John Zogg has been the managing director at Crescent Real Estate since 1996. He oversees leasing and management for the Fort Worth-based firm’s five-million-square-foot portfolio. He also is a founding board member and original visionary of the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation, which operates and manages Klyde Warren Park.
How are you coping amid the COVID-19 crisis?
Our team has been diligently working with our partners and vendors to provide optimal solutions for our customers as we all weather the COVID-19 storm and prepare for a return. We have had very open and honest conversations with each of our customers to discuss what they need to make it to the other side of this. Additionally, we have put together extremely thorough plans and guidelines for all of our buildings, so when customers and employees return, they feel comfortable and confident.
Did your business continuity plan work, or were there surprises?
Every day is a surprise! We have been absorbing a lot of data from various sources and implementing new protocols to ensure our buildings are safe environments. On the Crescent front, we immediately transitioned the majority of our team to work from home, and the remainder of our team has been working A/B shifts in the office. Our team has done a great job of staying connected virtually. This experience has forced me to become quite tech-savvy.
What are the short-term ramifications for your specific industry?
The real estate industry, like many others, is still in the discovery period of COVID-19, but I believe that different cities will have to handle reopening and long-term solutions in different ways that are catered specifically to their population and demographics. A city like Dallas is fortunate at a time like this to not rely heavily on public transportation. This will help keep our employees, customers, and buildings safer.
It will be interesting to see what the workplace environment will look like for the remainder of 2020 and potentially 2021. Office spaces will need to adapt to be more spacious, especially for our industry, as face-to-face contact is vital to real estate. Our customers need to see our faces to retain relationships, and we need to be able to do showings for potential new business.
Have you found silver linings in these difficult times?
Believe it or not, I see more of our team now than I did before COVID-19. We have daily video conferences with key members of our team to touch base, and it is great to see everyone every day, even if it is virtual. In addition, we are collaborating with our retail and restaurant customers like never before. Our teams are working together consistently to find solutions that will help keep these businesses operating. At Crescent, we truly value and are proud of our restaurant and retail portfolio, and we do not want to lose one piece of it.
How are you maintaining your company culture?
One of our highest priorities is the safety and health of our team members. We have been in constant communication with our employees and keep them updated on the status of the buildings, offices, and company in general. We have daily virtual meetings, which have been a great source to keep spirits high, and we have even had a few virtual happy hours.
What have you learned that may change your policies or strategies for the future?
We are working closely (although distant) with our customers more now than ever before, it seems. The industry will continue to see this relationship evolve as we focus on the safety and wellbeing of employees who office out of our buildings. Our team has compiled several materials for customers to be educated and informed prior to returning to the office with confidence, including office checklists, educational customer packets, implementation timelines, reentry guides, and much more.
There is so much to consider and a lot that occurs in our buildings daily, from the elevators and public restrooms to janitorial staff and deliveries. Each of these components are being analyzed, and we are having daily calls with our property managers to ensure we are prepared.
What will things look like for your company and industry in another six months?
I am hopeful that we will all be back in the office and will have the same confidence we had in early 2020. Like everyone else, I am also hopeful that we will have a vaccine, and people can get back to their daily lives. But again, this is all hope. In the meantime, all we can do is keep our employees and our customers educated and as safe as possible. Each city will need to evolve and adapt to fit the needs of its population.
Do you have advice for other business leaders?
At a time like this, you must be nimble, adaptable, and have strong lines of communication. Crescent has always had an excellent dialogue with employees and customers, and we have made that even more of a priority during this time. They want and need to hear from us to feel confident and comfortable.