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Pandemic lockdown prompts innovation, resilience and helps with recruiting efforts

However people may differ in their various opinions, we can all agree on this: 2020 has been a year to remember.

When the corks popped during our parties on New Year’s Eve 2019, no one knew what waited in the wings. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us all to reinvent ourselves, at least to some degree. That was certainly true of SVN Commercial Advisory Group.

March 2020 is when a lot of Americans had to alter their daily routines radically as the public sheltered in place and businesses locked down.

SVN Commercial Advisory Group responded early by gaining a thorough grasp of the CARES Act that the U.S. Congress had passed. We wanted to know what this meant for the business, to our clients and to our advisors. We did a study of the law, confirmed our findings with attorneys and accountants, and conveyed them to our people.

It turned out to be a useful endeavor. We were able to inform our advisors of measures that could help them and their families during the crisis. We did the same for our clients.

The culmination of our efforts was a comprehensive overview of the CARES Act that we sent to our entire group on March 31. The PDF document explained the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, the stimulus package and other provisions of the act aimed at delivering economic assistance. It gave particular detail to the act’s impact on commercial real estate.

One of our first responses to the lockdown was to implement technologies that enabled our people to work remotely. This wasn’t all new to us. We had some of this technology up and running already, including video conferencing, which gave us an edge. Among our tech-driven efforts were weekly, pre-recorded communiques to the team that included updates and employee recognitions.

With no one coming into the office, there were obviously a lot more one-on-one calls and increased texting between everyone. I made sure to keep up with the advisors, sometimes just asking how the people were faring with their families, how we might be able to help. People appreciated little things like that and I think it helped morale.

As a result of all these measures, we were able to keep up our communications and stay engaged.

The pandemic forced our team to reassess whether certain deals were in our clients’ best interests. For example, if someone was looking to open a new restaurant, we’d have to advise this client on whether the move was prudent or whether the plan should go on hold. Another consideration was the sale of real estate that involved multiple tenants. Many investors wanted significant discounts wherever there was a risk of tenants foregoing rent for months at a time. In those cases, we tended to advise sellers of such properties to hold off and wait for market conditions to improve.

We were also able to keep up recruiting during this time. The lockdown forced many people to reconsider their career choices. Commercial real estate firms have been beneficiaries of that sentiment. Despite the fluctuating nature of commercial real estate, our advisors do enjoy the benefit of being independent. They’re entrepreneurs. There are no layoffs and no expensive corporate structures to maintain. As a result, we’ve had people join us from other industries, such as banking and equity fund management. For us, it’s been the upside of an otherwise challenging time.

So, we’ve learned a lot from this past year. It’s made us stronger, leaner, more innovative and resilient. When the haze finally lifts, I believe we’ll be able to serve our clients even more effectively than before.

Here’s to a prosperous and happy 2021.

Matt Christian, Managing Director