Jeff Frick | Founder | Menlo Creek Media and host of Turn the Lens and Work 20XX podcasts | Understanding the changing purpose of physical space


DA: Welcome to TEN, the Tenant Experience Network. I’m your host, David Abrams. Today we are connecting with Jeff Frick, founder of Menlo Creek Media, host of two podcasts, Turn the Lens and Work 20XX. In this episode, we learn about Jeff’s career journey, his experience in the events business, and the impact of the pandemic on his business. As his business transitioned to remote operations, Jeff began to explore new ways to build community using social media platforms. Shortly after, he launched Work 20XX to provide thought leadership on the future of work. Jeff readily admits that he had no commercial real estate experience when he first embarked on this journey. He relied on his genuine curiosity to lead him in new directions, never afraid to learn and try new things. Jeff shared his thoughts on how certain costs have moved from being fixed on the balance sheet to being more variable on the income statement. 

I really appreciate Jeff’s insights on segmentation and intention, an excellent way to understand the changing purpose of physical space. Real estate now needs to focus on attracting people to spaces in ways that aren’t possible at home, making hospitality a crucial theme. Jeff also shares some insights on the wireless technology and environmental elements impacting CRE. I learned a lot from our conversation and valued his level-headed and thoughtful analysis of all things related to how and where we work. I look forward to staying connected with Jeff and continuing to tap into his expertise and thought leadership. We are excited to share this podcast with you, so be sure to subscribe to TEN so you never miss an episode of the Tenant Experience Network.

And now I would like to welcome Jeff to the show, I’m really glad you could be with us today. I hope you’re doing well.

JF: David, great to be here, big fan.

DA: Okay well like wise. Looking forward to the conversation, looking forward to getting your perspective on a lot of what we continue to talk about with all of the guests on our program, I know you’ll bring an interesting perspective for sure. So, let’s dive in, first of all and just sort of tell us about your current journey to your current position role. How did you get started? What brought you to this current opportunity and a little more about what you’re doing?


JF: Yeah, so I’ll give you kind of more of the more recent update, which is relevant to what we’re talking about. But I was at a company called The Cube, and we basically were kind of ESPN, game day meets big tech conferences. And we would go to big tech conferences, set up a live mobile studio and interview executives. Really a lot of enterprise tech, Dell World, IBM World, a bunch of familiar names. So, the business was based on events. And then when COVID hit, it was kind of like, hmm. And if you remember, we were all kind of three weeks away, three weeks away, three weeks away. So I still thought that we would have our conference season. But at the same time, I needed content to fill. And at the same time, nobody knew how hybrid work worked except for the people who were kind of cutting edge. And I happened to have that I knew in Darren Murph and what they were doing in terms of 100% pure remote. So both to fill the time, as well as to get the information out, I basically went to the best kind of remote working management gurus I could that had an open source ethos to share the information with our audience and also get some content as we started to produce stuff not on site. So eventually, we transitioned all the way to remote. It got to be October, and I decided I wanted to leave and start exploring some of these other themes that were coming out because the other big theme that’s part of remote work, but it’s also, I think, a much bigger thing within our lives is asynchronous. And what does asynchronous mean in terms of content and media and how we consume media? And that’s where I had some hypotheses around how I think you could build community on LinkedIn. And that’s why I created the show Turn the Lens is really a testbed platform, if you will, which is don’t do what I say, do what I do. And let’s really try to build a community on some of these existing social media platforms, LinkedIn specifically, because I no longer had my own media company and really tried to experiment that. A little while later, I had an opportunity to launch Work20XX as part of the actually was a WebEx project that they wanted to, again, get some thought leadership going around best practices for hybrid work and remote work for people that had never been thinking that way had no time to plan. And Work20XX was a podcast within this bigger suite of thought leadership stuff around future of work. And that’s how I started that podcast and really diving into this space. What’s interesting back to my hypothesis on building networks on LinkedIn, I didn’t have any experience in commercial real estate at all. I didn’t have any in facilities management and WebEx. Clearly, that was a target market of theirs in terms of people that put in, you know, office systems and this and that. So it was, again, another interesting validation of what it takes and what you can do now leveraging, you know, kind of AI and some of these social media platforms to build a network, to build a community and to get engaged in something that you’ve never been involved with before, which I thought was pretty compelling.

DA: Interesting. Well, first of all, I can relate to those early days when the pandemic hit, when we all thought it was going to be, you know, a few weeks, a few months, you know, maybe a couple of quarters. So totally get that. And, you know, we got teased all the way along. And I think those of us that were able to figure out how to dig in and just sort of ride that wave, you know, we’re obviously here at the, you know, maybe the end of it or certainly at a stage where we can start to think about the future differently. So interesting that it led you to this, you know, podcast all about, you know, hybrid work and remote work, but more importantly, the future of work. Because I don’t think it’s again, well, I’m sure we’ll talk more about this as we continue the conversation, but I’m not sure it’s one or the other or both. I think it’s a bigger conversation.

