Jul 03, 2024

The Real Market with Chris Rising – Ep. 92 Bret Swango

Ep. 92 - Bret Swango
Welcome to Episode 92 of The Real Market with Chris Rising! In this episode, we dive into the dynamic world of commercial real estate with our special guest, Bret Swango from Colliers International. Bret, the Head of Location Intelligence and Workforce Analytics at Colliers, brings a unique blend of data-driven insights and real estate expertise.
Episode Transcript


Welcome to The Real Market with Chris Rising, the only podcast that brings the real estate conference panel to your headphones. You’ll hear from superstars from every realm of commercial real estate: the biggest brokers, the most well known architects, the largest investors, and the most visionary developers. We’ll learn what they do, how they do it, and what drives their success. We’ll discuss the latest trends across regional markets, capital flows, both national and global. And we’ll explore technology’s role in shaping all of it.


We’ll take a clear-eyed look at where we’ve been, where we are now, and what’s to come. Real conversations. Real experts. Real insights. This is The Real Market.


All right, welcome to The Real Market with Chris Rising. I’m excited to have Bret Swango with me today. Bret is a Colliers person and we love having Colliers on. His job, really exciting for what we’ve been talking about over the last, I don’t know, five or six episodes. He is the Head of Location Intelligence and Workforce Analytics. Now, what I like about that title is it just sounds like you’re in the middle of data and technology and you must be unbelievably connected to the world. So Bret, I’m really excited that you’re on The Real Market.


I’m excited about our conversation. So welcome. Yeah, I appreciate the opportunity, Chris. Well, why don’t you just give us a little bit about what your job is. You seem like you’ve come to real estate as a career, that you have this technology background and you seem very representative where I think globally real estate is going, but tell us about your exact job. Yeah, yeah, so quick on background. So grew up in a really small town in central Illinois, like a mile outside of a town of 225 people, that small. And, you know, as a kid, I could…


barely read, but frankly, numbers always kind of made sense to me. So as I was thinking about where my career path was going, I went to school in Bloomington Normal, which is the home of State Farm. So they’re the largest home and auto insurer in the United States. And then ultimately went to work at Allstate, who’s the largest publicly traded home and auto insurer in the United States. So if you think of like, what is the insurance industry, right? It’s kind of, some have called it the original big data industry, because really your product is just a promise at a


price. Right? So you’re effectively hoping that you’re better at math and or pricing that risk than your competitors. And you know, was fortunate enough to spend four years at Allstate working both in, I’ll call it more of a traditional finance role, which was really about working with the business units to say, Hey, what are the assumptions behind these capital projects that you’re trying to get capital allocated towards? And then the other half of my time there was what we called operational analytics. Basically, how do we use the analytical horsepower of the organizations, the data scientists, the actuaries


to solve other business problems besides pricing? And that went all the way from how we staff our call centers, how we comp. our agents are most similar to what I’m doing today. We’ve got 10,000 agents around the country. If we were going to put one more agent anywhere to maximize their odds of being successful, where would we put that agent? And yeah more importantly, what are the data points we’d want to look at from a supply or competition perspective as well as a demand or the consumer perspective in order to inform that


decision. And ultimately, you know, I don’t know, I guess almost 10 years ago, I got the opportunity via another gentleman who I played football with at Illinois Wesleyan. I found out about an opening at Colliers with a very sophisticated tenant. We called it Capital Markets Based Tenant Rep. It was effectively a group that focused exclusively on representing users inside of single tenant or anchor tenant assets. And we are effectively asset class agnostic, so office, industrial, life science.


And the whole premise was, is like, what’s the, you know, the thing that attracted me to the space was the value creation, right? And what’s that asset worth today, vacant versus tomorrow with a lease from a, you know, a Fortune 500 company, right? So there’s all this value creation that takes place there, but the users or the companies who were that tenant, they didn’t, you know, their core business is not real estate. So they weren’t aware or, you know, as aware as I thought they probably should be to say, hey, you know, what has been that value creation from that signature?


And then our job was to basically use math to help them maximize their value capture. And then about probably seven years ago, we were pursuing the largest life science company in the world at the time. And we went to them and said, Hey, you know, there’s this thing that’s happening in the capital structure of your asset. We think we can save you some money to renegotiate a lease. And they were like, Hey, this is all great, but we just put $300 million into this facility. What we don’t know is if the talent is here to get us from where we are


to where we’re trying to go as an organization. And I’m like, all right, well, if the largest life science company in the world who’s in the business of using data to make decisions doesn’t have this information, maybe others don’t. And that was what really kind of started my path down the workforce side. And then over the last couple of years, it’s like, hey, you know, I’m not a labor market expert. I am kind of a data nerd, I guess you could call it. And so it’s like, how do we just get what we believe to be best in class data points around the most important variables to inform how companies think about why they should locate where?


Man, you came out of Illinois Wesleyan and what was your major? It was finance. I figured it was finance. How did all of the data analytics creep into your career path? Was that doing the insurance business where you saw the value? Yeah, that was really at Allstate coming from that environment, right? Where again, if you look at the leadership team, basically everybody either had a pricing or a marketing background. And what I saw increasingly over time, in my experience there, leadership was becoming


more pricing or more analytical and less marketing or like, I’ll call it like the softer side. And I would argue even today, marketing is much more analytical than it was five, you know, even five, 10 years ago. So that really, I’ll call it like honed my analytical rigor because if you didn’t have, like if you weren’t asking the right questions and or getting the right data to stress test the assumptions, yes, that whole, the quote on my LinkedIn, the most dangerous thing in business is finding the right answer to the wrong question, right? A little Peter Drucker quote


that was really, really informative. And then I think, you know, and again, and that’s just also kind of, I wasn’t much, probably on some spectrum somewhere. So I wasn’t a very good like reader, but math always came pretty easy to me. So it was kind of a pretty good synergy. So the language you’re speaking, if somebody is over 50, I think it must go over a lot of people’s heads because you didn’t say one thing about knowing your market. You didn’t say one thing about walking properties. You didn’t say one thing about.


making sure you knew the 10 other brokers in a small market, because every market becomes a micro market, whether it’s Manhattan or a small town. Nothing you said had anything to do with what a broker who got trained pre-computer era, which I would say is around the mid 2000s is when the computer really started to take effect in real estate. So when you describe yourself as a real estate person and given where you are at age-wise in your career,


Do you sometimes come in and people’s eyes glaze over because it’s not what they think real estate is? Yeah, it’s a constant battle, honestly. I would say my narrative resonates most with the C-suite or specifically like CFOs, COOs, maybe head of supply chain. Even the heads of HR now, that’s becoming a much more analytical segment of the business. I do sometimes struggle with real estate directors, who again, I think come from, hey, our job is the traditional real estate blocking and tackling.


