How do you create trust in corporate real estate?

Trust is the main ingredient in the process of “getting things done.” If you don’t have trust between people or groups, the schedule gets extended due to over-validation, every decision takes longer to make, political maneuvering accelerates behind the scenes, budgets/funds dry up, and support goes away. Without trust, there is no success.

Real estate is a difficult industry to succeed in. It’s hard to prove your track record. Did you really reduce the cost of that lease through negotiation – sure, you reduced from the first offer but could anyone have done the same? Does this workplace model actually increase productivity? Why is this building really better than the one next door?

It’s often three to five years before it’s clear whether a particular project or deal was good or bad. Often, good or bad is based on what happened to uncontrollable market behavior and not actual business impact.

So if you can’t prove your recent track record with any degree of control, how do you create trust with the business and other colleagues?

Focus on change and risk management. 

Real estate is about managing the future of the business. Sites are going to be operational for three, ten or fifty years. They are going to support an ever-evolving business, an ever-changing management team, an ever-shifting business strategy. The projects completed years ago are going to be revisited and questioned. The solutions developed will occasionally be the wrong ones.

The best thing that real estate can do is prove that they are partners in every decision and strategy. That doesn’t mean the business gets everything they want. It means that all impacted parts of the business are part of the process and included as stakeholders.

Real estate’s biggest impact on the business is that they provide the location where everything happens. They provide the retail fronts, manufacturing sites, distribution, back office, front office, headquarters and everything in between while also ensuring the sites are maintained and operational. If you step back, this is the single biggest risk to an organization.

If real estate completely screws up, manufacturing fails because there isn’t enough labor, distribution costs skyrocket because transportation is in the wrong place, the labor pool is inadequate to the skills requires, there aren’t enough seats to hold all the employees needing space, the workplace is designed completely opposite of what the culture needs for support, etc, etc, etc. This is a scary thought.

From a business perspective, you are putting much of your ability to be successful in the hands of people that may or may not be incentivized to help make you successful. They may just be trying to keep costs as low as possible regardless of impact on the business. They may be trying to make a name for themselves by completing a huge, magazine cover project when all that is needed is a basic office.

Real estate is the ultimate partnership group – even more than HR, finance and IT. Trust comes through that partnership that needs to happen.

Focus on the partnership, build trust, do right by the business.


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