Consultant Q&A

Joan

President of Simons & Woodard, Joan has spent 45 years in real estate, including expertise in acquisitions, asset management, property management, project development and negotiation. She worked in development for Disney and Bramalea Pacific before becoming a Director of Real Estate Consulting at Price Waterhouse, and ultimately launching her own firm.

You are acting President & CEO of Simons & Woodard Inc, an architecture, development, and management firm in Santa Rosa, CA. Tell us about the types of projects and services S&W focuses on and ways your company separates itself from the competition.

We have always been a “community builder” in that we design, build and manage our properties with a long-term, value to the community view, instead of having the focus only on profit. This enables us to invest in design that is timeless, use materials that might cost more on the front end but save money and maintenance time on the long view, and focuses us on creating long-term tenant relationships. As a result, our buildings have consistently delivered solid investment returns and enjoy higher rental rates and less turn-over than our competition. By having all of this expertise “in-house”, it enables us to respond very quickly with design solutions for a build-to-suit or for a tenant lay-out. Our architects actually get to see how their designs work for people over time and make modifications when a design or a material selection doesn’t perform properly. Our property management and leasing team members know that their input is valued and critically important when a project is being designed. Having the complete feedback loop is unique to us in this market.

You've been in real estate industry for decades. What do you love about it?

I love the fact that every day is different, and by having new experiences every day, you get to continually build on your expertise and knowledge. Real estate is also tangible…you can feel it, see it, interact directly with the people who occupy or visit the space, and with each project you learn so much that enables you to constantly improve. I also find it very interesting to learn about each and every tenant and their business. A landlord must do the same things a bank lender does when they underwrite a borrower. Since we are making an investment up front in the form of the tenant improvements and commissions in exchange for a steady stream of rental payments over the term of a lease, or the consummation of a sales transaction in a build-to-suit, we must do a detailed review of their financial statements, an analysis of the health of the industry they are in, critique their business plan for evidence of likely success, and evaluate the “character” of the prospect before committing to the lease or sale.

In your opinion, what's next for commercial real estate?

With office space we have already seen a tremendous impact in our buildings over the last ten years…more people per square foot, the desire for co-working space, space on demand, the need to reduce the environmental impact of buildings, and many other things. The next ten to twenty years are going to bring even greater disruptions to what we have known as a result of artificial intelligence. Robotics and machine learning will significantly reduce the numbers of people currently housed in office space, reducing demand and increasing supply. We will have to step up our industry’s ability to reimagine office buildings into accommodating all sorts of other uses. When coupled with the disruption that is already occurring with retail real estate, this will require a significantly different skill set for architects, developers, brokers, and property managers and new skills for the lenders who will be financing these projects.

Tell us about a rewarding recent client engagement.

I recently handled the sales of a number of buildings that we had designed, built and managed over the last 20-40 years. The property owners of these buildings gave me complete latitude to design and implement the sales process, and because of the team we created for the effort, the outcome was successful on all counts. The property owners were very pleased with the outcome, but what was particularly rewarding to me was that each member of the team thought it was the best sales experience they’d ever been involved with.

Why did you decide to join StealthForce? What resonated with you?

From the perspective of a company owner, I think it is brilliant to provide access to a pool of highly skilled professional consultants who can accomplish a given project without having to spend a huge investment of time finding a consultant or hiring staff directly. And secondly, I’m eager to have the opportunity to offer my expertise on distinct project assignments that I might not have known about through my own efforts and where I can make a significant contribution. The ability to engage with new people, bring a fresh set of eyes, produce needed results, and fulfill a need is very rewarding.