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.
In this edition, we speak with Patrick Sentner, SIOR, executive vice president of CBRE in Pittsburgh, PA, and currently a part of the SIOR Global Board of Directors as president-elect. An office specialist during a time when the office market is so volatile, Sentner shares his thoughts on the market and conditions in his area.
SIOR: Right this very minute, where are you working? And who or what (i.e. a pet perhaps) dictates your current work location?
Patrick Sentner, SIOR: I am working in my home office. Our local CBRE office is not yet open due to the increased number of positive COVID cases in our county.
SIOR: What one change has been the most difficult to confront as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
PS: Not being able to tour clients (until recently). One of the best parts of my job is interacting with clients, especially as we tour potential sites and buildings which could one day be their future business-home. COVID-19 made touring impossible for many months!
SIOR: What strategies have you used to cope with remote work and the current state of affairs?
PS: First and foremost, I purchased a large screen monitor and completely set up my home office (we have owned our home for 12+ years and until March I never worked out of the office). I also have been using ZOOM for everything from office meetings, to team meetings, to networking meetings.
SIOR: How is your company encouraging collaboration and unity during these times?
PS: We have bi-weekly staff meetings and monthly happy hours! They help enhance morale and collaboration in a time when that is so crucial to our mental health and success in our industry.
SIOR: Have any areas of your business come to a standstill?
PS: Most office tenants are thoroughly analyzing what percentage of their employees are going to be working from home on a permanent basis. As such, few companies are looking to commit long-term to a specific amount of square footage. They are looking to be as flexible as possible. Until this analysis is further along, many office transactions are at a standstill.
SIOR: Are there areas of your business that are still going strong? What deals have you managed to continue to push through, if any?
PS: Fortunately, most of my team’s transactions have been able to move forward, although they are all taking 8+ weeks longer than normal. With that said, there has been a big increase in new sublease assignments which have kept us very busy.
SIOR: What changes are you seeing in your market that you expect will remain after the pandemic subsides?
PS: The primary change is that some work from home is going to be here to stay. However, those that will work from home permanently will likely be the minority (10-20%). For the rest of the employees, companies will need to do everything possible to provide as safe of a work environment as possible. Many office landlords are enhancing their HVAC systems and the flow of air into the various office environments, which should truly help. Overall, the key will be providing an environment which will create as strong a sense of safety as possible.
SIOR: What is your confidence level in your industry and what most keeps you up at night?
PS: The industry will change but I am 100% confident that I will have a role in my industry through retirement age. My biggest concern is for younger brokers and trying to keep them engaged, motivated, and educated.
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?
PS: Offices will need to have collaboration areas that are “socially distanced.” The main reason to go back to the office is for collaboration purposes. This must be designed in some capacity.
SIOR: Prior to COVID, how was the market in your area?
PS: The Pittsburgh market had been extremely strong for the past couple of years due to the influx of major tech employers opening offices in Pittsburgh to be near our universities (Carnegie Mellon, Pitt, Duquesne, etc.). The tech companies include the big names but also include a large number of AI and robotics firms as well.
SIOR: How do you expect the market to look two months from now? Six months from now?
PS: Two months from now – I expect to see below historical averages; six months from now – right around historical averages but still below the past few years.
SIOR: Are there any changes you’ve implemented that you personally hope will continue?
PS: Yes – I fully expect to workout from home (instead of the club/gym) early in the morning. I will then work at home for 30-60 minutes after showering prior to heading to the office. This will provide me with more sleep, a safer place to work-out/get ready for work and most importantly a major reduction in the time spent in traffic.
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?
PS: I can successfully take care of my clients when not in the office. I assumed this was possible beforehand and now I know that it is true.
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?
PS: I would have made some administrative changes to my team a prior to COVID hitting. This would have then allowed my team to operate at 100% efficiency from day one!
Patrick Sentner, SIOR, is executive vice-president of CBRE in Pittsburgh, Penn. He has been a member of SIOR since 2002 and is serving as the 2020 SIOR Global President-Elect. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.