Business Trends: Millennials Rejecting the Default

Millennials Are Rejecting the Default

… and It’s a Very Good Thing

We all know that Millennials are challenging our traditional work environments. But the big question is “why?” Why are Millennials challenging the system rather than assimilating like earlier generations? I struggled with finding an explanation other than demographics until I read a sentence written by professor Adam Grant in his recent book: Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.

“The hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better operation exists.” – Adam Grant.

Millennials are rejecting the default and it’s disconcerting, but necessary and in my view, a very good thing. When it comes to the work environment, Generation X, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation don’t just represent the default … we are the default. This might be why so many of us take this personally. Why are Millennials so eager and able to reject a default that has been in place for generations?

Two reasons: technology and societal shift.

Technology. Millennials are digital natives. They grew up with technology and view everything through a technological filter. They look at our daily lives and think “there’s got to be an app for that.” It’s ingrained in them to use technology to question, dismantle, and reconfigure processes. They are rejecting the default option in search of a better way.

Societal shift. Generation X and Baby Boomers actually know people who worked 40 hours a week for 40 years at the same company, earned that gold watch and retired at 65 to play golf in Florida. We also know of people who had pensions; who were protected by unions; and for whom a single breadwinner could support a family even while working for a minimum wage. This is the default.

But, Millennials are not part of that default. Retire at 65? Not if they are still paying off their college loans. Pensions, funded 401ks, or a home with equity for retirement? Not likely. Even if we set aside monetary limitations, people are living longer. Retiring at 65 is no longer that appealing or feasible for most. The default no longer works, and this is why Millennials are forcing us to re-examine everything about our work culture.

One example of this came out of our recent SVN Millennials Career report (How Commercial Real Estate Firms can Attract and Retain Millennials) around the topic of flexibility in the workplace. According to our survey, flexibility of hours and location for work was a top five “must have” for Millennials and in fact, more men than women cited it as an important factor when choosing companies. This is quite a switch from 5-10 years ago when flexibility was a “woman” or “parent” issue. To even mention the word back then would set you on the Mommy track.

But, what is driving this new quest for flexibility? Part of it goes back to the technology filters. If technology allows us to work wherever and whenever we want, why can’t we? If culturally no one is racing to retirement and the other default rewards don’t exist, why do we have to stick to a 9-5, 5 days per week schedule? Flexibility does not mean Millennials want to work less. In fact, most want to work more, but they also want to work smarter… and to avoid rush hour. When the default is sitting an extra 30 to 60 minutes in traffic, when you don’t actually have to… why do we?

It’s not about a different work ethic. It’s about a different work style.

That’s an important distinction to make; especially because that different work style benefits more than just Millennials. Opening up the flexibility conversation beyond women and parents is a benefit to all employees, whether it’s the single employee who doesn’t have anyone to help them drop off a car for repairs or wait for a furniture delivery; the Gen X’er dealing with aging parents; or the Baby Boomer who wants to take a brief career pause or sabbatical.

If you look around, the default no longer works for the majority of us, and this is why the Millennials’ rejection of the default is a very good thing.

Please visit our SVNICorp YouTube page to see my recent keynote to learn more about the how Millennials are challenging and changing how and where we live and work.

[bctt tweet=”If technology allows us to work wherever and whenever we want, why can’t we?”]

Top Apps for Property Management Professionals

As a property management professional, your personal goal should be to have any information that you may need readily available – anywhere, at any hour! To accomplish this, organization is key.  With the explosion of the mobile app marketplace in recent years, there are a number of great options to keep busy property management professionals organized and on-track for success.

Female Executive Using Digital Tablet1. Evernote

Evernote is not just a note-taking tool.  It is all of your sticky notes, notebooks, magazine cutouts, pictures, etc. organized in one place.  You can create various notebooks and organize different notes, files, and pictures in each one, with tagging capabilities.  It is easy to get out of control, so think big picture to start.  Tagging each item seems to be the most helpful feature.  When you need to go back to “that thing that person said at that place,” you can.  In almost every conversation I have with people, I politely tell them that I am not ignoring them by looking at my phone, but rather, I am intently taking notes.  So at the end of each conversation, I can summarize it.

Property Management Tip: Use Evernote to take notes each time you visit a property.  Take detailed notes (ditching the clipboard) and tag it with a tenant’s company name.  When you go to compile your monthly report for your client, you can quickly copy and paste the notes in.

2. Dropbox

Dropbox is amazing because of its sharing features.  At the end of the day, you can treat it as your hard drive in the cloud.  I love this app because you can download it on your desktop, laptop, iPad, iPhone, or Android device and it will sync all of your files across all devices.  If I need to reference something while I’m at a property, I can simply go through the Dropbox files on my phone, rather than sort through emails or notes while carrying around a laptop and relying on spotty WiFi.

Property Management Tip: Create a file folder for each property and share it with your client.  Drag and drop reports, inspections, etc. in there.  That way, if they have a question when they are on a call with their lender, partner, or colleague, they can quickly look at the neatly organized files to find what they need.

