Do The Evolution

I was recently asked to participate in a pre-launch demo of a web site that hopes to change the way we do business and form relationships. Just a little ambitious, right? During the meeting, I expressed some of my reservations about the platform, mostly citing the way our business gets done, specifically on the leasing brokerage side.  One of the key investors in the site jokingly called me a technological Neanderthal.  While I consider myself quite the opposite, I realized that the commercial real estate industry may be far behind others.

That said, in the 15 years since I started in real estate, our industry has evolved in many ways. In November 1998, this is where we were:

- I bought my own computer, with my own money, when I started at Grubb & Ellis.  The company didn't provide them to brokers.

- CoStar was not web based.  Someone in the office had to download the update, via a dial-up modem, every month.  And the kicker was that the information was only correct about 50% of the time.

- Everyone had a "mobile" phone, but there was nothing "smart" about them.  Palm Pilots were not yet popular either.

- We still used scratch off numbers to label maps for market tours. I wish I had a picture to post, but they are all gone.

- The fax machine was the most important piece of equipment in the office.

- The internet was not something you could take with you. And even when you could access it, it was limited in its reach and breadth.

Today, I think I know where the fax machine is in our office, but I'm not 100% sure. We have come a long way in the last 15 years and the changes are coming faster and are having a greater impact.  However, with so many technology start-ups and a plethora of tools to choose from, how do we know which ones to invest our time in?

For me, I look for tools that enhance the human experience rather than try to replace it. LinkedIn is great for certain things including marketing a blog, but for me, nothing replaces the value of meeting someone and forming a personal relationship.

The News Funnel gives me all of the real estate news that I care about in one place and also gives companies and bloggers the opportunity to post directly to their Company News Channels.  Enhancement.

ViewTheSpace is a great marketing tool, but in my opinion, the videos don't replace the need to visit the space.  Rather, the videos increase the likelihood of those visits. It makes our job as brokers easier.  Enhancement.

Floored and Fast Office provide virtual images, allowing tenants to see what a space could look like, rather than a simple floor plan, making it easier to make decisions about a space.  Enhancement.

Personally, I look forward to a time when conference calls are replaced by Google Hangouts.  How much more efficient would the time be if everyone was forced to pay attention because you could see all of the people participating (or not)?

It's evolution, baby. If you don't embrace it, you run the risk of being called a Neanderthal, or worse, getting left behind.

What other tools are you using that speak to the evolution of our business?  What tools do you remember using that have gone the way of the dinosaur? What do you hope is coming next?