By Daniel Hall
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic taking a catastrophic toll on many U.S.-based businesses, Hughes Marino bolstered its reach by adding a Denver office to its fleet of locations, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Seattle, San Francisco, East Bay and New York.
“We added the Denver office in the fourth quarter of last year, with the grand opening of Denver in January of 2021,” said Hughes Marino CEO Jason Hughes. “We were growing when everyone else was pulling in the reins. And we’re really proud of how our company handled this. We’ve gotten stronger in a lot of ways.”
Hughes admits that corporate real estate was the last thing on anyone’s mind when the pandemic hit. “In fact, most people just wanted to shed it, and they were forced to work from home,” Jason Hughes said from the company’s headquarters in San Diego. “And the last thing they were thinking of was leasing more office space.”
Hughes likens the impact of the pandemic to an ice age hitting the commercial real estate world. “Everything was essentially frozen, and there was zero velocity. It was really scary,” Hughes said. “For a couple of months when the pandemic started, we were really concerned and analyzing. ‘What does this mean to our company? What is going to happen to our industry?’ And nobody knew how bad it was going to get.”
Hughes Marino went into immediate triage mode with all of its brokers. “Our brokers are the front line,” Jason Hughes said. “They’re the ones that are client-facing, meeting with business owners and making decisions every day. They’re the tip of the spear, and then it trickles down to all of our other divisions, including lease auditing, lease administration, program, project and construction management, planning and design, and culture consulting. From there, we have all of our operational team that supports the brokers, so if our brokers aren’t successful, we’re not going to have a company.”
Hughes then initiated weekly broker town hall meetings lasting one to two hours to boost morale and keep the Hughes Marino team focused on how to help clients with the rapid changes the market was making both locally and nationally.
“We had everybody on WebEx (on camera face to face), and each week, my mission was clear,” Hughes said. “I am still a player-coach, but I spent a lot more time coaching because from my own transactional volume, everything stopped. My new goal was, how do I give emotional and mental support to our brokers? And how do we keep this fighting stance or just be mentally strong enough to continue to reach out to businesses that need our help and wait for the ice to thaw?’”
On Tuesday mornings, Jason Hughes found himself motivating his team and doubling down on the company’s technology, investing millions. Hughes acknowledged it could be a rare opportunity for expansion if his team had the proper tools, support and guidance to succeed. “Many of our brokers said that made all the difference,” Hughes explained. “That kept our team and their spirits alive during a time when other industry brokers just kind of left.”
Hughes then decided to be proactive and reached out to Hughes Marino’s clients to help them renegotiate their leases. “We began examining what some of the smartest companies out there were doing for their team,” Hughes said. “What are they doing to help control their expenses while we’re in this COVID storm? How do we renegotiate with landlords?’ And it really ranged from local, to state, to national protection with tenants for evictions, for non-payment of rent, for protection against lawsuits because for a lot of these companies, their business just stopped.”
As Hughes watched most landlords shift into lawsuit mode, he remained focused on the plight of struggling tenants.
“When you’re a tenant, you’re just paying rent because you’re getting revenue to help pay these costs, and if the revenue just stops, how are you supposed to pay?” Hughes said. “Helping them navigate all that was happening from a local and state standpoint on protection and giving them peace of mind, we became financial counselors in a way on how to prevent these companies from going out of business.”
With thousands of clients advised by the brokerage, Hughes Marino recognized that while trillion-dollar companies can withstand years of no revenue, many of their smaller clients couldn’t afford the same luxuries.
“It really comes full circle to what we talk about on our broker town halls,” Hughes said. “Our clients need us now more than ever. Let’s give them ideas. Let’s help them through these challenges. Let’s protect them against these landlords who are saying, ‘Hey, you need to pay up.’”
Hughes Marino has stayed true to its original vision of thoughtfully expanding and maintaining an incredible company in it for the long haul.
“Shay (President & COO) and I get a lot of satisfaction out of this company and what it’s done for so many people’s lives,” Hughes said. “We do the best we can at making this company successful and having it be a great place for everybody to work. We’ve earned numerous awards for everything you can imagine, and that’s not something you can buy. Our team loves being here. They love what the team represents. They love what we’re all about, and the feeling’s mutual.”
Hughes is also extremely grateful for the loyalty and longevity of his team. “We’ve been very excited about the success our team has had, as individuals and a collective team. A lot of our teammates have been with Shay and I for 20 to 25 years, and we’ve seen their whole lives change,” Hughes said. “They get married, and they grow families, and they buy their first house. I mean, it’s really rewarding and fulfilling for us.”
If there’s one thing that’s for sure, Hughes’ passion to help both clients and his team has only accelerated after enduring such a tumultuous period during the pandemic together, which is fueling Hughes Marino’s gaining momentum by the day.
“When the storm hit, we rallied and hit back with our experience, passion, and perseverance for the needs of our clients, the tenants–companies large and small providing services for us all–from biomed, industrial, energy to corporate. They are in the business to serve, so we had to pivot and serve them any way we could.”
This article was originally published at bbntimes.com by Daniel Hall.
Jason Hughes is chairman, CEO, and owner of Hughes Marino, an award-winning commercial real estate company with offices across the nation. A pioneer in the field of tenant representation, Jason has exclusively represented tenants and buyers for more than 30 years. He writes about topics in commercial real estate from a tenant’s perspective on his blog, Downtown Dirt. Contact Jason at 1-844-662-6635 or email@example.com to learn more.