One thing I will say is that local market intel and that brokerage expertise is super critical to what I do. I think of it as like a Venn diagram, right? It’s like, what I’m trying to translate is how is the world changing? Like what are these big macro forces, whether it’s de-globalization, AI, the green transition, the demographic cliff that we’re kind of approaching here. How do you translate those changes into the relative value of a square foot of land or office space or manufacturing space in Tampa versus Austin versus San Diego?


But it’s the macro change plus the micro location level data plus the real estate expertise. Because I say what I spend almost all of my time on, I’m doing more work now advising investors and developers than I historically have because really all they want to know is, hey, where is the tenant going to want to be tomorrow? Right? So, and how do we use data to help inform that opinion? But historically, most of my time was spent on the occupier side. So let’s start with one


structural question or maybe foundational question. When I started in the business and a lot of other people started in the business, you like locked your file cabinet because you couldn’t trust people. The thing that made you valuable is you had information that others didn’t. You didn’t share it. When fax machines came, you grabbed that fax before anybody else. So foundationally, for your job to even exist, there had to have been a major change in the brokerage business.


On my podcast, a lot of us, you know, I had the VTS guys when they were actually filming space, that’s what VTS stands for, view the space. And the battles they fought early on getting brokerage firms to unlock the data and really individual brokers being willing to do that. I believe that’s all changed. Can you talk a little bit about how Colliers as a company collects the data that allows you to perform analytics? So let’s start at just the basic level. You work at Colliers;


I know, but I’ll assume for this that those brokers have to share the information. If they know that there’s a lease coming up and they know a senior partner that goes into some database. Is the firm at a point where they can actually access all that information? So a key caveat, which I started to on my last point is only in the last, call it two years, really 18 months, have I started to work almost at all with real estate data. So what I call is like, you know, this is a…


try to follow my nomenclature here, because it’s not perfect. But I call it, we focus on demand side analytics almost entirely. So that’s where talent pool shifting, what has happened from a migration perspective, where’s government funding being allocated, which ports are busiest, where you see the greatest level of freight activity kind of shifting. And then you pair that, right? So that’s the demand side with, I’ll call it the real estate market information, which is again,


where I rely on those local partners at the market or sub-market level to say, you know, one of my favorite sayings, the Warren Buffett, you know, price is what you pay, value is what you get. I’m only really looking at half of the equation. The other half of that equation is, you know, what is it going to cost me? Okay, yeah, you love the demand narrative on this market and maybe even this sub-market, but what is the price that you have to pay for that relative to competing markets around the country who have similar…


I’ll call it structural elements. And that’s the other big piece of my world is when I’m thinking about a location, I’m not the, you tell me, hey, what’s the value, I’m sitting in Chicago today, what’s the value of this 10 acre parcel in the South Loop that is zoned for cold storage? I’m not thinking of that, okay, like what are the comps in the Chicagoland area or maybe even the Southern suburbs or whatever? I’m saying what are the structural characteristics of that location?


Relative to other basically census tracts, zip codes, counties around the country. And then how does that compare in terms of what I call that demand side analytical story? And then I work with my local teams to get the supply side of what is, and again, I obviously absorption, right? Everybody would say, oh, absorption is a demand metric. Well, I put it, that’s in the real estate category. So I kind of put that on, hey, that’s the whole supply side of the story. And obviously very good information matters a lot in that space


at times. And I know it really matters to the local level, but a lot of my, I think one thing that has enabled my role to have, you know, a bigger place in the market than maybe it did five or 10 years ago is that the decision-making process from a real estate perspective is gone, has become less local and more, you know, national in nature. Now, that isn’t to say that to get the best deal, you still need the best local person, right? It’s just that I’ll call it the alternatives in play. There’s a wider landscape of geographic alternatives.


for most of the groups that we’re talking to today versus five or certainly 10 years ago. So that was a big caveat. And then to answer your question, there is, Colliers like a lot of our competitors, I’m sure, are working through kind of, we’ll call it a data strategy to be able to say, hey, how do we capture all this information? One of the things again, I see in the real estate world relative to my former life, which was much more data dependent is some groups. I feel like, you gotta always ask, is the juice worth the squeeze?


So what are the incremental steps that you’re taking to collect that data? And then how ultimately, how valuable is that data? Because that incremental step is costing you time. As we all know in this business, time is money. So what’s the incremental value? And then how do I make sure that I’m effectively communicating that incremental value and showing that incremental value to the broker or to the CSC or whoever I’m expecting to go through that process. And one of the pieces that we’re finding is the better we can do of using our tools, technology resources to remove friction


from a broker’s ability to do a deal, and then the better the job that we can do of effectively catching the relevant data in that friction removal process. Now you’re basically incenting the brokers, right? To be using the mechanism that we’re ultimately gonna be leveraging to capture that information to hopefully help build a better mouse trap for our clients.


So I know I was a little bit discreet in some of that because I don’t know what all exactly I can disclose. And I also will profess that I’m not the expert, you know, inside of Colliers in regards to our data strategy. I am, you know, on the, I’ll call it the advisory board for part of that, but that’s our kind of our approach today. Well, let’s break that as a good segue into what you do on a day-to-day basis. So had a little pre-discussion, you said you used to do a ton of office and that’s evolved. How has the general economy, the role that you have at Colliers and…


the business that Colliers is seeking changed and evolved, let’s just say since the beginning of COVID or maybe a little bit before COVID, but yeah. Sure, good question. So, again, really what I’m doing is I’m just trying to use data to identify market inefficiencies. And obviously part of that is, hey, where’s the biggest and then applying those inefficiencies to saying, okay, well, how big is the market opportunity? And that market opportunity is heavily dependent on how the macro or I’ll call it like the asset class


level supply and demand metrics are moving. So again, I’m part occupier services. So our core mission is to basically say, hey, how do we use data to help occupiers make more informed location selection decisions? Right? Well, when, you know, I think the office market was much more active, you know, call in 2018, 2019 than it is today. And then during COVID, what boom was this big? And so it started with, you know, there’s really a macro and a micro.


