Daniel Tropp, Founder & President of AEBOV | Innovation & Tenant Experience in the Industrial sector | 29:04

Transcript

DA: Welcome to TEN, the Tenant Experience Network. I’m your host David Abrams. We are excited to be sharing with you an interview that we recently completed with a guest that was named to the Commercial Property Executives List of Stars to Watch. Our guest today is Daniel Tropp, Founder, and President of AEBOV, Industrial Real Estate Brokerage. In this episode, we will learn about Daniel’s journey working in investment sales, moving to brokerage, and then spending time as a product specialist, ultimately leading to his decision to branch out on his own with the goal of bringing more innovation to the industrial sector. We will tap into his early learning of the importance of making a plan. We’ll hear his views on the future impact of AI to predict market trends and gain insight into Daniel’s thinking around how industrial space can utilize Tenant Experience technology, suggesting new use cases for this growing sector of commercial real estate. We’re excited to be sharing this podcast with you, so be sure to follow TEN so you never miss an episode of the Tenant Experience Network. So now I’d like to welcome Daniel to the show. Really glad you could be with us today.

DT: Yeah, I’ve listened to the podcast. It’s been a real pleasure and excited to be here. Yeah, thank you for having me on.

DA: Great, so before we get started, just a quick question. Congratulations on being named to the Commercial Property Executive’s Lists of Stars to Watch. I’m just curious, what has that meant for you?

DT: Oh, thank you so much. Yeah, look, it’s always an honor to be recognized for whatever it is we’re working on, that list in particular had some real heavy hitters in there. So, on top of just puffing up my ego, making me feel nice, it was actually great to reach out to some of those connections and just say, “Hey, congrats, you know, let’s catch up, let’s grab coffee.” So, yeah, anytime something like that happens, always trying to just utilize it a little bit to reconnect with people. But, yeah, it has definitely been an honor. Definitely cool.

DA: Very good. Well, of course, that’s how we met. We saw your name published and reached out. So I’m glad we were able to not only meet, but come together today on the program. So let’s start with your journey to your current position as Founder and President of AEBOV, Industrial Real Estate Brokerage. How did you get started? Walk me through that and maybe share a little bit more about your current role.

DT: Sure. So it’s just a little over a year now, kind of during the pandemic, I found myself looking to chart a new path and I can kind of take a step back and speak to my career a little bit on what got me there.

DA: Yeah.

DT: But, yeah, okay. So let’s, I guess go back to right around 2006. I graduated from school, I went to school down in DC and came right back to New York where I’m from, which was always my favorite city in the world. So I can’t tell you why I really got into real estate at that point, I think just coming out of the market that we were in, it seemed like an unstoppable asset and we know how that worked out, but I toyed around with some different brokers in the area, just kind of dipping my toes and learning the business. And then around 2009, coming out of the recession, got my first foray into commercial real estate at a group called Handler and they own a few office buildings in Midtown. So that was great exposure, it’s a really good family office. And what I was doing was taking this probably 160, 170,000 foot cutting and sewing building in the Garment district. And it was now antiquated because all those businesses were moving out and repositioning it to, you know, a more creative and artsy type tenancy. So we were taking 15,000 foot floor plates, chopping them up into two, three, 4,000 feet and bringing in graphic designers and artists and it was a great experience. Unfortunately, I kind of leased myself out of a job cause we had 70% occupancy when it started and it was essentially full when I left, but it was a great experience. And I got to see how real estate is kind of a fluid asset class, right? So even something that looks outdated, you don’t have to knock it down. You can just give it some fresh style, reposition it and all of a sudden it’s really, really well suited for the future. And then afterwards I moved to investment sales to a company called Ariel Property Advisors and also a great experience. I wasn’t really doing brokerage there for the first year, it was more sitting down with the research team, doing the analytical side, evaluating properties and we were touring things and learning the territories too, but that was my first foray into investment sales and it was a great experience. Again, truthfully I think as fun and kind of thrilling as being a broker is, part of me would have been really happy just being the analyst to that side of the business really kind of drew me to, I was drawn to the underwriting and understanding the market and the comps and sitting down with the researchers and trying to look at things in a new way, but ultimately pivoted to the broker role. And I spent about six years there as the North Brooklyn Brokers kind of old Massey NACCHO model of territories, which was great. And then after a while, just wanted to grow and move on from there. So I went to Avison Young which is a much larger company. It’s global corporation, something like 200 offices, so very different model instead of territory, it was product type. But again, I’m trying to, you know, sort of absorb and understand this model and it really, really stuck with me. You don’t have to just focus on one territory, but you could be a product specialist. So what I was doing there was development and then under development was industrial. So we were doing things like roundly and air rights deals and land deals, but also warehouses. And I love those deals and having exposure and working on those deals. And then I started kind of thinking, well, you know, this is an area within brokerage where there’s just not a ton of innovation. There’s a bit of a drop-off from what the brokers are doing for research, excuse me, rather for multi-family, for office down to industrial, you know, the websites aren’t as sharp, the marketing material isn’t as sharp, the innovation isn’t quite there. So this is an area that’s maybe kind of, you know, ready for a fresh load and a modern approach. And I just kept coming back to that. I couldn’t not think about it. So ultimately that’s what kind of starred everything, launched in June of last year.

