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The Counselor - Fall, 2000

Globalization, at last

Real estate is the final frontier for business trends. Its long life, illiquidity, and inconsistency mean that any sea change hits everyone else first. Globalization, an established factor in most sectors, is finally touching real estate in earnest. My own firm just reorganized real estate consulting on international lines. Our new practice head is in Frankfurt, and our most recent meeting was in that most international of cities, Geneva.

Why should this be happening now? Because our clients are now international. Improvements in banking, communication, trade and shipping mean that Paris and Sao Paolo are now just two days away for you or your presentation, and instantaneous for your e-mail or phone call. If the stakes are high enough, a two-day cycle is not insurmountable.

As information accelerates, we strive to differentiate ourselves in new ways. When data moved by mouth and by carbon copy, "location, location, location" defined an expertise. Since real estate information was about the last to be automated, this rule held the longest. Yet we see expertises emerging that don't mention a city, or even a region. "We develop telecommunications hotels." "Ready-to-use office space in all regions is what we're about." "We're wherever you are."

Nearly a quarter of CREs now do international business, says our most recent survey. A few years ago, only one out of four did. Working overseas has less risk than before, for both consultant and client. We're in touch with our teams, our phones work, and our files are within reach. And we can do much more of the work at home, both before and after field work.

The Counselors' international membership is small, but growing. It's been only a few years since "American" was dropped from the name. But expect a rapid rise, especially in light of new contact with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Strengthen your international ties as fast as you can, because even if we're slow to globalize, our clients aren't.

Copyright 2000 - Noah Shlaes