Archilyse is Asking: How is the Real Estate Industry Standing up to

Interview with Marcelo Collins, CEO at Viva Real

Today, we are proud to bring you insights from Marcelo Collins, CEO at Viva Real AG, a successful Swiss real estate service company. In this interview, he shares his experience of how his company is dealing with the current corona situation.
In our “Standing up to Sars-Cov-2” interview series, we are featuring personalities from the real estate industry. We want to promote the exchange in the industry and encourage all real estate players to stay strong during this challenging time.

1. In what ways were and are you – as a company – most affected by the Sars-Cov-2 outbreak (e.g. decline in orders, termination of operations, etc.)?

Fortunately, we recognised the opportunities offered by digitisation long before the outbreak of Sars-Cov-2. Thanks to the existing flexible IT infrastructure and already digitised processes, we were able to shift our daily work quickly and easily to the home office. Thus, all in all we are quite mobile. Our employees have shown themselves to be open and flexible and currently work mostly from home. So the daily business continues almost as usual.

We had to adjust regarding the apartment visits and viewings as well as handing them over. The safety of our customers and employees was and still is our top priority. We have taken several steps to offer the best possible service in this situation. We were also able to digitise certain services. Of course, we have strictly adhered to the regulations of the Federal Office of Public Health and have also intensified the hygiene measures. 

We feel most affected concerning the floor owner meetings. Due to the ban on assemblies, it is currently no longer possible to have any physical meetings. Also, certain construction management services are either difficult to continue for us or are currently put on hold.

2. What measures (technical, organizational, customer-specific) have been taken in your company? What tips can you give others based on your experience?

The magic word is digitisation. As mentioned, we ourselves have already digitised many processes. Viva Real AG works very process- and customer-oriented.

Thanks to agile structures and flat hierarchies, we found good solutions together as a team, which could be implemented quickly and without complications. 

3. What was your approach, e.g. did you think in different scenarios? Which sources of information or methodological approaches did you choose?

In general, I think it is very important for a company in this situation not to rush any decision but to proceed calmly and carefully. In such an exceptional situation, you need a clear long-term strategy with a concrete implementation plan and a clear goal definition.

We have gone through various scenarios and have set out a strategy for our company that we would like to continue to pursue, with the flexibility to adjust if needed.

4. Looking back on the last few weeks, what would you do differently today? What conclusions can you already draw from this?

The experience of the last few weeks has shown us that we need to improve regarding the coordination of some processes in order to avoid idle times. Certain maintenance orders for conversions or renovations of properties or apartments are currently accumulating. This increases the pressure on us to get more orders.

There is also a growing need to have physical meetings or on-site inspections again as quickly as possible. It can have drastic consequences if, for example, we are unable to continue with project development. However, we also see many opportunities at present. It is exciting to see that in a crisis like this the weaknesses of some processes come to light, because it shows us where we need to improve.

5. Where do you see the greatest challenges or threats in the current situation? How do you deal with them?

If the measures are soon to be relaxed now, we still need to act very carefully. We should clearly prioritise which orders will be carried out first. Many will want to make up for their “missed” deals and we will have to decide how to deal with the potential rush. 

We will also have to plan well how we will hold larger meetings or on-site visits in the future. 

We should also keep an eye on the overall social impact. If the measures are extended, we will probably have to expect an economic recession and a high number of unemployed people. This could also have serious consequences for our company, for example, if rent payments are outstanding, etc. We want to remain positive and not be guided by fear.

6. Are there any positive aspects you can draw from this crisis? What opportunities are there?

I definitely see many opportunities in the Corona crisis. We can prove ourselves, especially as SMEs, by showing that we are already a big step ahead in terms of digitisation. At a time like this, it is all the more evident that digitisation brings decisive advantages for the customer. We also notice that digitisation helps us to better market our services and to demonstrate a concrete benefit, and that we can also convince the older generation of this.

7. Let’s travel into the past before the crisis – what tips would you give yourself from today’s perspective?

Fortunately, even before the crisis, we had set ourselves the goal of pushing the use of new technologies and digitisation at Viva Real AG. Of course, we are still far from reaching our goal and we have also noticed some stumbling blocks, for example in terms of process optimisation. But we are on the right track. There is always room for improvement =)

8. Let’s travel into the future and think of April 2021 – What will have changed permanently as a result of this crisis?

I hope that we all come out of the crisis healthy and with a sharpened awareness for such incidents! We should all be aware that this or any other virus can break out at any time. We need to be well prepared for this as a company and as individuals. We should learn to assess risks and to deal with them.

9. How are you currently preparing for the time after Corona? Are there any measures that you are already taking?

In my view, the most important preparation is to remain alert and agile as a company. This is the only way we can continue to respond quickly and appropriately to the Federal Council’s forthcoming decisions.

Thanks a lot Marcelo Collins for doing this interview!

Stay tuned!

Read also the other exciting interviews with Peer Kocur from Migros Pensionskasse or with Jan Eckert of JLL. Our next interview partner is coming up soon.