Right. When I’m an office user, I’m trying to decide, Hey, I need to hire a hundred data scientists, should that be in Boston, Austin, Chicago, San Francisco? Like which of, and I call that macro. And then the micro would be, okay, I’ve decided I want to be in Chicago. Should I be in downtown? Should I be in Fulton market? Should I be in, you know, whatever river north, like which of those specific like micro market locations should I be located within? Part of what shifted– Colliers is a heavy, you know, we’re I think on a percentage basis of the big four.


We’re the most reliant or the most heavy focused on industrial. So that’s kind of in our DNA inherently. And really using this data, we’re always kind of, I call it solving for scarcity. Right. So historically tenants were the scarce element in the value equation in commercial real estate. So how do we use information to get tenants to say, Hey, we want to, you know, we want Colliers advising us because we have the greatest level of trust in their information, their expertise to be able to get us the best real estate market outcome.


During COVID, I would argue that, especially in industrial big box, I mean, vacant buildings were selling for more than buildings with a 10 year lease from an investment grade user, right? And you couldn’t get some of the big guys wouldn’t even do long-term leases because they’re like, frankly, rents are going up too fast. By the time they get the leasing, we’re already under market, right? So then what became the scarce element? The scarce element became land. And they’re like, hey, we’re sold out of, basically spots to build these big boxes, in the Inland Empire, for instance.


Now, the next question is like, you know, do we go to whatever, Hesperia, Fontana, you know, name your kind of outline. There’s these five or six outlined sub markets that we think kind of have to be next. Which one of them should we be placing our bet within? And that really comes down to what are the variables that matter the most that users have the least amount of information on, right? So whether again, that’s freight activity, whether it’s, I’ll call it the micro market political environment, whether it’s


labor market dynamics, again, not just labor supply, but ultimately where’s the competition for that labor? What’s the quality of that labor? I mean, the macro regulatory environment, I think, is more important today than it’s ever been. So understanding which industries and what legislation is in the hopper, and how is that going to impact? I mean, obviously, we’ve seen this boom in Mexico. Well, if you look at a lot of those companies…


are Chinese entities that have effectively gone to Mexico to avoid some of this tariff narrative. There’s also perspective narrative that some of that could shift further to where basically they look through the geographic location into who is the parent entity. What is that going to do to the demand south of the border if that ultimately goes through? You’ve heard this term VUCA: volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity. That’s a much bigger piece of the narrative today. We’re just trying to say,


What are the things that capital allocators care about? What are the things that CEOs care about? And how do we translate that to place? And then ultimately, how do we apply that analysis to the latest, greatest space in the market? Today, that’s probably data centers to some degree, that’s definitely in the manufacturing arena. Show me the brokers in the United States who have a background in manufacturing, right? And then I’m like, okay, then what the heck have they been doing the last 40 years when we’ve been sending all this stuff overseas, right? So it’s this combination of where is there the biggest market opportunity versus


Where’s there the, I’ll call it least amount of expertise and, or some combination of where are there a lot of really important questions that people don’t have good answers to? Because that’s risk, right? Risk is what are the things that matter that I don’t have good data on. And our job is to not just help you get the best price, but also help you minimize your risk in that decision process. And we believe that the way we do that is that combination of expertise and superior, not just data, but superior analytics around that data and context to inform that decision process.


So, there’s a lot we could unpack there. But one of the things that jumps out to me is that you are speaking a language that is much more corporate, much more finance and much different than the broker who’s hoping that through their country club, I get to see the CEO has a warehouse, may want to have another warehouse. It’s a much different language. But at the end of the day, you’re solving the needs of tenants that need to occupy space.


So, when you look at a pitch, give us a sense of how does Colliers use you to go win business? It sounds like it’s a combination of the local guy who has a relationship, could be local big like New York or local small like a town in Illinois. But they’re a piece of the puzzle. You’re a piece of the puzzle. How does a pitch happen on let’s say somebody’s got to make a big 250,000 square foot modern distribution warehouse? So there’s gonna be some robotics and with something to it.


and they’d like to be somewhere in the Midwest and the relationships coming out of Chicago. Tell me how you guys pitch business that way. The three-legged stool, and I’m not saying this is the Bible, but I haven’t been able to improve upon it, it’s like RRA, right? Resume, relationship, and angle. Right, and what I see in a lot of pitches is there’s almost always a resume, or excuse me, a relationship.


That’s why you’re in the room, right? And then you’re bringing in a rep, you know, if you, the junior broker, or maybe the team who’s chasing it, if, you know, distribution isn’t your sweet spot, or you haven’t done stuff in that particular market, it’s like, oh, let me go find the best resume to plug into that. But the piece that I see, I’ll call it most lacking or, you know, I want to be careful with my terminology, but I see the biggest opportunity is in the angle. And the angle for us is, Hey, what is the thing that you’re going to hear from our group that you’re not going to hear from anybody else? And that’s where we


try to really get into this lens on, you know, every company’s objective is to maximize their risk adjusted returns. And there’s two sides of that equation. And I think brokers spend a lot of time talking about the top end of the spectrum, which is the returns. So, hey, here’s the thing that we’re going to do to lower your cost. Or here’s why I have a little better information than somebody else that I can get, you know, this lease rate down another nickel, you know, relative to the, you know, the deal that you might otherwise do without me, which is really important.


But the other piece of that is, as we all know, real estate is a very small piece of the overall cost spectrum, right? Call it four to 7%. The transportation piece is a huge component of that. So how do we get you really good information regarding the relative cost from a transportation perspective of your alternatives? And then also labor is a big piece of that in terms of cost. I mean, roughly, if you assume you’ve got one warehouse worker per thousand square feet of warehouse space, just is like a rough number. And that can obviously vary wildly. That’s effectively equates to a buck an hour


equates to two bucks a foot in rent, if you do the math. A buck an hour difference in wages equates to two dollars a foot in rent. So it’s like, hey, if I can give you any market rents around seven bucks around the country, you’re talking about whatever that is, 28, 29% differential, right? And location A versus location B. So that gets back to that whole, finding the right answer to the wrong question. How do we evaluate that from a total cost perspective? And I think the market’s kind of gotten there to a large degree. So that’s how we think about how we’re gonna help you


maximize your returns. But again, every business, it’s about risk adjusted returns. So how do we help you from a risk perspective? And that, from our lens is, how do we get you better data about the most important variables? And it’s not just about the data, it’s about the context around that data and translating that to how the world is changing and why we think this is not just the right location for you today, but why it’s going to be the right location for you in three, five, seven years, because you’re making a very long-term commitment in one of these leases.


