There’s no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent unrest and protests have had a dramatic impact on our nation as a whole. Abruptly, we find ourselves thrown into challenging circumstances and forced to confront challenges we couldn’t have imagined.
From a business perspective, it’s clear that for the commercial real estate market, 2020 will be characterized by disruption. Though we find ourselves in the midst of a pause on investment sales transaction activity, we’re pressing ourselves to find the opportunities for improvement and advancement in this time. We’re reflecting on what we do well, what we can do better and how we can continue to strengthen the foundation of our business to better support those we serve.
On my many Zoom calls and Teams meetings, in emails and group chats, on phone calls and in text messages, the one prevailing theme is connection. It feels more important than ever to affirm our connection with colleagues and clients and to focus on nurturing our relationships. Regardless of what the future holds, commercial real estate companies will benefit from focusing their attention on something controllable: strengthening client relationships.
Keeping (Virtual) Lines of Communication Open
In any environment, communication with clients builds a strong foundation of trust that can be constantly affirmed through authentic action—it does not stop just because we can no longer visit clients’ properties and offices in person. As we work virtually, it is even more important that our communication is clear and transparent. By doing so, clients understand that you are working in their best interest to achieve their goals, especially in these difficult times.
It is important to do this through one-on-one conversations with clients and by bringing together experts across the industry. For example, we have been averaging three client roundtable or townhall discussions per week over the past several weeks. We miss seeing our clients in person, but these gatherings bring together our clients along with our investment advisors and mortgage bankers—sometimes more than 50—from all major markets to share honest, in-depth insights on local trends and how they translate nationally. There is a thirst for information and we’re able to respond to it in real time. It would be impossible to do this around one table in one room, so being forced into a virtual environment has allowed us to gather a diversity of ideas and perspectives from every corner of the country.
Committing to an Integrated Team Approach
We see it in the commercial real estate industry often and sometimes within organizations: silos form around business units, individuals and their clients in order to preserve relationships.
But this approach has its shortcomings—it only gives your client what you, individually, can offer. The saying “strength in numbers” applies to our industry as much, if not more, than any other. It is not about what one individual or team can provide for a client, it is about what an organization can offer.
As we continue to navigate today’s complex landscape, it is important that we band together all available resources to best guide our clients. We have enhanced our communication and collaboration between Berkadia’s business lines which is resulting in more comprehensive resources and recommendations for clients. This is a priority and will be a priority as we look to address our clients’ needs, objectives and challenges.
For example, our data analytics team has partnered with a cross-section of investment sales and mortgage banking teams to develop market resilience reports, pivoting our data efforts to be catered to how local markets can withstand the economic effects of COVID-19 and how this pandemic compares to the Great Financial Crisis. The metrics provided in these reports—such as renter wallet share, percentage of population with subprime credit and percentage of jobs in high risk industries—are arming clients with the right information to make data-backed decisions during this time of uncertainty.
Unrelenting Focus on Long-Term Goals
In commercial real estate, we often have short-term views: How many days until closing? How many weeks on the market? Before COVID-19 specifically, we largely operated under a sense of day-to-day urgency. The slower market pace we are facing today is a good reminder to stay focused on what our clients are trying to achieve over the long term.
A comprehensive approach to client service should not be a “pandemic-only” practice. Those who consistently keep trust and teamwork at the forefront and strongly align their interests to that of their clients—in good times and difficult—are destined for long-term success.