When I was asked by my friends at @theBrokerList to contribute my thoughts on this issue, my initial reaction was to mention a local commercial real estate firm who e-blasted their list of long and short-term property availability for businesses that have been displaced.
Actually, as a project management firm, I have been inundated with emails from brokers, restoration companies, IT providers, rubbish removal and dozens of other firms ready to provide help. What a great way to communicate how your service can assist those affected businesses.
But yesterday as I walked through a hotel lobby and a coffee shop here on Long Island which has been devastated by Sandy, they were packed with business owners and facility managers who were displaced and desperately trying to conduct their affairs among homeowners who lost property. These places are serving as makeshift offices.
One comment I keep overhearing is “My corporate email server is down, so send your email to my private address.”
I quickly realized if email servers are down, are clients receiving these valuable service provider e-blasts? And are these service providers staffed, gassed up and not suffering from shortages themselves?
If CRE folks were able to identify suitable space, is it furnished? Does it have internet and phones? How do you handle communications when in normal times, it takes six weeks to get service? How do you move items when moving companies are literally and figuratively under water?
Most importantly, do tenants have the in-house talent, time and wherewithal to execute a plan that gets their business up and running quickly while operating from a coffee shop? It’s a daunting task for any business owner, even before this crisis.
My advice to CRE folks and vendors is to reach out to your contacts by telephone. Call them on their cell phones; call their business phones that may be redirected to a cell phone. Drive to their office (if you can get gas). Reach out through LinkedIn. Don’t rely solely on e-blasts. Leverage your networks. Remember, these folks are traumatized and may not know how to proceed.
And don’t forget to engage a project manager who has the crisis management expertise and multiple resources to execute an effective plan that reduces the stress and anxiety on the displaced business. Commercial real estate Project Managers oversee the coordination of assets and infrastructure allowing tenants to conduct their business.
My best wishes to friends and colleagues who are persevering through this tragedy.