Property is a “people business” – that’s something we’ve heard a lot of over the years, writes Will Lewis, founding director at OBI. But we’re inclined to think that in many cases, those saying it are thinking more about the social aspects of the professional community – how getting on with people and being a good networker are seen as key.
All true enough, but for us it doesn’t address the concern that a lot of the property industry isn’t yet getting to grips with how technology can help them engage with businesses beyond providing a space to work from, pretty much forgetting about them once the deal is done and the company has moved in. There’s an inherent “them and us” approach.
The people that are moving things forward in the industry understand that the role of a property provider can be every bit as much service provider beyond “just a building”. By using some smart, well-built software, and using the data that property providers are well-placed to gather, you can build business communities – environments that support businesses in their growth, in strengthening their brand, and to build the networks they need in an intelligent way.
When it comes down to it, this is about harnessing technology to help people make better-informed decisions from both a work and social perspective.
The likes of WeWork realise how a customer app adds another layer of value, enabling the WeWork community to connect globally. The knowledge gained from such online communities can help create the space, events and tenant offers that people want.
Why is community so important? Because, really, everybody wants to be a people business. Social and professional events are part of this, but the various other bits of information you gather about people in your day-to-day environment are part of it as well.
Purely from the perspective of property owners and advisors, community is important because it helps retention. In an increasingly footloose tenant market, where fewer and fewer companies are signing for the long lease terms of old, building loyalty to something is vital. People need variety in their working life, and they want engagement, and technology can make that much easier.
Data allows you to bring people together, to tailor events and give people what they want, cutting out the white noise. Another angle of this is “a building as a brand” – the power of being based in a location that immediately announces your company as forward-thinking, on-the-ball, willing to give its staff a people-focused environment.
The coworking model is maturing rapidly, in some cases coworking providers are proactively managing their customer rosters so that competing businesses aren’t located together; a soft-touch approach to creating a broad business ecosystem.
If landlords or providers are doing it right, they’re not seen as the firm that an aspirational business will grudgingly fork over its rent to, but as a tool to be used, a brand to be leveraged, someone who can facilitate the various things companies need; advice, connections, insight, network-building.
The right location allows a business to achieve its goals: strengthening a message, improving perception, building community. Data is king and by harnessing it intelligently property firms can and should do more, or risk getting left behind.