able to be worthy partners in the discussions and negotiations with landlords. They should be educated, even if they might be still reliant on brokers to do the lifting and the legwork.
So I launched an online listings platform and made it free to access. That way, people in their areas could sift through and search for office space that catered to their needs. Even if they didn’t become clients of mine, I’d still want them to walk away with positive feelings about the industry and, if possible, about SquareFoot’s mission.
Those who did turn into clients for us would become higher intent and would come further along in the process than they would have been otherwise, by virtue of the fact that they could, for the first time, do research on their own and take the search into their own hands for the early stages.
Over the past eight years, we have heard from countless of our clients, while executing over 1,200 deals, that they appreciate being perceived as partners in this regard. At the end of the day, we must provide the service they require, but our approach to our relationship with them was novel, and our investment in technology to enable better relationships and better transactions was revolutionary. I have been proud to see my vision come to life, and to see so many clients happy with these services we offer uniquely.
For some time, clients have requested increased flexibility when it comes to the lease terms they desire, which often does not match what landlords make available. For some of those clients, the frustration has led them to either not get office space of their own or to choose expensive coworking options that aren’t necessarily wise for their company’s bottom line.
Coworking can work for some companies, as we have seen on many occasions, but it shouldn’t be deemed a backup option for anyone. Instead, people should be cognizant of the reasons they have chosen coworking, and to understand why it’s the best plan forward for them and their distinct work situation.
Framed that way, coworking is one of many solutions that can work. However, if clients who probably shouldn’t have entered into coworking in the first place walk a way unhappy and unsatisfied, that damages the long-term viability and reputation of that segment of the industry. And nobody wins when that takes place, if people feel compelled or pressured into making a decision they wouldn’t have put top of the list.
That’s why we bought PivotDesk last year. This is a pivotal moment, again, for the commercial real estate industry to offer more value than ever before. I’m newly excited about recent changes we have witnessed and endured.
Coworking in fact means a variety of different things, not just one idea, and if clients of ours or elsewhere want to pursue what that might look like for them, brokers should be open and excited to show them various opportunities. For us, with PivotDesk, we have introduced to our clients what I deem “Airbnb for office space.”
There are a ton of people who want a desk or five desks within a regular office space who don’t belong at a separate, dedicated coworking space. We have to have a range of different options available to accommodate people for whatever their needs are.
Commercial real estate is such a large industry that there’s really room for everyone to win. We don’t have to force a fit. In my experience, when you’re upfront with people and honest about what’s the best suited option for them, based on their needs, they appreciate the guidance and wisdom you have to offer. The same way we gave transparency to clients with the inclusion of our listings platform, we’re again leading the way in conversations with clients to raise awareness and to give attention to what they can uncover if they get on board.
Flexibility is the name of the game in real estate these days. There are more smaller companies, and it’s easier to start a business of your own. With the same precision that people launch their businesses, they should heed the call to select the right office space that enables them and their team to thrive.