Charlie Morris Morris saysco-working is flexible office–but flexible office is not justco-working.

|

DALLAS—Avison Young recently announced the strategic hiring ofCharlie Morris. Reporting to the CEO, Morris becomes the leader ofAvison Young's US flexible office solutions practice with a mandateto oversee the management and development of this practice in theUS and to expand it across the globe.

|

Morris was most recently director of business development forLiquidSpace, a company that supports the flexible-office economy.In this exclusive, he discusses what type ofexperience he brings from LiquidSpace, flexible office's impact onthe sector, Avison Young's flexible office solutions practice,global growth opportunities, and the effect WeWork's IPO will haveon the flexible office landscape.

|

GlobeSt.com: How would you define flexible office, andwhat is its impact on the office sector?

|

Morris: Co-working is flexible office–butflexible office is not just co-working. This is a major distinctionthat often gets lost in translation, depending on how recentlysomebody first engaged in this ever-evolving sector. Co-workingtypically comprises an open/collaborative environment with a seriesof shared amenities, shared workspaces and bookable meeting roomswithout any branding outside of the co-working operator. While thisoffering continues, the entry of the enterprise occupier into thearena has led the operator community to evolve the product mix toinclude a higher degree of workplace strategy, privacy andsecurity–sometimes within the confines of a co-working environmentand other times in a completely stand-alone suite.

|

Flexible office as we see it encapsulates co-working plus aplethora of other workplace offerings which are being brought tomarket in various forms and fashions by different supply partners,including serviced office/executive suites, subleases, enterpriseteam spaces and agile HQ.

|

The institutional owner community has also emerged and isseeking to create its own offerings to deliver a core-plus-flexasset management strategy. Some of the community members includeTishman Speyer, WashREIT, Carr and Hines, which have allestablished defined brands to demonstrate their commitment toflexible office over the long term.

|

GlobeSt.com: Why was it important for Avison Young tocreate a flexible office solutions practice?

|

Morris: Consumer expectations have led todramatic change within all service industries, and while slower toevolve than other sectors, commercial real estate is no different.We are in the early stages of a transformational period led bydigitization, technological advances, globalization and anincreasingly mobile workforce.

|

While the traditional brokerage model is not going away, we arecommitted to delivering a differentiated offering built aroundfiduciary responsibility to our clients' short- and long-termobjectives and the evolving business climate. This team will be100% committed to advisory and transactional services within theflexible office arena while leveraging best-in-class technologyproducts and solutions.

|

GlobeSt.com: You are tasked with both US and globalexpansion responsibilities. Where are the opportunities for growthgeographically?

|

Morris: We are quickly going to solidifyleaders to build out our Canadian and European markets. From a USperspective, we will focus around core flexible markets such as NewYork City, San Francisco, LA, Chicago, Washington, DC; Dallas,Austin, etc. Our core objectives are to identify passionate peoplecommitted to advisory services across the various verticals withinthe flexible office solutions offering – occupiers, institutionalowners and operators engaged within the flexible officeeconomy.

|

Since the initial launch of this practice, the response has beennothing short of amazing. We have received interest from partiesfrom the flexible office sector as well as the traditionalbrokerage industry.

|

GlobeSt.com: How will the WeWork IPO affect the flexibleoffice landscape?

|

Morris: WeWork has had a significant influenceover the emerging flexible office economy, along with the legacycommercial real estate sector. So needless to say, the entireindustry is keeping a close eye on WeWork's IPO.

|

WeWork has forced the sector to acknowledge that the archaicservice delivery model is primed for disruption through innovativeproducts and offerings–and reinforced the importance of creating abrand within a highly commoditized industry. While WeWork criticsare not entirely wrong in the fact that it has simply put a newspin on an existing business model, there is no dispute that it hasbeen the catalyst to transformational change within the industry.Even people within the sector are yet to fully appreciate theimpact that WeWork has had. Through its emergence, we have seen thecompetitive landscape shift.

|

If the IPO goes well, it will pour fuel on the already growingfire, and we will see even more investment and expansion across theflexible office solutions sector. If the IPO does not go asplanned, WeWork's competitive set will have a unique opportunity tobring their brands to the forefront and communicate theirdifferentiation from WeWork.

|

In any scenario, the flexible office landscape will continue tomake its presence known, and we are excited for what the futureholds for it.

|

GlobeSt.com: You came from LiquidSpace, a proptechcompany. How will your experience in that world carry over toAvison Young?

|

Morris: Prior to joining LiquidSpace, I was anoffice tenant representative for more than a decade. During thelast few years, I was paying close attention to some of the newentrants into commercial real estate, and more than anything,acknowledged the shift in client expectations around servicedelivery and transactional models. LiquidSpace provided a uniqueopportunity to engage with a technology not only supporting thebroader flexible office economy, but also providing the ability toengage with the entire commercial real estate ecosystem involvedwith flexible office.

|

In just a couple years, the transformation within the realestate landscape changed dramatically, and the adoption of flexibleoffice space and other innovative products really began to takeshape. I felt that, given my previous transactional experience,along with my passion around innovative products, I needed to findan avenue to engage with the overall proptech community morebroadly, as there are simply no technology companies that can beall things to all people. The human element, combined withinnovative products and offerings, is critical in maximizing valuecreation during this transformational period.

|

GlobeSt.com: Who do you see ascompetitors to the legacy brokerage model and why?

|

Morris: New operators and service providershave emerged in recent years, leveraging innovative products andofferings to differentiate themselves and separate various parts ofthe traditional brokerage model. The landscape now includescompanies within co-working, agile headquarters, digital and/orco-working brokerages, emerging marketplaces, transactionmanagement tools, etc. Each seek to engage directly with theoccupier and/or ownership community.

|

Many of these entities have made significant inroads andexpanded rapidly, yet with the constant evolution, the occupier andownership communities are having a hard time keeping up with thechange and understanding the nuances between each of the newentrants to the market. Avison Young's flexible office solutionspractice is committed to engaging in partnerships, investmentsand/or acquisition of these new companies in order to deliverbest-in-class advisory and transactional services on behalf of ourclientele. We are confident that this practice will be a force tobe reckoned with and will be representative of the advisorypractice of the future within the evolving commercial real estateindustry.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

  • Unlimited access to GlobeSt and other free ALM publications
  • Access to 15 years of GlobeSt archives
  • Your choice of GlobeSt digital newsletters and over 70 others from popular sister publications
  • 1 free article* every 30 days across the ALM subscription network
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM events and publications
NOT FOR REPRINT

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.

Lisa Brown

Lisa Brown is an editor for the south and west regions of GlobeSt.com. She has 25-plus years of real estate experience, with a regional PR role at Grubb & Ellis and a national communications position at MMI. Brown also spent 10 years as executive director at NAIOP San Francisco Bay Area chapter, where she led the organization to achieving its first national award honors and recognition on Capitol Hill. She has written extensively on commercial real estate topics and edited numerous pieces on the subject.