JF: Yeah.

DA: So, you know, as sort of these opportunities presented themselves, you know, why do you think you were so uniquely suited to this opportunity? What has enabled you to be successful and sort of, I guess, you know, build on the momentum that you saw and continue to, you know, build community and continue to ensure that you have a relevant conversation, you know, happening?

JF: Yeah, I think there’s a couple of things. One is I’m genuinely curious. I mean, I am, I am curious, and I find, you know, anytime you tug on a knot in any industry or any kind of activity, you find there’s this whole world behind there that you didn’t really know about before. And if you’re willing to ask people and pay attention, you know, you can just continue to learn interesting things. And in my career, I’ve changed. I used to be in the consumer electronics business, selling TVs, and I went into microprocessors and then I got into software, and I’ve gotten into all these different things. But ultimately, you know, they’re all kind of the same. It’s, you know, who are you working with? What’s the problem that they have? Do you have assets in your toolkit that you can bring to bear to help them solve their problem? And so, I’m not afraid to learn and we had to learn. And again, what happened concurrently, this whole adventure into Async around actually e-skateboarding, I kind of got involved in that and that sucked me into kind of this YouTuber influencer world and kind of this whole other side of media that is all asynchronous. And one of the core components of that is now you can co-mingle audience because you’re not competing to get butts in seats on Tuesday, you know, at 10 o’clock. If we’re asynchronously consuming each other’s content, now we can introduce each other’s audiences. We can consume things when it’s on our time. So, it really changes. It really changes a lot. And that was kind of happening concurrently. And that was really a path I wanted to explore more deeply.

DA: Right. So you said you really didn’t have a lot of experience in commercial real estate, you know, before you started these conversations. And I’m sure, you know, now it’s obviously a connected theme to this whole notion of the future of work and, you know, hybrid and remote work, obviously, you know, for me, I started this podcast specifically, you know, really as the pandemic took, you know, really hit full impact, you know, in July of 2020. First of all, as a way just to reach out and connect and communicate with people and, you know, build relationships at a time where we were all, you know, just 100 percent locked down. But I also wanted to have conversations around at that time, you know, what was happening in our industry and how it was impacting the way in which we worked and where we worked. And, you know, in the early days, there was a lot of very polarizing sort of commentary. And the media just, you know, they love that, right? It loves to take, you know, extreme situations and milk it for all that it’s worth. But I found that it was wasn’t necessarily productive. It wasn’t necessarily, you know, helping us figure out what comes next. And so, you know, really wanted to reach people in real time, you know, across all parts of the industry and find out, you know, what was going on, what was their experience then and now. And I continue to do that as a way to be sort of, you know, a bit of a litmus test on what’s really happening, not so much about what we think might happen, but what’s really happening. So, I’m interested in your perspective based on, you know, all the guests that you’ve had the opportunity to connect with on your program, you know, maybe to share some of those insights. But, you know, we certainly think that commercial real estate plays a role in the future of work. And I think it’s a great thing and I think it’s really forcing the industry to really rethink itself so that, you know, it’s not the BNN doll. It’s not the only place where people can work. You know, what are some of the themes that are emerging in the conversations you’re having around, you know, the physical workplace? Let’s start there.

JF: Right. Well, just a quick note, the first episode I saw of yours was with David Cairns, you know, kind of this personification of this change moving, you know, from running commercial real estate in Toronto, the biggest city in Canada, and doing that suddenly from an island, you know, hours and hours away. So, he was a really interesting innovator. I think to take it, you know, kind of from where my background is, which may be different than some of your guests on the technology side, these are trends that we’ve been seeing for a long, long time. Big things like moving stuff from the balance sheet to the income statement. It’s no different than an office when you used to start a startup, you had to go buy a bunch of sun servers. Well, you don’t do that now. You get those in the cloud and you pay by the drink, right? So, it’s not a fixed asset anymore. It’s a dynamic income statement item. You see that in software development in terms of the speed and the tooling that’s available. So, this whole notion of moving from, you know, fixed and balance sheet to variable and flexible on the income statement is one. Another really big one, and you talked about it, is moving from being a cost center to being actually in support of the business. So, you see that in IT who no longer want to be a cost center, but can we give tools to people so that they can create the best work of their lives? And now, you’re seeing that dramatically, I think, in the real estate space, right? What are the functions? What are the activities that are better done in a commercial space that will actually support better productivity and output for the company, not necessarily a cost measure of, you know, so many bodies per square foot per yield. So, I think, you know, it’s really driven that, and I’d say the third kind of big trend is moving from average to really micro-segmentation, and that’s taken place in everything that we do in our lives, from the media feeds that we see to the way we experience the world. So, before, average was good enough, and I think it made people kind of lazy, both in terms of management objectives. If I just managed to presenteeism, I don’t really have to communicate the objectives of the company or measure what we’re actually trying to achieve, and I think in real estate, we got average, you know, open seats of desks that nobody could stand and had to wear headphones because you couldn’t hear anything to get any work done. So, I think moving to kind of micro-segmentation around activities and what are the things, and the big word that Darren Murph gave us back is intentional. You just got to be more intentional about everything that you do, and, you know, my favorite is on-site is the new off-site. Why? Because we’re here for a purpose, you know, we have an agenda. When we leave, we have expected to complete some things. We have multiple types of activities that are going to build team as well as achieve objectives. So, I think, you know, this intentional way of thinking about bringing people together around a space is really what’s a big change that’s big in commercial real estate now.

