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CRE Success: The Podcast, S01E06

sarah blackmore, colliers international

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

people, commercial real estate, retailers, industry, team, clients, success, podcast, workplace, managing, business, role, shopping center, work, workspaces, retail, leader, outcomes

Voiceover:

Welcome to CRE Success: The Podcast, where we help people working in commercial real estate achieve their professional goals. Check us out online at cresuccess.co/podcast. And now here's your host Darren Krakowiak.

 

Darren Krakowiak:

Hello, this is Episode 6 of the only podcast which is made for people who work in commercial real estate in Asia Pacific and want to achieve success more quickly.

We are now over the halfway mark for season 1 of CRE Success: The Podcast. I did promise to deliver 10 episodes as part of this first season, and if you haven't heard the first five episodes, make sure you go back and check them out, after of course, you stick around for today's interview.

Standing by is Sarah Blackmore. She's a Director at Colliers International, where she leads retail property management for the firm in Victoria. Given Sarah's role in retail, we’re gonna delve into the impact of COVID-19 on shopping centers, and we’ll also discuss her views on leadership, how to manage a team remotely, and we’ll be talking about how diversity makes our industry better.

At the beginning of last week's episode, I noted a few milestones we've reached in terms of getting into the top 20 in Apple Podcasts Careers Charts in a few countries. I'm pleased to report some updates; over the past week we've cracked that nut in a few more markets in Asia Pacific. We've reached number 5 in Singapore, number 7 in Hong Kong and number 18 in India. We also have new listeners in Malaysia, Japan, and even Canada. As always, wherever you are, thanks so much for being with us.

Stick around, my interview with Sarah Blackmore starts in 30 seconds.

 

(break)

 

(Voiceover)

And now it's time for the interview on CRE Success: The Podcast.

 

Darren Krakowiak:

Sarah, welcome to CRE Success: The Podcast.

 

Sarah Blackmore:

Thank you. Nice to be here.

Darren Krakowiak:

So, at the start of our episode, we always ask our guests to step into the virtual elevator and to give us their 20 to 30 second introduction, the so-called elevator pitch of who they are. So, Sarah, who are you?

 

Sarah Blackmore:

Well, Darren, I'm Sarah Blackmore, I'm the Director of retail real estate management for Colliers in Victoria. I've worked in property pretty much my entire career. I really love the various elements of it, but fundamentally I'm a…I'm a big people person. I really enjoy working with a diverse group of people. Certainly something our industry has in spades. I'm quite driven, and I push myself to do the best and be the best that I can be. But I also really enjoy working with people that are quite like minded but you know, mindful that we are all different. But seeing the outcomes and, you know, the success of what we can achieve all together is really what continues to drive me to want to grow and want to evolve in my career in property.

 

How is it that you first got started in property?

 

I didn't really come out of school thinking that I did want to work in property, it all seemed to happen by accident, really. I went to university and I studied fashion marketing. And I decided to take a small break from that course and I got a job in a local real estate agency close by to where I lived, and I was working in residential sales. I really caught the bug quite early. I think I enjoy the different people that I work with, including the clients and the tangibility if that's a word of property, that it's something that's visible. It's something that we can see the outcomes of our successes, and then I started a role at the Gandel Group working in their retail development team.

 

Well, of course, you've stuck with shopping centers since then. Can you tell me a little bit about your current role at Colliers?

 

Sure, my main responsibilities are working with clients to add value to their assets, also, leading the team here in Victoria to achieve the best property management and leasing outcomes possible for our clients. I work collaboratively with my colleagues amongst project leasing, retail investments, retail valuations and the projects team. And fundamentally we work together to deliver a streamlined, one stop shop for our clients, that that meet the needs of their businesses and, and their properties.

 

Very good. Well, let's talk a little bit about Coronavirus because, obviously, the impact on retail has been quite varied. We've seen apparel stores feeling like they have no choice, but to close. We've seen personal services forced to close, we've seen supermarkets become almost essential services and F&B retailers adjusting their business model in order to keep doors open. At the time of recording, we're just starting to transition into reduced restrictions for many retailers. So what has Colliers’ role been in advising shopping center owners in how to respond to these classes?

