Monthly Archives: May 2011

Move Cum Laude: Graduating Into New Office Space

By Ken Ashley

(ATLANTA) May 23rd, 2011

Congratulations graduates! Grab the Hallmark’s and leather folios. It’s that time of year; May flowers and enthusiastic graduates are synonymous and plentiful.

Attention class: there’s a parallel in an office move. You’ve signed the new lease, told the employees (please see this post on change management before the lease deal is announced).

Heavy Metal, Dude

and now you feel as if you are graduating.

Imagine the typical commencement speech in your head. “You’ve worked hard to get to this point and the future is your oyster.” “Many are looking at you expectantly for great results in the future.” “You have all the tools you need to succeed.” You’re already nodding off; Need we go on?

The pressure to succeed in the office move is significant. Just like that graduate, it’s a great feeling of accomplishment to get the lease signed, but moving forward can be daunting.

In fact, there are few things in corporate America that strike angst in the executive’s soul like contemplating the complexities and risk of a large move of personnel. This game of corporate fear factor has many down sides and a simple pat on the back if everything goes perfectly. We’ve heard that a large majority of those who are responsible for the move/build-out leave their jobs within the following 12 months because of the stress.

As one of our corporate executive friends likes to ask, “People, how can we de-risk this situation?”

We offer a few thoughts below. They are not one size fits all, but can provide a framework to think about the process.Your staff: "I sure do love our manager. She REALLY has it all together."

1)   Start Early – You know that, but distractions of getting a deal done get many folks out of the transition game. Will we renew? Maybe we won’t have to do anything. Why waste all this time if we aren’t moving? Plan to move and perhaps you will stay is our advice. The closer you get to lease execution, the more planning you should be doing for either scenario.

2)   Learn the language – Even if you delegate the move planning, you should know the lingo. Just think how cool you will appear in the planning meeting when you know terms like Storage In Transit. You’ll be a move demi-god. The American Moving and Storage Association (“AMSA”) has a dictionary that can help you with your coolness mission here.

3)   Be Green – A number of moving companies are offering environmentally responsibly approaches to the move. Major offerings include minimizing waste, reusing boxes (likely plastic crates instead), and working with companies that use other sustainable practices such as bio-diesel. Our client, Flood Brothers Moving, has a site that outlines at least one approach to a green move.

4)   Hire Professional Help (sounds like a psychologist, we know) or you may be spending time on professional help wanted sites looking for your next job. There is an entire industry of move coordinators that can certainly help you on move day and deal with any issues that arise. You don’t know what you don’t know. AMSA has a search engine here. You can also check with your broker, architect and others who will likely have good recommendations of those they have worked with in the past.

5)   Build the Team Working with the move coordinator,  you of course need to have the right group of folks plugged-in internally. In some companies, this is easy to accomplish because there may be a regular senior management group that can monitor this process. In others, (if you are merging companies or divisions, for example) you may have to form the team. Nominally, the team will certainly include HR, IT and real estate team members.

6)   Make communication a verb.  Communicate in writing, in video, in person. Different employees, and for that matter, different generations of staffers don’t consume information in the same way. So why take chances? The basic story can be communicated in a number of different ways.

One evolving method of communication is the social media channel. If you have an example of move or change management being communicated through SM, we’d love to hear about it.

 7)   Move (“M”) Day After all the meetings and happy talk, it really is critical to help folks. It is very possible that you are the most highly briefed individual on the team. In fact, much of the plan and many of the decisions may have come from you. Remember that this can be enormously stressful to high performing team members, and work hard to make them feel at ease. A dose of please, thank you, and plenty of bagels and coffee will help.

Other considerations:

  • Wayfaring Signage – Show them once again where things are.
  • Blanket with IT help – Really beef up your team so people can get help very quickly
  • Welcome wagon – socialize the change and congratulate the team. Create boards extolling the benefits of the new location (and mirror online). Work to build a genuine sense of excitement.
  • Management presence – You may have your own move, but be a battlefield leader. Fly the flag and be there to help. Maybe you help that new staffer unpack. Offer help with the small things. People love a servant leader.

8)   Post M Day Thank goodness you made it and the servers didn’t crash. The phones are humming and people are checking out the new coffee machine in the svelte break room. But it ain’t over quite yet. Make sure that folks have an orderly way to report problems to your respective vendors. You might have a team from the furniture provider, IT, the contractor and other important service providers walk the space a week after the move to make sure everyone is settled in and productive. Being proactive will make you look smart.

 9)   Recognize the team So, back to the graduation speech. Many did in fact work hard to make this happen. Recognize your key contributors and create a team player award. Maybe you create a document or wall plaque that heralds the

All eyes on the successful leader!

key participants. It will certainly give you something to talk about at the next all-hands meeting.

