This SIOR Pulse blog series connects with SIOR members across the globe to discuss business and market conditions, while discovering the current events and issues impacting their daily lives.
This edition we hear from Frank Hird, SIOR, vice president of O,R&L Commercial, an industrial and office specialist near New Haven, Conn. Frank is past president of the SIOR Connecticut/Western Massachusetts Chapter and a former SIOR Northeast Regional Director. For Frank, COVID hasn’t slowed him or his business down.
SIOR: Right this very minute, where are you working? And who or what (i.e. a pet perhaps) dictates your current work location?
Frank Hird, SIOR: Right now I am in my office, at my desk. We reopened the office May 20 and I have been here ever since (with my window open, despite whatever the weather is). About half of our office comes in every day.
SIOR: What one change has been the most difficult to confront as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
FH: If you asked me this three months ago, I would have said organizing building tours. Now it is just The Unknown. What will happen as it continues getting cooler and everybody goes indoors?
SIOR: What strategies have you used to cope with remote work and the current state of affairs?
FH: My strategy when working remotely was simple: Get up like it is any other day and go to work. I was at the kitchen counter for a while but all else was pretty normal. I did use that time to reach out to a lot of clients and others that I didn’t normally have the time to reach out to as often as I would have liked. The strategy now is to list all available industrial space and investment properties.
SIOR: How is your company encouraging collaboration and unity during these times?
FH: We did weekly Microsoft® Teams meetings when we were remote. Now we have weekly outdoor office meetings at lunch. One week, we did Indian food on the local town green. I have to say I’ve been equally impressed with how SIOR has encouraged collaboration with and for its members. Our SIOR chapter held almost weekly Zoom calls, some with informative and amazing guests, some just the chapter members. This was critical to maintain the core of our organization. I also found the opportunity to “sit in on” some other chapters Zoom meetings. I especially enjoyed joining the International chapter for a couple of their calls. It was great to “see” everyone and get a perspective from their many locations around the globe. Also, the SIOR sponsored Zoom calls for IBG and others were great. And of course SIOR’s CREate 360 virtual event!
SIOR: Have any areas of your business come to a standstill?
FH: Oddly enough, no. Medical office is very busy; industrial and manufacturing are very busy. Office is less active but certainly not dead. I have several tenant rep assignments with companies that recognize opportunity to get a great long-term deal on office space. Even retail is active if the landlord will consider switching to office at aggressive rates.
SIOR: Are there areas of your business that are still going strong? What deals have you managed to continue to push through, if any?
FH: I have not had any deals die as a result of COVID. It has just become more tedious to get to the finish line and financing just takes longer.
SIOR: What changes are you seeing in your market that you expect will remain after the pandemic subsides?
FH: Amazon is eating up space faster than we can find it. I am seeing empty office buildings, everyone working from home, but they are still paying rent. There could be some big changes coming in the office market as those leases expire.
SIOR: What is your confidence level in your industry and what most keeps you up at night?
FH: I am confident that if everyone acts like an adult and follows sensible protocols, we can minimize the impact while we await a vaccine. We have lots of universities and Biotech’s around here and I see evidence every day of how hard they are working on a vaccine and better treatment. It gives me hope and encouragement.
SIOR: What do you predict reopening businesses and workplaces to look like and what needs to happen—or what is currently happening—to facilitate that in your area?
FH: I can only speak to how we have taken on this challenge in Connecticut and we have done a very good job in most respects. Government put forward directives and businesses cooperated very nicely. Where there were issues, the government listened and made adjustments where possible.
SIOR: Prior to COVID, how was the market in your area?
FH: Busier than it had been in 20 years.
SIOR: How do you expect the market to look two months from now? Six months from now?
FH: Only time can tell. We are still in unchartered waters.
SIOR: Are there any changes you’ve implemented that you personally hope will continue?
FH: While operating from home, my wife and I both stepped up our exercise regimens and as a result we feel better today than six months ago.
SIOR: What has been your biggest takeaway from all of this? What’s the one thing you have learned that has impacted you the most?
FH: Even in times of trouble, if you work hard as a broker, you will find success.
SIOR: If you could go back in time one year, what is one thing you would tell yourself to best prepare for this upcoming year?
FH: Buy more Amazon Stock!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Frank Hird, SIOR, is vice president of O,R&L in Branford, Conn. He has been a member of SIOR since 2005. He can be contacted at email@example.com.