Episode #15 - Working from Home in Commercial Real Estate
The Industrial Advisors discuss working from home in commercial real estate and how routines have changed during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Bill Condon: Welcome, everybody, to our Industrial Advisors podcast with Bill Condon and Matt McGregor. Today, we wanted to cover a topic that many of you are also experiencing, and it's working from home, not only in the commercial real estate space, but what that transition has been like for us. And Matt, why don't we start with that? How has your average day changed from what it was, previously going to the office every day, to what it's like now working from home?
Matt McGregor: Oh wow. I would say everything completely, completely different. It took some getting used to. Luckily, we're in an industry that, I would say, is probably easier than a lot of other ones from a technology standpoint, although we can't go look at real estate, look at it, and tour it, and all of that. We can do a lot online and we were already were, but the transition to home certainly was different. I don't have an office, so mine got jammed in the downstairs family room. So, it can be a little bit of a high traffic area.
Matt McGregor: I would say my average work week has definitely reduced. I'd say, before I was somewhere around 50 hours a week, and I'm probably upper 30's, around 40, so definitely a reduction in overall hours. But I wouldn't say that the quality has changed much. Surprisingly, I'm still doing normal activities. With the alteration bill of making breakfast for the kids before they do online school. Stepping away from the computer screen, obviously a lot more frequently and hanging out with them, and walking the dogs with them during the lunch break, and certainly enjoying a lot more family time, which is that correlation to the reduction of hours a little bit. What about you, Bill?
Bill Condon: Yeah, it's definitely been a transition. We have four kids in the house, and they're all doing online schooling as well. My wife, Jenny, is doing a great job with that. So for me I've had to adjust and learn as we go in the sense of where do I take calls from, where do I do Zoom meetings from? And so, I've got that down now. Like you, I'm also enjoying the part that we get to be around family more. I'm also, in addition to the commercial real estate, daily calls with everybody, the PE teacher for my kids. So, we get a lot of recess time at the baseball fields together as well.
Matt McGregor: Yeah. I find myself doing that. Certainly setting up a lot of different things for the kids, and helping my out with her basketball training daily. Putting my coach hat back on, and doing those things. And like you, I got a new dog. And like a lot of people, right? Speaking of that, how's cleaning up pee and poop going at your house?
Bill Condon: Yeah. No, we got a labradoodle named Griffey a week and a half ago. It's been an adjustment for all of us. He's great. We surprised the kids with him, and that part was fun. It's a good time to be training a dog. Right? It's our first one. So far so good. And we all love having him as part of the family. How about you? How's your new dog going?
Matt McGregor: Captain is his name. He was actually named by a young kid. So, his name was Captain America, he's, as you know, a Rottweiler. He's six months old, very well trained, which was great. Bringing a six-month-old. But he's huge. And our other dog is about a hundred pounds now, and our other dog is probably 20 pounds. And so having him... When he runs around the house, if he hits a table, anything on it is gone. But he's a really, really nice dog. And so that's been great. And it's so funny how many people have got dogs. The good news is the adoption agencies on dogs and things are, they're running out of dogs because all the families are at home. And what a great time to get a dog.
Matt McGregor: And so, swinging this back to commercial real estate is, a couple of things that are booming, interestingly enough, because of COVID are pet food companies. So, online... I talked to the head of real estate of a pet food company that they're just booming. Right? They're having to get auxiliary space because of needing all of the additional dog food, and dog toys, and all of that. And then, the other one that's booming that I'm sure you're doing from home is all the gardening companies. And you and I are doing a big deal right now with a company that supplies fertilizer and stuff. And so that's booming. Everybody's out in their yards doing projects like crazy. And then the other one that's booming is alcohol companies. So, statistically speaking, people are drinking a lot more. So, we're seeing a big boom in that in both very full recycling bins in the neighborhood as well as a boom from commercial real estate growth [inaudible 00:05:35] alcohol companies.
Bill Condon: I was going to say, I'm definitely doing my part on all three of those. But, getting back to the commercial real estate side of things and just the working part of it, I find everyone's probably working a little bit less, but I'm on calls the majority of the day talking with clients and doing a lot of relationship building because this is when it's time to make sure that you're talking to everybody, right? And not just trying to do deals and slam deals home. That's not the approach for us right now. Our approach is to be advisors and be partners. And so, a lot of people want our opinions, and that's a really good position to be in. So, that's the approach that we're taking. But certainly, there's no shortage of calls. Would you agree?