DA: Okay, you just rattled off about, you know, five or six really interesting and important themes. So, thank you for that. I wish I could remember all of them. I’m not sure I captured them all in detail in my head. I got them on, we’re recorded. 

JF: That’s right, we’re recorded, the beauty of tape, right? 

DA: Yeah, but some really interesting themes there, and I guess the segmentation is what you, when you say that, what you’re referring to is, and I guess that’s obviously linked directly to the notion of intention, is that we need to think about very specifically what people are doing and when they need to do it and who they need to do it with. Right. Is that how I, do I understand that correctly?

JF: Even more specifically to the name in your company, right? The experience. So, what is the experience? And I had Ryan Anderson on from Miller Knoll a long time ago, and he talked about, they had a study that three things better done in the office than done at home, and the three were collaboration stuff, when you want to collab, socialization, just purely for the fact of socialization, and also, he said, the one that was less known is library work, heads down work, because some people can’t get a distracted place. Steve Todd from NASDAQ had a great one, and similar, some stuff that you’ve talked about, where if it’s a showcase space, I want it downtown, I want the high ceilings, I want it to be beautiful if it’s an EBC. If it’s a team collaboration space, I want it close to a transportation hub so we can all get in and get out. If I just need a local library to get away from the kids, I want something that’s an easy commute. So, this idea of flexibility and intentionality, and also kind of a portfolio of assets to apply to the problems or the opportunities that these people want to experience, I think it’s just really forcing people to be much more dynamic and a little bit more active in their planning, certainly much more difficult than just throwing down the average and letting it sit and replacing the carpets 10 years later.

DA: No, I’ve been saying for quite some time, I think certainly the commercial real estate and all the connected industries that support it, I think the work that they do has become far more complicated. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that’s an exciting sort of position to be in, and is creating a lot of different opportunity to really reimagine itself and think about things very differently. Just wondering from your perspective, we’re seeing new net leasing taking place. It’s not like people aren’t looking, and certainly using this particular opportunity, this perhaps perceived downturn in the market to maybe think about their real estate footprints. Based on some of the comments that you made, identifying that there’s no one size fits all, there’s different kinds of work. There’s the downtown urban, maybe there’s also spaces that are needed closer to where people live, maybe even in suburbia. Do you think that the way in which companies look at their real estate needs is going to continue to change in terms of smaller spaces in multiple buildings, buildings in different locations? What do you think, for occupiers, what do you think are the major considerations that are impacting their decisions at this point in time?

JF: I think it’s what’s going to make my people the most productive. Because at the end of the day, it’s about people, and keeping people that you have, and attracting new people, and the best talent’s always going to go and have options to where it works for them. I do think it’s a variety, because we don’t do the same thing every day as people. You’ve got heavy customer days, you’ve got heavy paperwork days, you’ve got heavy maybe email days, you’ve got days where you’re just doing a heads down to write a proposal, or to write a PowerPoint, or to write something. I think it is much more dynamic. I think there will be a variety of spaces that help people fulfill different obligations. I think one of your guests I was listening, likes to go to a coffee shop. So for that person, that particular space fulfills something. So I do think it’s a much more dynamic and more complicated thing. But yeah, I think spreading out based on what’s the purpose when the people come in that building, and it’s not to do Zoom calls, or email, or expenses. I’m old enough to remember that you used to have to go there, because that’s where the work was. That’s where the phone number was. That’s where the mail was. That’s where you typed up memos to drop in the yellow envelopes to send other people. So there was very specific reasons that it was structured that way. Most of those reasons aren’t valid anymore. So what are the reasons, and what is the thing you can do that you can’t do at home? I think it should be more about looking at the opportunities versus too many people worrying about mandates or going back to 2019. It’s like, come on.