3. Picasa

Sperry Van Ness International Corporation (SVNIC) uses Google Apps, which always functions well.  You can very easily use other photo organization apps, such as Flickr, but I prefer Picasa.  As a property manager, you are always taking photos.  Whether it is the landscaping, the condition of a unit post-move out, or just the overall condition of the property, these images can easily get disorganized.  By using Picasa, you can edit, organize, and manage them with ease.  You have the ability to group them by property, tag them, and share them with your clients.

Property Management Tip: Much like the previous tips, keeping photos organized is a key to becoming more efficient as a property manager.  Use this app to add images to your monthly reports.

Are you interested in how the SVN organization can provide more property management insights and advantages for your business?  Learn more here.

Mobile Technology’s Effect on Time and Business

Diane Danielson, Chief Platform Officer, Sperry Van Ness International Corp.

It’s unanimous that “mobile” is a top trend in 2013. But, it really needs to be broken down to examine how greatly it affects business. One aspect that mobile has changed tremendously in the past year is our perception of time.

  • How often do we talk with colleagues and immediately have to “look something up” to solve a debate. What did we do without Google at our fingertips?
  • When we download a season of our favorite TV show onto a mobile device, or watch via Hulu, we generally have no idea what night of the week it might be on. Gone are the days when we flocked to NBC’s Must See TV Thursday Night Lineup on Thursday night.
  • We see and read the news as it happens. No more waiting for a 6:00 pm news broadcast or the morning paper.

But, how does this time shift affect your business? It means that delivering services and information the same way you did in 2008 won’t work in a world where time has new, or no, meaning. It means we all need to adjust how we deliver services to meet the demands of the mobile world.

One example of a company that understands the new shift in how we perceive time is Comcast. They were one of the pioneers of using Twitter as instant customer service. Have an issue with Comcast? Tweet about it. Or better yet, tweet @comcastcares directly and their online twitter team will respond faster than you would ever get off hold on the phone!

In addition to Twitter, Comcast made another change. Remember the 4-hour window of wait time for service? Seems outrageous in an era of mobile technology and real-time communication, especially when drivers can be tracked by GPS. This is why Comcast dropped it to 2-hours with a guarantee to be within the window or you receive a $20 credit.

In commercial real estate, time as we know it is similarly collapsing. With new CRE tools like www.42Floors.com, clients (in certain markets) don’t have to wait to view a building. They can see photographs, street views, and maps from their computer (or tablet).  Through www.teneightapp.com, brokers and clients can rate buildings in real time.

There are also productivity tools like www.dropbox.com that make real-time data-sharing easy (and free). My latest find is www.slideshark.com, which allows you to view powerpoint shows on iPads and iPhones. Check out www.cre-apps.com or www.CREvine.com’s tool section for more.

At Sperry Van Ness International Corp., we have cloud-based systems for communication, marketing, CRM and project management so that our Advisors can deliver information to clients quickly and instantaneously.

How are you working in the new “time-less” era? Have you changed how you deliver services to clients? Are there new tools that help you shift time? Chime in below, we’d love to know.

Diane Danielson is the Chief Platform Officer of Sperry Van Ness International Corp.


*All Sperry Van Ness® offices are independently owned and operated.


Technology – Value Add or Brain Suck? by Kevin Maggiacomo

My new iPhone 4s arrived finally arrived this past weekend. My oldest son and I opened the package with much anticipation and we immediately dropped what we were doing to configure the device. Among the many new features made part of the 4s is Siri – the speech recognition device which, as Apple advertises, “Understands what you say, knows what you mean, and takes dictation.” So, gone are the days when I have to manually type a query into Google to search for a nearby Sushi restaurant, find directions, or, get this – type to text or email. From now on, all I have to do is talk. So, over the weekend I dictated and had Siri read aloud roughly 100 text messages sent and received. I quickly grew so accustomed to iPhone dictation that I became annoyed when I had to manually type an email on my Mac later that evening. On one hand, I felt more efficient, on the other hand I questioned if I was simply becoming lazy…


Separately, as a CEO, I am constantly striving to predict the future and react to it in advance. Not only with respect to positional real estate strategies, but also in terms of adopting (and creating) new intellectual technologies – which extend mental capabilities and enable us to gain more information faster. So as a fan of applications in this category, I’ve researched and adopted as many CRE and non-CRE of these intellectual technologies as anyone. I use Dragan Dictation to dictate most of my laptop writing, regularly use Loopnet to create space surveys, view comps, and get a read on the market. SVN Advisors are LoopNet power users and many are subscribers to CoStar, including their CoStar Go iPad app, which allows you to take real estate data into the field, where you can even view detailed tenant information, including lease expiration dates without having to charm past building security or receptionists. And all of this has me thinking – are the convenience applications mentioned above changing the way I learn, eroding at certain skill sets, and making me less knowledgeable?


