Absorbing the hassles Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2008

How many corporate dollars have flown out the window during the past five or 10 years because of ill-advised real estate decisions? Don’t know? A trusted real estate adviser can correct mistakes and lock that window tight.

“Within an overall corporate budget, the real estate component is a very large cost factor,” says Mark Talley, vice president of Grubb & Ellis Company’s Office Group. “Corporate executives often don’t realize the impact that real estate decisions can make on the bottom line. A lot of the benefits come down to your adviser’s credibility, reliability, accuracy and dedication.”

Smart Business talked to Talley about how to find a trusted real estate adviser and what traits he or she should possess, ultimately saving you time and money.

How might a corporate executive approach finding the right trusted adviser?

The most common way is to ask your peers for referrals. You want to find someone who cares. Since we are talking about the advice business, you have to establish a relationship built on trust.

Why should companies have an ongoing relationship with a trusted real estate professional?

An executive may not be trained in real estate. If the adviser has the ability to pick up the nuances of your business, you’ve found someone who takes away the worries of dealing with real estate issues.

In-house corporate specialists can certainly be capable, and working hand-in-hand with an outside real estate adviser completes the package in terms of experience, specialty market knowledge and core competencies. Trusted real estate advisers may also have access to resources like research, benchmarking trends, specialized advice and national support.

What qualities should a trusted real estate adviser possess?

He or she must have the ability to engage. Professionals and business leaders have a finite amount of time, so a good adviser must demonstrate — through past performance and referrals — the right to even sit in the executive’s office. Moreover, the adviser has to possess some accountability and a level of trust with you. That includes:

  • the ability to listen and then frame the issue;

  • the ability to envision the goal; and

  • a level of commitment to really attack your problems.

The adviser also must treat the client’s information with the utmost confidentiality. For instance, if I’m doing a land search and the seller finds out the identity of the potential buyer, the price can go up. Maintaining that high level of trust allows you to rightfully assume that certain proprietary information won’t be used against you.

If real estate decisions and changes don’t come around very often, why establish an ongoing relationship?

No one can tell the future. Things change over time. A company that may have 20,000 employees today might shrink to 10,000 employees, or it could boom and outgrow its facilities before the end of the lease term. So real estate is really an ongoing consideration. The adviser is someone who can identify industry trends and project what your needs may be, so that when tomorrow rolls around, you’re not in a reactionary mode.

For example, early in my career, one client was seeking a $100,000 property. In the years since, that client has been able to realize more than $11 million in savings and eliminate a loss by repositioning some of its real estate and filling in a budget gap of more than $30 million. That wouldn’t have been possible without having someone who was easy to share ideas and information with, who can do it without wasting time or words.

What can you expect from a trusted adviser?

You can have the confidence that you will receive accurate, unfiltered and honest information. Many of your needs will be anticipated, and opportunities will be presented to you first. A trusted adviser takes the time to understand your business, knows your strategy moving forward and shares your goals. The trust obtained through a genuine relationship frees you to focus on your core business and be confident that your adviser is doing what is best for your organization.

The amount of contact between you and your adviser may vary. Generally, the adviser should be calling or visiting you at least bimonthly, if for no other reason than letting you know that he or she is dedicated to your success in the long term. You can also expect your adviser to provide status reports for projects at a frequency that is useful to you.

MARK TALLEY is vice president of the Office Group in Grubb Ellis & Company’s Detroit office. Reach him at (313) 350-5820 or mark.talley@grubb-ellis.com.