How to Find a Good Real Estate Site for Your Stakeholders

Published on Tuesday, 26 November 2013 11:48:44    Written by Marc
During the years that I was managing real estate, one of the most challenging tasks of finding the right office sites for our operations was to find sites in specific locations. On a number of occasions, we needed to consolidate business units together into new office sites. One of the most popular concerns that people who manage real estate leases can have with moving people from one site to another is getting people to the site.

Finding a real estate sitePart I

After all, not everyone has a vehicle so if the new office site you are proposing is off the public transportation grid; you need to be prepared to offer something great in return because you are going to have on steep uphill battle. Even for those who do have a vehicle to commute, there is a limit to commute and at one point, you are going to get strong resistance.

Before even thinking of starting your search, you need to sit down with all stakeholders of the project and ask them where they would prefer to be relocated. Whenever I needed to move/relocate a site or merge sites into a new one, I would pull out a map of the city, pin point the present location (or locations if we were merging) and draw some circles around these points. This would be to show the stakeholders what areas of the city we would be looking for a site.

I would start by asking people if they could accept to relocate the site by say two miles (approximately three kilometers) and if they said yes, I would show them what a two miles radius would represent on a map. Surely, many stakeholders would be quick to eliminate areas that were included in the drawn circle. In some cases, it was because the circle-included parts of a neighbourhood that people did not want to go, or that did not have public transportation. In some cases, we eliminated parts of the area inside the circle but extended the circle in other directions, so that we ended up with an ellipse.

For example, if you have offices located all along a good highway, people might be ok in driving a few miles more. In order to help the stakeholders agree on an area, I would often request from the human resources department to provide me with the zip codes or postal codes of all employees working in the sites we wanted to move/consolidate/merge. Requesting only the codes without the names of the employees is something HR normally has no problem providing and it can help you see where the employees presently live. Simply add the codes on a city map (putting a colored point) and then draw concentric circles around the existing sites. Some software does these tasks very quickly.

For example, you can make a circle with a one-mile radius and one circle with a five miles radius. Then go and count how many codes (people) are located inside the 1 mile radius and how many within the five miles radius. Seeing all the colored points on the map can help the stakeholders better understand where the employees presently live, and can also help guide them in finding areas of where the new sites could be located. For example, if 75% of the employees seem to live approximately two miles east of the present sites, chances are you will be better off looking for a new site in that region than trying to find a new site a few miles west of the existing site.

I found that this information was one of the most appreciated by the stakeholders and they often requested for extra copies of this information in order to be able to debate with their own teams on which area of the city they should be looking for new sites. In addition to showing where the employees were working on the map, I would often add the public transportation system, in order to show the stakeholders what type of public transportation was offered inside these drawn circles. That helped eliminate additional areas were the public transportation system was considered insufficient.

The goal of the exercise is to be able to get a clear mandate from all stakeholders (normally all key people which will be physically moving to the new site, plus other people in management positions) that if you do find a good site (according to their other criteria) inside the area you drew on the map, then people should be ok with that. This simple exercise will save you a ton of time and frustration.

Once you have your area defined, it is time to start asking questions that are more specific. Let us list a few of the key questions you will need to ask:

  • Timeline. Obviously, one of the most important elements in finding a site is timing. If you are lucky and managed to plan this well in advance then time should not be a main concern. However, in real life it seems that nothing moves until everything happens to be late and then we find ourselves running. Sounds typical? You are not alone.

    Many projects are delayed until the last minute and then they ask you do find a site rapidly. In one situation, we were working on a project we were trying to push internally with little success, until someone in a division decided to give the green light with a ridiculously tight timeline, so much that after we got an offer from a landlord on a site we managed to find, when we wanted to start to negotiate with the landlord about pricing, we got told by our colleagues that there was no time to negotiate, that they needed the key the same day. Not even having the time to pick up the phone and talk to the landlord to try to get a better price may seem like something impossible, but it happens.
  • Budget. That should probably be your second question. Unfortunately these days many companies either have little or no extra budget or they are doing the merging/consolidating exercise to reduce costs, so forget about large budgets. However, knowing what can be afforded will help you sort out sites. In addition, the budget is what drives the next two items below.

Click here to read Part II of this article.