Now you’re done and the world is your oyster. Queue Pomp and Circumstance, flip that tassel and get ready for the next challenge because you are a move graduate, cum laude.

Shiny Happy People

By Ken Ashley

ATLANTA (May 7th, 2011)

In a rousing opening session to the CoreNet Global Summit in Chicago’s Navy

Angela and Lee Address the Attendees

Pier, CEO Angela Cain and Chairman Lee Utke (Global Real Estate Head for Whirlpool) played the theme from the ‘80s sitcom The Jeffersons entitled

Opening Session at Navy Pier

“Movin on Up.” The ditty signaled real estate’s increasingly important role in Corporate America. And it certainly makes sense given the many millions in savings that real estate directors have delivered over the past several years.

The Summit is held twice annually in the United States and is considered the confab for corporate real estate service providers, economic developers and so called “end users” who control tens of millions of square feet of America’s corporate office space. A combination of networking, trend swapping, and education dominate the conversations and panel discussions.

As for the Chicago Summit, another old song comes to mind describing the mood: “Shiny Happy People” by REM. It is clear that the world is looking up in commercial real estate based on the number of attendees (greater than 2,000) and their disposition (lots of smiles). We noticed a significant reduction in “Sharpie Name Tags” which occurs when someone is in transition and simply takes a Sharpie to their old company’s name. Plus there were lots of new faces from every corner of Corporate America eager to learn the craft of commercial real estate.

So what are some of the trends we heard?

Social Media

Traditional news media were certainly present, but more than ever we saw many real-time postings and tweets documenting snippets of panels and social

Don't Just Stand There, Tweet!

conversations around the Summit. It was interesting to see trends immediately documented and witness a virtual play-by-play of some of the events. We met well respected CRE bloggers Bob Cook and Duke Long in person (they really exist; who knew). CoreNet Global itself is working hard to facilitate social media and did a good job of providing tools and support for Tweeters and Bloggers of all types.

Concern About On-Going Value Add

Multiple commercial real estate (CRE) leaders responsible for large portfolios expressed concern that their CFO’s expect ongoing savings.  The CRE’s said they feel good about meeting plan in 2011 and even 2012, but are worried beyond that time for two reasons. First, the market is “clearly recovering” in terms of economic costs of office space. Secondly, many are adding headcount, which requires margin for growth in portfolios. Increasingly, CRE’s are turning to workplace strategy to deliver value to CFO’s. In the end, this means more employees in less space.

Tug of War

Speaking of growth, CRE’s feel like they are negotiating with business unit

Standing Room Only At a Panel

leaders, who insist they are growing at a rapid clip  – 10% or more was a common refrain – and the mandate to keep cost in check. The CRE doesn’t want to miss plan because of false expectations of growth. They are taking the posture of “trust but verify” in terms of real proof of need from the business units.

4th Place

We will write more about this in another post, but there is some serious debate about the so called 4th place. Home, then business, then Starbucks are 1, 2 and 3. The thought has been to create a secure environment similar to Starbucks. This new ideas  has evolved into the so called 4th place. But one significant CRE leader told us they are dismantling the approach at his company due to under-use. It seems that employees like to stay in proximity to their work groups and friends, so they are not using these touch down centers are frequently as envisioned.  So much for Generation Y’s much vaunted desire for free-range office.

Cash is King

One panel discussed the still “dynamic tension” between cash and accounting (FASB and GAAP) in terms of commercial real estate decisions. The panel concluded that decisions should be made on the financial and business impact, as opposed to accounting impact.  “FAS will change again, but you should tie portfolio decisions to business strategy and in ways that best support the company. “They went on to say that short lease terms, which allow flexibility and seem to be in vogue, could bring great “asset intensity.” This means they soak up a lot of corporate cash. The message is clear; “Don’t put your cash in the walls, put it in your business” even if the lease term needs to be longer to amortize landlord dollars.

Blocking and Tackling is Still Important in CRE

There were a number of great panels on strategy covering workplace, sustainability, and everything in between. Those are always well received, but we observed a number of younger CRE’s with a thirst for learning tactics that advance skills and help improve service delivery. We were encouraged to see so many new faces in our industry and their desire to become excellent at their craft.

It’s a Wrap till Atlanta in the Fall

The commercial real estate industry, which was the subject of doomsday headlines as recently as six months ago, is without a doubt bouncing back.  We see this as a great early predictor and barometer of corporate growth. Companies are largely bullish on the future (as represented at Chicago, at least) and they have billions in cash just waiting for the right opportunity. They will be hiring, buying and spending on all fronts over the next year.

Of course there are naysayers, but based on what we heard and tweeted about in Chicago, if you stand in the way of growth, you’ll be singing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Give Me Three Steps”!