Author: Kevin Beaudry, SIOR MCRE Senior Vice President, Principal
Avision Young Commercial Real Estate
The evolution of professional service providers is impacting everything you touch from banking to accounting, legal and yes commercial real estate advisors!
Think about the impact of technology, the people you engage with, how you interact and the very nature of your experiences compared with five, ten or fifteen years ago? It’s very different and continues to change rapidly, you won’t even recognise it in 10 more years.
Are business leaders and educators investing enough resources into the right technologies, people skills and business process tools to properly manage the future? This should be a real concern for the leaders who are not walking the talk. They all run the risk of being left behind or playing catch up after the fact. Change is real, change is constant and embracing change is more important now than ever before
Financial technology (“Fintech”) for example is said to be the next great disruptor in the global economy and yet Canada’s fintech enterprises face a distressing talent gap. The problem is not a lack of engineering and technical skills, but rather exists on the left side of the corporate organization chart – in the marketing and business development roles.
Our emerging financial technology companies are often scrambling to find a combination of marketing and sales skills – quantitative and interpersonal – that they need to survive and grow. That lays down a challenge for not just Fintech CEO’s and investors, but to the universities and colleges that train and develop marketing, engineering, commerce and finance graduates.
The classic story of any new, fast growing enterprise is that they are often founded by an entrepreneur, perhaps a former consultant, banker or accountant – and we certainly need more of these company creators. Let’s look very carefully at the people who theses people hire. Their first recruit is often a product specialist with a science or engineering background. Thus, Canadian companies develop very quickly on the right side of the org chart with more of the science, engineering and IT specialists.
The problems start to arise when they need to sell the product or the service they have developed. Many companies are competing to import marketing and sales people from the United States and abroad, given the absence of local talent. This stunts our ability to develop a cadre of leading Fintec or even Corporate Real Estate Tech (“CREtech”) companies and managers, and leaves us exposed as we all embrace for the new infux of international players.
Part of the explanation for the trend to international hiring lies in the heft of enterprise outside of Canada. But this also speaks to a fundamental Canadian malaise.
Canadians actually do very well in product innovation, but the country lags in its ability to take these products to market, develop sales and marketing strategies, identify customers and find out what they want. As a result, we historically lack companies that with the size and clout to compete both at home and abroad, and they are often taken over before they hit their stride.
Of course, it is often part of most new venture development planning to be eventually acquired. Our Canadian hopefuls more often than not lack the breadth of talent to maximize their potential before these events occur.
This situation persists because of a fundamental challenge: We need sales and marketing people to be less obsessed with branding and advertising than in the past, and more comfortable with analytics, data methodology, total accountability and business process modeling. With this means, companies can then identify who should be targeted in their approaches. These professionals need to get adept at building and integrating personal sales strategies. Only then will they be able to engender customer trust and move the relationship along.
You need the quantitative skill set to deeply understand your customer – but once you do that, you have to reach them in a very personal way through human interaction.
This prescription – hard analytics and soft skills in building a relationship – is a very difficult mix but absolutely essential for the careers of senior managers and leaders. This requires a heavy shift in education and training, particularly at colleges and universities that are challenged to provide an underlay of data analytics and an overlay of interpersonal skills.
Young professional service advisors coming into our business need to think about what differentiates them in the future economy and competencies like leadership, relationship building and creativity to separate them from machines. Those are the attributes that universities, colleges and business training programs need to more aggressively promote and develop.
There also needs to be a more focused approach for teaching and entrepreneurship and innovation. Not all business students are wired to be entrepreneurs. But they should be able to discover their balance of aptitude in their formative years and hone those skills that are lacking.
In summary, all organizations must contemplate a reset of business education and training – if all team members are to have meaningful careers, and if emerging companies are to find essential talent close to home.
As a buyer of commercial real estate services, you should expect more, demand more and not settle for traditional service delivery.
This article was originally published in CONNECT Magazine’s Summer 2019 issue.