DA: Very cool. Very cool. That’s a great story. And it’s nice to see that clearly some entrepreneurial spirit, leading you to see that opportunity and go for it. So we have a lot in common on that front. So why do you think you were so uniquely suited then for this opportunity, what helped you to become successful? Any skills, mentors, colleagues, or books along the way that have influenced you?

DT: Sure. You know, I think there was just a drive to innovate, to do things differently. And I think this was the most suitable asset type to work in the way we evaluate properties, is we moved from the old model of printing a book and sitting down with an owner to a newer interactive model where owners can actually engage and ask questions in real time, we can change the evaluations. We try to step up our marketing materials too where they all incorporate video now, which is kind of new to the industry. So I think just focused on innovation, which has really helped. Everything I think I did earlier in my career definitely influenced or led me to that point, right? I think I’m a big believer that there’s no loss in any experience. So even if it’s not clear initially, something I picked up in the past 10 years kind of planted a seed that, hey, this would be a good idea to evaluate properties this way, or, you know, what the market would really appreciate seeing this in the reports as opposed to this. So it was like the combination of all those ideas. And now I have my own platform, I’m fortunate to have this platform where I can integrate all those things. As far as mentors, there have been so many, Shimon Montgomery at Ariel is probably one of the biggest. When I joined there, it was a very structured training program. So I really worked with the brokers every day with the researchers every day, learning how to run a process when you’re marketing the property from start to finish and everything that it entails. And it was like ingrained in me to the point where now I could be competing for an assignment and it’s really just me, I’m a startup and I could be going against an institutional brokerage, but I can tell the owner with confidence that I know I can run a process as well as anyone else in the business. And that’s completely because of Shimon and the founding team there at Ariel. Steve Guttman is another one, Steve founded Storage Deluxe and he happens to be GW alumni. So I had an opportunity to hear him speak a couple of years ago and he gave really great advice and I always pass it along to anyone who’s kind of asking you about starting your own shop. It was very simple, but it was just a plan. You know, he told us to make a plan. If you don’t and you try to jump into things, you’re going to be sizing up what the competition’s doing. You’re going to have 50 things that you’re worried about. You’re going to be not focused, you’ll be overwhelmed. Start with the business plan, start with the first step onto the second and then over time, you know, you’re stringing progress along and it’s simple advice, but it’s something I probably think about daily.

DA: Right. Cool. So let’s agree that living through a pandemic has been pretty horrible. That being said, you know, at this point we don’t longer think that it can be an excuse. So we as a company and sounds like perhaps you’re aligned, you know, now’s the time to be better, do better and build something better. So I’m just curious if I gave you $100,000 of budget right now, how would you spend it and why?