So in a pitch, as far as how I get brought into that, they would say, hey, Bret, this kind of fits the size requirements. We want to pull you into this discussion. Terminal, I’d go back to the healthcare space, right? Like what are the symptoms of the patient? Like, let’s talk about what we think the company’s trying to solve for. How do we get better information? Because going back to, this is probably a five or 10 year old survey that I don’t know if it was Colliers or if it was an industry group that studied. And they basically said, what is the number one


ask of our clients? Like what is the one thing that they wish we did better or the industry did better than it does today? And that’s understanding our business. So they really want to understand, the client really wants you to understand their business. It’s how do we help them better make not just the best real estate decision, but make the best business decision. And that’s about understanding, you know, what is changing in the world, what is changing in their company, and how do you translate that to location? And that’s where that, you know, so again, going back to the resume, the relationship and the angle:


That is how we believe we construct that angle to say, we’re going to come in and say things that are a little bit different. And that hopefully there’s going to be some of your C-suite in the room. Because I believe that if we get in front of that C-suite, there’s a real opportunity to sell a different story than what most people are selling in the current market environment. And typically when you pitch business, what is the deliverable you bring? And in the old days, it was probably a printed book or some sort that somebody would


put on their desk and compare against four or five others. It feels like in the world we live in today, you’re delivering much more than a report when you’re trying to win the business. So if I hired you for my company to do the kind of search we talked about, what would be the work product I’d get back in order to make a decision whether to hire you or not?


Yeah. So the two big pieces, in addition to your call it your traditional, you know, kind of real estate survey, right, is we’re going to provide an assessment of what we believe. And again, depending on what business problem you’re trying to solve, we call it macro, meso, micro is like, you know, are you trying to solve for, hey, here’s the market I need to be in. Hey, here’s the general area or hey, here’s the exact location. And depending on the industry, depending on the discrete, again, business challenge that the company is trying to solve for, we might flex up or down or focus on


each of those variables. Like just to give you an example, like your supply chain analysis, that’s going to usually tell you, that’s going to provide what we call a zone of indifference. Basically a geographic region for you to search within to say, hey, somewhere in here is where you want to put the square house because that’s going to transportation 60% of your cost. This is why you want to be in central Indiana and not Illinois or Ohio or Kentucky. Right? Okay. Now the question is within that area, how do we ultimately decide where you should locate and still the number one concern


inside of organizations today, according to the conference board, which is like one of the largest surveyors of executives in the world, still the number one concern of executives is labor. So how do we get you better information than anybody else as it pertains to labor in that location? And then the last piece of the stool, so that’s how we help you, again, my job is to help you get better information and deciding where you’re going to locate. And then the second piece of that is


helping you figure out how to most efficiently finance that tenancy. And by efficiently finance that tenancy, it’s understanding what is the relative change in the value of whether it’s that land or that existing building with and without your occupancy. And obviously part of that spread is your value creation. And then the value capture that has a lot to do with effectively what are the alternatives in the market. Like, yeah, you could, maybe you could juice way up the value of a square foot of real estate, but if the counterparty knows that’s your only alternative,


your ability to capture value in that equation is very small. So how do we help you think about owning versus leasing and ultimately how you think about the, I’ll call it the most effective value participation. Cause I still believe that’s probably the biggest opportunity among the biggest opportunities in commercial real estate today is for tenants to have a, to do a, be able to do a better job of capturing the value that their tendency provides versus passing that along to a counterparty, whether that’s an investor, developer, et cetera.


But being able to better quantify that and capture that value. I’m very impressed with everything you said. It really does show how the world’s evolved. You go 100 miles an hour, which I love. Cause it’s the world I’ve always grown and I work in. But let me ask you this. How does Colliers manage its workforce and its relation with people? What kind of software, I mean, are you guys Microsoft based and everything you’re using is somewhere within that ecosystem of Office and Teams? And that’s your interaction? Is that the Colliers platform?


Um, so specifically to my group, we’re, we’re obviously very focused on the business intelligence arena and then our financial modeling, we still use Excel just because, you know, I know there’s some other, you know, whatever pro lease or pro calc or all those, but we, frankly, if we’re involved in that discussion, it’s probably a complex transaction that’s going to require a high level of customization. And that is something else I should say. When I first came into the business, I was kind of split between two teams. One of them was effectively really focused on, Hey, how do you help build us a financial model?


that helps us better quant… Once we know what companies are trying to solve for, how do we help them optimize? Again, thinking about a simple one is owning versus leasing. Given what we’re trying to achieve from an income statement, statement of cash flows, balance sheet perspective, how do we help them better quantify the impact of the alternative financing structures? The other half of my job was, how do we get companies better information on where to locate? So that better information on where to locate, we’re…


we currently operate out of business intelligence platform that I think is pretty good. The rate of change in the technological evolution is very, very high right now. The issue is, is that the people, there’s like this disconnect between the three-legged stool of what’s the business problem I’m trying to solve? What’s the best in class data available to address that business problem? And then how do I apply technology and analytics to that data to address the business problem? The people who know the business problem the best aren’t as in tune with the data and the technology and analytics.


And the people who know the data and the technology and analytics don’t know the business problem. So I think that your platform matters to some degree, but really that’s just how you’re visualizing the answer. The more important thing is what are the data points that go into the equation that you’re ultimately using to make the assessment, if you will. Every model is some combination of filtering, weighting, scoring. Right?


So how do you do that as effectively as possible? And then as more and more data sets become available, how do you start leveraging, I’ll call it a more data science intensive approach, which I think a lot of people will say AI to help inform those decisions. One of my challenges with artificial intelligence is the raw material for AI is large volumes of relatively homogeneous data. And of all the large industries, who probably has the lowest quantity of the least homogeneous data?


