My New Normal: Pollock Commercial Real Estate Services Founder Jeff Pollock
At 42, Jeff Pollock is one of the youngest presidents ever of the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors.
Pollock, the board's 2020 president, also has the unique distinction of being the first president since the commercial version of the board started in 1998 to lead the organization during a pandemic that forced the government to shut down businesses and required residents to shelter in place.
That is quite a designation for someone who runs his own commercial real estate brokerage firm and depends on those face-to-face meetings and networking to make a living.
Pollock founded Pollock Commercial Real Estate Services in 2009 — at the onset of the Great Recession — and has since secured a number of significant deals in the Metro Atlanta area, including Mailchimp's offices at Carriage Works. He grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, and graduated from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.
While Pollock said he has learned to balance his home and office life during the coronavirus outbreak, many of his clients say their employees are experiencing “Zoom fatigue.”
Bisnow: Describe your work-from-home life and what you are doing in your spare time.
Pollock: We’ve adjusted to a more comprehensive work-from-home setup with my wife stationed in her home office and me in mine for most of the day. The official Zoom conference calls start around 10 a.m., and every day is a little different. Our children (12 and 10) had homeschooling stations established, but with school out for the summer, their routine has been much less structured lately.
We are spending a lot of quality time together, including family meals, movie nights, puzzles and games, and lots of outdoor activities in the backyard. We also made our way to the beach last weekend, and I cannot remember appreciating any previous vacation more.
Bisnow: What is your company’s return-to-the-workplace plan?
Pollock: Our team is small, and our office was fortunately designed up with enough room per person so further social distancing adjustments won’t be necessary. My teammates are utilizing our office as needed, but we are not yet open to the public, and we have not all been in the office at the same time. I think we will wait a little longer before we gather together, but we connect regularly and will continue to monitor the environment.
Bisnow: What will reopening businesses and workplaces look like for you personally?
Pollock: Since real estate was considered essential in Georgia early on, we never stopped working. That said, tours slowed, and now when we do show space, we are wearing masks and asking our guests to do the same.
Hopefully, as reopening progresses and a vaccine is developed, we will see a return to some of our more familiar customs, such as handshakes coming back. Of course, we are also hoping to see market velocity improve.
I am currently going to the office one day per week, and I am usually there alone or with one other colleague. I expect to increase that frequency in the weeks ahead, and I think my teammates will be doing the same.
Bisnow: How will you manage the homefront as stay-at-home restrictions ease and businesses reopen?
Pollock: We are blessed with two pretty independent kids, and they are learning how to navigate the kitchen and laundry as well as communicate with their friends from afar. Our neighborhood pool has opened, and they can ride bikes there without parental supervision. The biggest challenge will be keeping them occupied this summer in lieu of sports and camp, which have all been canceled.
Our synagogue has been offering online services, and we are watching those from home for now. As for shopping, we are leveraging delivery services for just about all our needs. I will mask up and head to the store when necessary, but we have become pretty resourceful online.
Bisnow: What is the state of your business at the moment?
Pollock: We have managed to keep some deal flow going; however, we are down approximately 75% from pre-pandemic expectations. That said, we have added a number of new listings and continue to see activity improving every week. Hopefully, the number of newly reported coronavirus cases will decline and our clients will start to see a recovery in their own businesses.
Bisnow: What was your impression of work from home before this got started? What is it now?
Pollock: My perception of work from home has not changed. The telecommuting trend is at least 20 years in the making, and improvements in bandwidth, smartphones and laptops have advanced, providing better capabilities from outside of the office.
There will be companies that choose to reduce their office footprint, but most of our clients have indicated that their employees are suffering from “Zoom fatigue,” and they miss the spontaneous collaboration and general socialization and synergy that comes from working together in person.
Today’s culture-focused tenants have invested heavily in their office design, and Atlanta’s developers have delivered an amazing building stock with great common areas and amenities. I expect increased flexibility from a total occupancy perspective at any given time, but ultimately, those coffee shops, gyms and rooftop terraces are benefits employees are missing.
Bisnow: How is your company fostering community and maintaining its culture from a distance?
Pollock: We are sharing information and collaborating on transactions in many of the ways we did before given all our infrastructure is cloud-based. We are connecting via conference calls, texts and emails, but we do miss the time together.
Bisnow: How do you think the coronavirus could permanently affect the way real estate does business?
Pollock: It’s a bit too early to tell. We are seeing new clauses in leases and sales contracts that provide unprecedented flexibility around key concepts like commencement dates since the pandemic is impacting municipalities in terms of building permits and certificates of occupancy, for example.
I think longer term, we can expect these clauses to be refined, and we can expect more attention to areas of leases such as force majeure and default clauses that currently do not align with the realities of a pandemic.
Bisnow: What are you most hopeful about right now?
Pollock: I have been so impressed with our professional community. As president of the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors, I have been fortunate to work with an incredible group of leaders on our board and the leaders of the other major trade associations in town.
We are all working tirelessly to reinvent our organizations for this socially distanced environment. We are collaborating and communicating more than ever before, and there is a real sense of community and information sharing. We have always enjoyed wonderful collegiality here in Atlanta, but I think there is a new appreciation for togetherness in this challenging time.