DA: Yeah, I’m very anti-mandate. That being said, I do think over time, people are getting busier. Downtown cores are getting busier. But I think that it should be very much about the type of work you’re doing, who you need to work with, the type of experience that’s being offered, absolutely, both on the occupier space, as well as in the building space, and as well as the neighborhood and community in the city. I think there’s an opportunity for cities to be doing more and collaborating more with building owners and with local businesses to also create a more dynamic and exciting experience.

JF: Yeah, I think the whole kind of mono anything has proven not to be great. It’s great from an efficiency point of view, but it’s not very resilient to change. And in the context of downtown areas, I had Julie Waylon off from CBRE a couple of times. But one of her big themes is you want a dynamic hybrid environment with retail and restaurants and maybe some tourist attractions. And it’s always good to have a little sprinkling of academic stuff around. But to have, it’s almost like multi-pillars of activity, which is what gives the vibrancy in case any one particular segment is suffering a downturn or whatever. So I think, versus, you know, monoculture downtown and these central business districts that are just office and the lunch place to support them, and then they’re ghost towns at night. And then you wonder why, you know, nobody wants to go there. So I think there’s a little bit back to the future, if you think of like a London or a lot of older cities where everything’s like four stories high and accessible, and the light comes down and you can walk around and, you know, it feels like a fun activity. People still want to be together. I think putting it as a battle between one or the other is silly. It’s what’s the portfolio of opportunities for your people to do the best work.

DA: I wholeheartedly agree, and I for one have become quite tired of that polarizing conversation because I don’t think it’s one or the other, and I think it’s how do we just achieve the best of all worlds? And I think we’re now living in a time and place where there is so much more acceptance of different ways to work, different places to work. And I think that’s, again, we’re very fortunate to be in that situation. Again, we’ve gone through an awful worldwide event, the pandemic, and it’s not that I think we need to look for a silver lining, but I think it is a good thing to be able to say there’s learning from this, that learning can lead to positive, you know, positive direction for us all.

JF: Yeah. Splash in the water. I mean, teams have been distributed for a long time, since people have been working remote. I worked remote before there was mobile phones when I was a salesman. I mean, give me a break. Since when did people stop working at five? Anyway, email doesn’t stop at five, text don’t stop at five, Slack doesn’t stop at five. So let’s be real about what’s going on and focus on things that are, you know, productive and going to move us forward.

DA: Yeah. Particularly with regard to your podcast Around the Future of Work, if budget were not an issue, if we were able to give you a bump in budget overnight and sort of that continues to be a major part of what you do, what three new initiatives in and around that conversation would you want to sort of bring to market or sort of, you know, really further develop to support your business over the next, you know, three to five years?

JF: Yeah. Mainly just advertising and promotion. I think there’s so much great information that is there that people are just either not hearing, they don’t get it, I’m small, they don’t hear it from me. But, you know, stuff from like Brian Elliott and team level agreements and how to do team level agreements at scale. People like Amina that have flexible options for people that are looking to add to their portfolio. I mean, I think there’s so much great information. The second thing about this community is that they’re all kind of open source ethos. Everyone kind of shares a lot. And so the amount of information that’s out there is pretty fantastic. That would be the first thing I’d do. And second, I’d get some assistance so I could get my episodes out a little bit faster as a one man band, my output is not as fast as it needs to be. And then, you know, really, I think, expand it to so many more places beyond real estate. It started as kind of real estate facilities. But you know, the whole thing, I think there’s going to be some really interesting things around like 1099s versus W2s and is there something in between? You know, what is this whole kind of flex position? I’m a flex CMO or I’m a part time CMO. How’s that? Was that a consultant? I think the flexibility in terms of how work is done will continue to expand beyond the digital but some of these relationships that were built for a very, very different time. You see it already in like the remote visas for a lot of countries that are competing for talent to come do your six months here in Portugal or whatever. So, I think there’s a whole nother layer of dynamism that’s going to happen as the work gets done. And then, I mean, if I’m in real estate, you think COVID was bad, GNI is a whole nother rash of office workers that are not going to be doing the same office work that they were doing before. So, you know, it’s not going to be easier.

