Last Updated on February 9, 2023 by Morgan Beard
An Interview with Occupier’s Co-Founders
Team Occupier had a blast in Chicago at the CoreNet Global Summit 2022! Our team gained many valuable insights on the future of work, real estate, and proptech innovation. We sat down with Occupier’s Co-Founders, Matt Giffune and Andrew Flint to hear their takeaways.
Were there any trends or themes you noticed?
Matt Giffune: Everybody’s trying to figure out how to be more data driven with their decision making. Whether it’s occupancy centers trying to figure out how spaces are being utilized, or trying to capture lease data so that they can act on lease obligations and opportunities quicker than they did prior to the pandemic.
The answer to becoming more data-driven is adoption of automated workflows. From the corporate real estate perspective, leaders are inundated with an array of software tools. So, it takes a diligent strategic direction to prioritize new solutions that solve their organizations pain points.
Everyone at the conference can agree that the dynamic of how people occupy space may never change. Now it’s about trying to figure out how to turn the dials so that you can continuously assess your portfolio and make rapid decisions.
Andrew Flint: To me, the overarching theme was that companies seem to be super focused on the productivity of the employee. And how that relates to the idea of returning to the office. With that, there seems to be a lot of pressure on real estate teams to solve the problems and manage the concerns of upper management.
That brings a ton of philosophical conversations. Everyone’s trying to figure out what to do, how to manage expectations from the top and balance that with what the employees want.
They’re trying to answer the questions about what our employees do, how they work, and what they want. And then, how do they apply that information to the use case for of their existing real estate portfolio. In addition, where do they see those real estate needs going in the future?
What is the biggest opportunity for office occupiers today?
Matt Giffune: Times of uncertainty create the biggest opportunities. So I think there’s a ton of opportunities for office occupiers today. But the most obvious one is listening to the people that work at the company.
Employees have gained so much more power in the discussion of how they want to work today. If you’re just trying to push a top-down strategy about returning to the office, you’re going to turn away really talented employees or prospective employees. So, there’s a really good opportunity for companies to use their workplace strategy as a recruiting tool and as a brand building tool.
The second part of opportunity I think is just generally with the real estate market. You’re continuing to see big tech companies shed jobs and therefore shed space. This will obviously have a lagging effect on fundamentals in the market with respect to rent, asking rents, sublease space availability, and potentially more flexibility in non-economic lease terms.
Just like in any downturn, there’s an opportunity for tenants to lock in favorable economic conditions. Obviously that’s difficult if you don’t have a really hard grasp on what the future of your portfolio should look like. So, there’s a little bit of a push and pull but I think in any down market – if you’re confident enough in your business, then now’s the time to strike.
What is the biggest opportunity for tenant-rep brokers today?
Matt Giffune: Doubling down on the things that add value to your clients. Every broker is pretty good at their job when the market is hot and leases are signed on a daily basis, but these are the types of markets where it’s really important to focus on solving problems for your customers.
Corporate real estate executives are trying to figure out their real estate strategy and office game plan. So, if you can align the resources of your brokerage to help solve problems of your clients, then you’ll endure the downturn and hopefully have a good year as a broker.
One thread to pull on is how do you move technology into your workflow so that your clients are actually getting that information and data on a regular basis? Or at the very least sharing information in a more centralized, transparent basis.
One of the dynamics of the commercial real estate industry that might get turned on its head with this new kind of marketplace we’re going into is the need for tenant information to be shared instantaneously. If you’re still working in this world of siloed information and keeping things close to your chest – that won’t work out to your advantage as a broker anymore.
Andrew Flint: Right now it seems as if everyone is still a bit in the dark with concerns with the economy and how that’s going to affect how companies use real estate. It might mean that transaction volume is down. However, this does present a really good opportunity for a lot of tenant rep brokers to get more ingrained with their clients and prospects. It gives them that opportunity to really be true advisors to their clients, not just as it relates to a lease expiration.
For example, asking themselves questions like:
- How can I provide insights about how other clients are using office space and managing the idea of returning to work?
- How can I help companies think through their operational needs and align a real estate strategy to overall business objectives and their existing portfolio?
- And just helping people understand their portfolio in more detail. Where can I get ahead of things where companies need to make a request from a landlord or make business decisions?
I think that further establishing the value as a tenant rep broker will pay major dividends when the economy starts to improve and the real estate market along with it.
Is there anything else from CoreNet Global Summit 2022 that you’d like to share?
Both: Yes, we can definitively say that Lou Malnati’s is indeed the best deep dish pizza in Chicago. We will admit we did sneak away for a rather heavy lunch, but it has our vote!