I would argue that it’s commercial real estate. And if you look at even just look at, you know, CoStar, right? I mean, their market cap is bigger than probably us, JLL and CB combined. And I think if you ask the average broker to say, hey, well, how would you rate the quality of the information in CoStar? I don’t know what the grade would be, but it wouldn’t be an A. It wouldn’t be high. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And I mean, even just look at like Zillow, right, with their iBind, you’ve got, you know, over 100 million data points in that, meaning homes in the United States. And they obviously, you know, again, look at where their market cap is and or was.


And they were effectively trying to automate the home buying process, which I would argue is a much more homogenous product type than office, industrial or life science. And they effectively canned that program. So that’s where I think the AI, at least on this, and going back to my narrative at the beginning, the AI on the supply side is gonna be a little bit slower around the real estate side, where I do think there’s massive application is on the demand side or some of these other metrics. Again, freight activity, consumer activity, migration trends, that’s where we see the big advantage.


I really do believe that the AI influence is going to impact our personal productivity in ways that are really amazing from AI that can schedule for you to AI that can do your… Eventually, we’ll get to active AI and away from large language models. I think our personal work worlds and our personal lives are going to be highly impacted by AI. But I think you hit on something really important. Whether AI is relevant to the real estate industry will be how much does Colliers


create their own AI around their information. I know CNW feels very protective of their information as does CB. Well, for AI to really have a global impact, you’re gonna have to get very specific information shared by all the different brokerage firms if it was gonna be immediate, which tells me that may all happen over time. And Colliers is probably there. I’m sure you have a team right now saying, okay, how do we get all of this stuff into an LLM


that we can then micro down to a small language model to work? But I just think it’s a… Because the proprietary information is so important to each of these public companies, you’re going to see the personal productivity AI explode. You’re going to see the data around 100 years of prices over a plot of land that maybe Colliers has only got it because they were in that market for 100 years. They’re not going to share that willingly. And we’re going to rely on an infallible source in CoStar.


So I think it’ll be slower for real estate to really feel the, but I think people who are professionals in real estate will have an unbelievable explosion of productivity around how they work and how they interact. Yeah, it’s a really, really good point. And I mean, one other piece that I don’t talk about often that I think is really important is what we try to say that we’re enabling is quantitatively defensible decisions. I know that’s kind of a mouthful, but the premise being like, Hey, if you get into a C-suite or you get into, you know, in front of the board of directors and say,


here’s our recommendation and here’s why, right? Well, the why probably needs to be something more than, hey, we ask ChatGPT where we should locate, gave it our parameters, and it said that we need to go to Nashville. And then we said, okay, well, that ChatGPT, can you justify why Nashville? And then they give you some more, well, what percentage of that information is actually accurate? Number one. Number two, then what is all the, again, like, this is a…


quote from one of my business coaches, but he says, in this world, everybody says that content is king, but so malleable at a young age, right, to have all of that information at your fingertips and how that would potentially impact your development. But in the modern age, I guess what I try to really focus on is there’s a book by Daniel Pink called When, W-H-E-N.


Yeah, and it focuses on like, hey, are you an early bird or a night owl? And one thing that I do believe, and this is something I sensed even when I came, like, I’m coming to you from 71 South Wacker in Chicago, which is, I think Colliers moved to a Class A building, one of the last buildings built before the GFC. And we moved in here in 2019, I think. We came from a Class B building. And just the ability to move into this building and have access to a great gym that’s effectively like a, it feels like you’re at a spa.


And so the ability to like, you know, I used to try to get in by like six and then you I’d work out in the mornings and then you kind of grind all day, but you hit that wall around one or two and it’s like, okay, well now I’m like at a lull, I need to get a coffee or something. Being able to shift that plan to like, oh, actually that early morning is actually my most productive hours, which I analyzed after I read this book. It’s like, oh, I’m an early bird. I shouldn’t waste those two hours in the morning working out. I should be working during that time. And then I can go work out between one 30 and two 30s when I hit the wall.


And if I can go get that workout in, then it kind of sets me up to crank for another three, four or five hours later on in the day. And I think in 2018, 2019, there was a negative connotation around the fact of, “Hey, wait, where’s Bret at? Oh, he’s in the gym.” And there, like, there was a negative connotation around that versus today. I think that’s very commonplace of like, Oh, instead of trying to fit your life into work, you’re fitting work into your life. That’s a big piece of it for me. Like the mental health benefit that I get from, you know, working out every day is a huge piece of, I guess, call it my quote unquote productivity.


The other piece that’s a challenge for me is I consider myself, I’ll call it an analytical creative. And I started this business unit or was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to start this business unit in 2020. This wasn’t something that we had. But again, it’s just kind of a first principles. What are the things that really matter that clients need better information on? And that was how this business came about. So I don’t think I would thrive in an environment where it’s like, hey, you need to… I mean, obviously we all have deadlines that we have to manage, but being given the autonomy and that is something that I love about the brokerage space.


Right? In very few roles in brokerage is somebody ultimately breathing down your neck unless you’re in a direct customer service role. But it’s a long-winded answer, I guess, of being intentional about how you’ve lost your time. I love your answer. And let me just lay something out for you. So what you just said is so important. And I think anybody running a business today needs to understand what you just said, because you’ve hit on some things that show how radically businesses change. And I don’t think most people 50 and older, including the Jamie Diamond’s of the world, quite understand what you just said.


You know, I learned how to work and study as a student and then work from a generation above that did it the same way. Books, paper, writing. That generation did it from the generation above. We are now talking about the millennials and Gen Xers who started where computers were part of their daily life. I’m a Gen Xer. Computers came around in the 70s. A millennial, their whole life there’s been computers. The Z’s…


their whole life there’s been cell phones. I find 50 year olds and older when you talk about office and when is it coming back, they’re putting the expectation of what they did when they were in their 20s and 30s, which you were graded if you turn the light on at seven in the morning, you were graded because you were in your desk or at your cubicle all day. That’s how productivity was managed. Post COVID, it’s totally blown up. You cannot work for our company if you are not working in a software, which means I can track you everywhere you go. No.