DA: Two things. So, first of all, we’re attending Collision here this week in Toronto, the largest tech conference in the world. And you know, spent some time there earlier today, I’ll be down there the rest of the week. But obviously a significant theme. It’s every conversation seems to be around AI, you know, but I love the smart people that are really looking at how AI can enable people not necessarily to replace people, but for people to do more and to do it better or smarter or more efficiently or more effectively. So you know, but without question, we don’t know yet how that will impact the nature of work, the future of work. So a lot of exciting conversations, you know, happening on that front. And, you know, I think we can both agree that, you know, building operators are no longer in the space business. It used to be simply, you know, you know, build it and they will come. You know, rent space, sign a lease and Bob’s your uncle. And we like to say that now really the opportunity is to create destinations of choice. People need to choose to be there. And so that necessitates, you know, what we believe is now the business of commercial real estate is really all in and around experience. You know, I didn’t, again, necessarily know how the future of the world would live with or without the business that I had built and launched just before the pandemic. But certainly there seems to be a very strong need for technology such as Hilo to help building operators deliver on that promise of great customer experience. Just any thoughts that you have on that, on how that impacts the conversation around the future of work? You know, what are your thoughts?

JF: Yeah, so I think a bunch of things. One is, you know, where do people line up to go to places? Right. It’s restaurants, it’s clubs, it’s people, it’s things that have a draw. Right. And what is the draw? It’s something I can’t get a home. So, you know, that’s kind of a big generalization. But I think from a real estate point of view, how do you attract people with the stuff that they can’t do at home and make that better? You know, my daughter works in New York and they have a great setup. If you come into the office, she’s got like three monitors and she likes it. And she doesn’t have room for that in her little apartment in the city. So make it attractive to come in. I think the whole intentionality and the hospitality angle, I actually had Michelle Osmond on also from Miller Knoll just talking about hospitality and thinking in terms of hospitality, which means, you know, you’re taking responsibility for this person. You’re you’re taking an obligation to make sure that they’re taken care of. It’s a very different way to think about, let’s say, a mandate and and come in. So I think both generally hospitality and then specifically what makes a great convention hotel or convention space. Right. They have all these different activities. So should the building. There should be a podcast studio. There should be a lot more amenities from kind of a community aspect that everybody can share in. Again, it’s it’s it’s shared. It’s shared resources, it’s shared assets. It’s the same thing we’ve seen in cloud competing and everything else. Right. Nobody wants to to buy all the assets that they’re only using a little bit. Right. It’s the model problem. So if you can have community assets, share assets, a variety of assets, look back to hospitality, look back to your three day off site at some beautiful place. And everybody came back all charged up. Well, why? Again, you had agendas, you had objectives, you had a variety activities, you had not work activities. That’s really, you know, I think the opportunity for commercial real estate to take that back and maybe blend it more with with some of those hospitality services, because those are huge convention centers. They cater to business people doing business, you know, as much as they do to tourists doing tourism things. I spend a lot of time in Vegas, a lot of business dollars being spent on there.

DA: Now, I think the hospitality angle is critical. We’re seeing some building operators really look at their traditional office buildings. Obviously, they’re looking at amenities, but they’re looking at also different spaces and places within their their built environment that perhaps could provide, you know, or fulfill the role of some of those hospitality like experiences, you know, to host small conferences, you know, larger meetings, presentations, you know, to be able to offer an after work reception. So, you know, I think that, again, it’s creating a wonderful opportunity for building operators to sort of reimagine, you know, what their spaces look like. And if you take out, you know, twenty or thirty or fifty thousand square foot out of a total building stack and repurpose it and make it now available and accessible to the entire building and it’s part of your common area, you’re not necessarily behind. 

JF: Right.

DA: And likely further ahead.

JF: The other thing I talked about with with Ryan Anderson, right, is that the promise of wireless is finally here. So, you know, he talked about when he learned how to design offices, it was really about cable routing. 

DA: Right.

JF: And he was saying, you know, that no one really understood the impact that mobile computer or that personal computers would have just in terms of routing of Ethernet and power cables as a foundational layering of how you design the whole space. Well, that’s that’s not the case anymore. So now suddenly this this freedom of movement is there and you don’t have a lot of the tethers or presumptions that that a lot of office design, I think, is still, you know, or the old, I should say, you know, based on that, you know, you don’t need cable runs anymore.

DA: You’re concerned about Ethernet outlets and electrical outlets and on and on. And you’re right, we’ve become far more mobile and wireless. And and that ultimately impacts the ways the way in which spaces are designed or the opportunity to design with more flexibility.

JF: Right, right. And, you know, having things that move furniture that moves, you know, whiteboards on wheels, you know, a lot of these things that Ryan would tell you were part of the original design that just got scooped, they just got scooped up by Ethernet cables, unfortunately. Unfortunately, right. I think that’s another big change that and then, you know, I guess the other one that that he jokes about was the COVID actually got people to focus on more environmental things with a lot more seriousness and something as simple as how much CO2 is in the air in the middle afternoon. Of course, everybody’s falling asleep. The clown, you know, people haven’t taken a lot of those environmental elements that make a big difference in terms of light and air filtration and this and that. So I think, again, he and most of the people I talked to are pretty enthusiastic, excited about kind of what the future opportunity lies and well executed is going to be much, much better than the farms of, you know, open desks that people were in before.

