As the world continues to recover and correct from the pandemic, a sense of change is imminent. Interest rates have been on the up, making it more expensive to borrow and triggering slowdowns in certain markets. Inflation levels have hit a 40-year high, causing companies and consumers alike to re-align their budgets. Headlines touting economic downturns induce anxiety across the board. The question lingers: with so much change in the air, what is to come?
Clearly, we’re heading into unprecedented times. When my team at Avison Young’s Tri-State Investment Sales group in New York City turns to me, they’re looking for answers. The same is true at organizations across the nation. Amid uncertainty, leaders are expected to step up and take the reins. Staff members will follow if they have confidence in their leader.
Setting the course through uncharted waters is no small task. In my industry of real estate investments, the challenges in our current environment quickly stack up. Reduced sales volume, dropping values, and investors who prefer to wait to see if prices further decline are all making an impact. Owners that are upside down and in financial distress put an additional strain on the system. Vacant office spaces and retail spots, the direct result of remote work and online shopping, are on the rise.
I don’t have all the answers. What I do know is that I’ve led teams through uncertain times before and we’ve come out on the other side. The housing crisis and recession of 2008 and 2009 deeply affected the NYC real estate market where I’m based. Upheaval abounded again in 2020 with the onset of Covid.
To guide us through, I crafted and implemented techniques that proved to be effective. These strategies can be applied to teams in organizations of different sizes. When put into place, they equip leaders and empower staff members with tools for a brighter future.
- Use check-ins to build rapport.
My team of three dozen professionals meets every day. During our time together, we don’t merely go through a list of what needs to be done. We ask each other, “What’s going on in the market? What are clients saying?” Group members share highlights from articles and reports they’ve read. Then we discuss the takeaways.
Daily check-ins enable us to maneuver a changing environment. The more often you come together with a team, the more you’ll collectively get a sense of what’s going on in the industry. From there, you can develop a unified message that is shared to clients.
- Set the tone by example.
In my area of sales, it’s an information business. If you’re not up to date on zoning codes, possible ways to reposition a property, or what rents are going for, you could lose opportunities.
Rather than asking my team of professionals to provide that data, I set the pace. Every day I check major news outlets. I review reports, listen to podcasts, and follow social media to learn what’s going on and what to expect. I attend industry events, keep in touch with professionals in my network, and talk to everyone from superintendents to contractors to find the pulse of the market.
The result? A large pool of information which we can draw on to educate our clients. Team members that see data being gathered by those at the top may be motivated to do their own research too. Overall, these efforts can lead to a collaborative, well-informed group.
- Look at what you can do.
When Covid hit, no one knew exactly how long the shutdowns would last. Meanwhile, real estate professionals went home. Suddenly we were working from our personal desks.
As I wondered what I could do remotely, I realized I could still connect with others in the industry. I started a podcast which featured real estate leaders. These individuals shared their stories and offered tips to newcomers. Guests also came on to discuss data and reports about real estate.
The podcast led to new opportunities, including a deal with McGraw Hill for The Insider’s Edge to Real Estate Investing. The book, released in January 2023, provides actionable advice for readers to help them thrive during this challenging time.
- Get into the customer’s shoes.
When working with clients, I ask about their challenges. They tell me the issues they’re facing. Then I come up with solutions for them.
There’s often a stroke of creativity involved here. Investors with a great track record may be looking for ways to add value to a property. If I can offer them ideas that they haven’t heard before, they’re often all ears.
I always look for ways to act in the best interest of the client. That might mean advising them to wait on an acquisition. Later, when they’re ready to revisit a purchase, they’re more likely to lean into my team and me.
- Think one step ahead.
Ice hockey star Wayne Gretzky famously said, “I skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” Acting based on the present and past can be limiting. You’ll be positioning your team to fall behind. By accounting for the future, you’ll stay ahead of the curve.
In my line of work, that encompasses looking at the horizon and preparing for the days ahead. It could mean helping investors think about converting office space to residential units. It might involve being aware of upcoming tax incentives that could lower the cost of renovation work.
Like the disruptions of the past, this unprecedented time will pass. When we look back, let’s aim to reflect on the teams we led out of the crisis. At that point, these groups will be stronger than ever, closer than before, and ready to achieve success—together.
BY James P. Nelson wrote this article with Rachel Hartman.
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