DT: That’s a good question. Yeah, it’s definitely a kind of leaped us forward in the way we relying on technology two years ago, you know, running around with hard copies of listing agreements and contracts and now everything is just, you know, DocuSign, the way we track information for our reports and track the market comps, it’s completely different now. I have apps on my phone that it’s almost automated. So with the $100,000 I would probably want to make some sort of investment in research and bringing in AI to maybe take a look at all the cool things that we can compile now on the market and for date forward, how that’s going to impact the next. So for instance, we just did our market report. So in the first half of 21, I can tell you that industrial sites in the city with less that 50% lot coverage, meaning the building is less than half the lot. So there’s an abundance of land either for parking stores or whatever sold at about an 81% premium over the market average. So there’s a huge demand for that. Now, if we could find some AI technology or partner with someone on that side, who could say, well, let’s aggregate all the data that we have in the market, this is a good trend right now, but, you know, what’s in the pipeline is a million square feet of parking. So in 2022, we don’t anticipate it will be such a big friend or we do anticipate it’ll continue to grow and there’s companies out there that are doing it. And I think that would just be a really valuable tool, not only for the broker to kind of understand, okay, where are the trends going and how do I craft my message to the market, but also just for the market, for the owners to be able to pass that insight onto them for decision-making. So that’s probably where I would put the money, AI, if anyone’s listening, I don’t know if I would give you the $100,000 but definitely open to connecting and partnerships.

DA: All right. There’s a shout out. We’ll see if that translates into any leads for you. Keep me posted on that.

DT: Yeah, I will. I will. Thank you.

DA: There’s still a lot that we don’t know, but I’m pretty confident that the return to workplace which has now begun will continue to happen. It’s certainly going to be slower, certainly slower than we all thought, you know, over a year ago. We certainly have now seen that flexibility is going to continue to evolve as an emerging theme in commercial real estate, recognizing that people are going to continue to work from anywhere, including their home. So I’m just wondering what your thoughts are on the implications for the commercial real estate industry and in particular, your area of expertise, industrial in terms of some of the changes that, you know, still might be coming down the pipe there.

DT: Sure. Well, look, it’s been a blessing and a curse, I guess, like anything there’s pros and cons. The market was pretty quiet up until I want to say around April when people started getting vaccinated and then it was great to have the added flexibility, but like you said, it can’t go on forever. Right? And not a whole lot of things were happening until you could start meeting again, until you could start walking properties again, until you can just kind of start engaging with owners and working force. So that definitely helped. That said, I mean, genie out of the bottle. I could speak from personal experience, I probably will never go back to a full-time commute five days a week. It just doesn’t make sense. I mean, I was waking up, you know, sort of on the personal side of the equation, I was waking up earlier and earlier 6:30 becomes 5:30 becomes 5:00 to get a workout in and take care of the kids and rush them out the door and all these things to commute an hour to get to the office by, I dunno, 8:30, 9:00 best, you know, now I have a centralized office where I can access all my markets. I can get to the city. I can get to Westchester. I can get to Jersey. I can work around Russia and I just group. So if I have a city day or Westchester day or Jersey day, and that’s, you know, that’s okay for me, there will be people who are, I’m sure getting back to a more full time. And I think we’re already starting to see that. For industrial real estate, it’s interesting. I mean, it’s been an opportunity. I think of extreme unsustainable growth. I think e-commerce jumped on something like 35% in the past year. And prior to that, it was up, you know, 10, 12, 14% year over year. We’ll probably go back to that 10, 12, 14% growth. I would think, although now there’s wider, larger swaths of the population that are relying on e-commerce. So that 10 or 12% of the growth will be more, will be higher numbers then than it was an awful lower basis years ago, but a lot of them were also deemed essential. So warehouses between things like moving around emergency PPE equipment or medical equipment or cold storage for food, for vaccines, for essentials, those places never really shut down. So they’ve kind of adapted and kept going. And now I walk warehouse spaces that are tweaked so that we can all kind of social distance, right? Instead of one, let’s say one general locker room where all the employees would be, they all have sort of an individual taped off square or closets, or almost like these cubicles. So I think it’s spurred a ton of innovation, but industrial probably weathered it better than any other asset class, because for a lot of them, there was no, okay, this is the drop dead locked down, no activity past that for three years, six months, it sort of trickled on and adjusted.