I try not to abuse any of those things, but you’re going to be an accountant, you got to be in Yardie. You’re going to be looking at VTS for our leasing stuff. You’re going to be a DealPath for our acquisition. We live by Asana. That’s our project management. That is the core of our company. And I think what’s happening in this disconnect, beyond the fact that higher interest rates means that when loans term, your loan has gone up 500 bips. And we’re just not there yet to understand the life you describe because that’s…


what’s happening now and that’s the future, that flexibility of the time. And the productivity will be measured, but it won’t be measured in 1970s ways of measuring or 1980s ways of measuring. And so you got me really excited to hear someone articulate what it means to go out and be a hustler today. And that means that you figure out when you’re most productive, you maximize those. When you’re least productive, you try to take care of yourself and the office of the future is gonna have to take care of all of that.


Otherwise, it’s not going to work. People aren’t going to go there. I think the office as an enabler and basically, you know, and I think like I call it like paying the tax of the commute and ultimately justifying that tax in the way that it’s adding incremental value to your life, whether that’s socially, whether again, physically from like the right gym or, you know, maybe, you know, whatever, quote, unquote, free lunches. I think that’s a really, really big deal and very well articulated on your side. Well, let me ask you this because there’s a big pushback right now.


And I think it comes from an employer point of view, like, if I’m gonna ask people to come in, I want to make sure they have these creative collisions. I want to make sure they get together and they see each other. But what’s happened, the result has been we’re meeting, we are being meeting to death. And people are like, oh, they’re not gonna do this. So they’ll Zoom in and we’ll have four of us around a table, and we’ll have the Zoom come in. And it feels to me that the employer is saying, well, we’re gonna try to make it worth our while for coming in


by putting a bunch of meetings. And that I think is not helping us. When you’re talking to clients, when you’re talking to people, what do you say? How’s this going to even out? We don’t justify having office space by having 8 meetings back to back. How does it play out? You’re sitting there at 34. How do you want the next 10 years of your life to work look like? One, it sounds like you like coming into an office and being around people. So that’s going to be a part of it. Two, you don’t want to be told that the workday is 8 to 5 because that’s not your most productive. And then three, you want to have… It sounds to me like…


You’ve got to have outside parts of your life be a part of your work life, ability to work out, ability to take breaks. So how do you see the next 10 years and what you’re doing and how you’ll live? Yeah, great question. I mean, a couple of key things here. One, I think you have to look at like our evolution as a species, right? From agrarian to industrial, to call it computer, to whatever this you want to call this next age, you know, the assembly law. I mean, grandpa, my grandpa worked at Caterpillar his entire career.


He was late two days ever. And both of those days he got hit by drunk drivers on the way to work, somehow in the morning. But my point there is that like, you know, in that day and time, your productivity or your impact on the organization, it had a lot more to do with when you showed up, right? Because we didn’t, we were missing one person from the assembly line, we couldn’t operate. As technology continues to advance, a smaller and smaller percentage of the human population is creating a greater percentage of the value in the world, at least measured by economic terms.


So I think organizations that want to be successful going forward are going to have to, you know, try to build an environment that cultivates and enables that top, you know, whatever is top 5, 10, 20, 1%, whatever that number is, to enable those people to be more effective. Because I think we’re, you know, again, we’re going from an input-based society, which was how much time are you there, to an output-based society, which is, hey, you know, what is the outcome that you’re able to generate within your business?


And going back to my earlier questions on the value of asking the right questions and using artificial intelligence effectively. I remember when I was at Allstate, we had a individual who was good enough at SQL coding that he effectively replaced a department or I’ll call it a miniature department of like nine people and effectively took all of their work that they were doing in a given week and he could do it in about three and a half hours using some, you know, even Alteryx back in the day, you know, and it’s still a very prevalent tool, using some tools like that to effectively automate the reporting process.


Well you know, if that guy wants to come to work at nine and frankly, even wants to leave at two, he should probably be able to do that because of the value that he’s creating for the organization. So I think the way that we need to be more intentional about evaluating like, hey, what is the objective of this role? And how are we really clear in defining that? And then what is the work environment and/or the ecosystem that that person needs to be in to effectively do that work? And consequently, what types of tasks does that require? And do those tasks require being in person or not? And then also, I do firmly believe…


in the value of these like collisions. But I mean, a week and a half ago, I was at my lake house with guys who done one of them intern for me back in the day, but two of them are CTOs and one of them is a Y Combinator. They’re in Y Combinator right now. The other one’s in Techstars. Another guy worked for the NSA full time when he was 17. And so, you know, I had three or four guys come from around the country. Only one other guy had any background in real estate at all. And the intent of our, you know, two day kind of offsite was to say


I’ve known you for a while, you kind of know what I do. You’re intrigued by my space. Let me talk to you about some of the current business problems that I’m solving for clients. But what I want you to bring to the table is what is the most modern blank piece of paper? What are the things that you see have advanced the most in the last 18 months in terms of artificial intelligence? Where is that today and where is it going? Because those are really the tools and the tool belt that I want to be aware of to say, how do I, in as modern a fashion as possible, attack the business problems that I’m seeing today


with the most efficient tools, right? You can dig four times as fast with a shovel, but if the guy next to you has got an excavator, he’s gonna be able to dig a lot bigger hole a lot faster. So that’s the world we’re in today. So how you as an organization go about evaluating that, monitoring that, and even the rate of change, right? Look at that, whether it’s the average age of an organization in the S&P 500, like the rate of change in the world is continuing to accelerate. And that means the gap between what companies have and what they need across every sector is widening.


And that gap is opportunity. And I think having a really strong pulse on the latest capabilities and the right, you know, talent profiles to get you access to those capabilities is gonna be increasingly critical to organization survival. Describe for me, if you were running Colliers, what you think your ideal day should be. Let’s start it with, is it in the office? Let’s start with meetings, how many? In person? How would you think, in the role that you’re in, your perfect day should go during the week on a workday?


So I’ll speak very discreetly to my own role, just because, you know, I think everybody, again, it’s all about the responsibilities, right? The roles and responsibilities of the individual. But for me, I try to ideally not have meetings before 11 AM. Cause that’s my best thinking period. So the ability to get up, you know, whatever 5:30-6:00, have a cup of coffee, kind of, you know, have I try not to look at my phone for the first like 20 minutes, which does sometimes work sometimes doesn’t. And then I like to look at the news, listen to a podcast.


I’m a big podcast guy. I almost never watch TV. I think you can be a little bit more intentional with what you consume in the podcast arena. But then, then, and then probably have your client meetings go from sometime like 11 to whatever it is, 2:00 to 3:00/3:30. And then have that last half of the day to basically catch up on whatever came in the hopper in the first half. But I think… Do you value in-person meetings? Do you value them?


