Patty Horvatich’s Big 5 Relocation Tips for CRE Executives
By John Salustri
Corporate relocations–or for that matter, expansions into new territories–are not a challenge to be faced alone. They are, indeed, projects that demand corporate real estate executives to call all hands to the deck. That said, here are the Top Five must bases to touch prior to launching a strategy of this magnitude, as seen by Patty Horvatich, senior vice president of Business Investment for the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, the economic development affiliate of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.
- Establish a rapport with the local economic developer. And “not just when there’s a problem or a new opportunity,” she says, “because we know the right people to bring to the table whenever there’s an issue,” whether it touches on space, talent or trends. “We’re there to help and to do so on an ongoing basis. That’s how we work.”
- Seek outside help. Clearly related to Tip #1, Horvatich urges corporate real estate people who might not have ample internal bench strength to seek outside expertise. Sometimes the old adage still applies, that “management won’t hear a message until a consultant says it’s absolutely true,” she says. It’s not uncommon that a smaller operation might task a full-timer to assume some part of relocation groundwork. But, she notes, adding another task to a staffer’s plate will not only fail to yield required results but it will needlessly overstress already overworked team members.
- Build a cross-functional team. As stated above, relocations and expansions are an all-hands-on-deck chore. And there are props that go to managers who seek the advice of their teams, making them feel a part of the solution. “So many times, decisions are made in a silo,” she says. But gathering a consensus “can really add value to the decision-making process.” Horvatich urges decision-makers to include Operations, HR, Real Estate and other internal groups in the process, and she provides an example: “HR probably will not know critical operational details, such as the need for extra electricity or another inch or two of concrete flooring to accommodate a new machine.”
- Manage the media. Communications people or external PR representatives must be included in that team-building. “Be out in front of the news,” she says, “and don’t let it play out in the media without your controlling input.” This entails more than simply putting a pretty bow on a press release. Failing to control the messaging could not only leak information to your competition, but it could also impact stock pricing. “Communication control must be thought out prior to making a move.”
- Finally, know what not to say. Praise the NDA–the non-disclosure agreement, says Horvatich. Imagine a board member being asked a question about news that has leaked. An NDA essentially helps get them off the hook with a simple, “We have an NDA in place.” Again, she provides an example from her experience: “We were working on a project, and we couldn’t tell public officials about it because of the NDA. They, of course, have the obligation to keep their constituencies informed. So the NDA actually protected them since it prevented them from accidentally leaking information.”