As President and CEO of Sperry Van Ness International Corporation, my role, aside from addressing the perennially evolving needs of the organization, is to spend a good percentage of my time on strategy and “second wave growth.” Creating a real estate services platform, scaling-up new offerings like property management and auction, but also on expanding upon the disruption that our compensated cooperation model has had on the industry is where I spent a considerable amount of my time. In this post I’ll share with you why we’ve funded and embraced such an “innovation lab” at SVN, and describe why it’s an important cause.
Inspired by the Motley Fool, whose two founders I recently spent time with at the Conscious Capitalism conference, let us consider the following notion: Becoming a leading company in an industry requires the right people, and I’m not talking about at the executive level, but at every level. An appetite for change has to be in a company’s DNA. But being an industry leader also requires a tremendous amount of imagination… imagining a different world. A world almost like the one we live in now, but more efficient. Becoming a laggard in an industry requires a lack of imagination. And just like any industry on the planet, there are forces that will disrupt commercial real estate brokerage and we are not immune.
Change happens to industries. Just ask a newspaper publisher, or anyone who invested in that industry in recent years. We still read newspapers – in fact we read them more today than in previous generations – but we don’t read them in quite the same way. And without a bridge loan from the then richest man on the planet, even the patriarch of the publishers – The New York Times – would have filed for bankruptcy protection. Were there warnings this would happen? You bet.
Back in 1993, a man named Gordy Thompson worked for The New York Times, and his job title was “Internet Services Manager.” Rest assured that in the C-Suite at The Times, no one knew what the role included, much less understood that it was arguably the most important position at the newspaper. As the story goes, Thompson tried – and failed to deliver the following message to The Times execs: “When a 14-year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you, then you’ve got a problem.”
Thompson was in the habit of hanging out on Internet message boards, if you remember those from back in the day. There, Thompson noticed that fans of the Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry were re-posting Barry’s columns on the 2,000 person strong Usenet so that people who couldn’t read the Herald now could. In other words, the greatest competitive threat for newspapers was the popularity of their own content. People wanted more of it where and when they wanted – on their terms.
This same trend has occurred in the financial industry when we began facilitating our own trades online – and the list goes on. Did people stop traveling? No, they stopped paying travel agents. And you better believe there was a Gordy Thompson every time, sounding the alarm, telling the corporate executives to use a little imagination. Saying “people want what they want, when they want it, where they want it and how they want it. And if we don’t figure out a way to give it to them, they are going to get it somewhere else.”
Innovating to develop new methods of providing Commercial Real Estate (CRE) advisory services, working towards making the opaque and antiquated CRE industry more transparent and efficient are a few of the causes which drive the SVN innovation lab’s purpose – embracing the disruptive economic forces inherent in other industries is a big focus of our leadership team. When we talk about opening up parts of SVN – our Monday Morning Sales Calls to anyone who wants to listen or the previous version of our OnlinePublisherTM (www.crelaunch.com) – we’re focusing on increasing our productivity through collaboration with the entire industry, making it more efficient in the process. This is the Sperry Van Ness® Difference. To learn more check out our SVN Difference Video.
Kevin Maggiacomo is the President and CEO of Sperry Van Ness International Corp.
*All Sperry Van Ness® offices are independently owned and operated.