Commercial Brokers Use Tech-Savvy Strategies to Boost Their Business
By Jim Young |
The 2002 Realcomm conference, held in Las Vegas in June, examined how technology is gaining a foothold in the commercial real estate industry and evaluated the latest tools brokers need to embrace it. In the conference session “Who Is Pushing the Envelope in Commercial Brokerage?” a panel of technology trendsetters from several national brokerages explained how companies can use technology to improve their business models, increase their profits, and satisfy their clients.
Sperry Van Ness, an Irvine, Calif.-based investment brokerage company, recently implemented technology that has allowed it to expand into new national markets -- without the costs associated with opening traditional brokerage operations. The company has added more than 100 agents who have access to its technology platform from home offices or executive suites. The platform's Internet-based infrastructure allows the agents to conduct meetings, provide automated marketing support, and much more -- all via the Web.
Companies are using technology to advance their bottom lines as well. For example, panelists explained how technology is helping reduce the amount of office space required for brokerages, allowing for Internet-based training programs, and reducing administrative staffing needs.
Tips for the Future
Panelists identified three key strategies that commercial real estate companies should consider to move ahead in the future.
Develop a Technology Plan.
The essential first step is to develop and implement an integrated information technology strategy. When creating a plan, a company must ensure that it meshes with the organization's mission and core business strategy. In the years ahead, only brokerage companies that have a standardized technology platform to advocate best practices and promote company-wide efficient communications will be competitive.
Invest in Technology.
Investing money in the company's technology systems is critical. For example, Jones Lang LaSalle reportedly has spent 10 percent of its annual gross revenues on technology and related expenses for the past five years. This investment is reaping rewards: Jones Lang LaSalle is one of the country's most profitable brokerages.
What can companies do to evaluate how well they are allocating funds to technology resources? When examining an annual financial budget, five basic expenditures fall into the realm of information technology: hardware, software, telecommunications equipment, data, and training. The biggest mistakes companies can make are not spending enough on equipment and set up and not investing in training once the systems are in place.
Use Internet-Based Tools.
Funding and implementing technology poses big challenges for small commercial real estate companies. To succeed, small companies should utilize the online tools that are available today. For example, the CCIM Institute's CCIMNet commercial information exchange and the Site to Do Business offer a wealth of business information and tools. These resources provide access to national property listings, comprehensive market data, mapping, aerial photography, and much more. Small companies must search out and take advantage of these valuable online resources to remain competitive.
Many commercial real estate companies spend an inordinate number of hours mismanaging information, causing them to lose time, profits, and clients. Although technology is not the only answer for these companies, it enables many solutions. Brokers always will be an essential part of commercial real estate transactions; however, brokerage companies that utilize the time- and money-saving advantages technology offers will remain at the forefront of the industry.