While I can say with reasonable certainty that my IQ remains the same since becoming an early adopter, my ability to easily become immersed in the analysis of raw research data has eroded. In addition, my typing skills aren’t what they used to be and my spelling skills, thanks to auto-correct, have gone from good to average. For those of us in CRE (or any other field for that matter), what role have research products played in the reduction in the amount of market research that we retain? Posed another way, are the CRE practitioners of yesteryear, who had to physically walk building floors, drive every property in their area of focus, conduct live courthouse research, etc., more knowledgeable than we brokers of today?


Are we becoming dependent upon these resources because we’re lazy, or because we need to in order to remain competitive? I’m not making a value judgment here, I’m just asking you to do a gut check – Do you use technology to advance your learning, or to fill a knowledge gap? The distinction between the two is subtle, yet important.


The human brain is malleable. It is capable of being reshaped and while I don’t know the answer to the above questions, I do know that my mind now approaches learning a bit differently. My mind now expects to receive information the way that Loopnet feeds it to me – instantly, and with little effort. I have made it a personal challenge to add to my cognitive skills rather than replace them. This has required me to slow down in the short run at times, but in the long run I feel as if I’m expanding my knowledge base, not shrinking it.


So, I ask – has our “encyclopedic knowledge” of CRE markets and beyond become artificial intelligence? Are Loopnet/Costar and the like making us stupid, or are we better off? I think the answer largely depends on approach and motivation. Thoughts?

Kevin Maggiacomo, CEO & President, Sperry Van Ness International Corporation


*All Sperry Van Ness® offices are independently owned and operated.


Technology Enabled Collaboration by Kevin Maggiacomo

The impact and the power associated with mobilizing people for a purpose are rooted in fundamental economics – they are nothing new. From electing a government official, to spreading word of and organizing an “Aquarian exhibition” of 500,000 people at Woodstock in 1969, ideating among a critical mass of people, sharing and sourcing information while leveraging the power of numbers and virality have always been present in society. Aligned crowds, we call them “smart mobs” today, are driving virtually every major trend in the global economy.

What’s new, and ever evolving, is the technology which is enabling crowds to be catalyzed, assimilated, and leveraged like never before. If we examine only the past five years, we see how rapidly the speed and power of group collaboration has increased to create value to stakeholders in ways that were previously thought unimaginable. “Technology enabled collaboration,” as its been dubbed, is in full force and effect in almost every industry on the planet. From Restaurants to Travel, and from Yelp to Orbitz, people and businesses are organizing, collaborating, sharing and peering for the purposes of lowering costs, improving quality, saving time, and even curing disease.

Another fundamental shift that has taken place over the last decade is the move from proprietary to transparent, from closed architecture to open source, from a world controlled by scarcity to one opened up by sharing. The power in business is no longer generated by those who control something, but by those who share it. I recall a friend of mine saying: “business has never been about addition or subtraction – it has always been about multiplication.” No greater multiplier exists than creating an impassioned, intentional movement based upon meeting a market driven need.

The following statement may seem counter-intuitive to many still clinging to their old-school ways, but businesses today need to understand they probably cannot control the marketplace by the uniqueness of a product or service, therefore their only choice is to empower the marketplace by adding value. Sage advice then, would be to not get sucked into the frivolity of attempting to control a market – be disruptive by opening it up.

Sustainability for businesses will be found in how quickly businesses can embrace sharing, not how long they can hold a market hostage. Few people will argue with the fact that business has, and will always be, about relationships. We can debate positional variances between qualitative, quantitative, and relational impact, but the market has ended one debate – you don’t control relationships you empower them.

Despite this movement, and hitting a bit closer to home, the commercial real estate industry seems to have been immune to the collaborative trend, and continues to operate much in the same way as it has for 20-30 years. When my firm (Sperry Van Ness) broke from the industry standard approach more than 25 years ago by adopting a set of core covenants, which gave birth to our ethos of compensated cooperation and participation with the entire brokerage community to market our inventory, we were looked at as heretics among our peers. I’m certain as time has evolved our “heretical” approach is now seen as having set the chinning bar for how the industry should operate.

The problem is that while the marketplace recognizes the benefit of the aforementioned model, the brokerage industry as a whole continues to operate with much of the same opacity, often times at the expense of the client and to the benefit of the brokerages. “Quietly” marketing properties, offering zero fee incentive for other brokers to help sell a listing, inserting eyeball roadblocks like overused registration and confidentiality requirements are still par for the course. Has any other industry been more immune to the advancements of technology enabled collaboration than commercial real estate?

When will our industry as a whole to come out of the shadows, cease with the ethereal and mercurial, embrace fundamental economic concepts like supply and demand and operate in the light of day? In the future, the market will simply not tolerate anything less than an authentic and transparent approach to business.

What say you?

Kevin Maggiacomo, CEO & President, Sperry Van Ness International Corporation


*All Sperry Van Ness® offices are independently owned and operated.