Preparing for the Real World
Q&A with Timothy S. Blair, CCIM
Timothy S. Blair, CCIM, the 2021 CCIM Institute president, has big plans for the year ahead. A partner with Shannon Waltchack in Birmingham, Ala., he began his commercial real estate career more than 20 years ago and obtained his CCIM designation in 2006. Since then, Blair has served the institute in many capacities, including on the Finance, Marketing, Member Services, Strategic Planning, and Designation Committees. He’s also on the board of the CCIM Foundation.
We spoke with Blair about the industry and his goals for the institute in 2021.
CIRE: Considering the ongoing uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic, what is your outlook for the CRE industry in 2021?
Timothy S. Blair, CCIM: The future looks bright. There will be continued disruption in some sectors, but much of that is an acceleration of underlying trends that were already present. For the most part, by the middle-to-end of 2021, I’d expect a return to normalcy.
That being said, while we all hope to get back to life as it was before the pandemic, this is no time to sit on the sidelines waiting for an end to disruption. Opportunities are present right now in all types of markets, even difficult ones. With the skills and knowledge offered by CCIM Institute, CRE professionals can thrive amid current challenges.
CIRE: What do you see as the biggest challenges outside of COVID-19 for commercial real estate in 2021?
Blair: COVID’s wake will create long-term challenges in both office and big-box retail. Such an unprecedented public health and economic catastrophe will certainly impact every sector of CRE. But it will be interesting to see how COVID-19 will affect large, marketwide trends. Office will be impacted by a significant shift to remote working. It remains to be seen how workplaces will operate once it is safe for employees to return to work. Individual workstations may require more space than they did before the pandemic. Common areas in an office may not be as valuable or necessary as they once were.
In retail, big-box stores will have to grapple with shopping trends that have accelerated in moving toward e-commerce. Retailers have to adjust to consumers who became comfortable with shopping from home in 2020 during extended periods of quarantine. People will return to in-store shopping when it is safe to do so, but it’s hard to imagine big-box retail will return to pre-COVID levels of sales.
CIRE: How can members leverage CCIM Institute to tackle these upcoming challenges and identify opportunities?
Blair: It all starts with the fundamental analysis and evaluation techniques taught in our core classes. CCIM Institute is an indispensable tool for industry-leading professionals because we teach you how to navigate an ever-changing industry. Nobody can predict the future, but smart analysis and improved decision-making go a long way in maximizing your chances for success. Additionally, many of our courses have been updated to reflect the changing CRE landscape as a result of the pandemic, and more importantly, how to tackle the challenges and identify the opportunities. Between these necessary skills and the ability to tap into the expertise of your fellow CCIMs worldwide, you should be ahead of the curve.
Whether or not you’re looking to pursue the designation, the core curriculum will literally transform how you perform financial and market analyses and valuations.
CIRE: What area would you like the institute to focus on this year? and how will this benefit members?
Blair: We need to find ways to leverage our core competency of real-world education and share it with the broadest available audience. I want CCIM Institute to reach new audiences in CRE to grow a community that is built on engagement and dedication to giving back.
2020 was a turbulent year, which only goes to show the value of CCIM Institute in offering its members resources to face and overcome all types of challenges. Regardless of your place along the continuum of the CRE deal, this organization is dedicated to supporting you no matter what 2021 has in store for us. And we believe education is the key to enduring success in this ever-changing industry. Whether or not you’re looking to pursue the designation, the core curriculum will literally transform how you perform financial and market analyses and valuations. For all other areas of the industry — from development to disposition and everything in between — the Ward Center for Real Estate Studies has nearly 70 courses (and growing) to sharpen or grow your skills. This kind of real-world education is going to give you the competitive edge you need this year and every year.
CIRE: This past year has been one of change. Can you share some insights you’ve learned in 2020 that have helped you become a better CRE professional and/or changed the way you’re approaching your presidency this year?
Blair: Things are easy in good times. When everyone is making deals and there’s not a cloud in the sky, it’s easy to become complacent. But in down cycles, everything takes on an increased import. Every decision carries that much more weight — and hard choices must be made. It’s important to remind people that difficult decisions and changes are all for the long-term health of a deal or an organization.
COVID-19 has required all of us to reevaluate our priorities, both personal and professional. CCIM Institute will continue to build a community of professionals who invest in one another and support the industry as a whole.