 

We anticipated a myriad of different scenarios in advance and we mobilized a Coronavirus response chain. That team met daily and cascaded updates to the broader teams. From a real estate management perspective we also met daily and provided regular guidance to our clients as well as formal weekly updates to our retailers. Some of our clients had their own protocols that we worked with, whereas many didn't and relied on our expertise to give them direction on how to manage through Coronavirus, including guidance for their own businesses to move to remote working. Our teams have had great relationships with our retailers before Coronavirus, and certainly through Coronavirus. And they've been able to continue to work closely through the period. It's been really impressive actually to see retailers reinvent their businesses to keep trading through the ever-changing restrictions, and equally impressive the way our teams have been able to adapt to the change in the way we work. I'm really, really proud of my change to the way they've conducted themselves professionally and respectfully during this time, especially the way they've worked with our retailers

 

sincerely in terms of how you game-plan certain scenarios while you were preparing for the Coronavirus restrictions that were eventually put in place, was the end result, or was the outcome as restrictive as you thought it would be? Or was it less restrictive than you thought it would be when you were when you were wargaming all of the various scenarios that could could occur?

 

Look, it was certainly a challenge around trying to predict what would what would come to us. We did work on some scenarios where we might be faced with a full lockdown, for example, and we did look to what happened in other countries and effectively put some procedures in place in anticipation of whether that might occur. And also we look to our colleagues in Asia Pacific that had already been quite advanced in how they had to respond given the events of Coronavirus were accelerated. We did have to look at the various scenarios and I guess as a team looking at what we thought would come to light, fortunately, you know, we did prepare things like set full center lockdown plans and various scenarios around, how would we manage the properties if only essential services were to trade and then tried to predict what would be considered an essential service by the government.

 

Right. So, it was a matter of hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

 

Absolutely.

 

So how is your team working with retailers? A lot of them are under unprecedented pressure in terms of their turnover performance and how they operate. Obviously, shopping center managers are serving their clients, which are the shopping center owners, but you need to be mindful of the impact on retailers. So how is that something that your team manages?

 

We're very mindful that our clients aren't just our clients being the landlords, our clients are also our tenants and they're our customers in the center as well as the shoppers in the center. Being mindful of the pressures that the retailers were under going through this period, putting some best practice to them, some suggestions for how they could potentially trade through, we looked at a number of different marketing support opportunities that we could do to help continue to promote the fact that they were trading albeit in a reduced capacity for cafes and restaurants and the like. Acting in effectively a partnership and having that great communication and relationships that we already did have with our retailers put us in a good position to be able to work closely with them to support them, but on the other side, that they continued, even if they were not able to trade, to continue to be in communication with us around what they were doing in the background or, you know, the challenge that they were facing and to be able to work together to, to come to a point with them that when they were ready to start trading, that they were able to do that quite smoothly. So, I think challenging or unfortunate as it all has been, we're looking at the positive. And what's come out of this is the strong relationships that we have both with our retailers and with our clients.

 

So, if I could ask you to get your crystal ball out, and what do you see as some permanent changes in the way that we do our shopping and in the way that shopping centers operate in the aftermath of COVID-19?

 

I really believe that, by nature, humans, we want an experience, we, whilst shopping centers are a place to purchase goods and services, people really want a full experience. So, it's not just the end purchase. It's how it makes them feel…that's something that online will never replace. I think that there certainly has been a place where we're online shopping has served a purpose during this period. But it's never going to replace the importance and the connection that our customers have with bricks and mortar.

 

Well, I actually queued to go into a Kmart a couple of weeks ago. So, I think that if I'm willing to line up to get into Kmart, then there must be something about being there and experiencing it that is real because I never thought I'd say that I'd line up to her to get into a Kmart.

 

Absolutely. And one other thing that we've noticed is we've already seen a resurgence in spending in bricks and mortar real estate, which just reinforces the theory or you know, the view that the bricks and mortar serve a purpose and they're not going anywhere. ANZ and CBA card transactions data has shown recovering already with ANX recently recorded a 2.3% increase from last year and CBA showing a 4% increase. Now that's card data transactions in center.

