Special Guest
TC Kaiser and Tom Ash
Scott MacKenzie

What’s in this episode?  

In this conversation with Industrial Talk’s Scott MacKenzie, Accruent’s TC Kaiser and Tom Ash discuss the keys to driving innovation in your building management systems, covering:  

  • Industrial innovations and how the industry has changed since the pandemic
  • Major real estate challenges – like high vacancy rates and changing behaviors – and solutions
  • Managing commercial real estate assets
  • The importance of workplace flexibility and technology integration

Join the conversation!  

Full Transcript


Welcome to the Industrial Talk Podcast with Scott MacKenzie. Scott is a passionate industry professional dedicated to transferring cutting-edge industry-focused innovations and trends while highlighting the men and women who keep the world moving. So put on your hard hat, grab your work boots, and let's go.


Alright, once again, thank you very much for joining Industrial Talk and thank you for your continued support of a platform that celebrates industry professionals all around the world because you're bold, you're brave, you're daring greatly. You are changing lives, and you are changing the world. And as you can tell by the buzz in the background, we are on site at Accruent Insights. It's a conference for the user community. And we are in Nashville at the Gaylord. And if you haven't been to the Gaylord, just recognize when you do come to the Gaylord, you will be lost. It is just a fact of the Gaylord. We have two gents, two gents in the hotseat, T.C., I know what the C stands for. But I'm not going to tell you and Tom, they're both with Accruent and let's get cracking. I didn't like the original. But guys are so flexible. Agile. Let me write that down in my notes. It's a great word. I don't think anybody's ever used it.


The first time it is how do you spell it?


Oh my gosh. All right. You guys having a good conference? We are great. Four years. Four years. This is the first time in four years. That's correct. Blew me away. Yeah. It must be great to see the faces. Finally, the people absolutely. You know, poke at them. You're real. You're not a Zoom call. Yeah, you're not just this little, you know, postage stamp face.


Yeah, I would say Scott, we should just kind of walk around with boxes. Just so we know what we can identify. Your holy Kelly, you're taller, shorter.


You much better look at home. Oh, gosh. No, it's, it's always great. And there's, it seems like a lot of people are really enjoying the opportunity to collaborate. Yeah. And to be able to talk about sort of a session to talk about problems, and I got this problem. But at least you have solutions. All right. TC. Give us a little background on who you are.


Yeah. So, I'm the Senior Vice President of Global Solution Consulting at Accruent.


I can't fit that.


It's pretty


graphics going to be really difficult to keep that whole thing in there going.


I lead the solution consulting team, we work with our sales colleagues to demonstrate and do the technical, I call it “technical validation,” during the sales process. So, we could basically get to show customers all the cool products that could come and how they can fit into the companies that are looking at those products.


But hate to follow TC but Tom, you have to follow TC. I don't I don't have to worry. I'm just a guy.


How do you follow that?


I don't know. I don't know. I'm starting to lean in already with this conversation.


You warned that was going to happen. Now I'm leaning. You're leaving the TC Oh my god. Yeah. Seriously. I'm just honored to be here next to gents.


So you should be looking good in your jacket. Yeah, it is.


Yeah. back pocket square. Yeah. All right. There we go. Yeah. So, enterprise seller, then with in sales. We don't need to count how many years? A lot of years. I had hair when I had hair when I started. Yeah. Been there. Yeah. And I've been with the current, it'd be eight years in October. And it's been a fantastic ride.


I really, after all, the conversations that I've had so far, it's what's been really interesting in this, this is the positioning of a current Florida, all of the other companies and how, how it all works together. There's a, from my perspective, a clear, strategic focus that that, you know, there's nothing that sort of like, oh, why are you guys doing that? You know, I didn't know tire changing was a part of the crew and all that, but no, everything seems to be very coalescent on a very important asset management type of solution. Now, TC, we talked briefly about what we want to talk about, give us give the listeners a little bit about what we're talking specifically here with here at Accruent.  


Yeah, so I mean, if you look at the industry and the lifecycle of real estate, managing assets, managing rooms, managing cost, so much has happened since the pandemic, right, everybody cleared out. We have got all this real estate space. What do we do with it all? How do we have enough? How do we change what use we have the different real estate assets we have? And helping clients figure that out and maintain that is a really difficult problem to solve. And Accruent is really well positioned with all our different solutions to be able to offer clients a comprehensive solution across many different areas of life.  


