Do you remember the software revolution that began to take hold in the 1980s? Until that time, computers were big, powerful tools that the majority of businesses and industries found difficult to use effectively. Manufacturers, focused on production, didn't design with the needs of end users in mind-to a large extent because those needs weren't defined. And customers, or potential end users, didn't know enough about the hardware to know what was possible.
Into this budding impasse came software designers, who set about to rectify the situation. With a basic understanding of hardware and its capabilities, they delved into business processes and operations and began to develop programs that made computers more responsive and, therefore, more attractive to the marketplace.
Where do exclusive tenant and buyer representatives fit into this picture?
Real estate developers and building owners understand the ins and outs of property, and their goals are to maximize the returns on their investments. They don't take the time to understand how real estate can enhance an occupant's productivity and profitability, and to a greater extent, they expect tenants and buyers to make their operations fit into what a property has to offer.
Tenants and buyers, on the other hand, understand their operations but lack the skills and experience to communicate their requirements or to convince building owners and managers to do what's necessary to meet them. This is where real estate professionals who represent tenants and buyers exclusively can streamline the process. They ask the right questions, make observations with a practiced eye and involve other consultants as necessary to pinpoint what a space must provide to serve their clients. At the same time, they know what's happening on the other side of the fence-most have personal experience in that arena-thus, they're sensitive to what may or may not be possible.
In build-to-suit situations, exclusive tenant/buyer representatives can play a critical role, helping users outline their requirements and translating those requirements into locations, materials and layouts that developers can live with. Interestingly enough, developers ultimately benefit from this process as well. Many build on spec, trying to anticipate the needs of various users. The degree of risk in this course depends on the stage of the real estate cycle, but that risk will be mitigated at any stage when the specific needs of potential users are grasped early on.
This is very much like the influence software designers can exert on hardware manufacturers; i.e., interpreting the needs of the end user to the benefit of all parties. Even in today's tight markets, sophisticated landlords are beginning to seek the opinions of tenant/buyer representatives, knowing that they can speak authoritatively to what features will enhance the appeal of the property.
Technology-computers and all their siblings-has forever changed the way business is done, both directly and indirectly. In terms of real estate needs, technology demands virtually total flexibility. Movable walls and easy access to floors and ceilings are just the beginning. Buildings, themselves, must be "user-friendly." Lighting, both natural and artificial, heating and air conditioning systems, elevators, fire safety, and security must all reflect the latest technology in ways that satisfy the constantly changing needs of business.
All of this has become part of the expanding role of tenant/buyer representatives. Sought initially for the uncompromising stance that eliminates the conflicts of interest built into full-service real estate firms, they are now singled out as much for their broad knowledge of business and real estate and their wide-ranging skills.
Enlightened business owners and managers consult regularly with their tenant/buyer representatives to assure that facilities continue to serve their goals and to take whatever corrective steps might be necessary in a timely manner. Enlightened landlords, who might once have scorned them as adversaries, realize that tenant/buyer representatives play a substantive role in creating strong, amicable tenant-landlord and buyer-seller relationships.
Victor S. Voinovich Sr. is president of The Victor S. Voinovich Company, a Cleveland-based commercial real estate firm that represents tenants and buyers exclusively.