When Time is of the Essence, Just Listen
As I conduct business development for Spacesmith, I regularly meet with property owners, owner’s representatives, property managers, project managers, developers and commercial brokers and, when I do, a question I often ask is, “What is the biggest challenge or dilemma you are faced with from day to day?” As standard or plain vanilla as this question may be to ask, an awful lot can be learned by doing so.
Recently, I posed this question to the leasing director of a leading property owner in New York, and after he sat back and thought for a moment, he replied by saying, “Time.” Because I never heard that before as a response, I asked what he meant and if he could explain further. The leasing director went on to say, “It's simple, for every day that I can’t lease an office or retail space in one of our buildings, because the design or build-out of a space is not done on time, we lose money. And, to compound the issue, for every day that a tenant can't be in their office or retail space they too lose money and business opportunities.”
At that point in the conversation, the leasing director turned the tables on me and asked, "What can your firm, as architects, do to make sure I don't lose time?" After giving the question some thought, my response was, "We listen." The leasing director seemed a bit taken aback by my reply, and now asked me to explain. If we did not listen to and fully understand a client's (landlord or tenant) programming needs, time schedule, budget constraints, design requirements, branding standards, etc. from the initial meeting onward, chances are we would fall way short of their goals, objectives and expectations. Obviously, this would not bode well for us but, more importantly, it would not bode well for the client. If, on the other hand, we were certain to listen (intently, actively, responsively) to the client then we should know exactly what needs to be done, by when, by whom and at what cost, thus enabling the landlord to lease his/her space in a timely manner, and for the tenant to move in on time, as well.
While many in the real estate and AEC industry may pay particular attention to an architect’s approach/methodology or aesthetics, executive biographies, project portfolio and/or fees, perhaps what should be noticed first and foremost is how well a company understands the power of listening and, just as importantly, how to act upon it.