 

All right, well, let's shift gears, you touched a little bit on some of the things that you really love about working in real estate. Could you pinpoint what your favorite thing is about our industry?

 

Well, I said at the beginning of this episode, that I'm very much a people person. And I think people make our business, people make our industry, without our people we don't have a business, we don't have an industry and I love the diversity of people that you get to work with every day. So that's my favorite part.

 

Of course, you're in charge of managing a large and geographically dispersed team. So, what's the most challenging part of managing people who are dispersed across the state?

 

I really think the key is communication and establishing a relationship and a connection very early on in the piece. So whilst It's important to have that face to face time. Sometimes you can't just, you know, step into a meeting room and that person's right there in front of you. But if you've already established a good base, that connection works quite seamlessly. And I'll just take something out of COVID. And what that's taught us is that we actually can work remotely. And whilst it is, it does have its own challenges, if you maintain regular, regular and close communication with your team, you can still maintain the same the same focus and, and still achieve the same outcomes.

Yeah, I think people who are managing dispersed teams can have a lot to share in this new environment of social distancing when many people will be managing people from a distance. So good to hear those tips. I'm interested to hear from you about what you think makes a great leader, because I know that you've spent a bit of time thinking about how your leadership impact the team so what is it that you think is important when it comes to leadership?

 

I think one of the conversation first conversations that even you and I had Darren was, I used the word authenticity. And to be a real authentic leader means that you need to also show that you're a human being, and that you aren't, you're going through the same challenges as the people in your team. To be able to be vulnerable at times knowing that we all have bad days and we will have great days, and often teams look to the leader and don't really see that they that they think that everything's going swimmingly and to understand that, that the leader also has the same challenges as they do. Or, on the flip side, to show to the team that I understand where they're coming from, and I'm empathetic with the challenges that they are going through. Being passionate is, for me, a really important component not just of being a leader, but also of enjoying what you do. And, and that comes through in, in that authenticity, piece where you, you can show your team that you're you may be the leader, but you're still is still able to have a regular conversation and have fun. That's a really big component of what makes an enjoyable workplace for your team. Something for me is, you know, looking to continually grow. How I do that is I ask my team for feedback. So, not just my team, but my peers, the people around me and I asked for them to give me real feedback. So, not just what they think I want to hear, but I can't grow. No leader can grow it if people are just around them all the time telling them what they think they want to hear.

 

So just to clarify that was authentic, vulnerability, passionate and the ability to solicit feedback.

 

Yes.

 

Very good. Thinking about everyone in our industry, what do you think's an important attribute that everyone needs to succeed in commercial real estate?

 

I think passion is the big word, being able to really enjoy what you do for the product, as I said before, whether it is shopping center management, commercial management, whether it's working in valuations or leasing or any of the various roles in our industry, if you're not passionate, I really doubt that there's going to be that same level of success there.

 

If you could give one piece of advice to someone at the start of their commercial real estate career, what would it be?

 

Take on projects. So often we start and we've got a job description and we tend to think that fundamentally that what we're there for and yes, that that is what we're there for. However, through my career I've been fortunate to grow and develop by taking on more. So, if someone is offered to partake in a project or take on some additional work, albeit temporarily, really think about that before you say no, because the opportunities that that can open up for you are quite substantial. So just think before you say no.

 

It's good advice. Let's discuss women in commercial real estate and leadership. How much progress have you observed during your career in this area? And what else do you think needs to be done to ensure our industry can continue to close the equality gap?

 

When I started in the industry, there are a lot of men in leadership roles, especially in development and project management where I spent a lot of my early days they were there were women in In the industry and certainly noticeable around the office However, a lot of them were in administrative type roles. Over the years, I've seen a significant shift with more women taking on and being given more opportunities in senior roles. I do believe, very strongly, that people should be considered for roles based on merit and capability not just because a company needs a female on a board or to balance their gender numbers. Within Colliers, our real estate management leadership team is equally proportionate to female leaders, to male leaders, as well as through our real estate management business. So, I certainly think that we've come a long way, as an industry. Have we still got some way to go? Yes, we do. But fundamentally, I'm quite proud to work in an industry that that celebrates the differences of people and being in a leadership role in a business such as Colliers, it's nice to see that I'm not the only female leader. We all add something different in our own uniqueness, whether we're male or female.