Massively, massively. The part of the reason I spend a lot of time on an airplane is because I think the trust that you can build in person, it’s so palpable and I’m sure there’s a lot of studies that probably back this up. And if the world today enables you to hop on a Zoom meeting, but there’s probably some term for this, but it’s a little bit of that pre-meeting chat and that post-meeting chat and that thing that comes up when you’re in person that really wasn’t intended, that wasn’t the point of the meeting.


That is a lot of times where the opportunity is. Because, you know, I maybe said differently, the meeting is designed to solve a problem somebody knows they have. That pre and post meeting, I’ll call it like gossip or narrative or chit chat, that may be the thing that unlocks the next opportunity. I didn’t realize going back to my world of business problem data, application of technology and analytics, I didn’t realize that other companies were having this business problem. I didn’t know that, oh, there’s a data set available to


evaluate something like that or, oh, I didn’t realize this new technology could do that. And I would expect each of those insights to come from a different party, right? And really kind of two, it’s like one, the business problem piece is probably going to come from a customer, maybe a broker. And then the data and the tech that’s probably going to be something that comes from, you know, I’ll call it the team that I work with across the country. So I massively value the end.


And so what you described to me is also why the old way of looking at office doesn’t work because you’re in the client service business. You have a national and international business, which means to have that face time means getting on airplanes. And so what’s that do for the team you’re on? Do you guys need to meet in person once a week? Every two weeks is okay because a lot of it you’re traveling and you’re probably with some of the team. How do you look at the headquarters office meeting with your team? How often does that happen? Yeah. So like in a perfect world, I would love to see the individuals on my team


both up and down the ladder, once a quarter. Just a touch base, you know, and again, and whether that’s as far as like a strategy session, whether you need to do that once a quarter, probably once every six months or something in a perfect world, just to say, hey, here’s where we think we’re going. Here’s the progress we’ve made in getting there. And by the way, that destination probably looks a lot different today in the current environment with things changing as quickly as they were, than it did six months ago. And again, depending on what role you’re in and how defined, because there are certain roles within brokerage, right? Where it’s a pretty clear…


You’re a producer, so your job is to get meetings or based on the complexity of the project, here’s how many transactions I expect you to be able to manage and here’s what success looks like. There are certain roles where it’s much more, we’ll call it like homogenous in terms of how you evaluate someone who’s effective in that role. And then there’s other roles that are more creative, if you want to call it that, and it’s a little bit tougher. But I think, again, the future looks a lot different than the past. So the evolving solutions are going to look a lot different than what exists today. So how do you…


try to balance being effective today with also creating for tomorrow. Well, we’ve been talking for almost an hour, but there’s two things I wanna hit on with you, because when we had our pre and then some exchange, you hit on something I think is really important. You’re 34 years old, you’re obviously driven, you’re a go-getter, you wanna get things done. But I find, I have a brother who’s 39, he’s got a significant other who’s 33. They spend a lot of focus on the difference between, yes, they wanna make a lot of money


but they want to have life experience, whether that’s… They haven’t started a family, but their people have started a family. I mean, I’ve never heard the term when I was younger, co-parenting and therefore the responsibilities mean I can’t work because I’m doing something for my partner or spouse. But how do you look, you’re 34 years old, you got the world ahead of you. How do you look at that relationship between what it takes to make a lot of money and what you’d want to also do with your time to have a fulfilling life?


Man… I said this at the last presentation I gave, I’ve got that Peter Drucker quote, the most dangerous thing in business is finding the right answer to the wrong question. I think you could remove the word business and insert life. And so the most dangerous thing in life is finding the right answer to the wrong question. I think a lot of people, I mean, if you look at, there’s a few studies out there of like 95 year olds and they ask like, hey, what are your biggest regrets? And I think the top three are, I wish I wouldn’t have worked so much. I wish I would have spent more time on things that’ll be around when I’m gone.


I think if I wish I would have invested more in relationships. And if you look at like, what are the indicators of happiness? It’s basically the volume and the depth of your relationships. So I think being intentional about your ability to cultivate those, whether those are inside or outside of the office is something I spent a fair amount of time thinking about. Another is a little bit of a cop out, but like Ray Dalio asked the question, if you could only make an impact on the world or be happy, which of those would you pick? It’s one of my favorite questions. And I think my answer might have shifted over time.


From that, hey, I want to have a big impact on the world to ultimately I want to be happy. And I do think that there’s some lens on this whole, how do you fit life into work? There’s another book and I can’t think of the name, I’ll get it to you for the notes, but it’s probably the most impactful book that I’ve read in the last two years. And it talks about basically, the whole point of the book is, I want to say it’s like the essential elements of time, but that’s not it. You can’t even find the digital version, it was written in ‘07. But the premise of it was like two 50 year olds kind of lived, they had birthdays on the same day and they’ve lived different lengths of life to that point


because time is actually measured in memories, and memories are measured in change. Like we’ve all had those periods of life, whether it was school or you’re studying for a certain designation or something, where you’re just kind of heads, or it’s a big deal, and you’re just heads down grinding every day, right? And you wake up one day and it was like, man, it was January 1st yesterday, and today it’s the first day of June, and that time just evaporated. So how do you be intentional about introducing change and trying to build those memories and those memory dividends along the way?


