Vik Bangia can be a mechanic, marriage counselor, divorce attorney or personal trainer, depending on the needs of his clients. At least, that’s how he likes to think of himself as a business consultant. While working with corporate real estate leaders, he most often resembles a personal trainer, helping them “trim the fat” from their portfolios so they can be more profitable.
After a 25-year career in corporate real estate, Bangia founded Verum Consulting with a single mission: To bring truth to situations where it’s needed most.
Bangia, who will be a featured speaker at our upcoming Workplace Champions Summit April 25 and 26, gave us a peek behind the curtain of the work he does to help corporate real estate leaders optimize their portfolios—starting by checking assumptions at the door.
How would you start a typical engagement?
The word “verum” means “truth” in Latin and most often refers to the inherent dynamics or biases that can get in the way of achieving success. We’ve developed our own five-step process called VERUM that involves:
- Validating assumptions—Performing an in-depth assessment of the business environment to reveal inherent biases and constraints
- Eliminating obstacles—Labeling the issues that will derail you from achieving your desired outcome
- Re-casting expectations—Revising earlier strategies to elicit deep personal commitments, mutual support and accountability from team members
- Unveiling a new strategy—Once everyone on the team is committed to the new vision, we design tactical action plans for implementing it
- Managing implementation—Helping the team stay focused as they move forward with the new strategy
At the beginning of an engagement, I would start by interviewing team members individually to understand what’s going on. Then we use the VERUM process in a team setting so we can bring to the surface issues they were unable to see or articulate in the past.
How do you identify the “fat” within a corporate real estate portfolio?
We use analytical capabilities to recognize opportunities. For instance, we may find a lease is below market or up for renewal. In the past, my data sources were brokers around the world. Now, with tools like an integrated workplace management system (IWMS), I can do an overlay of the corporate real estate portfolio and look at things like space utilization data to see how much of the real estate space is occupied versus vacant. If certain properties are underutilized, we can present that data and make recommendations.
The biggest challenge is a lot of corporate real estate decisions are intuitively known to the client. There may be politics at play that are keeping the organization from making changes that would allow them to be more profitable. When the data is staring you in the face, it’s a lot harder to play those politics.
Can you give an example of how you’ve helped corporate real estate leaders overcome internal politics?
There was one time where I was thrown out of a meeting because I made a recommendation for a workplace change initiative. This was based on an analysis about what the workplace looked like in competitor spaces. These spaces were more open, brighter and had a better quality than the space at this organization. The HR leader was on board right away, but the CFO was focused solely on ROI. I couldn’t prove ROI at the time, but the HR leader could. She pointed to low employee engagement scores and the difficulty they’d had with recruiting. She could show that the quality of the space was a contributing factor, that this was an immediate pain point.
The HR leader became my voice, and the organization ultimately decided to move forward with the initiative.
What does it mean to you to be a workplace champion, and what can a CRE do to become one?
As a corporate real estate leader, you need to go beyond the traditional role which has been primarily financial and think about how real estate enables workplace productivity and satisfaction. Elevate yourself above a CRE who is only looking at bottom-line budget and efficiency. Understand your influencer network and align with collaborators in the HR or IT departments. When you understand the influencer network and can find someone to champion your cause, you’re more likely to be successful.
Corporate real estate leaders also need to keep themselves informed about the latest trends in the industry. We’re on the verge of so many changes. For instance, the impact of the Internet of Things enabling things like predictive facilities management is going to be huge. We’re also going to see an increase in smart cities like the one in Lake Nona, Fla., where an intelligent network serves as a platform for connecting services and city and corporate leaders look at how these services impact things like happiness and productivity.
This is a year of transition for corporate real estate, and it’s an exciting time.
Want to hear more from Vik Bangia? Join us for the 2018 Workplace Champions Summit at Minute Maid Park in Houston!