Why Leasing Brokers Must Embrace Change or Face Failure

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Commercial leasing transactions are all about change. For occupiers, that change could be corporate growth, a new geographic presence, or decreasing satisfaction with existing spaces. And for owners, that change is either the development or acquisition of a new building, or the departure of an existing tenant. These are the fundamental situations that leasing is all about, and they reflect change one and all. No one leases a new space because their business, their landlord, and their market is staying absolutely the same.

It’s ironic, then, that so many brokers seem to resist change when it comes to their own teams and offices. Sure, there are exceptions out there, but as we all know, real estate is far from the most tech-forward industries out there, and within the business brokers certainly don’t lead the pack either.

For brokers at the top of the market, this hesitancy could be because they feel a certain strategy or set of tactics got them that far, and that changing things up, now that they are market leaders, could lead to them losing more than they stand to gain. For the thousands of hungry, growing brokers hoping to get to the top of the pile, the sentiment might be that stirring the pot too much could blow their chance at making it big. For their part, the newest members of the profession are probably too busy pounding the pavement and pinching pennies to make much of a deviation from the standard formula.

Make no mistake, treating change like a four-letter word has big downsides. In the words of famed Intel CEO Andy Grove, “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” Being too change resistant as a broker is all but accepting that you’re merely a little windless brokerage sailboat, bereft of agency, on the high seas of market trends and aggressive competitors.

Ignoring change, new innovations, and new tools leaves far too much money on the table for more adaptable, flexible upstarts to claim. Who wants to be the once-great broker a la Glengarry Glenross that lost track of the modern face of the business?

What’s more, being too closed off to new tools and perspectives could lead brokers to completely ignoring important pathways to greater profitability and efficiency. How many brokers out there wish they could spend more time with their family or at the golf course each week? And how many of that group actually take the time to scout for new tools and approaches to increase their efficiency and actually make that goal a reality? You do the math.

By all means, people should do what works for them, but brokers should at least be aware of the new strategies and tools that are out there and make a conscious decision not to pursue them, instead of simply staying ignorant of innovation in their field. Ken Morris, managing principal of the South Florida-based Morris Southeast Group, Inc. and one of the brokers featured in the recent leasing transaction strategies report we produced with commercial real estate transaction platform Propdocs, told us that effective brokers need to be flexible and embrace new perspectives to maximize effectiveness. “What I keep preaching to my team and clients is ‘change.’ That is the environment we live in today. As advisors, anything we can do to make the process more efficient and have less friction points will help us be service providers. Smoother transactions should lead to more contracts signed and more business for the people that handle them.”

Interestingly, another one of the brokers we spoke to while writing our leasing transaction strategies report explained that they knew they could save time and be more effective by embracing new tools and strategies, but they simply don’t have the time to get started. That broker is definitely not alone. So what should busy, highly effective brokers do if they want to manage change effectively, instead of letting it be forced on them?

The temptation might be to try to wait for a lull in business and then cram in some tech demos or research time, but shoving innovation into the corner is probably not the best approach to take. In our report, we discuss strategies some brokers use to balance their business development and transaction management time throughout the week. Scheduling R&D time just like phone call networking time throughout the week is one strategy brokers can take to effectively manage change. This absolutely does not have to be a daily thing, but even 30 minutes to an hour once a week could provide ample time to track trends and vet potential tools.

Similarly, innovation monitoring could be another task assigned to the junior member of brokerage teams (they will probably appreciate the break from cold calling). Again, this doesn’t need to happen all the time, but a few scheduled slots a month could help make the difference between innovation and stagnation.

Actually implementing new strategies and tools is a lot more difficult than just tracking trends, though. Especially in high-impact areas like marketing or CRMs, the process of implementing new solutions can be challenging to balance with a full calendar of transaction work and networking from Monday to Friday. To solve this issue, brokers should be sure to assign value to ease of implementation in their formal or informal tool review process. Effective tech providers have customer success teams and well-established playbooks for handling onboarding, meaning that brokers should be able to offload some of their new tech implementation workload onto the providers themselves.

Finally, brokers should carefully (and fully) consider the time or money savings of new strategies and tech tools before they write them off as too time-consuming to commit to. Spending 50 hours working closely with your junior team member to implement a new CRM or marketing tool might seem like a lot, but treat it like a capital improvement project. Will it save an hour a week? If so, it will have paid for itself, time-wise, in under a year. In the scheme of real estate evaluations, a break-even point measured in months seems like a compelling deal indeed.