DA: Yeah, no, great. And I think that’s a very positive outlook and I think it’s a realistic outlook. And again, I don’t think it’s pitting the physical workspace against all the other ways in which we can work. It’s just, you know, helping to make sure that at least that option is actually a place where we want to be in and amongst other choices. Let’s take a short commercial break and we’ll be right back.


DA: And now I’d like to welcome back to the show Jeff Frick, founder of Menlo Creek Media, host of two podcasts, not one, Turn the Lens and Work 20XX. So, again, really enjoying our conversation. Love to get any thoughts you have, particularly in and around technology. Commercial real estate, one of the last to be disrupted by technology, certainly one of the largest asset classes in the world, is really now being fully impacted by technology and it creates many opportunities, not only for the way in which buildings are operated from an efficiency perspective, but also as a way to enhance the experience that’s delivered. So just any thoughts on technology that you’re seeing or hearing about, any things that your guests are speaking about that impact not only the physical workspace, but maybe just the way in which people work?

JF: Yeah. So just a couple of thoughts. One is, you know, technology just keeps changing fast and you just have to kind of deal with it and you just have to decide that you’re going to try to stay up with it as much as you can. You don’t have to stay on the bleeding edge, but you need to be, you need to know what’s going on. And the only way to do that is to get your hands dirty. So just a real specific case, I’m still surprised at how many people have not tried ChatGPT. So for anyone listening here, if you have not tried ChatGPT, just go on there and ask it to write a 300 word bio of you. That’s it. And you will learn more in that exercise about what it has access to, it doesn’t have access to, etc. So my hope for people is just try it, open it up and try it. Think of it as a calculator. The other thing, though, to mention is exponential curves in technology. And Nick Bloom talks about, you know, as the investment community sees this giant change in hybrid work and this giant change in the way people work, it’s bringing it a ton, a ton, a ton of new investment. Billions and billions and billions are going into the platforms and the sensors and the systems to basically move the needle in a significant way around what’s available to people like you and your clients and your ecosystem to basically to get the data and then to be able to analyze the data and make better actionable decisions with it. And, you know, it’s interesting coming at this from the outside world and seeing that the castle system data was like the primary data set that everybody, you know, leverages on and you get under the covers and, you know, it’s bad swipes in and not even always out. And, you know, it’s it’s a data point, which is better than none. But in the age of sensors and really what we’ve seen basically when scale comes to things. So, you know, mobile brought scale to sensors, it brought scale to cameras, it brought scale to accelerometer. So now all those things can be baked into other applications and the amount of data that you now have to make more intelligent decisions to to see what is actually happening. Where are people going in the building? Where are they staying? I think really opens up an opportunity to rethink it and make it more of a data centric way to move forward as again, as has been happening in retail forever, has been happening in a lot of industry. But what’s a great quote, right? The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed. So the data evolution is coming to the commercial real estate business.

DA: And I think we have a greater motivation now more than ever, is that, you know, first of all, you need you need the source of data and we have many different sources. And certainly from our perspective, our ability to scale our platform to connect to more people will generate more data. But now we have the, you know, the windfall is that and the I guess the the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is that data is what will fuel and power AI. And it’s based on that, that outcome that is, we believe, going to just create for a better experience for our customers, the tenants and buildings. So, you know, at least now there’s not just a dotted line. There’s a direct line that if we can generate the data, capture the data and then, you know, have that fuel power, you know, the AI models that are becoming available. I think that the customer is going to be the beneficiary for sure.

JF: It’s really amazing. And we don’t we don’t think about it enough, about how much more horsepower we have at our disposal, like right at our disposal. I had Jack Niles on and, you know, and he did the original tele tele work research in 1973 when he was at USC with an insurance company in Los Angeles. Right. And at that time they used a T1. I looked it up as fifteen hundred bucks in 1973 dollars for one point four megs of a bandwidth connectivity. If it was working on a good day, according to my friends in the telco business. OK, we have it’s trying to get some type of visual representation to your phone. Now your basic 5G phone, if if that T1 for fifteen hundred bucks a month with it, you add inflation’s like eighty five hundred bucks a month was the equivalent of a one inch garden hose at a typical 40 PSI. Right. What you have now to your phone for a hundred bucks is forty three fire hoses going at whatever it is, a hundred PSI. I mean, it’s ridiculous. The fact that you can call up chat GPT with no programming information and ask a supercomputer a question, which then is basically querying the entire library that is laid off to give you back an answer that’s never been generated before. It’s not it’s not to go get it and bring it back. It’s to generate something for me that’s never been generated before. I mean, these are crazy times. So it’s just super important to think about how can I use it? And then the other piece, right, is that in the democratization of the tools, if you encourage risk taking within more people in the organization, you’re going to get more creative solutions, you’re going to get more creative output. And it’s this it’s this combination of things that really, you know, gets things spinning very, very quickly.