DA: Interesting. You know, you’re right. Certainly retail and office were dramatically impacted, but I guess on the industrial side, they probably also have more flexibility in terms of how they also accommodated social distancing and sort of, you know, managing their physical space to accommodate workers to continue to be present. Yeah, it’s definitely true. I mean, I’ll walk where warehouses that are 40, 50, even 100,000 feet and you might run into two or three people and it’s mostly, you know, stuff inventory and racks and floor to ceiling inventory and, you know, trucks coming in and out, but it’s not a densely populated asset class. Absolutely. The way multifamily or office or certainly retailers.

DA: Right. All right. Let’s take a short break and we’ll be right back.

Commercial Break

DA: We’re back with Daniel Tropp, Founder and President of AEBOV Industrial Real Estate Brokerage. Thanks again for being with us. So the commercial real estate industry is moving faster towards recognizing that their core business is not just about ownership, but it’s about creating the best customer experience for their tenants or residents. It’s places for people. Can you share your thinking around how we will define tenant experience in 2021 and beyond, and particularly with your slant, your bent towards the industrial space?

DT: Sure, sure. I’ve taken a look at the HILO app and I think it’s really innovative, a great way for owners and tenants to kind of connect and communicate. And I definitely think it partly as well into industrial, it just might be different sort of trends, different property attributes and characteristics that industrial tenants would focus on. So, you know, for instance, if that was available to them, not just to communicate with ownership about issues, which is great across product types, but, you know, things like parking are very important now. So maybe if there’s a parking management aspect to it or timing, then employees are coming in and out at a certain time to expect this thing and all that. I think that would be really helpful. You know, something like getting repairs done, right? Some things that are the tenants responsibility like cracks in the floor, or maybe owner’s responsibility like roofs or HVAC, but any opportunity we have to increase and better communicate, I think that would be really good. What else? Maybe there’s a way to overlay it with municipalities. And I walk a lot of warehouses that you’re trying to drive into the facility and that block is just completely torn up from holes from the trucks, you know, and I have an SUV and I can’t really maneuver some of these. So maybe it could overlay with like in New York we have 311, so whatever the municipality is to kind of report those sorts of things. I mean, power issues that, you know, critical type or infrastructure problems, but I think there’s a ton of room for growth and, yeah, industrial would certainly have a need for focus on the tenant experience. Albeit, they’re just different attributes that you can focus on.

DA: Yeah, no, I definitely think from our previous conversation and today there’s a unique opportunity and something that I’ll be continuing to think about and perhaps we’ll be able to connect with and talk further. Can you share any details of anything new that you’re working on or challenges you’re facing in light of current world circumstances, anything that you think our listeners might find interesting.

DT:  Sure. Hiring has been interesting and I think that it really has been as a result of the situation that we’re in and just the uncertainty. So you speak to a number of people who may not have a ton of activity wherever they are, brokers in particular I’m talking about, but they still have a seat at the table and they’re unsure of what tomorrow is going to bring. So they are very reluctant ultimately to leave. And I say it’s interesting because for the course of the pandemic, I’ve been thinking, well, once things kind of pick up and return, you’ll see like a flurry of people moving around and settling into whatever new roles now face their current situation best. There hasn’t been that much of a shakeup yet. So I don’t know if the assumption was wrong or if it hasn’t happened yet. But, yeah, I think definitely hiring has been a struggle and hopefully, you know, things will progress with the market and people will get back to work sooner than later.

DA: Absolutely. I’ve heard others express a similar concern about the hiring situation. In some cases, you know, that their industries have been hardly affected by changes during the pandemic. And in other cases, they’re sort of waiting for that, you know, what’s to come and I have people sort of been just sort of sitting back and waiting and there is, you know, an avalanche of change that is likely going to take place. So I think that will be interesting to see as things begin to settle, how the labor markets respond.

DT: Yeah, absolutely.

DA: All right. Our closing speed round and an opportunity to get to know you a little bit better on a more personal level. If you could have one superpower, what would that be?

