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What Execs Need To Know, But Don’t Want To Hear, About Their Real Estate

Business leaders often resist getting involved in their company’s real estate. 

“So often, guys like me don’t want to spend time on it because we think it’s a disruption,” Bazaarvoice CEO, president and director Gene Austin said. “We fight the idea of stepping back and spending time on it, but you have to invest time. That’s the push/pull of it.”

Bazaarvoice's Gene Austin, CBRE's John Gump, Swinerton Builders' Bret Hall, Google's Kristin Chiles, Iauckgroup's Joe Gowing

Bazaarvoice moved into a new North Austin office in late 2015. Though the move was a huge undertaking, Austin said he will never again underestimate the power of a productive office.

Google real estate exec Kristin Chiles has facilitated several Google offices all over the world.

“It’s important to carry the Google culture through every office, but no two offices are the same,” she said at Bisnow’s Austin Creative Office event on Thursday. 

Chiles and Austin agree that the more notice a project has to be completed, the more likely the office performs well for employees, and stays on budget. 

When an office build-out is crunched for time because of lease expirations, holdover or any number of reasons, the project can suffer. Chiles had such an experience at Google’s Ann Arbor, Michigan, office.

“Within a 10-month period, we found another space and got contractors out and Googlers in. We crunched office space. It costs more money when you don’t have enough time to answer those critical needs.” Chiles said the experience was a lesson learned.

Bazaarvoice had a longer lead time for its office, which ultimately helped the company’s broker, CBRE senior vice president John Gump, and the interior designer, Lauckgroup. 

Knight Construction's Marc Knight, CBRE's John Gump

Gump and Bazaarvoice engaged CBRE’s Workplace Strategy group to determine that Bazaarvoice’s old and tired office was not offering enough breakout and collaboration space. 

“We figured out, the way they currently worked wasn’t how they needed to be working. It was going to be an expensive project to solve that in their current space so, fortunately, we found a pseudo build-to-suit,” Gump said.

With enough lead time, Bazaarvoice inked a lease and Lauckgroup got to work on the shell of the building. 

“Time is so important to get through vision work, real estate work and to identify strategic goals,” Lauckgroup principal Joe Gowing said. “Meshing all that with interiors is critical, and the project will be more tailored to a company’s culture if you can get that input from them early on.”

DPR's Patrick Houck, Google's Kristin Chiles, DPR's Jeff Dodd

Incorporating company culture in a space is imperative to Google also.

“Our users are huge. We have a user group [in every office] to learn what people like and dislike about the office and what will make them productive,” Chiles said.

Chiles’ goal is to discover what will make employees productive, and what will make them feel like an office is where they belong. That looks different in every location, she said. 

Google’s soon-to-open 200K SF regional hub at 500 West 2nd St. will incorporate natural elements like cypress trees, and aim to feel like users are wandering through the greenbelt. 

Brokers and designers do not often need telling twice that timing is important, but business leaders might.

“I had a lot of negative energy around the move,” Austin said. “But there was a moment in time when our company felt different, and it was the day we moved into our new office.”