We asked Michael where he joins Unispace from, what his plans are, and what the role of a Chief Revenue Officer entails.
Michael, welcome to Unispace. What made you choose to join Unispace?
Well, thank you. Actually, it was a combination of things, but particularly Unispace’s uniquely integrated business model and its disruptive profile in the design and construction space – as well as the global nature of the business and the energy of the leadership team. Before I accepted the role, I reached out to some contacts who I knew to be Unispace clients. What I heard, universally, was about the quality of Unispace’s design, build and delivery – and the evidence-based strategy that lies behind it. That was all very exciting and appealing to me.
Can you tell us about your previous career?
Absolutely. I come to Unispace straight from Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, where I was Head of Workplace Environments. I was responsible for design, construction and workplace experience for the entire Bridgewater portfolio, which is about a million square feet. My role for the past year was technically through their outsource provider, Genpact.
I’m still a licensed architect – although I haven’t practised in more years than I'd care to admit. My undergraduate degree was in architecture and my graduate work was in real estate and urban planning. I had my own firm for a while, then I started the design and construction business of a real estate company—which, like Unispace, was very much a disruptive model and brand. From there I grew into the other services of the real estate world when I went to JLL, DTZ and Cushman & Wakefield where I was global head of client solutions and sales.
I’ve also spent three years on the global board of directors at CoreNet Global, and was President of the Northern California chapter, the second-largest chapter globally. They’re the world’s leading association for corporate real estate professionals, with more than 10,000 members –with senior level representation from over 70% of the Fortune 100 and nearly half of the Forbes Global 2000.
Would you describe Unispace as a challenger brand?
I think Unispace is a challenger concept! With the most interesting and disruptive concept I’ve seen in the industry. Five years down the road, I expect people to see us as the benchmark brand – the default way of doing things. I’m only a week in and already hearing clients say, “Why doesn’t everybody do it like this?."
Do you think Unispace's integrated model is a true point of difference, globally?
I do, although market understanding and knowledge differ, geography to geography. While Asia Pacific and EMEA have been more open to Unispace’s model than the US to date, I was impressed when I saw that the company’s business is evenly distributed across the three markets.
What Unispace has already done in the States has been very well received, so I look at this region as a great growth opportunity. Here, people perceive design and build firms as just construction companies with someone out back who will quickly sketch something out for the construction group to build. Whereas Unispace could stand alone purely on the quality of its strategy and design, should it want to (and it doesn’t, and I support that!). When you look at the design quality of Unispace’s projects, and the awards they win, you see a focus on insight-led design rather than just the need to get some space built. So you’re looking at a very different model compared to what people might perceive design and build to be in North America.
As Chief Revenue Officer, what will you be responsible for?
Well, the role will oversee our business development, client partnerships and marketing functions globally. I’ll be looking to further develop our sales teams, driving the team to be even more solutions-based, particularly for enterprise clients so we can help corporate partners resolve their global workplace project challenges. And, make decisions about the kind of business we want to attract and from where.
What are your plans?
I want to help Unispace transform the way it develops business. It’s an evolutionary thing which eventually becomes necessary in young companies that have experienced rapid growth and are moving into a mature phase: Unispace has grown tremendously and impressively in its first 10 years, and it’s amazing what the company has achieved. But now I’ll be looking at what the right client profiles are and expanding into enterprise solutions, while at the same time helping to grow our local markets business.
Will there be a focus on any particular sectors?
Some sectors are continuing to experience growth – or invest, anyway – right now, like technology, media, and financial and professional services. It’s early days, I’m only a week in, but I’m keen to explore more opportunities in higher education, too. The new global economy means that companies need to figure out how to do things differently in the future. That could be because their workplace is going to be dramatically different because of COVID, or it could be because their workforce is going to look different – and want to work differently – because of COVID. When they ramp back up, they’re going to need a new and more efficient way to get work done, and I think Unispace offers them a very interesting- and proven-way to do that.
But I think our biggest opportunity is our ability to partner with other channels, wherever they may be – whether they’re real estate companies or others in the supply chain, where we can provide their clients with a different level of service.
Michael, thanks so much for your time
It's been a pleasure. I really am looking forward to getting my feet both under the table and out on the road.