The changes prompted by COVID 19 are undeniable. A year ago, the country and the world literally ground to a halt and we all have our own stories about that day as we remember it. Commercial real estate was impacted too – and those impacts have been widely discussed and examined over the past year. They will no doubt make headlines in the months and years ahead. The uncertainty created from the relative stop and start of all these moving pieces has created a situation that I believe, commercial real estate professionals and business leaders were cut out for.
The commercial real estate industry did not officially shut down because of government mandate (at least here in Wisconsin) – but it was significantly altered. We speculate a lot about the impacts: Will workers return to the offices? Will people just do takeout for the rest of their lives? Will industrial and warehouse space supply ever keep up with the demand? What will happen to downtown dwellers and the vibrancy they bring to the Cities?
While it is always interesting and sometimes entertaining to speculate about the future by looking to the past for answers about what might happen next – the fact is – nobody knows exactly how this will play out. We have heard the words ‘accelerate’ as in – “the pandemic caused many of these things to happen more quickly than without the government shutdowns”. Most understand that this is an ‘event’ in time – and like all events – they will have an impact, but people evolve and adapt around the situations. That is why you see people embracing technology – this is necessity, but it is also a strategic advantage for many. How we look at the gig economy and contract workers is yet to be determined, but these situations have certainly forced CEOs to look at staffing needs and productivity in a whole new way.
When it comes to what I do day in and day out – ‘running the business’ of the association – I have to admit it was a huge shift in thinking to take a networking organization and suggest that our definition had to change around in-person gatherings.
But our value proposition of serving as a powerful network of commercial real estate professionals to discuss ideas, solve problems and share ideas is even more resolute today than it was a year ago. Our renewal for 2021 was at more than 90%. This tells me that members found value in the work we did in 2020 and are confident in CARW’s value to their businesses. We have helped members with legal questions, forms issues, data needs, tax questions and more.
Since day one, even though commercial real estate was considered essential, members were focused on preparing their clients and colleagues for a safe and seamless reopening. Many have said they are busier than ever – others have said their business was never so interesting. Finding solutions is what this business is about. Whether it is negotiating a lease, reconfiguring space, or evaluating the best location.
This shift in the way our members think about executing on their day to day pushes me to imagine how we can continue to bring the greatest value to our members through services. In working with our Chairman Adam Williquette, Immediate Past Chairman Joe Lak, and the balance of the board – I am inspired by what they see as ‘next’. We have the opportunity here to shape the organization as it is reimagined coming out of the pandemic.
So, what does that mean for CARW?
Hearing the members, remaining flexible and always looking forward. Keeping our ear to the ground on relevant regulatory and legislative issues; understanding the business climate and responding thoughtfully to members’ concerns.
That is why I am looking forward to our May 12th event with Geoffrey Kessleman. He is not only a futurist, but a commercial real estate professional with nationally recognized expertise. His insights will help us look at the opportunities before us as we boldly look to beyond 2021 and COVID-19. Following his presentation, we will hear from business and commercial real estate leaders on their reaction to his remarks. Finally, we will gather safely outdoors for a celebration and toast to the next 10 years.
So, looking back – yes – there was a lot of disruption. But commercial real estate is a long game. Our resilience was on full display this past year as an organization and an industry. Our cohesiveness and unity are our strength. It always has been and always will be – with or without a pandemic.