DA: Yeah. Some great insights. Thank you for sharing that. Our closing speed round, Jeff, is an opportunity to get to know you a little bit better, in some cases on a more personal level. So to kick us off, looking back, what’s the one piece of advice that you wish someone had given you when you first started out in your career?

JF: I think swing bigger, faster. Most most of my chapters, and I’ve taken a lot of chapters through my life, I probably stay at one at one chapter a little bit longer than than I should, because I get comfortable and it gets easy and, you know, you kind of bruise for a little bit. So probably swing bigger, faster, earlier.

DA: Right. Excellent. Now, as a podcast host yourself, do you have a favorite book or podcast that has positively impacted your approach to work in life?

JF: So I’ve got all kinds of recency bias because I spend a lot of time on my podcast, more researching my guests and other ones, but I do want to highlight a book that I had recently. I read a lot of biographies and it was Geddy Lee’s My Effin Life, who is the lead singer of Rush. So if you’re in Canada, you know, you know Rush well, hopefully. But really, I’m a huge fan. I’ve been for a long time, but they’re also a pretty deep band. They stayed together for a long time. There’s a lot of great lyrics. And so to hear the process, because, you know, I do a lot of listening to music. Beato is one of my favorite podcasts, and I just love listening to artists and their creative process and the things that went into that, because I think it’s a direct correlation to innovation and kind of risk taking and a little bit of a little bit of secret sauce, a little bit of accidental luck, a little bit of I just wasn’t going to give up till I got there. And it’s all these things that then create these breakthrough, both creative outputs as well as innovation. So I’m a huge fan of listening to people in the music industry. Also, the music industry is interesting because they were one of the first to go digital. So Bob Lefsitz is a newsletter that I’ve been reading for 30 years. And, you know, they were the first to go digital. So it changed their distribution. It changed the medium in which we listen. It changed the business model many, many times from, you know, iTunes charging ninety nine cents to a Napster. Suddenly it’s free to Spotify. Now we have subscriptions. And so that to me, the music industry has also been kind of the fruit fly digital transformation to really see what happens when digitization just changes everything.

DA: Everything for sure. Name one way in which technology has improved specifically how you live or work.

JF: So the big thing I do is closed caption. That takes a lot of time. But I closed caption my videos and, you know, I used to use a service and now Adobe added it to the native app and it slowly gets better to get even more better. But that’s something that I use. And it’s amazing in the Adobe suite to see how fast, you know, since they went to a subscription model from an annual license years ago, how fast they roll out new things. So I’ll go with closed caption.

DA: OK, we may have already touched on this, but as commercial real estate continues to evolve specifically, what skills do you think, you know, the overall property management business is going to need in the future? Maybe even right now, but certainly in the future that it typically or historically did not have in the past. And we touched on hospitality not to lead you anywhere, but I’m just curious your thoughts.

JF: I think that but I think just more listening. I think you really got to be actively listening to see what’s working and what’s not working. And my very first Cube show I did forever ago was at Splunk dot com 2012. And there was an amazing guy that came out and said, you know, we can tell the health of the building based on the elevator data because we can suddenly check, you know, we could see suddenly if the frequency of people going to the 17th floor just changed. So maybe things aren’t going so well on the 17th floor. So I think just curiosity and listening probably to people’s voices as well as the data to start to find the insights, both that things that are going bad that you need to get on top of or run away from and also more good to find those new opportunities that will create the magical experiences that are going to have people lined up and excited to come into the office. However many days it makes sense for them to come in.

DA: Brilliant. Love it. If you were not doing what you’re doing right now, what would you be doing instead? 

JF: I always wanted to be a teacher.


JF: I always want to be a teacher on a high school teacher, college teacher. I think there’s a like history specifically is one of those things you get older, you appreciate it so much more. And I think it’s just it’s not necessarily taught well. I think it’s probably all teacher by teacher. But I think there’s a lot of opportunities to to connect with young people. And I think you can touch a lot of lives as a teacher and then also make things more digestible so they get excited about it because there’s just so much great information out there.

