CRE Opinion

Why Agility and Adaptability Are Essential in Commercial Real Estate

Those unwilling to respond to the changing needs of their clients and demands of the marketplace will get left behind, says Stream Realty Partners' Dan Harris.

Businesses typically, and understandably, seek stability, process, and predictability. But 2020 has proven to the business world that agility, adaptability, and responsiveness are more important—not only to endure the challenges but to prosper in a rapidly changing economy.

To some, these elements are just buzzwords. But to make any real impact, they must be integrated as part of a company’s culture. As businesses grow and become industry giants, continued growth can sometimes become more important than company culture, teamwork, and agility. But that can actually put prospects for growth at risk.

This is especially true in a service industry like commercial real estate, where agility, adaptability, and responsiveness can be true differentiators. Here are three strategies for success:

Serve Clients First

Clients rightly deserve our full attention, counsel, and real estate expertise. Finding the best opportunities and minimizing client risk means staying ahead of the competition and adapting to the changes and challenges in the market.

Being responsive to market dynamics and using research and statistical analysis helps clients understand the macroeconomic trends driving their markets’ opportunities and risks.

But no matter what resources you have, when it comes to agility and adaptability, a firm’s primary strength is in the talent of its professionals. Once layers of decision-making protocols unencumber team members, they can act quickly to pivot with changing or evolving client requirements—in short, they’re enabled to do what is best for clients. At Stream, this philosophy was validated in a recent engagement to provide tenant representation services for Azzur (see sidebar).

Maintain Agility

Large companies can sometimes struggle to remain agile, becoming more centralized and inflexible as they grow. Growth does offer economies of scale, but additional processes, automation, and complicated hierarchies can be the cause of frustration for clients and dissatisfaction for employees. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Dan Harris, Stream Realty Partners

Take note of the strategies used by some of the largest companies—Google, Apple, Salesforce, and Netflix—which have all moved toward a more agile and decentralized business model. In fact, some global corporate giants are emulating startups in terms of focus on company culture, efficiency, empowerment, and flat organizational structure.

Netflix’s culture deck goes into great detail about freeing up your talent from bureaucracy so they can get on with doing great work for their consumers. This tells us that companies can be big and agile, but agility and flexibility in larger companies don’t just happen; it has to be intentional, it has to be part of the culture.

Strive to maintain processes that do not inhibit a team’s ability to pivot; keep rigid hierarchies, siloed business units, and mind-numbing bureaucracy away from your business model.

A strong platform is agile and innovative, structured to manage and adapt to change. It should deliver the efficiencies of scale with speed, flexibility, and resilience to give clients and professionals a competitive advantage over other businesses that are heavy and slow to take action.

Stay Ahead of the Competition

All businesses need to adapt to changes in the economy, changes in technology, and changes in human behavior. Agility is becoming increasingly important in the industry, but many CRE firms are still retaining their traditional top-down hierarchies, which are slow—or worse, unwilling—to adapt to their clients’ changing needs and evolving demands of the marketplace. Those companies get left behind, just as Blockbuster made way for Netflix and Blackberry made way for the iPhone.

Finally, always be adaptable in your approach and agile enough to take advantage of challenges and opportunities alike; that’s how you stay ahead of the competition.

Dan Harris is managing director of Stream Realty Partners’ Dallas office tenant representation team. 

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