DT: You know what, I would love the ability to locate kinds of treasures, historical artifacts. I’m a huge fan of any show on TV, history, discovery channel, where they’re digging holes basically, it’s just compelling TV to me. So I think that’d be cool, you know, you’re walking along a park or beach and you just kind of like know, hey, there’s some historical artifact right there.

DA: All right. We’ve got a “Raiders of the lost Ark” fan. I’m sure.

DT: I love it, yeah, that would definitely be it.

DA: All right. What city or country do you want to travel to first when you can and why?

DT: We like exotic places. I definitely try to find things that are off the beaten path. Bhutan is really high on my list. It’s like a mountain sort of mountainous country, like a handle lane country, just a completely different perspective on life and the way they eat and live and work and everything. It’s almost unearthly. So I’d love to see it. And I’ve been fascinated with it for a long time. It’s no picnic getting there and you need actual agents to kind of help you with the process, but it’s number one on the list.

DA: Okay. Well, that’s a go big or go home destination for sure. Right?

DT: It is.

DA: What do you do when you’re not working?

DT: Well, I mean, that’s changed I guess over the past year a lot, but definitely a lot of outdoor stuff now. We hike a lot, we fish, we’ll, you know, kayak or paddleboard or spend time on the water. I’m just finding time with the family. I love taking the kids out with the, you know, the nice camera and spending a day just getting some shots of them and, yes, it’s been a lot of outdoor time together, probably hiked over 100 miles in the past year if I had to guess.

DA: Great. I’ve heard a lot of people who have really picked up on the hiking phenomenon as well. So that’s awesome and great to be outdoors. Number one thing you miss about the workplace.

DT:  Hands down the comradery, you know, brokerage is sort of this wave of ebbs and flows. And when you get too high, when there’s a new listing or a new deal or contract signing or closing, whatever it is just being able to celebrate with colleagues and friends, it was one of the better aspects of the job. And, you know, now it’s like something that happened. I’m sitting sort of in my home office looking around, nobody is pumped up, what’s going on. And then the kids will come home and I’ll chest bump them just flying across the room cause I have all this like pent up excitement. But, yeah, you know, that was probably the biggest thing that I’m missing.

DA: Yeah. Totally get that. And I think that’s one of the contributors to why we will eventually find a balance. I think some kind of hybrid situation where we do have those opportunities to be together with our team and colleagues again, for sure. Your favorite recent TV streaming movie or series.

DT: On Paramount is a show-called “Yellowstone” I think they’re kicking off the fourth season. At some point we, you know, we got caught up on the first three I think over a weekend.

DA: Right.

DT: And it’s insane. It’s like, surprise me. It’s the wild west. I mean, it’s just every show. Every episode has some really good excitement and it’s really well written in a great task. So, yeah, “Yellowstone ” for sure.

DA: All right. Very good. Listen, Daniel. It was great that we were able to connect today. I look forward to continuing to track your success and see what, you know, stars to watch one of my favorites continues to do over time. I’d love to continue to get to connect. I hope to be in the New York area in the not too distant future. You know, we’re going to think more about the industrial space and perhaps we’ll have an opportunity to collaborate at some point.

DT: Yeah, that’d be wonderful. Let’s meet up. Thank you again for having me. It was a lot of fun. I appreciate it.

DA: All right. Continued success and be well and enjoy your family and the hikes. And hopefully that destination trip will get in the books at some point.

DT:  I’ll let you know.

DA: All right. Take care. Bye now.

DT: Thanks, David. Bye-bye.

DA: I want to thank Daniel Tropp for joining me on today’s episode of TEN and for sharing his journey from early beginnings in investment sales to now growing his own company. Great learning for all our listeners and an opportunity to gain insight into what it takes to become an innovation leader. Please be sure to follow 10 for future discussions with leading professionals and industry experts who all have something to say about the impact technology is having on experience in the built world. We love hearing from you. So if you enjoyed this episode of 10, please share, add your rating and review us through your preferred podcast provider. If you or someone you know would like to be a guest on a future episode, please reach out to me directly at david@hiloapp.com. And until our next episode, I wish you all continued success in building community where you work and live. Thank you.

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