#25x25Interview | Laurentiu Lazar (Colliers Romania): Education is the only way Romania can change for the better
The #25×25 interview series, a special editorial project powered by Schoenherr si Asociatii SCA, featuring companies that have been in business in Romania for 25 years, continues with another episode: Laurentiu Lazar, Managing Partner and Head investments at Colliers Romania, recounts the journey of the real estate consulting agency which began in 1996.
- Starting with a bit of background, what can you tell us about your company’s entry into Romania in 1996 and your industry as a whole at the time?
In 1996, there was only one real estate consulting agency in the Romanian market, Jones Lang Wootton (now JLL). Colliers had a global mandate from Microsoft and on the occasion of the opening of the Microsoft office in Romania, Colliers also opened its own office. The market was extremely small, with only one office building – the World Trade Center, which was rented at over $40/m² – and no modern storage space. In 1996, most transactions concerned the rental of houses for foreign executives who came to work in Romania. The first big customer of Colliers in Romania was Mobifon (today Vodafone) followed by Coca-Cola, Unilever, Nestlé, Xerox, etc. Colliers grew rapidly and became the market leader within 2-3 years.
- How has your company navigated all these years in Romania in terms of goals, achievements, challenges and opportunities?
In a very tight real estate market at the time, our goal in the early years was to dominate the largest segments of the real estate market, namely the office, expertise and industrial market. The main strategy was to hire the best people in the market and give them the systems and platform to help them perform. We introduced a test with GMAT questions in the recruitment process which attracted many super smart young people. In addition, we invested heavily in technology and software development in-house, which was a real differentiator at the time. The IT platform developed in Romania has been used for many years by all Colliers offices in the region.
Innovation has been another important factor in the success of Colliers. In 2007, we had 9 different divisions generating revenues of more than 2 million euros each. Of these, 4 were developed solely in Romania (land, residential, project monitoring and feasibility studies) and did not exist in other Colliers offices around the world at the time.
- What is your company’s proudest moment in its 25-year history?
People are what define Colliers and the spirit and belonging to something very enjoyable, beyond the daily activity, delights us when something important and impactful happens or when a difficult challenge arises. , when you need to close ranks, find solutions or completely reinvent yourself. It is a heritage that I have inherited, to which I take great care and which I will do my best to pass on.
Colliers has been and remains a trainer of consultants in the real estate market, where many experts began their careers, a real school of real estate. Some of them have continued at Colliers, we have 11 colleagues with over 15 years #Together with us, 3 of whom have over 23 years with the company, some colleagues have been part of the team since the beginning and others remained in the field and are still operating successfully.
- In the present, how would you describe the role of your company in the current social and economic context?
Education is the only way for Romania to change for the better in the long term, but it is a process that requires a lot of patience, perseverance and resilience, because lasting results cannot happen overnight. . This aspect is important both in what we do internally #Together with our team, but also externally through our actions. First of all, we set ourselves the goal of being better people, of having an impact in our personal surroundings, but also professionally. As early as 2018, we talked with our Mind Education partners about emotional health in the workplace and we launched various programs in this regard, and the pandemic began when we were transforming and accelerating certain aspects, including those of affiliation, adaptability and agility.
Along with the above, Colliers aimed from the beginning to attract new investors, new companies to Romania and to convince existing players in our country to continue to develop their business here. In the midst of the pandemic, in August last year, Colliers successfully facilitated the largest transaction in the office investment industry, AFI Europe’s acquisition of four existing properties from NEPI Rockcastle. Colliers has also set out to discover with its partners the best solutions given the current situation, an example being what is happening in the office market, where we strongly believe that the office will never be the same again, but we can make it better… #Together.
- Nobody has a crystal ball, so we won’t ask about the next 25 years. But looking ahead, how do you see the road to 2030 for your business and the industry you represent?
I take as a starting point what Peter Diamandis says: “The change in the next 10 years will be greater than in the last 100 years”. After a detailed analysis carried out in the CEE, we have come to the conclusion that in the coming years the real estate market will be shaped by the following five driving forces, which we have prioritized in terms of impact and probability: AI becomes the consultant, E-commerce, remote work, online access to information and services and increasing emphasis on health, well-being and ecology. These driving forces are based on five megatrends that we believe will influence the world at large: climate change, rapidly changing technologies, who and what to trust, growing urbanization and changing demographics. . So the world is changing, everything is changing very quickly, and all aspects of our lives will be impacted: relationships, behaviors, our way of life, our way of working. The real estate industry will be affected by how we build, where we build, what we build and how we use buildings.
It is clear that the current situation has produced many changes in the real estate market, structural changes in certain sectors, paradigm shifts, such as working from home, for example. In December 2019, I was talking to the CFO of a large company, and working from home was inconceivable, but 4 months later, everyone was working from home, including this company. These changes are here to stay, and in many cases we are no longer talking about resilience, but rather about adaptability.
Moreover, I believe and hope that the gap between us and Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland will narrow and that Romania will start to develop towards its true potential, for example in the real estate investment market. that Poland has been attracting for years. 50 to 52% of the capital, while the other five CEE countries, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, together attract the difference of up to 50%.
Linked to Colliers, last year we went through a process of adaptation in which the real estate broker becomes a guide, facilitating the discovery of the “road” and navigating along the “journey”, often being able to discover #Together with the customer the most suitable option. Our objective is to complete this transformation process in the years to come and to be able to build teams with complementary skills, precisely to respond to increasingly complex and individual challenges. The understanding of the changes to come as well as the ability to foresee become the key elements of success. We want real estate to be just the beginning for our partners, because our people will do their best to create solutions beyond real estate. Thus, our dream is to act as reliable guides, who will guide our partners through the changes, engaging in the development of scenarios and solutions that will help them make the most appropriate decisions.