BOMA 2019: Keynote Speaker Talks ‘Wonder,’ Commercial Management

June 10, 2019

What does it take to run a successful commercial building today? In a BOMA 2019 sneak peek, keynote speaker Peter Merrett (The House of Wonderful) discusses how “wonder”—and ditching the word “tenant”—can benefit commercial building managers.

The 2019 BOMA International Conference & Expo will be Peter Merrett’s 16th year attending—but this year will be different. He’ll take the stage with friend and mentor Doug Lipp, former head of training for Disney University, in Tuesday’s keynote session, which he promises will be like no other.

A BOMA fellow, Merrett has managed some of the finest luxury hotels in the United Kingdom and spent seven years as head of customer experience in the Property and Asset Management division of JLL Australia.

Since 2018, he’s pursued his speaking business, The House of Wonderful, full time, spreading the message of how to tap into professional “wonder” and use it to your benefit your business.

We spoke with Merrett ahead of his June 25 keynote with Lipp on what attendees can expect from the session—and why the word “tenant” should be banned in the property management industry.

BUILDINGS: Why should facilities and property managers invest time and money to attend the BOMA conference?

Peter Merrett: It’s just the most delicious conference. It’s that moment that you have to take the time out of your busy work life and mix with peers, friends and colleagues, and have the most nourishing experience of information.

I use the word “nourishing” intentionally. BOMA is always such an amazing program and schedule of events. It almost turns attendees into children walking into a candy store: People can pick and mix whatever they want to do and experience. It’s my favorite event on my annual calendar.

BUILDINGS: What can attendees expect from your Tuesday keynote session with Doug Lipp at BOMA International?

Merrett: [We’re spreading] the message of “release the wonder.” Wonder is something we used to have when we were children. It’s this state of incredible curiosity, creativity, playfulness and fun. What happens is, we get older and adulthood becomes about seriousness. That can cover the wonder. Doug and I are going to encourage people to use simple ways to release their wonder.

“The mindset is we should ban the word “tenants” across the industry. It’s time to flip the mindset into looking after our tenants as our guests.” - Peter Merrett

Don’t think of this as a formal corporate keynote. It’s the opposite of that. It’s very playful and full of surprises and a whole lot of fun. Doug and I first spoke together in 2015 in Arizona. There was just this absolute burst of energy and joy.

We got a lot of warm feedback afterward.

Doug is not just a mentor, because I love all of the Disney values, but also a dear friend. There’s an outrageous chemistry between the two of us and the way we interact and bounce off each other on stage.


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BUILDINGS: You managed London’s Tower 42 building, which won the TOBY Award (The Outstanding Building of the Year) in 2008 at that year’s BOMA conference. What was it like to win?

Merrett: It was a massive moment for us, the team and the property. There were major celebrations in London. It was largely based on our courage in creating an office environment that hadn’t been seen before: a hotel-style office, a 5-star hotel environment without any bedrooms.

The guest experience was the highest priority, and the BOMA judges recognized that. I still remember, one of them said they’d never seen anything like it before.

We’ll be referencing Tower 42 in our keynote.

“Guests ultimately want us to respond to emails quickly, answer phones, anticipate needs and solve problems.” - Peter Merrett

BUILDINGS: What does it take to run a successful commercial building today?

Merrett: People are looking for simplicity, convenience and really good moments of service throughout their working day. Customer experience used to be at the bottom of the list, and now it’s right at the top of the list. It’s probably one of most important things people look for when renting space in an office.

The mindset is we should ban the word “tenants” across the industry. It’s time to flip the mindset into looking after our tenants as our guests.

Guests ultimately want us to respond to emails quickly, answer phones, anticipate needs and solve problems.

More BOMA 2019:

About the Author

Sarah Kloepple | Associate Editor

Sarah joined the BUILDINGS team as an associate editor in August 2018. She is a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, where her focus was magazine writing. She's written and edited for numerous publications in her hometown of St. Louis.

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