COMMENT A client told me recently that he thought property management was now “sexy”. Well, let’s not get carried away – but at least we are now at the ball rather than being left behind to scrub the floors.
Over the past two years we have reimagined what property management looks like. We are calling it PM V2.0. There are five big trends.
1. The value of brand, placemaking and enlivenment
Properties need their own identity and brand. Short-term leases mean occupiers are much more fluid, retention is vital, and having a strong brand and a vibrant enlivenment programme helps attract and retain occupiers.
People come to work to be together and to collaborate, and the role of the PM is to help people to love their workplace. Doing that helps businesses to attract and retain great talent, be more productive, and means they are much more likely to renew.
Over the past three years we have been repositioning Stockley Park – not an easy job given the fractured ownership – but it now has completely new food and beverage offerings, a different brand, loads of events and even a secret cinema. The occupiers are now part of a vibrant community and feel that they belong.
2. Improved amenities and services
There is little point in having a strong brand, repositioning space within a building, or offering managed workspace if the common amenities and services are last-century.
Old-style property management might have run to some flowers on the front desk and a bowl of branded sweets. V2.0 includes providing flexible amenity space, improved facilities for cyclists, charging points for electric vehicles, phones and devices, roof terraces and converting redundant space into yoga and gym space or cafés.
Working with neuroscience specialist Centric Lab, we are able to see how human behaviour is affected by what we do and as a result have developed specific intervention plans. Everything from greening the space, improving the furniture and air supply and introducing music, great coffee and products in the showers. These finishing touches are not expensive, and can be absorbed by most service charge budgets.
3. Welcoming and engagement
I had a great welcome at a client building in Hong Kong recently. It was pure theatre, complete with smiles, white gloves and a perfect shot of espresso. Front of house and customer experience is so much more than just recruiting a great receptionist; it is about repositioning the front of house team physically and experientially.
Mapp has shifted from recruiting receptionists to guest experience managers – arguably the most important appointment of a building; giving personality, life and soul into everyday occupation for guests and tenants. Someone who is remembered, for the right reasons. In fact, all 100-plus of our site team are going through a four-stage skills programme to help them deliver a great experience.
Where budgets are tight there are robust virtual receptionists, which we are currently trialling at one of our managed buildings in east London.
Sustainability has always been a fundamental component of what we do. The unlikely trio of Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough have all in their own way recently significantly raised awareness of the perils facing the planet.
Given the size of the real estate footprint, fundamental change is becoming something now pledged by the Better Buildings Partnership. We need to take the lead.
It is about more than just the environment, though. Delivering social value is now a real focus of any serious forward-thinking organisation, and property managers need to help deliver social impact across the businesses and the portfolio they manage.
Technology, innovation and investment are inseparable, and are fundamentally changing how property management is delivered.
Investing in, and partnering with, leading technology providers will ensure that clients and their occupiers have access to a curated selection of the most advanced solutions possible.
The digitalisation of real estate is also helping us measure and improve the wellness and sustainability of individual buildings. Smart solutions are delivering systems and platforms that communicate with each other and anticipate and resolve problems.
The biggest barrier: who pays for this?
This is where we are faltering at the moment. It sounds great, it looks great, and we get it – but who pays for it? In an industry that can move slowly, making the transition from “the occupier must pay” through a service charge to having the confidence to believe in, deliver, and pay for what is needed to attract and retain occupiers is the next big step.
Nigel Mapp is chief executive of Mapp