Republished with permission from Connect Media.
Patrick Sentner is set to take the reins as SIOR’s Global President at an interesting juncture for both the organization and its members. From the standpoint of SIOR designees, there are challenges that have arisen in how best to serve their clients—challenges that have occurred both amid the pandemic, and as a result of the rapidly changing circumstances it has brought about. From the standpoint of SIOR, late summer and early fall means gearing up for something the organization has always done well but hasn’t had an opportunity to stage since the pandemic took hold: a live conference.
With SIOR’s CREate360 national conference set for Oct. 14-16 in Nashville, Connect CRE spoke with Sentner, a Pittsburgh-based EVP in CBRE’s Advisory & Transaction Services division, about meeting these challenges for clients and the value that SIOR provides to designees.
Q: You’ve been involved with SIOR both as a designee and in leadership roles over the past couple of decades. What has the SIOR designation meant for you and your business, and how have these previous leadership roles laid the groundwork for your presidency?
A: I’m closing in on 20 years as an SIOR. I started off at a small independent company, ran my own firm with some partners, and now I’m at the world’s largest real estate company, CBRE. The one constant throughout everything, has been SIOR. I realized early on that there are plenty of great brokers in the industry and being an SIOR would separate me from the competition, so from the first days of my career, I was focused on getting my designation. And since joining in 2002 there is not a day that goes by where I’m not grateful for my membership.
These past 19 years have given me access to some of the best and brightest minds in the industry, who have in turn, provided ideas and concepts that I was able to take back to my market and utilize to help my clients realize their business goals. At the same time, those connections have helped me generate inbound business. But the business is really just a byproduct of the relationships I’ve built with other SIORs. When you’re connected with the world’s most elite professionals, and put in plenty of hard work, you’ll reap the rewards.
When I went to my first SIOR meeting, I was one of the youngest people there, and ended up attending an Education Committee meeting. That was my introduction into becoming involved with SIOR leadership, and for me that meant becoming humble, because I came in feeling pretty good about myself. But I soon realized there was so much about this industry I didn’t know, and I wanted to learn. I dove head-first into education and eventually became the chair of the Faculty Committee. Which was funny, because up to that point, I had never taught anything in my life. I remained engaged at a global level and at the same time I also had a two-year term as President of my local chapter, which evolved into two terms as the Regional Director for SIOR’s Mid-Atlantic chapter.
Over the years, that initial lesson of humility has stuck with me. Even though I may be very confident in my brokerage abilities, I can always get better. At every point in my career, and in each role within SIOR, whether it be from a global, regional or local standpoint, I was able to learn from people who knew things I didn’t. I never passed up an opportunity to pick and choose among the areas that would make me a better broker, person, and leader.
Q: SIOR membership encompasses two constituencies that are facing very different circumstances at present. You have the industrial sector, which is running very high on demand, and the office sector, which is at a different stage in terms of recovering from the pandemic and downturn. For office, where do you see the real opportunities?
A: The real opportunities for us as members of the brokerage community are to become consultants. The days of simply executing sales in a tactical manner are behind us. Office specialists need to take things a step further – we need to be able to understand our client’s needs from a human capital perspective in terms of employee retention and attraction. Companies are realizing that they may not need as much space as they had in the past, but the space they do occupy needs to be as attractive and collaborative as possible.
One consistent theme that we’ve heard from our clients, and from other brokers across the globe, is that while some functions of business can be done at home, the reality is that for companies to continue to grow and evolve, people will need to be in the office. While that doesn’t necessarily mean five days a week, 10 hours a day, we still need spaces for in-person collaboration.
As a broker, we must discover innovative solutions for our clients – this could be through collaborative discussions with architects and developers to understand how a new space is being built or existing space is being redeveloped.
Bottom line, virtually everybody is going to have office space. It might not all be in the traditional Central Business Districts, but perhaps in more suburban or “near CBD” areas instead. The reality is that office space is still needed. We just need to think differently about how it is used.
Q: Tying office and industrial together, what are some of the common themes in the services that SIOR designees can provide their clients?
A: In the past, the most vital questions a broker would ask might have been “What is your vacancy rate in your particular downtown market and what are you asking rates for Class A, Class B office space?” But to be honest, those questions don’t matter anymore. Today, the truly important questions are “What are the companies in your market doing? When do they expect to have their employees back in the office? Are they going back on a flex schedule, are they going back to the office full time?” Whether it’s urban or suburban markets, the more conversations we have with other brokers, the more information we can gather and the more ideas we can share with our clients. And that’s true whether we’re representing landlords or tenants.
That’s the beauty of SIOR. Half our organization is comprised of the major firms—the CBREs, the JLLs—and the other half are independent firms. As a result, when we are talking with SIORs across the country and in Europe, we are getting the full gamut of what brokers are seeing on the ground. Not projections or estimates, but actual hard data. That’s invaluable, information. SIOR members can collaborate with everyone from a one-person shop in western Texas, to the CBRE office in downtown Chicago. It really gives us a better and clearer vision of the entire office market.
The same dynamics apply to industrial. Even though industrial is extremely strong, that creates its own problem: a lack of product. As companies search for last mile properties, you’re seeing retail centers being converted into warehouse or distribution facilities. In the past, that never would have happened. Being able to knowledge-share and speak to a fellow SIOR who is experiencing the exact same situation in another market, allows us to provide more innovative and cutting-edge solutions for our clients.
Q: Can you delve into some of the benefits that SIOR provides its members?
A: It’s been a while since we’ve had a face-to-face event, and we are very excited just to get back. We’ve had some phenomenal virtual conferences with fantastic speakers—former secretaries of state, D1 basketball coaches, etc. — but it’s not the same thing as being in person. Whether in a conference room or an outside venue, the ability to sit down and talk with fellow brokers, to find out what is and what isn’t working in their markets — that is an irreplaceable experience and one you can’t really mimic virtually.
Most, if not all, SIORs thrive on social interaction, and this will be a great resource and release for that. But most importantly, it’s going to allow us to dive into what’s truly happening in commercial real estate. That’s what we’re going to do at our conference.
We’re still going to have fantastic speakers who will teach us how to think differently in a post-pandemic setting, and we’re going to have educational sessions that will be structured to figure out how to go forward and what we need to do differently. We know the world is still in flux, but we’re going to be able to responsibly hold a conference that will allow us to help each other and most importantly, help our clients. Because our clients now have more questions about real estate than ever before.
Because of the dynamics of the market—office and industrial—we are seeing things that are changing more rapidly than ever. You could be a “lone-wolf” doing three or four transactions per year in a major metropolitan area and making fantastic money. However, if your clients are looking to grow and looking to get into other markets, you’ll need to have really good connections in those outside markets to truly understand what your client is about to get into and provide them with the best knowledge and counsel, and that can’t be done by operating in a silo. But if you build a habit of networking and collaboration, and you’ve known somebody in a particular market for many years, you’re going to be able to provide clients fantastic insight and inside knowledge.
As a result, you’re going to understand that market inside and out. That’s the only way to truly serve your clients. You need to have instant access to a lot of information through an organization like SIOR, using connections that have been built through collaboration and networking. Not only does SIOR have representation in the majority of all large and small markets, we also have all of the specialties covered, allowing us access to information that that “lone-wolf” could not have on their own.