Like any unforeseeable event, there’s always going to be winners and losers. The current economic downturn caused by COVID-19 presents business owners with a unique opportunity to reinvent, adapt, and capitalize on the changes that have become our “new normal.”
Today, corporate competitors are waiting for a vaccine or any sign of the market reopening. Don’t wait. Now is the time to build your business and execute.
This is my fourth downturn market. In two of the previous three down cycles, I took advantage of the market and enjoyed some of the best years I’ve had in my career. In the 2008 downturn, I admit that I fell flat. I let negative market conditions drag me down and I missed a very serious business opportunity to grow. Although my business survived, I vowed that when the next downturn hit, I’d be “all in” to grow.
Starboard Commercial Real Estate is the largest independently owned commercial real estate firm in San Francisco, which I founded in 1991. When the pandemic hit the U.S., the business was facing a number of challenges. I had just bought out my business partner, leaving me as the sole owner of the company. I knew had to find new opportunities to grow my business and make the business viable for the foreseeable future. When shelter-in-place orders were instilled across the country, I knew we were headed toward a market I hadn’t experienced since before the 1989 earthquake market in San Francisco.
When the earthquake hit, the commercial real estate market came to a standstill. There was real fear around the safety of office buildings, especially the ones that showed signs of damage. This led to a market that simply shut down. A year later, the perfect storm developed when the national economy collapsed into a serious recession. My competitors closed up shop and went home– but we saw an opportunity. As more buildings began to default on their loans, we found local buyers who had the cash and were ready to buy. We began an aggressive campaign, working different angles to find distressed building owners and help facilitate a sale. Between 1990 and 1993, I ended those years with some of the best years I’ve performed financially in my 36-year career in real estate.
Akin to what we are experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses in downtown San Francisco were shut down for six months, forcing many to close forever. There are essentially no office lease deals or sales closing. Today, Starboard is making new moves to take advantage of this new market.
First, we expanded and elevated our staff. We hired talent that previously would not have been available to us. Next, we formed a new company called Brookwood Starboard which combines real estate advisory and development with brokerage expertise. This is allowing us to offer clients in distress a one-stop solution to address their real estate needs in an uncertain market.
We also re-launched TradeAddresses.com, which offers tenants a unique way to trade their current office space, including their furniture and equipment. We are also set to launch Trade Addresses.com Concierge Services, offering the first one-stop solution to a tenant’s real estate needs.
No matter what business you are in, you can do the same thing. Think outside the box and look for new opportunities. Build your business now while you have the chance. Soon, your competitors will wake, so time is of the essence.