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IS YOUR OFFICE LEASE CRUSHING YOUR BOTTOM LINE? YOU HAVE OPTIONS

LEASE

By Jonathan Wasserstrum, Founder / CEO, SquareFoot

These are unprecedented times for us all. Nobody has a playbook to get through it. Every company right now is undergoing a series of budget cuts and enduring difficult questions, trying to trim wherever it possibly can to help withstand the profound pressures and unique challenges that the covid scare haqs brought with it from an economic standpoint.

Companies looking to avoid having to make significant layoffs to offset their expenses are having to find other budget items that they can slash or reconsider. For many companies, especially those on the smaller side, that relief may come through renegotiating or rethinking their office lease. Especially at a time like this, when there’s so much uncertainty on how long this pandemic might last, and with staffers working from home indefinitely, this sizable area of cost to the business doesn’t make sense for some businesses to carry.

At SquareFoot, the commercial real estate company I founded in 2011, near the beginning of a decade of positive economic outlook, I envisioned helping growing companies to find office space. And I staffed up with a talented team of in-house brokers to show offices in NYC, and to work on deals in 30 other major U.S. cities.

I raise this background to offer some context for how dire the situation is now with regard to commercial real estate, when it’s not possible to show available office spaces to interested parties. Just a month ago, we were looking ahead at a very promising 2020, on track to act on and to achieve goals we had set. Because of this current economic downturn that has hit us all, we’ve also had to shift priorities accordingly.

Jonathan Wasserstrum

We’ve instructed our brokers – effective immediately – to make themselves available to all concerned business owners as trusted advisers to walk them through their current leases and to outline for them all of their options. Even if they never do a transaction with us, I want my team to step up and provide some expertise to stressed-out executives. This is our small but significant way of helping to prevent other companies from having to let go of key staffers. We want to make this an easy choice for entrepreneurs. But, first, it requires them to understand what options they can move on.

We are already working closely with a number of businesses to review and to summarize their current leases, giving them some clarity and greater comprehension of what is set in stone and what can be adjusted in the wake of this crisis. Among the options that I and the team are exploring on behalf of those who have reached out include:

  • Checking with your insurance agent about your Business Interruption Insurance coverage;
  • Subletting the space. It’s not an optimal time to find a subtenant, but it’s still something worth pursuing to salvage the situation at hand;
  • Post empty desks on PivotDesk, a business unit that SquareFoot owns and operates to rent out (as a host) a small number of desks within an office (to a guest) to share the space;
  • Propose a rent abatement now from the landlord and arrange for a term at a higher escalated rent on the back end; or
  • Walking away. Closing up shop and declaring bankruptcy isn’t anyone’s first option, but handing back the keys and letting the landlord keep your security deposit is a path forward for the most desperate of clients.

Obviously, this is not a situation that anyone hoped to be in or had prepared for. We don’t proclaim to have all of the answers for every company, but we do hope that giving some knowledge and sharing some wisdom with those in the most vulnerable of positions right now would leave them better off than without it. In addition to the specifics of the situation for each individual client, we can also step back and have offered some additional background on what to expect from the real estate market in the coming months.

For instance, we anticipate that subleasing will emerge as increasingly important to fill spaces quickly. Amid the 2008 financial crash, subleases went from 20% of the market to 45% of the real estate market after the stock market market crashed. If that’s the direction we’re heading again – and it seems we might – it’s perhaps wisest for those holding onto long term leases to act quickly.

Once the quarantine is lifted, it’s possible that everyone else will catch up and get wise to this opportunity in the market and they will likely request these types of discounted transactions in a rush all at once; subleases could flood the market, driving costs straight up.

Moreover, if similar effects on the office market emerge soon the way they did during the 2008 financial crisis then there will likely be a sharp increase in the number of tenants looking to:

  • Renew their lease
  • Arrange for a short-term extension of their lease

This is the lowest risk strategy for any tenant, of course. Lease renewals are likely to be incredibly popular in the coming months. We expect that landlords will be working closely and compassionately with tenants at this time to offer existing tenants who are looking for short-term extensions to offer incentives, in the form of free or reduced rents.