So, at the top, there's the reality is, is that to TC’s point there's just assets that are out there, there's these building these properties and just because of the pandemic people are changed their work behavior, do I really need a property like that? How do we help these owners through that? I don't have an answer.


And I don't think you're gonna find an answer to be honest with you. There's 94 million square feet of vacant space right now in Manhattan. And that's only one market. And you can look at what is going on in the commercial real estate. And it is a scary time as we look at what is the vacancy? And everyone is looking at what do we do with this space? What do we do with these buildings? And it's not just the owners, it's the operators. It's the folks that work inside. So there's a lot going on in the built environment.


So how do I how do I approach you? Let's say I'm, I'm an owner in Manhattan, and I've got these properties, what? What are some of the possible how you talk to me, outside of the fact that I'm probably crying?


Well, I think we talked about it from a from a solutioning perspective and understanding what the challenges are that are in the market right now. And there's no shortage of challenges in the market. And I think what we need to get to is, you know, how are you acquiring, or disposing a property. So, we run that entire real estate lifecycle soup to nuts, from acquisition to growth or disposition, and we touch every facet inside that across the lifecycle. So we start there, we start looking at, you know, not just what’s keeping you up at night, we're gonna come there and have conversations about what you should be concerned about. And you know, how are you managing that portfolio of buildings of space? How are you delivering a product that's better for the clients that you serve?


TC? When you start talking about the real estate lifecycle, you're looking at this asset, you're looking at this building, you're looking at. I don't know how they manage this place. And quite frankly, I don't, but they do it. The lights stay on, there's no, I'm actually looking at the lights here at the Gaylord, trying to find one that's out. And they all work. So, it just blows me away. Do you have difficult conversations with clients to say, hey, we recommend something here or what? Or do you? Are you in a position where you're saying, “Hey, I know you want to retain this asset. Let's talk about how to retain it.” Or...?


Yeah, I think Scott, it even goes broader than that, which is, “Have you really thought through how your usage should change?” Right? Because people you've learned aren’t using those assets the same way they did. And in 2018 2019. A lot of companies are stepping back and saying they should just be offices, it'd be cube, should just be just a bunch of conference rooms so people can come in a day a week or two days a week. I mean, our office in Austin, Texas, we use it mainly to get teams together, right? We come in for a week, three or four days, and we work out of our homes, a lot of companies are really redefining how they're using those assets.  

And once they redefine that, then they say, “Okay, does this fit? How do we need to change reconfigure, what I've got to make it work for me as a company as we move forward?” So a lot of times we push the thinking a little bit to say, because that's what I think Tom's answer was really good when he talked about there's no right answer, because it depends on the company depends on how they want to operate. You know, some companies lean towards, I want to have everybody here 2, 3, 4 days a week, because that collaboration just can't be missed. Others say, “You know what, come in whenever you want to, or every once in a while,” and that works for them. So scaling down trying to figure out reconfiguring, changing, and updating those assets are really what companies are struggling with now. And we help them make those decisions and implement and maintain them.


When you say reconfigure, you're just saying, “Hey, I've got the square footage, I can optimize what that looks like.” And when you start talking about real estate lifecycle, are you also diving into the assets to meaning like the bay? Here's an HVAC, here's, here's this, here's a moat or whatever you dive in. And then do you present like, they're here? Here's here. Here it is.


Yes, sort of. So I think it's, I think it's more around, “How are you going to how you're going to use those assets?” Right. All right. When I say reconfigured, do we need a bunch of offices? Or should we just change the offices out to a bunch of conference rooms? How many do you need? How big should they be based on your usage? How do you know? How do you schedule those conference rooms? We have solutions for that as well. In fact, we actually have, you know, can hook up occupancy sensors, because lot of people don't know, well, why don't you go find out who's using them. And using IoT to do that to figure out how many people are using this conference room. When are they using it? Are they scheduling it? And then providing, I think, some solutions and recommendations on optimizing with thank yours was a good word Scott, optimizing those spaces and investments, and then figuring out,

okay, how much of this portfolio do I need? Should I buy in different? Should I get rid of this one and buy it a different part of the country? You know, all those different questions and issues we help customers deal with?