Matt McGregor: Yeah, it's interesting because I think a lot of people have thrown in the towel a little bit with the attitude of, when I get back to work, what's that going to look like? I think you and I have taken the philosophy as, we're not stopping working. Certainly, we're altering our approach. And to your point, I would say that we're spending a lot of time consulting with companies on a less fee-driven and more partnership-driven on helping our clients get through this time the best they can, whether that's growing. Which, surprisingly, a lot of companies are growing during this, especially e-commerce companies.
Matt McGregor: Downsizing. Certainly, some companies, and a lot of companies aren't growing. And in fact, they're shrinking and laying off. And then, obviously, dealing with in some cases, helping clients with rent deferment and things like that. And so, all of those things are more of a consulting basis. And certainly, it's interesting because I will say, Bill, I think people have slowed down. And when I call people, I can get the C Suite executives, and all of a sudden they're just very chit chatty, and they really, really want to talk to you. So, I think that people have slowed down. There's less on their plates, and they're more approachable. Are you finding that?
Bill Condon: For sure. And I think a big reason you're able to get that dialogue and that kind of dialogue with C level executives like we have been is simply because they know we're not calling with a sales pitch, right? We're calling to answer questions. And as I've talked with many of the brokers in our office and in our region that maybe this is their first pause in the market that they've seen, and they're looking for advice on what to do, my advice is simply to answer questions and be a resource the best you can. Because companies do have questions with regards to what's going on in the market and what things are going to look like.
Bill Condon: And on all the different sectors, you look at hotels, right, that market's been unfortunately, hammered, right? No one's [inaudible 00:08:49] hotels. Office space will be altered, I think, for a while on the new normal becoming. Right? And that'll be interesting to see what that looks like. But on the industrial side, the e-commerce portion of everything, I think, is really going to put industrial in a bright light continuing to move forward because the e-commerce trend is definitely not going anywhere, as you know.
Matt McGregor: That's right. Yeah, absolutely. It's not going anywhere, and it's booming as we've outlined on a couple of our most recent supply chain podcasts. Bill, shifting gears. Now that you're home, tell the listener a little bit about how life is different from a parenting and a relationship difference. Obviously, you were gone from your running in the morning to rushing off to work for a 10-hour shift, and getting back to all of a sudden now, you're in the house all the time. And that's creating a lot of positive things, but in a lot of cases, you also hear a lot of negative things. Personally, how has that affected... How are you parenting different? How is the relationship with Jenny different as opposed to pre-COVID?
Bill Condon: Yeah, and I don't think from that standpoint, there's anything negative with spending more time with family right now. There is an adjustment period that we all have to make. For example, now, when I leave for two hours to go outside of the house to make calls, my youngest, Kellen, thinks it's... "Well, you're gone for two hours." He thinks it's crazy. Right? So, overall for us, we've just really tried to treat it as a good thing to connect even more, and make our relationships even stronger. We do something fun at night. We have, we call it the family fun basketball game. We have, basically, a seven-game series. It's me and one of my two younger sons, and then two of my other sons, and we play against each other.
Bill Condon: We had to put it on hold for a while because my youngest son, whenever he loses, he just rages. Man, and people just run away from the guy. So, we've had to adjust that. We had to put that on hold for a while, but we were able to bring it back. That was good. It was much better last night from a losing the right way standpoint. So we've just created different things to do to break up the day. Everyone's got to get their schoolwork done, first and foremost. And then we have some fun with the late afternoon hits and into the evening. For us, it's been a great way to connect even further as a family. But, how about you?
Matt McGregor: Yeah, that's awesome. You've got a wonderful family, and I know a Coach Billy is out there. Your kids are going to be ready for sports seasons when they come back, I'm sure. We've had a lot of adjustments. I will tell you, obviously, COVID has been a terrible situation. But, I would say, on our family, it's been a very good situation spending a lot more time together, and we've been pretty innovative. I looked at it when we went into this is like, "How do you come out of it being proud of..." We'll look back and this being a historic time, one of those times in your life that you're definitely going to remember what you did, and you want to be proud of that. And I talked a lot to our family about that.
Matt McGregor: Things that I love is that our family was so busy. As you know, I've got a freshman and a junior, a daughter, a freshmen and junior son. So, life was busy. They're both year-round athletes, multi-sport athletes. They were both competing in state mock trial competitions, and speech and debate, and all of that going on. And so, life was so busy, and now all of a sudden, it's not. Right? And so, rather than doing three family dinners together a week, now we're doing seven plus some lunches, and this and that. And so, we're doing these great family dinners together. We bought this great [inaudible 00:12:55] barbecue. We're learning how to cook different meals together. And everybody's taking that role on to help out and do different things. And so, I will say we're eating really well during this, making all these gourmet things.
