Critical Issues: Advance Realty Group

Dec. 29, 2004
At Issue:› Market Forces› Doing More with Less Resources› Professional DevelopmentWhat does it take to be a success? Kurt R. Padavano, chief operating officer at Advance Realty Group, believes that a commitment to professional development and industry advancement are the keys to success. Advance Realty Group, headquartered in Bedminster, NJ, is one of the most active real estate companies covering the suburban markets in Boston; New Jersey; and Washington, D.C. Founded in 1979, this company owns and manages more than 5 million square feet of commercial property, and is actively developing 6 million square feet of commercial space and in excess of 5,000 multifamily housing units.How have recent economic conditions impacted the company? According to Padavano, there have been positive aspects to the current economic climate, such as favorable interest rates. “However, from the less positive side, there has been less demand for office space because corporate tenants have been struggling with economic conditions,” he explains. Because of the renting slump, building owners are making greater concessions to attract new tenants and are lowering rent structures. Padavano predicts a slow recovery for the office sector.With respect to the future and adapting to changes, Padavano notes: “We track the national economic trends, but we really look at the local markets in which we operate, and then we examine the micromarkets in those areas. Some small markets can be driven by a single user, technology, or government program. Advance Realty strives to achieve a deeper understanding of the local economic drivers and transportation issues, as well as government restrictions and spending programs.”To keep pace with the changing economy and technology front, Advance Realty has developed a culture of continuous learning. “We develop an annual training and personal development plan for each of our employees, because the only way to really track what’s going on in the markets and to have people have a sense of the pulse of these changing markets is to have people out there learning,” says Padavano.The company’s 115 associates are encouraged to take classes ranging from association seminars to graduate-level programs. Executive management at Advance Realty also encourages the staff to take key roles in industry associations. Adds Padavano, “We actively participate on committees and at the officer level in many organizations at the local and national level.”As in every organization, the challenge today is to accomplish more with shrinking resources – dollars and personnel. Advance Realty, however, is up to the task. Notes Padavano, “We utilize our training and education emphasis to really help people progress individually so that they can be more productive and do more with less.” The organization leverages its technology by using electronic file management and other software systems to reduce unnecessary paperwork and to aid in proc-essing and tracking invoices. These programs allow Advance Realty’s administrative staff to work more efficiently.“In a ‘do-more-with-less’ environment, you need to set a culture where certain people don’t feel as though they are the only ones being asked to do more,” says Padavano. Along with improving in-house workload balance and communication, the real estate company outsources non-core functions such as information technology and human resources.The greatest single factor impacting Advance Realty is market forces, says Padavano. “Without tenant demand, it is tough to maintain occupancy levels, income levels, and the growth needed on a long-term basis.”To maintain consistent quality, the company creates cross-functional teams, including development, construction, property management, accounting, and asset management staff, as well as building technicians and engineers. These teams have sorted through volumes of information and specifications on products. The design professionals rely on these product standards when designing new construction and modernization projects. “From a branding perspective, we have a consistency in the projects and services that the tenants will receive in our buildings, whether the building is in the Washington, D.C.; New Jersey; or Boston market,” explains Padavano.With respect to his industry peers, Padavano offers the following advice: “I would promote education and training and never stop.” He encourages his peers to seek out mentors, and to get involved with the advancement of the industry through associations. “As vice chairman of BOMA Intl., I’ve had the opportunity to understand the industry at a much broader level than operating in a single market or a single region,” says Padavano. “This is a great opportunity to not only learn personally, but to capture the trends in the business and to create value for an entire industry.” What sets Advance Realty apart is its continuous commitment to tenant satisfaction, leveraging technology, and the growth of its employees. According to Padavano: “We have not created these processes by individuals dictating how it is going to work. We allow everyone who is going to be impacted by a decision to have a say in the process.” Team members are more likely to implement and support new ideas when they are part of the decision-making.Many real estate companies exist in today’s marketplace, but by promoting collaboration in the process development, Advance Realty is building success.Regina Raiford Babcock, Senior Editor (regina.raiford[email protected])

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