Nina Wiater talks to Łukasz Mazurczak, Managing Director of MVGM in Poland, about changes in the company's structure and brand, team and portfolio management during the pandemic, as well as client relations and future plans.
NW: In December 2019, the JLL property management team officially joined an international player specialized in this segment - MVGM. How do you assess the first twelve months of working under the new brand?
ŁM: It has been a very good time. The whole process of transition to the new company’s structures went very smoothly. Moreover, our existing clients who worked with us when we were still a part of JLL, quickly adjusted to the new situation and put their trust in a company previously unknown in Poland. What certainly helped us to go through the process of change, was the flexibility of MVGM. It is a company with a core in property management where, in comparison to large corporations, decisions are made quickly which is very helpful also in terms of the dynamically changing market we’re facing today. This operational agility is our competitive advantage which allows us to develop rapidly on the Polish market.
NW: The pandemic broke out shortly after you joined MVGM. Such an unexpected situation requires a lot of flexibility and responsiveness, especially from organizations your profile. What measures have you taken after the COVID-19 outbreak?
ŁM: After the pandemic outbreak we focused on providing adequate health protection for our employees and clients as well as buildings users. First of all, we split our teams working in headquarters, regional offices and larger building complexes into two groups working in weekly shifts. Thanks to that we’ve increased our ability to keep social distance between employees and secured business continuity in case of an outbreak among our employees. We’ve also secured disinfectants for our employees and provided them with masks and protective gloves. In addition to these standard procedures, we provided our managers with PPE so employees who have contact with external services or subcontractors feel safe and comfortable. What’s more, MVGM set up a pan-European special task group in order to exchange information between different countries on how to enhance safety and how to approach individual situations. This gives us constant access to new ideas and procedures. When it comes to guest safety, from the technical point of view we had to implement some solutions, for example, we programmed the elevators to have open doors when stationary, or restored full efficiency of air handling units. Effective property management of office buildings in such an exceptional situation requires the implementation of a special information policy - whether it concerns signage that indicates where to queue waiting for an elevator or communication with tenants using various media that remind them how to behave in the building.
NW: I wonder if the global pandemic, apart from the fact that it was a test for the real estate market, allowed you to strengthen your relations with clients?
ŁM: Yes it has, and it was possible because of intensified communication and, in many cases, our very direct relations. In addition to regular daily contact with our clients, we’ve launched a newsletter informing about the current situation and changes in Poland related to COVID-19. Most of our clients are foreign companies with their headquarters outside the country so we believe it’s necessary to communicate current restrictions and procedures in Poland. MVGM's clients appreciated our commitment and professional approach, in some cases pointing out our actions as a role model for the competition. We’re very pleased with such positive feedback.
NW: You manage office buildings, shopping malls as well as warehouses and logistics centers. How does the property management process vary on different types of market?
ŁM: First of all the basis of difference in types of real estate is a different end recipient of our services. The final recipient of the office property management service is an office worker. In retail, it is a customer visiting and doing shopping. In office buildings rents are fixed and don’t depend on footfall. However, office building users' satisfaction may be one of the factors impacting lease agreement prolongation, which is after all one of the owner's main goals. What matters in retail facilities, apart from a high occupancy level, is the rent which is turnover-dependent. And turnover is based on how much the tenants sell. So the higher the footfall the higher the sales. An attractive tenant - mix, effective promotion, a range of amenities and an offer that meets the customers' needs are crucial to attract the clients and make them spend money. Retail property management consists of many variables.
In the case of office buildings, the end-user may vary as different companies will choose an office building located in the centre of Warsaw than the one located e.g. near Warsaw Chopin Airport. Other location will be chosen for BPO/SSC companies and other for law firms.
On the other hand in the industrial sector building users are tenants employees who are mostly involved in logistics and storage. The specificity of industrial facilities is more related to technical maintenance and the infrastructure itself. However, a recent sustainability trend has also become very visible. Investors set up apiaries, plant trees or implement greywater and rainwater recovery systems and reuse such water for industrial purposes. Warehouses are getting greener and more ecological.
NW: Some companies have already returned to offices, e.g. in the hybrid working model. What changes did you implement in individual buildings related to pandemic health and safety? Are you properly prepared for employees return?
ŁM: The buildings we manage are well prepared for tenants return. Office buildings, shopping malls and warehouses have appropriate signage, are equipped with disinfectants, all personnel including building services were trained following the latest COVID-19 prevention procedures. We’ve prepared a number of instructions, e.g. on how to navigate the facilities, decontaminate premises, or procedures indicating what to do in the case of a coronavirus outbreak in a building. We have worked through this very comprehensively over the last few months.
NW: Due to the lower building occupancy have you undertaken technical or maintenance works?
ŁM: Since the beginning of the pandemic we’ve reduced the number of people working in security and cleaning services in order to reduce service charge costs. We’ve optimized the operation of elevators, air handling units and electricity consumption. We mostly focused on securing the highest possible savings on service charges. Major technical or maintenance works were carried out in individual buildings but these were works planned in advance,not implemented because of the pandemic.
NW: It’s impossible not to ask about your new roles at MVGM. Recently the real estate market has been informed about Virginie de Baere's return to her home country, where she was appointed Managing Director at MVGM Belgium. You and Agnieszka Nowak took over the Polish branch of the company. What areas are you responsible for in MVGM in Poland and what is the division of duties between you and Agnieszka?
ŁM: I am responsible for the office and industrial portfolio, while Agnieszka looks after the retail portfolio. No change here, but together we are launching a new residential segment. MVGM has extensive experience in this area on western European markets of which we shall take full advantage in Poland. Currently, we’ve no other plans, e.g. related to entry to the hotel market, we don’t plan to build a large commercial real estate agency department either – we will continue to cooperate with JLL.
What we certainly have plans to develop in MVGM is advanced reporting, especially portfolio reporting and corporate accounting. We have the right tools and user interfaces to present aggregated data on a regular basis. We plan further development of community management and customer experience - that has always been the foundation of the premium buildings we managed while still under the JLL brand.
We’ll also cooperate with building owners who want to develop service centres and co-working spaces. We’re already involved in the development of our biggest client, IMMOFINANZ, brand - myhive. Additionally, we’ll continue our activities related to BREEAM, LEED and WELL certifications and sustainability consulting in general. There’s a lot going on and we are glad to be a part of MVGM’s development in Poland.
NW: Certainly last year was very demanding - you started in a new company, you had to face COVID-19 and finally, together with Agnieszka, you were promoted to Managing Director of MVGM in Poland. How do you privately and professionally deal with such big changes taking place in your life?
ŁM: I try to be physically active, I like sports, especially cycling and skiing. I also like good music and good books, although now I have less time for reading due to the development of the company, but I don’t feel these changes affect my private life. I’m very lucky to work with fantastic professionals who know what to do and how to manage the team according to the procedures and standards developed but also adapted on an ongoing basis.
This is huge support allowing me to focus on new things and proactive company management. At MVGM, we take care not only of our clients, but also our employees, we listen to them, try to have close relations, and I believe that is one of the main keys to success. Currently, our team consists of around 120 specialists and experts who help us focus on expanding our scope of services, portfolio and attracting new clients. We also have great support from our colleagues in the Netherlands and other countries. MVGM is a very innovative company and swift when it comes to decision making and acting with short internal communication threads.
NW: Thanks for the interview and I wish you more success in the future