Yeah, it just seems like specially more than ever. I mean, it's changed so dramatically. I need a roadmap, I need some sort of way of being able to hang my hat and knowing that I've got a I've got a viable strategy of how to manage this asset. And I can make the decision on whether to say, Okay, it's probably not, from my company's perspective, do we need to have this or can we just sort of sort of pull everybody over here, but those are the conversations that you've got to have, right. So


“Do I break it up? And sublease? Yeah, my lease expires in five years. So, I sublease, then how much space do I need? What am I going to use it for?” Those are the questions people struggle with. And ultimately, it's getting literally getting people together with spreadsheets and trying to make a decision that sometimes takes weeks or months. And we've heard customers talk about us that I can't do that. In one application, I've got to look in all kinds of different places to pull together to make a decision. That's what they struggle with.


If I'm leasing, right, and I have leases all over the country, there's multiple complex conversations around each one of those, just maybe some areas, like it's a no brainer, we just keep it limited, or whatever. But I tend to think that it's far more complex, and be able to sort of approach or talk to a professional like you Tom would probably go a long way and knowing what to do if I haven't, I've had multi property so that


We service all industries, Scott, from current perspective, so we're in higher ed, industrial, retail, corporate. And like I said, I think, and I would just pick up what TC said, there's $11 trillion assets that are still managed on spreadsheets.  


I would, I would hate to go to work knowing that I'd have a spreadsheet that I've got to sort of manage and write and number around him.


So we look at how do we how do we optimize human use? TC said that, right? Looking at getting out of email, out of spreadsheets out in some messages, there's no process in place to manage these assets. And what it does is creates an opportunity for fall, you could lose, you know, you're managing a portfolio of 1000s of buildings. And you can , you know, lose an option on a right of first refusal on a on a marquee property. And you don't want to do that.


I mean, it's just like, that's, that's challenging stuff. I wouldn't even know where to begin. Let's say that to your to your point about 1000. Right. Okay. Because property A is more important than property B, can I incrementally sort of do this analysis? Right? Right, you can,


So you're looking at sales, right? In those retail perspective, now, I'm going to hone in on retail, because we're talking 1000s and 10s of 1000s of locations and some of these large retailers. And they absolutely have to know all of the covenants that are associated with each individual lease, and they have to be able to record the sales that have taken place in those buildings. In order to know Hey, this is something that we're going to have to


know to sell before I get in retail. I'm calling exactly yesterday.


Corporate is, you know, I was at a I think it was one of the big consultancies and the head of real estate there said, I'm not signing any more leases that are longer than five years. Unheard of, probably up to a year or two ago, you know, that would be 10, 20. And now we're looking at a very large organization, we're talking about people that have 250,000 employees are looking at we're not signing leases greater than five years. And I think what people are looking for is flexibility. Yes. And how they manage your assets.


I'm on a MacBook. Like, yeah, I'll pay it. No, no, I'm on a month, a month. I mean, if I need it, which I don't need it. But I wouldn't be speaking of flexibility. I'll give you a month. Right. But you see that type of change, or that those trends where you see some of the trends happen in here, etc.


Yeah, I think I think flexibility is the key. There's a couple of things. There's optimizing what you've got from a corporate standpoint. Yeah. Being able to fit to your company and the culture and where you're going depending on your business, right. I mean, think about consulting. We've got a lot of customers that are a big, large consulting firm that consultants traveling all over the place are getting back out in and being on site much more, but how much do we need for them?  

But you know, when you start to look in the retail side, let's say you're a retailer, you want to grow to 100 stores next year, like how do you do that? And how do you find those locations, and you take advantage of certain properties and certain parts of the country and manage all those leases and all the regulations and reporting. It's just difficult to do. And then you think about once you've got the property, you've got it up and open and going, like, how do you maintain it? How do you make sure that you're, you're servicing it right, you're taking care of all the maintenance needs, and all that kind of stuff that goes into it as well. And you're doing it the best you can. So that flexibility and being able to optimize how that's working and making sure you're getting your ROI on those properties is key.


Yeah, I, again, being in retail I would be when I buy everything online, let's put it that way. And it comes to my front door and I'm yeah, good old thumbs up on that, you know, yep. That's a that's a it's a

challenging, challenging world. Do you see, Tom? Do you see some sort of glimmers of hope? I mean, I mean, come on. You got the Gaylord. Everybody's gonna come here is this is like a no brainer. Got it?


