Cresa's Remote Working Advisory Business Gains Traction

This article was originally posted on Costar. 

Earlier this year, as companies across the United States began telling their employees to work from home indefinitely because of the just-declared coronavirus pandemic, Cresa's top executives already were discussing how remote working would impact their clients.

In Atlanta, Cresa managing principal Jason Jones was working the phones to get an early handle on what this would mean for the brokerage firm's clients and the spaces they occupied. Jones shared what he gathered with CEO Jim Underhill, Chief Financial Officer Wendy Doumas and other executives and board members.

Soon after, Cresa created a remote work task force that Jones helped lead.

"The world was crumbling around us, and we realized, this is going to be a big issue going forward," Jones said in an interview.

Jones was tapped as a leader because he led Cresa's technology advisory services group, which he founded five years ago to help ensure clients had connectivity and working communication lines when they relocated to new offices. These same necessities would come to the forefront as employees began working at home across the country, Jones said.

The upshot of the task force was the creation of an advisory service group in June. Jones co-leads the business line with Charlotte, North Carolina-based colleague Cathrine Cotman. The group helps companies integrate remote working into long-term workplace strategies.

In launching remote advisory services, Cresa cited an April survey from Gartner in which 74% of chief financial officers said they intend to permanently shift at least 5% of their on-site employees to remote working.

"Remote advisory services was designed to help our clients understand the benefits and challenges of remote working and to help them navigate a road map to a successful balanced workplace strategy for remote working and the office," Jones said.

Demand for the new service line was slow at first as companies focused more on making sure employees working remotely were doing so efficiently, Jones said. Four months in, however, remote advisory services' business "has picked up significantly" because more companies are beginning to have employees return to the office, or at least plan for that, he said.

"We're starting to see companies climb out of their head-down view" and devise strategies for a return to the office, Jones said. "They're starting to look over the horizon and test pilot strategies while creating long-term ones."

For instance, Cresa's Washington, D.C., office is working with a nonprofit eager to take advantage of being able to recruit employees from practically anywhere in the country because the team now works remotely. At the same time, however, the group is concerned about how to maintain its culture and train new workers purely online.

Cresa began its work with the nonprofit by creating a checklist of critical requirements by department, including human resources, operations, information technology, policy and real estate.

Jones said Cresa sees opportunity to not only expand and deepen its relationships with existing clients but with companies that have used other brokerage firms for their past real estate needs. "We are speaking with some companies that have traditionally used a competitor," he said. "There's no telling where it will lead."

Jones got into commercial real estate as a tenant representative broker in 2001 at Trammell Crow Co. and joined Cresa about 10 months later in 2002.

Before that, Jones spent eight years in the U.S. Navy, where he flew A-6E Intruder attack aircraft off of the USS Enterprise as a bombardier-navigator. He decided to go into commercial real estate, Jones said, because "being a tenant rep broker is highly entrepreneurial." The flexibility and autonomy that came with the job appealed to Jones, too.

Jones said his time as a Navy navigator prepared him well for life in commercial real estate. Both jobs are process driven, detail oriented and mission focused, he said.