Ensuring the tenant’s happiness

Property & asset management
How should an office in a regional city be managed? At first sight, the model is simple and based on the assumption that the property manager has to focus on the comfort of the people working in the building. But, as Bartłomiej Łepkowski, director and head of property and asset management at Savills, tells us, the devil is as usual in the detail…

Ewa Andrzejewska, Eurobuild Central & Eastern Europe: Is the management of an office building in Warsaw different than for one in a regional city and if so, what do the differences tend to be?

Bartłomiej Łepkowski, director, head of property and asset management, Savills: In regional cities the human factor is of key importance; managers often have to show more initiative and self-sufficiency. If a problem arises, they have limited consultation opportunities with the rest of the team and have to make a decision straight away, on the basis of their own experience and sometimes of their intuition. Due to the growing supply on regional markets and the heightened awareness of tenants, the expectations over the standard of the building, the security and the availability of amenities are also growing. Trends that start in Warsaw are now spreading out into the regions, so the difference between the pro-activity of managers of the best properties in the regions and those in the capital city has become somewhat blurred.

The pool of tenants is also smaller, so the competition between building owners must be fiercer...

I recently spoke to a colleague who managed a large complex leased to international firms. I asked him how he managed to form relations with them that were so good they were not interested in changing the location. The answer was simple: I visit them often, I talk, ask questions, and if they need something, I fulfil their requests – even on Saturdays. He kept his finger on the pulse.

They want to feel at home, right?

That’s right, the operations of property managers are focused on the comfort of the people who work in the buildings, their well-being. After all, we spend so many hours at work. It is important for each of us to have air-conditioning that works well, as well as amenities such a canteen, a laundrette, a car wash, showers, a cycle parking area and a separate smoking area.

Are mobile apps now all the rage?

It is worth introducing such applications, such as those for car sharing or car pooling, as an additional service for tenants. Free Wi-Fi in the common areas of the building is popular. You need to think carefully about the functionality of an app and other technological solutions, and specify the goals you want to achieve. Personal contact with the manager or the building service is all it needs in many cases.

What else do tenants expect?

Starting from the beginning of a tenant’s occupancy of a building, there should be what is known as the tenants’ manual, where they can find all the information about the building, the contact details of the manager and other key people, the fire protection procedures, the list of amenities for tenants including their location within the building, information related to green certification such as waste segregation procedures, the location of the showers and the bike parking area, and so on. There should also be a list of interesting places nearby so that the office managers do not have to seek out the cafés, restaurants, petrol stations or tyre exchange services themselves. Perhaps it is worth making a map. And if the grounds of the building are large enough, you could, for example, hold a food truck rally. If there’s no parcel-station nearby, we could arrange for there to be a parcel collection point, after all we are buying more and more on the internet.

What else could the manager provide for the tenants in an ideal world?

As long as the infrastructure around the building allows it, the tenant could receive discounts from nearby shops and services. For instance, they could get their laundry done cheaper, as well as getting discounts for coffee or lunch. Developing a sense of belonging among a building’s users is very important. Such initiatives make it possible to achieve this.

Could we look for a moment at office building management in a regional city through the eyes of the investor?

Regional office buildings are usually part of a global investor’s bigger portfolio, such as a German or British fund, which normally have a smaller presence in Poland. That is why the choice of a manager they can rely on and trust is so important. Signing a contract for five years – and contracts in the regions are rarely longer than this – does not mean that we can then take three years off and later expect to prolong the contract for another five years. It has to be remembered that new buildings are being developed, they are architecturally attractive, they have amenities that older facilities do not. And managers play an important role here – they anticipate problems, look for solutions and advise investors on how to respond to users’ ongoing needs. For example, many tenants drive cars and there is no car wash in the vicinity. The reaction of a manager should be immediate: let’s set up our own car wash if possible.

And are investors happy to make such additional investments?

Well, not always [laughs], but this is the manager’s task – to convince them that such an investment is not only desirable but necessary. When a building is in use, its features will eventually wear out and go out of fashion. So it pays off to be open to innovations.

Including green ones?

The introduction of green certificates, such as BREEAM or LEED, has brought with it a number of new approaches extending the range of services for tenants. But, in short, the reputation of the building and its recognisability for those living in the city determine its success. The building should acquire an identity, be one of a kind. Sometimes this involves attention to all the details, such as, for example, always having fresh flowers in the reception area or having a popular café on the ground floor that always gives out that coffee aroma – as well maintaining as an uncompromising attitude in terms of cleanliness.

Is working in older office buildings a greater challenge?

Yes, it is – but the manager also derives greater satisfaction from the results. For such properties I would suggest the implementation of a two-way operations strategy: the introduction of services that can be carried out without any additional cost, e.g. altering the air-conditioning settings for more effective and energy efficient use, as well as the introduction of measures that generate certain costs but increase the technical standard and users’ comfort. One of the issues managers currently have to face is this year’s increase in the minimum wage, as this also increases the service costs for the building, e.g. for the security. Perhaps it would be worth considering the installation of a camera for registering the licence plates at the entrance to the car park, or investing more in the building’s CCTV system. This would make it possible to limit the number of security staff.

You joined Savills in December 2016. What have you managed to achieve since that time?

We have been awarded contracts for the management of Wrocław projects such as Wratislavia Tower and Nobilis Business House as well as the Galeria Rumia shopping centre in the TriCity – in this case the contract also involves the asset management services as well as the facility management. In addition to this, we have also managed to secure the contract to manage a portfolio of convenience centres recently acquired by Arcona Capital.

How big is the office portfolio managed by Savills management department at the moment?

Offices constitute about one third of the 300,000 sqm of various types of space we manage. Some are located in regional cities, such as Malta House in Poznań, and three are in Wrocław: Hieronimus, Nobilis Business House and Wratislavia Tower. We want to continue to extend the portfolio of properties we manage, if only to be able to manage it more effectively for our clients. My team and I are also experienced in terms of portfolio contracts. The strong support from our administration and accounting base is also one of our assets.

Are the activities of the management department by themselves enough to satisfy a client?

They are not, so we have to cooperate closely with leasing departments. In practice, together we form one team. The project management department, which helps with the fit-out of the tenant’s office, is also important. The support of the marketing department also counts. All in all, the approach to the client has to be holistic these days.