Yeah. Sky is not all doom by any means. What I think there is a focus, then and we didn't get to it right behind your people, your real estate is your second largest costs for most businesses. Yeah. Yeah. And I think what we are seeing is, you know, how do you manage those costs, so you're not impacting the people, right. And, and I think you don't have to look any further than you will on campus. Going any higher ed institution, sit in the student union, you can see what the future of work is going to look like. And I think it's really kind of cool. You know, if you want to see and it is TC touched on collaboration, you know, you want to be in an environment, people are going to come into work to do collaborative work, they're gonna do their heads down, work, wherever that works best for them. We got to maintain these facilities in order to deliver delightful experiences, whether that's on a college campus, whether that's a retail location, whether that's in a corporate building,


The bottom line is, from my perspective, I see that I need to make sure that I connect with people who currently collaborate with those individuals, I can't be expected me if I was a, all I know is I've got some challenges. I just need to find those individuals or those companies that I can collaborate with, to speed up that learning curve. And to be able to come up with some solutions. That makes sense.


And I think this is a perfect opportunity. Right? So you talked about getting back, you know, listen, zooms, great teams, great online collaboration, open a lot of doors, but again, here in an environment like this, that we were at the Gaylord, people being able to connect and share stories, share what's working, what's not working. It's fantastic.


It is and I think the interesting, you talked about innovation, where things are going, you know, working with some of the facility maintenance providers that we work with, you think about when you're coming to a place like this, it's awesome. How do I know where my room is? In some of the wayfinding technologies to point me? I mean, how many times you put your map out of your back pocket to get here from my room? You know, because


I'm an idiot. I just said, Hey, let's just go. Yeah, let's just try to find it. Let's, let's go on a journey. Exactly. There are tools that will be able to, but it's true.


Yeah. So, you know, how do you make that a much more industry focus or, you know, collaborative experience, like people are used to, right, so I've got my meeting room that I've scheduled. And who's going to be there? How do I get there? And what's the kiosk going to point you in the right direction. And by the way, I'm going to get it catered and make sure there's, there's a screen to project on and all that kind of good stuff and make it an experience that's really interesting to some of our partners.

I talked about have some really interesting integrations. You start thinking, hey, you know, when I walk in, how does it know it me issued my badge knows I'm there, right? I can order on the way in and order a coffee, I could pick up the cafe. So those real estate experiences are starting. Great. Yeah.  

So, I show up. It's a smart building. Right? It's smarter. Yes. Yes. Alive. Yes. Right. So those are the experiences I think you'll see in the future. Yeah, be really great operators who do this really well leverage technology that exists today, but it's an integration and making it a personalized experience for you. Instead of you remember the days you walk into a building and you're looking at the directory to figure out where you're going to be, you know, this is walking in, they know that TC is in the lobby, they know where I'm at, know where I'm going, I can do the things that I want to do ahead of time, right? That's where we're going. It makes it like an Amazon experience or a Lyft. Yes, what's coming to some of the real estate are seeing which is makes it exciting. I kind of like it yeah. From it becomes you know companies that have that culture right that's what people want to go work it becomes an attractive recruiting tool there's


Yes, absolutely that's a whole other topic finding people exactly you know, right etc. How do people find How do they get a hold of you for saying I want to know


TC.Kaiser@accruent.com  and Tom.Ash@accruent.com. 


It's not going to so when I say hey, I'm gonna be buddy buddies with these guys. You're not gonna ghost me or you know, absolutely. Not yet. Well, you guys were absolutely wonderful. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you for what you're doing challenging times. Listeners, you need Sherpas like these two jets, Big time, big time. All right, we're gonna wrap it up on the other side, we're gonna be right back. So stay tuned. We will be


you're listening to the Industrial Talk Podcast Network.


But another absolute barnburner of a conversation with TC and Tom the dynamic duo there at a crew went live. You know, you know the rest of the story go out to Industrial Talk.com Find out more reach out to these two gents. Get Connected, because it's all about educating which you need to if you're in the building management world, you need to manage those assets. You need to connect with TC, and you need to connect with Tom. You need to find out more. So it's all out there. LinkedIn, they're willing to connect. Alright, put the agreement live on your calendar for next year. It was great. It was a lot of fun, a lot of energy, a lot of collaboration, which is important. So go out to Industrial Talk. We're going to have the information on that the next year. All right, people will be brave. They're greatly hanging out with TC and Tom and you will be changing the world. We're going to have another great conversation coming from that event shortly. So stay tuned.