It’s been written about forever. Or at least it seems that way. Or maybe in your case and according to you not at all. All you seem to read about is how companies are finding ways to go directly to the consumer. And they are doing it in every type of industry from automobiles to insurance, clothing and just about anything else you can think of. Except commercial real estate, correct?

How can you do that? How would that be possible? How could you provide a commercial real estate service or product directly to the consumer? You can’t right? “Come on Duke, it can’t be done. People need a place to work. We own and represent those spaces. They come to us for that space. We provide the space.”

Now I am not going into a slurping WeWork article about how awesome and amazing they are and how far out front they are beyond everyone else in commercial real estate. (They are, and what’s you market cap again?) (What was it six years ago?) (They are kicking and have already kicked your ass.) But, I digress. Interesting quote from a legacy commercial real estate owner recently. I am paraphrasing here but they basically said, when people grow up and decide to not go to WeWork spaces anymore they will want real buildings. Holy Fuck how naive can you be? I think IBM decided to un-grow up just recently and have Wework do entire buildings just for them. IBM, those crazy kids. I wonder who’s enterprise account that was at one of the big global firms? I wonder if they still have a job? I wonder if the “products and services” they were selling just SUCKED. Wait, I don’t need to wonder. IBM made that quite obvious.

Well, of course, that’s a bad example. That’s not a consumer that’s a corporation? No, it’s not, it’s people or users of space, yes they all happen to be employed by IBM. So, what you say, still not getting it. Every individual in that company is a consumer/user of space. EVERY INDIVIDUAL.

How does a traditional real estate company as it sits now face that user? You tell me. I’m waiting. Still waiting. Let me help. You have a website with some bad pics and property information. You have a few articles targeted and “in the cloud” about how why and of course the smart financial things those potential users need to do to indenture themselves to some generic space for the next what, five or ten years of their natural life. Think about how long that is in today’s terms. What company is going to make a five, ten or twenty-year decision and live with that in today’s world? Think back to 1997. What’s happened in the word since then? Not too much? I was in grade school so I don’t remember, you might. I do recall something about an internet thing and maybe something about phones. No big deal.

So this is usually the part where some highly educated author throws out five or six researched bullet points about what you need to do. They drop in some quotes from some gray-haired white guys who help pay their advertising bills and BOOM, there it is in one neat package. Copy paste and take on the world.

Here’s the problem with that, no, here’s two problems with that. Nine times out of ten the author has barely qualified for an apartment lease on their own and has zero commercial real estate experience. So why in the name of whatever deity you want are you paying any attention to them? And the second problem. You don’t want to acknowledge that you have let the entire business world pass you by. It’s called denial.

A quick side: Flying a drone around a building is not technology. It’s flying a camera around a building taking pictures. Closer pictures than you could before. Where is the innovation again? Oh wait, you are using that NEW technology. Closer pictures does not equal new. Just closer. What are the big answers? In actionable bullet points. That’s all you need. Guess what? I’m not going to give it to you. Not this time. I want you to stay right where you are at. I want you to think that people are just kids playing at work. They are not real grown-ups after all. IBM, SalesForce, what the hell do they know about real estate. I read that 80% of all corporations are changing their real estate strategies (look it up yourself) in the next one to three years to adapt to the reality of the workplace. What’s eighty percent of a market after all?

Why worry about a little trend and blip in the market. Let some company with billions of dollars offer free beer and cool spaces if they want. You have the real space for the real working people. You understand the commercial real estate market better than they do anyway and you have proved it by doing what again? Nothing. Nothing at all to face and provide a product and service for the actual users of that product and service.

The rest of the world has figured it out and so have you.

Duke Long

Duke LongDuke Long is a twenty-year veteran of commercial real estate. He is the broker/owner of The Duke Long Agency. He is also known for writing his strong opinions about all things CRE at www.dukelong.com. He has delivered numerous presentations and discussions about online CRE tech, marketing, data, and digital media. Indiana University allowed him to study real estate and the United States Air Force discharged him honorably.