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

Interview with Dr Peter Staub, Founder and CEO of pom+

In today’s interview, we are happy to feature Peter Staub, Founder and CEO of pom+. With his company, he evaluates current trends and technologies and develops new business models for the real estate industry. He shares his experience of how he and his company are dealing with the current situation.

The “Standing up to Sars-Cov-2” interview series, presents personalities from the real estate industry. We want to promote the exchange 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 are able to continue our operations almost as usual, even though we are affected by the decline in orders like most of the industry. We are currently experiencing delays in various projects, as orders are often paused or stopped at the moment. In addition, we are currently experiencing a great deal of reluctance on the part of customers to spend money in the future. We expect this to continue until the economic consequences of Covid-19 can be better assessed.

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

We are used to working from home and on the go. We have also been using cloud systems for some time now and have made digitisation a priority long before the Corona crisis. These efforts are now paying off: within 24 hours, we moved all 86 workstations to the home office, re-arranged the telephone systems and organised all exchange meetings online. Our goal was that our customers wouldn’t even notice any difference in the way we work – except for the fact that our meetings and workshops are now virtual. Provided that this technical “basic supply” is guaranteed, I consider leadership to be the top priority, especially in these times. We have set up a page on our intranet for news about the coronavirus, exchange information personally in the management board on a weekly basis and inform employees every Friday about new measures or changes. We have also held a virtual CEO talk and discussed how we are doing personally and how our lives have changed since the lockdown. 

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

We rely on official information of the BAG. This is how we currently think and plan in the three-time horizons mentioned by the Federal Council: Up to the end of April, the workload of our employees will continue to vary considerably, and the order situation is unlikely to recover. Until the end of May, we are focusing on resuming our customer contacts and expect increased market activity. 

I expect more or less normal operations from the end of June onwards, although I think interpersonal uncertainties will remain and this crisis will accompany us for a while.

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

I am very satisfied with the approach taken by our crisis management team. The feedback from employees and customers has been consistently positive so far and I am pleased that the spirit in the company remains high. The last few weeks have shown that the changeover to a purely virtual working environment in collaboration with customers is most straightforward when there is already a basis of trust. It confirms my view that you have to take care of your clients and customer relations and that personal exchange is of great importance.

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

As with all SMEs, securing liquidity is currently the most important task for us. Acquisition is proving to be very difficult and this situation is likely to remain for still some time. The biggest challenge I see now is the global uncertainty… Is there going to be a second wave? Do we have to expect another lockdown? How quickly will the global economy recover? At the moment we can only make forecasts, wait and see.

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

Both professionally and privately, I experience an emotional closeness. Personal relationships are becoming more important again, and we ask each other more often in our everyday work about how we are doing. In addition, the crisis is a huge catalyst for digitisation in the real estate industry – it is now no longer a question of wanting to, but it becomes indispensable for the survival of all companies.

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

Our customer event takes place at Kaufleuten Zurich at the beginning of April – a real highlight of our calendar year. It was very painful for us to have to cancel the event. Looking back, I would have made the decision earlier and saved myself a few sleepless nights.

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

I expect a socio-political discussion on the systemic relevance of health care companies and, in connection with this, a boost of health-tech solutions and new technological approaches for surfaces and materials. As far as the real estate sector is concerned, I expect infrastructure and operations management to take on new importance in the future due to the ongoing hygiene measures. It is also conceivable that the topics of land use and spatial planning will increasingly come into focus in the future, now that we have spent many weeks in our own four walls.

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

True to the motto of Winston Churchill: We do not want to waste this crisis. We are naturally concerned with the trends and consequences of this crisis for the real estate industry and try to anticipate the changes in the market in order to support our clients in coping with them in the best possible way.

Thanks a lot, Peter Staub, for doing this interview!

Stay tuned!

Read also the other exciting interviews with Marcelo Collins from Viva Real or with Jan Eckert of JLL. Our next interview partner is coming up soon.