Leadership through crisis in commercial real estate
Ryan Simonetti, CEO of Brookfield-backed flexible office operator Convene, joins Bold founder, Caleb Parker for an inspiring episode on leadership and optimism on the future of commercial real estate.
In this episode, Simonetti shares the core values that helped make Convene successful over the past decade, the factors that enabled him to take decisive action during the pandemic, why he believes we’re in the middle of ‘the Great Accelerator’, how office as an asset class is going through a transformation and why buildings without Space-as-as-Service will struggle in the future.
Questions asked in this episode
- You were quoted a couple years ago with saying that only two things keep you up at night: your two-year-old and your company’s culture. Can you talk about the culture you’ve built at Convene?
- Often business leaders keep quiet on topics that become politically polarised, but you’ve been vocal on social media, sharing what you believe. Is that risky? Do you think more business leaders should take a stance?
- You made the decision early on to close all Convene locations, even before the Government mandated lockdowns. What drove that decision?
- It’s an understatement to say this is a difficult time – how do you balance maintaining optimism with facing the realities of today?
- What makes you optimistic about the future of our industry?
- You’ve been talking a lot about hybrid and virtual events – do you expect this to last long-term?
- How is this going to affect occupancy or vacancy rates in commercial assets?
- How do you think our industry needs to evolve to keep up with the growing demand for SPaaS?
- Do you think commercial real estate needs an asset class for Space-as-a-Service?
- What is your advice to commercial real estate leaders who are not convinced that SPaaS is the future?
- At the core of a company’s culture is a set of beliefs and values – core non-negotiables
- Core values are the high bar for which a company hires talent and the lens through which all decisions are made
- GRIT as a core value stands for: Genuine, Relentless, Integrity, Teamwork, and is required for any disruptive company to succeed
- Integrity is the most important core value
- Business is the greatest team sport of all
- We’ll see more companies and executives take a proactive stance to have a positive impact on societal issues
- “As the leader of a company I need to speak out on behalf of our team, and what we believe as a company is the right thing to do.”
- The decisions that companies make during this pandemic will impact their value for decades to come
Future of #CRE
- This crisis will be seen as the great accelerator for the Future of Work and Space-as-a-Service trends we’ve been seeing. Many of these trends that were expected to take 15-20 years for change to take effect will now happen in 3-5 years
- Hybrid and virtual events and working from home are here to stay long-term
- Talent wants choice, flexibility and experience
- Shift toward the individual, not the company, being in control specific to when, where and how we work
- Remote work will make up 25-35% of a company’s workforce
- #CRE needs to support people working in the HQ and remotely
- If an asset doesn’t offer Space-as-a-Service it’s going to struggle
About Ryan Simonetti
Ryan Simonetti is the CEO and co-founder of Convene, the company that designs and services premium places to work, meet, and host inspiring events. His unique expertise in real estate acquisitions, development, and structured finance has helped catapult Convene to become a pioneer in the commercial real estate industry.
Simonetti co-founded Convene in 2009 with the intention of disrupting the commercial real estate industry and transforming the workplace experience by capitalising on converging trends in real estate, technology, and hospitality. His vision – to infuse hotel-style services into meetings, events and flexible office spaces – has been Convene’s guiding force for the last 11 years, during which it has expanded to 32 locations across the US and UK.
With Simonetti at the helm, Convene has raised $410m in funding to date, and has been named one of America’s 100 Most Promising Companies by Forbes and a Best Workplace by both Inc. and Fortune Magazine. He has been recognised for his transformative achievements on Real Estate Forum’s 50 Under 40 list, Inc. Magazine’s “30 Under 30,” a list of America’s Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs, was named “Top Entrepreneur” by Crain’s New York, and was a finalist in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year® New York Awards.
Simonetti, the first in his family to attend college, graduated from Villanova University, where he developed the concepts for and ran several start-up companies designed for students. His professional career began as a real estate banking analyst in the global real estate group at Lehman Brothers, where he focussed on the structuring and securitisation of commercial mortgage-backed securities. Following Lehman Brothers, Simonetti joined Gramercy Capital Corp. as a vice president responsible for the restructuring of a $1bn loan portfolio including $600m of hospitality-related real estate investments.
Simonetti is an active supporter of the Urban Land Institute, CoreNet Global, IACC and was selected to be a member of New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Small Business Working Group. In addition, he is an active venture investor and advisor to several startup technology companies and their founders. Outside work, he enjoys golf, fishing, reading and thinking of the next ‘big idea.’ Ryan and his wife Lisa live in New York with their children Riley and Harley.