Matt McGregor: And then, we started doing some unique things together. We started a little McGregor education thing. So for example, last night it was my turn, and I showed the family how to use a drill. And so, everybody got out, and learned how to change the bit, and learned how to drill screws, and do these different things that our kids didn't have metal shop and wood shop like we did when we were kids. So, we did that. And then, another unique thing, tonight will be interesting. Last week, I gave each of the kids a certain amount of money to donate to a COVID charity, and they needed to research that. And, they're going to present tonight at dinner on what their charity of choice was, and why they chose it.
Matt McGregor: And so, that's going to be a lot of fun. All four of us are doing it, but, obviously the kids have their unique approach on it. And so, just different things like that. And then, one other thing that we did that was a lot of fun as a family is we went and got just stacks of cards and wrote cards to all of our friends, mainly the kids' friends. And then, they ran around and delivered it at night and put it on their doorsteps with a little candy or whatever. And so, just fun family projects like that that has been just a lot of fun as a family unit to do.
Bill Condon: Yeah, those are all great ideas. When you did the whole wood shop thing, you should have Zoomed me in because I don't really know how to use a drill either. That would have been helpful for me. We're just telling our kids people are different right now. Right? You got to be socially distanced and respect all that. But, smile at people. You can say hello, keep your distance. But, just go out of your way to try and smile, and be engaging, and most importantly, make other people smile because people are adjusting, and people adjust differently. And so, I really think your idea on the charity is a good one. Maybe we'll steal that.
Matt McGregor: Well, for sure. And obviously, I stole it from somebody else so, keep stealing. Yeah, it's a fun one, and I'm looking forward to a dinner tonight, and learning what they did with it. From a social perspective, Bill, and maybe a last question for you on this is, what are you doing outside of the family? Are you doing a Zoom cocktail hours with friends? How are you doing socially?
Bill Condon: Yeah, that's been a really hard part for me is both of us are very social people, and I miss the people I work with a lot. I miss my friends a lot, miss my family a lot. And so, we do a lot of Zoom meetings for our parents, and siblings, and everything. We typically get together on Sunday nights. We obviously are doing that right now for... So, we do Zoom meetings on Sunday nights to get everybody together. And those are great. They last about an hour and we have a lot of fun with it. But yeah, I'm doing about one happy hour a week with friends. And, it's a great way to connect. And of course, text messaging is fun too, right? We're trying to still get some social interaction in where we can and through the appropriate measures. But, definitely miss everybody. How about you? What are you doing?
Matt McGregor: Some of the same. Certainly, I haven't done the Zoom meeting that much with family. I'm more called everybody on a regular basis, just checking in with them. And then, certainly the friends, we've done a lot of different Zoom meetings, and Zoom cocktail hours, and things like that. The other night in our neighborhood, we had six people over. Everybody was in our yard because as you know, it's been brilliantly sunny. So we had about 10 feet between chairs, a big circle, which was fun to connect with the neighbors and just chat from a very safe social distancing perspective. And so, that was the first. I think we got a little burned out on the Zoom thing and needed some face-to-face. And so, we did face-to-face at a great distance outside which was a nice change of pace, and taking advantage of the weather. I will say, from a Seattle perspective, at least we've had a lot of nice weather during this time. Because normally, this time of year would be 45 and blustery, rainy times. And we've had just unbelievable.
Bill Condon: It's been fantastic. I think I read something, I just skimmed it. So, I don't know if this is a hundred percent accurate or not, but it's the driest April we've ever had. But these last two weeks have been unbelievable.
Matt McGregor: Well, that's certainly believable because I don't ever remember an April like this. We don't even have often June like this, right?
Bill Condon: Right.
Matt McGregor: They often call our June, June-uary. So, this has been certainly great. From a perspective, going back to work and closing this up, I think we found great ways to work and stay active. Work is still very demanding, and I feel like it is definitely picking back up. I'd say that those first couple weeks of quarantine were a little shell shock for everybody, and it's hard to get a hold of everybody. I think everybody's settling into a new reality of getting used to this. And I would say, to some degree, I am getting used to it and found great ways to be efficient in it, and found some positive ways of working through this being innovative and creative in ways that I hadn't before. So, for that it's spawned some innovation that's been a lot of fun to discover new ways of working and being productive.
Bill Condon: Yeah, definitely. And I think we'll continue to do that as we move forward and everyone adjusts to the new normal as things get back on track. But, we just want to take an opportunity to thank everybody for listening. Hope you enjoyed this. We'll be back out with some more here in the near future, so everyone stay healthy, stay well, and we'll be talking soon.