What do corporate real estate professionals really know about real estate?
If you work in corporate real estate, the chances are you either belong to the in-house corporate real estate team of a large corporation, or you are employed by a property adviser and deliver corporate real estate services to a selection of clients.
And if you are indeed a corporate real estate professional, you are probably “managing” something, depending on how close you are or not to the actual transactions. You could be managing an account and generating more business from a client or sector —far away from transactions and local markets— or you could be managing transactions, closer to the specific deals on the ground. And there are many other levels and layers of management within the spectrum of corporate real estate, such as strategic portfolio management, lease administration and management, property management, risk management or facilities management.
But the truth of the matter is that, on many occasions, corporate real estate professionals do not always get their hands dirty with the real estate in itself. They are not necessarily the ones brokering the deals, or abstracting the leases, or producing the local market intelligence, or putting together the real estate benchmarks. They generally leave this to the ‘real’ professionals.
So, where is the true added value of a corporate real estate professional, if any?
In short, the response would be that corporate real professionals are the best when it comes to managing and understanding people; why?
- A service provider has to be managed —and so has a client, for that matter—.
- Brokers on the ground have to be managed, ensuring that service delivery targets and KPI’s are met.
- People abstracting vital property information from leases must be managed, guaranteeing accuracy and correctness of critical events, dates and deadlines.
- Local researchers producing market information have to be managed, ensuring objectivity and unbiased real estate intelligence.
- And the stakeholders in any kind of property strategy, account, deal or transaction have to be understood. Their expectations have to be managed and met. Their goals have to be achieved.
None of this can be done without the necessary people skills and empathy.
In essence, the strength of a corporate real estate professional should reside in being capable of building, motivating and managing the best team possible to source a specific requirement or need. Being property savvy and very well versed in real estate matters is of course a must, but there are great challenges on the horizon for corporations, most of which are related to how people impact real estate, rather than just the real estate. Attracting and retaining talent, new workplace trends and workforce wellbeing are just some of the tasks that lay ahead.
Corporate real estate professionals have to bring to the table not only the property knowledge, but also a deep understanding of people, the human nature, the environment and technology. What drives my client? How can I motivate my service provider to secure the best deals possible? How can I make my firm attractive to talented millennials through workplace strategy? How can I accommodate and meet the expectations of four different generations of workers? Where is the global economy going and what would be the best portfolio strategy to protect my firm from potential risks? What does the internet of things mean to my company and employees? So on and so forth.
Then again, once robots and artificial intelligence take over, most of this will not really matter… or will it?