Implementing commercial real estate technology at your brokerage will give you a competitive edge. Period. But it can be difficult to know which technologies are right for your business, and broker tech adoption can be equally challenging.
Ikea Green, Director of Operations at Feldman Ruel Urban Property Advisors, faced an added challenge when assessing potential CRE software solutions for her brokerage. Feldman Ruel—a Washington, D.C.-based, eleven person brokerage specializing in retail, office, industrial, mixed-use, multifamily, and development—opened its doors in early 2020, on the brink of the COVID-19 pandemic. Green was tasked with making sure her brokers were set up for success always, but especially in an exceptionally difficult time in commercial real estate.
Read on to learn more about Ikea’s strategic goals as a Director of Operations and what technologies Feldman Ruel uses to keep an edge over their competitors.
Q: Can you give us an overview of Feldman Ruel as a firm?
A: We were founded in 2020 by Josh Feldman and Ian Ruel, who have over twenty years experience combined in the commercial real estate industry. They both started their tenure at one of the nation’s largest commercial brokerage firms. Now, there are eleven of us total; eight agents and three staff positions, including myself. We serve the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia markets.
Q: How would you define the core responsibilities of your role as a Director of Operations at Feldman Ruel?
A: My core responsibilities consist of:
- Overseeing effective operating procedures across the company
- Implementing and revising operational policies and guidelines for the organization
- Overseeing client support services
- Keeping track of the company’s revenue margins and conducting budget reviews to maximize profits
- Making sure the staff and agents have the resources they need to do their job efficiently and effectively
Q: What does Feldman Ruel’s tech stack look like?
A: We use Apto, CoStar/LoopNet, Crexi, Reonomy, ArcGIS, Box, and DocuSign to name a few.
Q: And what would you argue is/are the most important tool(s) you supply your brokers with?
A: The most important tool that we supply our brokers with is our CRM, Apto. A CRM database is a lifeline in our industry, so it’s very important that whatever one we are using is reliable, and Apto has been that and more for us.
Q: How do you ensure your brokers are successful with the technology you provide them?
A: It’s important that I keep the lines of communication open with all the agents. Agents talk to each other, and if there is some piece of technology that my agents let me in on and they think it will be great for the rest of the team, then I’m going to listen and do the demos, do the research, do the free trials to see the pros and cons. If you want brokers to actually use the technology, it has to be something they are excited about and see the value in. Doing the due diligence of testing out the different options allows me to demonstrate that value and make the agents want to start using the technology right away.
Q: What sets Feldman Ruel apart from your competitors?
A: What sets us apart from our competitors is the fact that we like to build long lasting relationships with our clients. This is an industry that is rampant with transactional brokers who are only concerned with their commission on a deal. Trust and genuine relationships are built over a long period of time, and prioritizing our client relationships over transactions is what sets us apart.
Q: And how does your firm use technology as a competitive advantage?
A: Our philosophy is to combine cutting-edge technology with old-fashioned hard work. While we are a modern tech company, we don’t try to cut corners here at Feldman Ruel. Our motto has always been you have to spend money to make money. Therefore, we invest heavily in our marketing department to make sure we have the latest marketing software, digital camera equipment that can shoot video in 4K, etc. Further, we have efficient data software for the agents. That plus the foundational necessities like a CRM keeps us at the top of our game.
Q: How did the firm find success in 2020?
A: We started the company on the brink of the pandemic. As soon as we opened our doors, the country was shutting everything down. We were considered essential employees, so we didn’t have any other choice but to be successful. So we put our foot to the pedal and we never took it off the gas. And we reminded our agents everyday during the beginning of the pandemic not to see this as an opportunity to take a break, but to be consistent and the work will pay off…and it did.
Q: How are you planning on improving your internal technology in the next 6-12 months?
A: Actually, we are in the process of starting our property management department, which will be launching soon. So it has been quite fun learning the different software and technology in the property management industry.
Q: What trends in CRE technology do you follow the most closely?
A: The pandemic was a huge eye opener for us and it kind of exposed us in areas that maybe we were falling short in. So one of the CRE technologies that I really enjoy following is the direct digital engagement trend (this includes video tours of properties). Many CRE companies have had to adapt since the pandemic and had to figure out how to engage with sellers/buyers. It’s been a good reminder to keep tabs on what new technologies become available and be ready to adapt to changing demands in the market.
Q: What advice would you share with other CRE Operations professionals who might be reviewing their internal technology?
A: Have an open door policy with your agents and staff and listen to what they have to say. Sign up for different CRE webinars. There are several free webinars that vary in topics, but usually the agents are discussing various softwares, technology, and trends to look out for.
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