By Richard Kadzis
Adaptability, Business-Oriented View
Are Keys to Success in a Shifting Market
“ENTERPRISING TALENT” IS ONE WAY TO DESCRIBE
the main attribute of today’s corporate real estate executive.
One of the trends shaping it is the growing number of sen-ior-level CRE executives who don’t have real estate backgrounds or who come from outside of the CRE function.
Ron Zappile, president of United Technologies Realty, is
the former treasurer of one of United Technologies’ business units, Otis Elevator. Capital One’s Dan Mortensen ran
human resources before moving over to become head of
corporate real estate to lead workplace practices. Kathy
Winkler, vice president of CRE for Prudential Financial,
began as an interior designer with the company. These are
just a few examples of instances where an individual’s skill
set extends beyond the ability to manage workplaces to a
more business-oriented view of corporate real estate.
The linkage of CRE to the capital markets is
one of the biggest drivers redefining the skill
set of senior corporate professionals.
Driven by outsourcing, corporations are seeking CRE
executives who understand a business’ risks and opportunities, know how to forecast demand for real estate and
workspace reliably against the steeper changing curves of
business cycles and, most importantly, deliver solutions.
Industry executives talk frequently of how a CRE professional can win a seat at the C-suite table, gain the trust of the
business units’ senior management and speak the language
of the business or the CFO. That’s especially true when you
consider current business mandates, such as transparency,
governance, centralization and endless cost cutting. As a
result, businesses are asking CRE executives and service
providers for help in planning their growth strategies. Energy
cost management, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,
increased government regulation on green issues and a
range of other sustainability-related initiatives also fall into a
CRE professional’s sweet spot.
Further, the fact that boards, shareholders and senior
management are also turning to the corporate real estate
department to free up additional cash to help the enterprise
grow is evidence that the function has outgrown its transactional role and is now a much more strategic player.
Monetization of assets and sale-leasebacks offer even
more tangible proof of CRE’s growing impact on the nature
of business. Executive search firms tell us that the linkage
of CRE to the capital markets is one of the biggest drivers
redefining the skill set of senior corporate real estate professionals, those who report to them and their service
providers. These and other changes are why more CRE
leaders are coming from financial and other backgrounds.
But there are some issues with the talent supply chain
for CREs. One is a less-than-clearly defined track inside
many firms for long-term career development and succession. With outsourcing and the so-called war for talent,
service provider companies have begun stressing career
development more than some firms in the corporate world.
Of course, mergers, downsizings and reorganizations
contribute to it as well. Another influential factor is at the MBA
level, where too many graduate real estate programs don’t
include CRE competencies like project and facility management or design and construction oversight. In fact, we found
there is a severe gap in the future supply of facility managers
and the current supply of project managers.
Beyond these technical CRE competencies, there’s a
spectrum of business management skills including finance,
performance metrics and process and risk management
that are now needed. On top of that, there’s the soft skill set
requiring savvy in areas like change management, talent
retention, communication, diversity, community reinvestment, customer satisfaction, consensus building and more.
A key to becoming effective and realizing long-term success inside a corporate environment is adaptability, as
Kathy Winkler of Prudential noted at a recent CoreNet
Global Discovery Forum in New York City. Today, she related, being a CRE insider means becoming more of generalist, so having a willingness to leave behind a specialty and
try new things is part of the trick to gaining longevity in the
To be more enterprising in a CRE sense, Winkler concluded, “Don’t sit back and settle for what you have.” ◆
The views expressed in this article are those of the author
and not Real Estate Media or its publications.
Richard Kadzis is director of special projects for CoreNet Global
in Atlanta. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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