Newly appointed Cushman & Wakefield Canada chief executive Chuck Scott has no doubt about his role with the Toronto-based real estate services firm.
“The mandate is pretty clear, it is to grow the company,” he said. “We are in this really perfect time here at Cushman & Wakefield in so far as we have got a lot of momentum that we have created coming off a record year across the country and pretty much all the markets and service lines.”
In 2015, Cushman & Wakefield won “some of the most high-profile complex assignments across the country,” said Scott.
Add in a new ownership group stemming from the September 2015 merger between Cushman and Wakefield and DTZ. “They are laser-focused on growing the business and super-charging our platform and investing where it is proper to do so and to take the platform to the next level.”
Three jobs in one for Scott
Scott sees his role involving three core jobs: focus on “a culture of high performance”; ensure “we have the best people in the industry being part of this firm”; and “organizing around our clients. This business is about having the best clients and the best relationships.”
Scott said the merger of C&W and DTZ was surprisingly smooth because the cultures of the two outfits were similar.
“Obviously, we are focused on the integration of the two companies around the world; here in Canada is no exception. We are keenly, keenly focused on taking the best that each firm has to offer.
“We each have great toolboxes, it is about taking the best tools and using them. So that is what we have been really focused on – best practice and going to the market together.”
Bringing DTZ into the fold in Canada gave C&W more bench strength in terms of brokerage: today the company operates 23 offices across the country with full capabilities nationally and an employee count of about 650.
Scott, who was previously senior managing director and president of Cushman’s global occupier services group for eight years, took over from former president and CEO Scott Chandler, who left the firm in September.
The secret to growth
It’s pretty obvious not all real estate services company will be able to achieve their growth goal in today’s slow-growth environment, so what can Cushman do to make its numbers?
“Growth to me is about expanding the relationships that you already have and creating more value within those relationships so it is just growing what you’ve got,” Scott explained.
“Then there is the literal addition of new people, addition of new business lines and things like that. That is going to come from either organic, adding new people one at a time, or acquisitions, in-fill acquisitions of businesses that make sense.”
Scott added there is “a desire” to make those in-fill acquisitions.
He is aware his competitors are basically focused on the same objectives, however. “No doubt it is a race for the best talent, it is a race for everything.”
Cushman involved in Westin Bayshore Hotel deal
Last year, Cushman was in on “one of the largest if not the largest hospitality transaction in the country,” namely the sale of the Westin Bayshore Hotel in Vancouver. The Starwood Capital Group reportedly sold the 511-room hotel to local developer Concord Pacific Developments for close to $300 million.
The hotel sits on six-plus acres in Vancouver’s Coal Harbour neighbourhood and features two restaurants, a spa, a Starbucks outlet, 70,000 square feet of meeting space and a six-slip marina.
The two-tower Bay Park Centre development will start with a 49-storey tower at 81 Bay St. to be followed by a proposed adjoining building 141 Bay St.
While Phase One is being built on a parking lot, the 54-storey Phase Two tower would be sited on the other side of the rail corridor on the current site of the GO Bus Terminal.
On the occupier side of the business, the services company won a global transaction management mandate with a major financial institution. “It was certainly one of the largest occupier outsource contracts that went out to market last year,” said Scott.
CEO ready for the challenge
Scott is not waiting for an economic turnaround to propel the company’s growth this year.
“The fundamentals are so strong that there are opportunities in the market. Our challenge as a service provider is to find opportunities for our clients in today’s market. That is what we have to do.”
He characterizes the current economic situation as a tale of two realities, an energy price crunch that has hammered the dollar and Alberta’s economy in particular.
“It is almost like it’s an Alberta story and an everywhere else story. Alberta, we keep hearing about the conditions there. All I can say is that was a strong market in the past and we all know that region can get out of trouble as quickly as it can gets into it.
“I’m sure there will be opportunities down the road there. There is growth, it is just slower. I think what it means for the real estate world is that firms like us have to be continuously finding creative solutions for our clients, to take advantage of opportunities for our clients in these markets and navigate the market.”