 

Sarah, there's just one other question I'd like to ask you. And it's about managing a busy schedule and having time for your personal life and for your work life. So, what's been your strategy to balance life’s competing priorities, and how has that developed over your career?

 

It's a funny word balance, isn't it? I think that when we look at or we think about the word balance, it effectively implies that we need to have an equal distribution of our time or energy spent. I think that we need to integrate out the various components of our life, whether that's work, family, friends, relationships, exercise, whatever it is that we feel that we need, from, from my personal perspective, some weeks, there's a lot going on at work and I don't necessarily have the same amount of time to spend at home with my family. However on at other times, families calling for more attention, so I guess it's just it's an ebb and flow. And I think that at the end of the day, if you make sure that that overall, both components or all components of say, work and family, have sufficient energy and attention, that's the key for me, you know, I've got two youngish children, and I've worked since they were very young, but from my perspective, I'm quite, I'm quite proud of, of how I've instilled an ethic in them being two young boys that both mum and dad are equal, and I think that that has made them more comfortable with the, going back to the gender conversation, around how showing them that men and women are equal that mum does the same amount of housework that dad does or the same amount of cooking that does, and I think in this day and age, it's something that's really important. One thing that that I have, I guess promised myself personally, you talk about juggling, is take some time, every day for me. Some people might say or you know, I've got a I think it was you Darren, you go for a five kilometer run every day. But for me, that doesn't necessarily work. It depends on what the schedule is for that day. But as long as I do something in my day, whether that's exercise or read a book or meditate, or have a phone call with a girlfriend, something that's for me everyday is think something that keeps me grounded that allows me to continue to juggle the various priorities from my work family life perspective.

Well, that's interesting Sarah, you started that question sign balance is a funny word. And we heard that you and your husband share the housework 50-50. So, it sounds like you've perfected balance in the home, which is great to hear.

 

I wouldn't say perfected, but it works for us.

 

Darren Krakowiak:

Very good. Well, I really enjoyed hearing about what you had to say about passion, I couldn't agree more. Also what you were saying about taking those opportunities when they're offered early in people's career, so important. Really great talking to you Sarah, thanks so much for joining us on CRE Success: The Podcast.

 

Sarah Blackmore:

Thanks for having me.

 

Voiceover:

For more information about our guests visit cresuccess.co/podcast. And now a final thought from Darren Krakowiak.

 

Darren Krakowiak:

I hope you enjoyed that interview with Sarah.

Before we wrap up today. I wanted to remind about eBook, which I've released, it's called The 5 P's of Commercial Real Estate Success. I created this a book as a way to document what I found to be the most common attributes of successful people in our industry. In previous roles, I've been lucky enough to have close access to some very successful people. And what I found is, there is not a certain personality type that is common amongst successful people in commercial real estate. I've also noticed that some of the people who rise to the top are not necessarily the smartest people in the business, and in some cases, they're not even the hardest working in their slice of the industry…although I would say working pretty hard and having high standards is generally something that they do have in common. Instead, what I've seen as the traits successful people have in common is that they all identify where their passion lies, and how their job and helps them fulfill that. So, they know why they do what they do. They are the people who are persistent in the way they go after things. They know what they want, and they don't give up easily. They always have a positive attitude. They're the type of people that ask how things can be done, not why they can't be done. The most successful people are well prepared in that they take the time required to succeed, and they act professionally when they need to be in the zone. The good news is, these are all attributes which can be adopted. If you'd like to learn more about it, just head to our website, cresuccess.co and follow the prompts to get your free copy of the book, The 5 P's of Commercial Real Estate Success that's at cresuccess.co

And that's a wrap for this episode. Thanks so much for listening, and I will speak to you soon.

 

Voiceover:

Thanks for listening to CRE Success: The Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure you subscribe to us on your favourite podcast platform and be sure to leave us a five-star review. For more information about the show, just check the show notes on your podcast app or visit us online at cresuccess.co

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