As the markets go sideways, you can likely find better value on the space you already have. Whether you work with my team and me, or with someone else, we still advise that you should act quickly. Right now, it’s all about reducing costs to keep people in place. Your office lease is a better place to start the discussion than anywhere else on that long list of expenses.

 

Business

6 STEPS FOR BUSINESSES TO ENSURE THAT THEY ARE DATA COMPLIANT

By Alex Hazell, Acxiom UK head of legal

Data compliance can be a complex – and ever changing – consideration for marketers in all sectors.

And today, where a data-driven, personalised approach is the answer to create outstanding customer experiences that beat those of competitors – as well as a crucial governance consideration – it has never been more critical to understand data compliance, and get it right. This is particularly true in financial services, where neobanks and fintechs are using data-driven approaches to gain more and more ground in the sector.

GDPR, CCPA – understanding the acronyms and regulations that apply

With the volume of consumer data of all kinds growing exponentially, understanding how to use it effectively is critical to business performance; and a growing number of governance rules is in force to ensure legal, ethical and responsible use of personal data.

Ultimately these regulations are in place to compel organisations to review and improve how they collect, store and utilise personal data, and to place greater emphasis on ethical practice and individual rights.

For example, in the UK and the EU, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force in 2018 to accompany the e-Privacy Directive that sits alongside it, and is focused on protecting individuals from the unlawful and unfair use of their personal data. Note that the EU is in the process of replacing the current e-privacy Directive with the e-Privacy Regulation.

Equally, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) came into force as of January 2020 and is a state statute designed to enhance privacy rights and consumer protection for residents of California, USA.

Of course there are many other regulations to consider. For example, when in heavily regulated industries such as finance, firms may have a requirement to comply with other sector-specific regulations and codes such as FCRA, HIPAA, PCI – as well as CCPA or GDPR. Or, they may need to know how to manage sensitive or special category personal data which often requires a higher level of compliance.

And because of the breadth and complexity of these ever-evolving considerations – including, but not limited to eye-watering maximum level fines for non-compliance – data compliance can seem overwhelming. So, how can marketers truly understand what’s required, and stay on top of the rich tapestry of governance and regulations that applies to their organisation?

Six steps to ensure compliant customer data use

At a top level, data compliance requires marketers to take a transparent, considered approach to consumer data, based for the most part on providing varying degrees of notice and choice; for example, in the case of the GDPR, that may be via the consent or legitimate interest grounds.

With this in mind, and a focus on driving relevancy, value and impressive experiences, aimed to surprise and delight, both marketers and consumers can benefit from data compliance – it’s the ticket to better data driven experiences on all sides!

 

So how should data-driven marketers act to be certain of best practice data use, post GDPR and CCPA?

  1. Always put the consumer first. Consumer interests and customer value must always shape how marketers collect, use and protect data, to ensure trust, transparency and compliance.
  2. Work to communicate value. Keep data use balanced across the business, not just in marketing. Always orient toward driving consumer value – to demonstrate and explain the value return that consumers will achieve from a data exchange.
  3. Build trust through transparency. Clear, simple explanations are important to ensure understanding and build trust. So be open and transparent – data used for marketing is a far cry from personal data being used for other more intrusive purposes – and those doing the right thing have nothing to hide.
  4. Ensure responsible, balanced use of data. Organisations need to make sure it has clear internal policies around data ethics, privacy and work to ensure balanced data use everywhere, for true trust. Note that in the case of GDPR, firms need to be able to demonstrate accountability, and data protection impact assessments are often required to ensure the correct safeguards and balances are in place.
  5. Remove data silos. A fragmented tech stack with disparate data makes it hard to truly see what data a company has, where it is, and how compliant it is. Creating a unified data layer and removing silos is the best way to connect the data, ensure data accuracy and hygiene – and unlock seamless customer experiences through greater personalisation. This data combination also needs to be done in a compliant and ethical way.
  6. Prioritise data protection and compliance. Adhering to data privacy legislation is a ‘must-have’ consideration, not a ‘nice-to-have’. As such, it’s critical that marketers put in place a set of accountability measures to ensure responsible and compliant handling, whether they choose to do this alone, or with the guidance of a trusted data partner.