DA: I think teaching is probably, if not one of the top three hardest professions in the world. And, you know, I think anybody that embarks upon that journey and does it and does it really well, like that’s just there. That’s a phenomenal opportunity and a phenomenal place to be. And to your point, the impact that you have on others. So I commend you for that. But that would not be something that I would want to undertake because I just I just think it’s tough. You’re on all the time and you’ve got to be if you want to be great. You got to work really hard. And I think but it does speak to, you know, maybe any any business that you choose or any opportunity that you choose. There are a lot that aren’t doing as well as they should, but it takes commitment. And those that do. We all have those teachers that we remember right from high school or university, college that changed our lives.

JF: Right. Right. Right. And unfortunately, I think there’s a lot of overhead. I know my mom is a teacher. My wife is involved in the business. So unfortunately, there’s a lot of stuff outside of the connecting with the kids and inspiring the kids that they have to deal with. I think that makes it even doubly hard profession. But yeah, we all have those teachers that we look back and they weren’t the easiest ones. But, you know, a lot of them, you know, they gave their life to to this constant flow of kids coming through. So anyway, it’s a noble profession for sure.

DA: It certainly is. It certainly is. Jeff, I have so much enjoyed this conversation. Love the perspective that you’ve been able to share with us. I love your insights that you’ve been able to share some of your learning from all of your experience and pulling it from, you know, that knowledge out of, you know, from your guests as well. So love that we could sort of go podcast host to podcast host and find value and continue to enrich the community and build our respective communities. So thank you very much for joining me today. And I hope this is just the beginning of our continued conversation and connection as well.

JF: Absolutely. Dave, it’s been a real treat. And keep keep doing the good work. 

DA: I’m trying. Thanks so much. We’ll talk soon. 

JF: All right. Take care.

DA: Bye now. 

DA: I want to thank Jeff Frick for joining me on this episode of TEN and for contributing to the global conversation around buildings being part of a robust ecosystem, helping to build great companies and that they are vital in the effort to cultivate and support great people and teams. The future of the workplace will likely take many forms, and we will continue to explore what that looks like together. Subscribe to TEN for more conversations with leading CRE industry professionals and experts who all have something to say about tenant experience and the future of the workplace.

We love hearing from you, so if you enjoyed this episode of TEN, 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 and until our next episode, I wish you all continued success in building community where you work and live. Thank you.

Ryan Speers | Partner & COO | Workhaus | The future of work is flexible

Season 5 / Episode 7 / 41:20
In this episode, we learn that Ryan’s business is at the forefront of the hospitality and customer experience conversations that are happening as CRE continues to up its game on this front by offering essential amenities to help drive user engagement and enjoyment. Tune in to learn more about Ryan’s perspective on Workhaus being a tech-enabled business versus a technology business.

Lisa Davidson | Vice Chairman | Savills North America | An inspiring journey from Tenant Rep to Proptech investor

Season 5 / Episode 5 / 46:17
In this episode, Lisa sheds light on key market drivers influencing real estate decisions, such as the rise of amenities and spec suites. She describes the future of work as “accommodating employees with great space.” The impact that unique community spaces have on potential tenants as they are touring prospective spaces is something else she sees in the market.

Rob Kumer | CEO | KingSett Capital | Trends and success strategies in CRE

Season 5 / Episode 4 / 53:34
In this episode, Rob shares his 3 pillars for success in the office category and speaks about the importance of experience and the technological advances impacting all asset classes. KingSett is very focused on decarbonization, and energy management including deep water cooling and implementing new lighting systems.

Ryan Speers | Partner & COO | Workhaus | The future of work is flexible

Season 5 / Episode 7 / 41:20
In this episode, we learn that Ryan’s business is at the forefront of the hospitality and customer experience conversations that are happening as CRE continues to up its game on this front by offering essential amenities to help drive user engagement and enjoyment. Tune in to learn more about Ryan’s perspective on Workhaus being a tech-enabled business versus a technology business.

Lisa Davidson | Vice Chairman | Savills North America | An inspiring journey from Tenant Rep to Proptech investor

Season 5 / Episode 5 / 46:17
In this episode, Lisa sheds light on key market drivers influencing real estate decisions, such as the rise of amenities and spec suites. She describes the future of work as “accommodating employees with great space.” The impact that unique community spaces have on potential tenants as they are touring prospective spaces is something else she sees in the market.

Rob Kumer | CEO | KingSett Capital | Trends and success strategies in CRE

Season 5 / Episode 4 / 53:34
In this episode, Rob shares his 3 pillars for success in the office category and speaks about the importance of experience and the technological advances impacting all asset classes. KingSett is very focused on decarbonization, and energy management including deep water cooling and implementing new lighting systems.