I mean, I think that’s one of the great paradoxes of life is how do you enjoy the journey while also being very intentional about the goals that you’re pursuing? And I transparently haven’t figured that out yet. But it’s something I see. No, should you have? I don’t think anybody ever figures it out. But I’ll leave you with a couple that maybe resonate with you. Steve Jobs said, you know, this whole world, your whole life of what you do was designed by people who are no smarter than you. And yet we all are so willing just to accept that this is the way it is. And I’ll give you one example:


Any idea why we have Election Day on a Tuesday in November? It’s because when they started the country, they wanted to put every polling place within a two-day ride to get to and nobody would give up Sunday for church. So they made it on Tuesday and you had all day to vote. And that’s still 250 years later why we have… We don’t have it on a Sunday. We don’t have it on a national holiday. So I love what you’ve been saying that got me thinking and I’ve combined that with Steve Jobs’ quote is…


It wasn’t like some genius came down and said, we have to work 60 hours a week in an office. And that’s it. We just live with all these things we inherited. And so I love what you’re doing. It inspires me. I’ll tell you, for our company, which was the second largest landlord in downtown LA, and now we’re a national real estate company, we’re making major changes on how we work and what we expect the people. A lot of it is believing people have personal responsibility. A lot of it is making sure that people have creative collisions that are worthwhile and recognizing that the efficiency of work…


has increased so much that if you try to hold on to something that happened five years ago and how somebody worked, they don’t apply anymore. So this has been such a great conversation for me. I want to leave it with one thing for you. As you are talking to people out there about the services that you bring, what do you think Colliers offers as something unique for you to pitch business? And how do you play a role in that? I mean, I think…


not many 34 year olds get that opportunity with a CEO to be able to say that, and you’ve come a long way to get it. So why is Colliers the best platform and why has it allowed you to excel? So I, it’s the only major brokerage that I’ve ever worked at. So I don’t know what it’s like in the other environments, but it’s, you know, they, we talk about our enterprise in our entrepreneurial culture. And I think my career here to this point has been a testament of that. But I started on a brokerage team kind of with a unique approach.


And then it transferred to kind of running a national platform. You know, we started out kind of solving this labor issue because we thought it was the most important thing that people didn’t have as good of information on. And now that’s pivoted into a number of different areas and they effectively let us kind of skate to where the puck is going versus keeping us inside of a given vertical. And you know, I am careful in how I say this, but it’s like, we’re a little bit business problem agnostic. It’s really like, how do we get the


best information for our clients and make sure that we’re not finding the right answer to the wrong question. Again, I don’t know what that looks like inside of all our competitors really discreetly, but I think it’s by having a little bit, I’ll call it flatter or more like latitude to Rome, if you will. My thesis would be that we’re able to better integrate some of these best practices, at least from an analytical perspective, across segments to say, whether you’re looking for a data center or your next retail location, you’re trying to figure out how to dispose of this-


this office, we really start with kind of a first principles approach and say, how do we make sure that we really understand, again, those symptoms, that business problem that you’re trying to solve, get you the best in class data and pair that with best in class technology and analytics to get you an outcome that we really think is differentiated. There’s a lot of opportunity. I mean, frankly, the commercial real estate world, there’s this concept of like Dutch disease where effectively, if you look back historically, the countries that were the most resource rich ultimately fell behind. I mean, at one point, 80% of the GDP in the United States came out of Virginia and Maryland.


So you think like, oh, the South, like they should have dominated, but, you know, the North was heavier from an innovation perspective because they didn’t have some of that natural resource advantage. And that’s the way I think about this industry a lot. There’s a ton of people who made a lot of money and there’s still a ton of money to be made. And all of those skill sets that were important then are going to be important in the future. But there’s certainly because of the way the external environment is shifting, there’s a really big opportunity, I think, for people that are a lot younger and a lot smarter than me with a very different skill set to come into the industry and have a big impact.


But the challenge is, is can you actually get exposure to the right business problems to be able to apply those skills, those technologies, those tools, ask those questions? And that is something that Collier has enabled for me to this point. That’s terrific. Hey, Bret, this has been a–Chris? Yeah. I have one question for you. How do you think about this, you know, work-life balance and paying that, you know, again, that tax of time?


What have you done that’s like, maybe you’ve answered this on other podcasts, but how do you think about it? I appreciate the question. I’m happy to answer it because it’s been hitting me a lot lately. I’ve had a father who’s well known and kind of a leader in the business, both locally and nationally. And he taught me a way to work that doesn’t apply at all anymore. And that’s okay because there’s a reason why somebody wrote a book “Who Moved My Cheese?” because things evolve. I have found that my key to happiness is control of my schedule and my life.


Control the things that I can control and the thing that I can control is my schedule. I thought having worked for John Cushman for all these years, a lot of my life, you say yes to everything and you go everywhere and you burn yourself out and you just go, go, go. That’s what hard work meant. I now realize that hard work means saying no to a lot of things, having enough time to be very strategic in how you think, recognizing your age and all of this and that at some point, if I was advising my younger self, no, you got to use that hustle and go to places that


the 50-year-olds won’t because that’ll get you seen. But at the end of the day, I really believe the key to being happy and the key to this is you’ve got to have time for meditation and call it prayer, call it soul reflection. You’ve got to have that. And you have to put that in. You have to take care of your health. And the idea, and I got to tell you, I grew up with this, that you go out and have a big steak dinner, drink three bottles of wine, but I’m tough. I’m getting up at five in the morning and I’m going to work. That’s what I grew up with: is horrible. And that’s what leads to dementia and all these other…


So, taking care of your health has to be a priority. So having your own time, taking care of your health, both what you eat and how you sleep and working out. And I think the third thing that people forget, you never reach a point in your life where you’ve learned it all. You have to have the mentality that every day I’m gonna learn something I didn’t know. Not gonna be arrogant about it. I’ve learned things from you and we’re 20 years apart. What you’ve taught me today, and the things I wrote down about it.


And you got to drop any arrogance. I think so many people as they get older think, well, I’ve got to where I was supposed to be. So now people have to serve me and people have to do what I say. I think what’s great about technology and your generation is you don’t have time for guys, men and women who think that way. You’re just going to blow by them. And when I talk to my children, I say, I’m pretty spiritual and religious. I meditate at least 30 minutes, but usually twice a day. That’s part my wife knows. That’s part of… my kids know it. I work out every day and I always learn.


And I guess I’ll put a fourth thing. You can’t control everything. Most of the time, you just have to be okay putting in good days, hard days work, following things and letting the chips follow where they may. Because the stress and the anxiety comes from trying to tell you to do something and force you to do something. I can’t control that. I can only lay out what I can do. Hopefully that’s helpful. I’m very happy I asked the question. Yeah, that’s a phenomenal response. And yeah, a lot to think about there.


And remember, you try to please everybody, you please no one. I used to laugh at that comment, but it’s the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever realized. Saying no to somebody is the best gift you can give somebody. I feel that. That’s a big opportunity. I’ll put it that way. All right. Well, I loved having you on. Thanks for being on The Real Market. Yeah, thanks for your time.

Where you can find us

Rising Realty Partners

601 W 5th Street, Suite 215, Los Angeles, CA 90071