A compliant approach to consumer data and privacy is a critical part of any business strategy – not an optional one – so it’s important to have a roadmap to compliance for the business.

Of course, knowing how to assess, consider, and (where needed) adjust how an organisation hosts, manages and uses data to remain compliant can be a challenge. For this reason, many organisations choose to seek external expertise and advice, and understand the assistance and competitive advantage that a data partnership can provide.

Ultimately, from providing clarity over governance and legislation, to ensuring data processes and technologies are compliant, secure and futureproofed – working with a data partner can help organisations understand and navigate regulations to execute ethical, legal and responsible compliance for seamless, trusted marketing.

 

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Business

FIVE REASONS WHY YOUR BUSINESS’ PROCUREMENT TEAM SHOULD BE USING A CONTRACT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

By Daniel Ball, business development director at Wax Digital

 

Even in today’s digital-first environment some businesses are still storing documents, such as contracts, in filing cabinets making it labour intensive to retrieve, manage and even identify important paperwork. In fact, it is calculated that poor contract management practices are costing companies an average of nine percent of their annual revenues.

Moving to a contract management system online can speed up the retrieval process and help decrease the amount of time and resources required to manage contracts. Using a CMS companies can create an online database to centralise information and store documents. Not only does this help ensure contracts are well managed and kept up-to-date, but it can also help businesses save up to 20 percent of overall costs per year.

From legal departments overseeing regulation compliance to finance teams ensuring payment deadlines are met, contract management technology benefits many areas of an organisation. So, how can a good CMS help your procurement team?

 

Daniel Ball

How will a good CMS help your procurement team?

The number of suppliers your procurement team must oversee varies depending on the size of your business. It’s not uncommon for large enterprises to be working with thousands of suppliers at one time. A CMS will use automation to record, manage and streamline data, providing procurement teams with important contract details including time and location information, as well as real time alerts such as contract breaches.

Here are five reasons why your business should be using an online contract management platform:

  1. Increased spend visibility

Using a CMS can give procurement professionals full visibility of suppliers, including the company name and location of where a product is coming from and in what quantity. This transparency will also help contribute to the risk management strategy of your business as it enables you to spot vendors who may be prone to environmental, economic and political uncertainty. In the current environment, for example, suppliers’ may have decreased or ceased production due to COVID-19 or could have been heavily impacted by the negative price of oil, making visibility increasingly important for businesses.

 

  1. Eliminates maverick spend

Centralising and streamlining contract documents will ensure that buyers can instantly access up-to-date information to see if a contract already exists. This helps buyers avoid simple and common mistakes that often occur when using manual filing systems, such as onboarding new vendors when existing agreements are in place with another supplier.

 

  1. Keeps track of contract renewals

It’s easy to forget about contract renewals or sign up for another term without ending an existing agreement, especially when using a traditional filing system. Businesses using an online CMS can set up renewal alerts in advance, allowing buyers sufficient time to source new vendors or negotiate better prices.

 

  1. Improves spend management

A centralised database means that all negotiated prices, contract conditions and other important transactions can be accessed in one place, making it easier to analyse spend. A CMS can help identify discrepancies, find where contract violations have occurred and deal with any associated problems.

 

  1. Adhering to regulatory and legislative compliance

It’s important to ensure that all suppliers are meeting the terms of their contracts. A CMS will automatically audit supplier information, meaning that any failures are immediately raised to procurement teams. The platform will also provide notifications if any new data is required or updates need to be made, avoiding potential legal issues.

It’s clear that using an online CMS will benefit your business and procurement teams by increasing spend visibility, enabling access to up to date information, ensuring contracts are closely monitored while contributing to the reduction of unnecessary spend. So, now’s the time to stop relying on those dusty old filing cabinets and start using a CMS.

 

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