NEW YORK CITY-Grubb & Ellis CEO Barry Barovick is planning a Jan. 1 rollout for his long-anticipated Project Iowa, a local, national and global reorganization of the firm designed to turn a loosely linked chain of allied regional operations into an integrated services company where everybody, literally, knows everybody else’s business.

The overall concept of the plan, which has been crafted through an exhaustive series of meetings with local offices across the country, rests upon Barovick’s employee-backed conviction that the firm’s future success depends upon identifying clients at the local level and presenting them with a full menu of national and global services. In addition to its vast US resources, the Grubb platform includes its alliance with London-based Knight Frank for European, Asian and African business, Avison Young’s Canadian operations and Grubb & Ellis Best/White LLC in Mexico. And every Grubb employee will have access to, and familiarity with the breadth and depth of that information.

“A significant part of the Project Iowa plan is integrated services to our clients and that includes global delivery,” says Ray O’Keefe, Grubb & Ellis’ executive vice president and director of international operations. “What the international operations provide is the selection and integration of our international alliance and affiliate partners.”

“The beauty of [Project Iowa] is that it’s global but services are still delivered locally,” Barovick tells “The company really needed to begin to change its model. As clients have begun to demonstrate more integration the company had to move in that direction.”

Grubb’s board has endorsed the plan in principal, though some key issues, such as local ownership and relocation of offices, have yet to be ironed out. “We’re exploring different plans for local ownership,” Barovick says.

While its top-down-bottom-up premise of delivering integrated services may be a radical shift in operating procedure for the 43-year-old firm, Barovick says that the grass-roots growth of Project Iowa is his, and his employees’ greatest accomplishment. “I’m really proud of it,” Barovick says. “So is our board. So are our people.”

The corporate restructuring’s core tenets include building value by controlling the firm’s client base; reshaping the traditional brokerage model to include equity participation on a company-wide basis as well as integration of transaction, consulting, management and other services; delivering services through a global platform while retaining each office’s local relationships; and reconfiguring the national office platform through affiliations as well as staff and office reconfigurations. All of these components, Barovick insists, have been honed through the input of virtually every Grubb & Ellis employee.

Barovick says the process of gathering and evaluating information has given him new insight into “the level of talent throughout Grubb and the strong leadership the firm has within.” A side benefit, he says, was the intense level of internal communication that helped shore up morale within what six months ago was a firm on the verge of chaos. “It was a total win for the company on all levels,” he notes.

“We think it’s groundbreaking for the industry,” Barovick says. “The input from senior management all the way through those in the field, from secretarial and administrative, that is groundbreaking to me. The guys on the front line, this is their plan. I will do everything I can to make their job easier, to make them more competitive and to make them more money because that is how the firm makes money. That has been the thrust of Project Iowa.”

Perhaps most importantly, from Barovick’s viewpoint, is that the plan has been devised as a constant work in progress. “Project Iowa doesn’t end,” he states. “We will do this annually. This is not a one-time event. This is the way the firm will be managed going forward.”

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