As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Boritz.
Peter Boritz is the Vice President of Spatial and Product Lead Owner at Building Engines, the leading provider of building operations software for modern commercial real estate (CRE). Previously, Peter was the CEO of Real Data Management (RDM), a pioneer of best-in-class building measurement and space visualization software and solutions. RDM was acquired by Building Engines in May 2019 at which point Peter joined the team.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My career path has zig-zagged a bit throughout the years, which I think has helped me have more of a multi-dimensional mindset that I would highly recommend to rising leaders. I started out as an entrepreneur in health and fitness, but eventually sold that business because I wanted a new challenge. I decided to reinvent myself in the world of commercial real estate. After learning the business from the bottom up as a real estate broker representing landlords and tenants in New York City, I saw firsthand a real opportunity within the industry’s inefficiencies which I thought stemmed from an overall lack of tech automation. That led me to start my company, Real Data Management (RDM). RDM was a real estate technology and solutions company which I sold to Building Engines, the leading provider of building operations software for modern commercial real estate, in May 2019.
RDM was built around building measurement and space visualization software. At its heart, it empowered CRE landlords, investors, brokers and managers to better understand and visualize the full potential value of their buildings. By helping my customers realize the power of technology, they were able to realize immense value through real-time, cloud access to their property floor plans, tenant lease information and ability to instantly create planning scenarios that create greater efficiencies in leasing, asset, and property management. Since being acquired by Building Engines, RDM has become a space visualization module in Prism, the most modern and innovative building operations software platform in CRE. I’ve been leading the space visualization team at Building Engines ever since, helping customers fully utilize these tools as part of their broader building operations strategy.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
There are so many — I’ve always been a continuous learner with lots of curiosity. When I was building RDM, I pulled the company up by its bootstraps, doing whatever I could to get things up and running. The company outsourced its software development in the early days, and I hired coders from Israel and India to help build our product. One time, I had to bring them all together for a meeting. I didn’t anticipate the language barriers and we wound up sitting in the conference room, all laughing, and we didn’t accomplish much. Ultimately, we built a great product, but the lessons I learned were think ahead about who you’ll be meeting with and always be prepared — even if it means hiring a translator!
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I’m sort of a nerd when it comes to business books, and I do listen to podcasts. One of my favorite, standout books that I also give as a gift is “Good to Great,” by Jim Collins. I really enjoy the excellent data and case studies laid out in what’s a great read on how companies find success. “Principle-Centered Leadership” by Stephen R. Covey is a must-read, as well. “Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries” by Safi Bahcall provides fascinating stories around innovation, and I’d recommend the frameworks included in the book because you can apply them to any initiative.
For podcasts, I enjoy SaaStr’s podcast, which dives into the latest and greatest from the world of Saastr, interviewing the most prominent operators and investors to discover their tips, tactics and strategies to attain success in the SaaS world. If I’m not listening to SaaStr’s show, I’m tuning into Tim Ferriss’ podcast for his excellent interviews.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
I agree with this philosophy of being driven by a purpose. B2B companies can struggle with this — it’s a tricky balance to be purpose-driven while you manage expectations from investors and others focused on the bottom line. My approach was always to focus on creating a great work culture and being a customer-centric company. This meant that we were committed to our employees’ development and worked to provide extraordinary service. This helped give our team an identity and shared purpose.
Building Engines shares a similar philosophy which was important to me when deciding to join upon the acquisition.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
I’ve been through a lot of major challenges as CEO, experiencing everything from 9/11 and the 2008 market crash to Hurricane Sandy and the New York City blackout. Great leaders need to have an array of skills to use during tough times — but, I’d say my go to principle is focus on the now and have a definitive purpose. Be in front of your team as the guiding force they need.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
This has and continues to be an incredibly difficult time for all. Early on, my dad got Covid and I couldn’t see him, which was stressful. Thankfully, he is ok now. Additionally, while being home with my wife and kids, I had knee surgery. So, I was really annoying to my family while I healed. What worked for me and my family was to embrace the situation, realize there is no playbook for this and choosing to move forward with our lives. As I’ve told my kids — yes, this is hard, but you have a choice every day to freeze and be negative, or to choose progress and be positive. I choose to be positive.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
For me, it’s not seeing my colleagues and missing those spontaneous white board sessions — or the face-to-face connections. There really isn’t a way to replace that on a screen. But, at Building Engines, we have been focused on people’s wellbeing and making sure there are a lot of team check-ins. Another big thing has been the approach our CEO, Tim Curran, has been taking. Tim hosts excellent town hall meetings and open forums for employees to ask questions and generally get on the same page. This has really helped people get updated on how the company is doing and feel connected to the mission. People just really appreciate getting looped in while working remotely.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
We all have been affected by this in so many ways. There are three things I’ve told my kids throughout the last year:
- Realize everyone is going through the same thing
- When feeling stressed, do your breathing and exercise
- Look for silver linings
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted my world of commercial real estate, but it has also created unprecedented momentum for moving to an online, virtual world and, relatedly, accelerating digital transformation initiatives and investments in technologies. I believe we’ll look back at 2020 as a watershed moment for the historically tech-laggard commercial real estate industry. When COVID-19 forced companies everywhere to move operations remote overnight, our industry was no different. It’s my hope that the pandemic has served as a wake-up call for CRE and many have finally begun to embrace technology as a tool that can help improve net operating income (NOI), efficiency and more.
Flexible office space and the need to change existing space is going to be another huge opportunity. While this pandemic has proven that some remote work is possible, there remains no denying that office spaces are important to the way we work. It’ll be critical that flexible office space is available for tenants, to help them manage the changing needs of their workforce. By being able to quickly add or adjust to their space, building owners and operators will find more success in facilitating the “new normal.”
I’d also encourage companies everywhere to re-imagine their business models and to embrace a startup mindset. We don’t know what the post-COVID world is going to look like quite yet, so it’s best to remain agile, scrappy and resilient when adapting to what comes next.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I think there will be lots of lessons learned by health professionals and government officials which will ultimately never allow this to happen again. Day-to-day life will come back and there will be a resurgence of social engagement that people will really value. Who knows, maybe we’ll even be able to see a movie in the theater with some popcorn!
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
My focus at Building Engines is on helping customers be successful. If COVID changes what our customers’ needs are, then we need to adapt and adjust our playbook. Ensuring that our customers can find real value in our products and solutions is of the utmost importance. As the new world of commercial real estate starts to emerge, we’ll see what types of changes are required to keep customers happy and satisfied.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
You should invest quality time in meeting with customers. Ask them questions and listen — really listen! You can’t be all things, so pick a path and go forward, iterating and being agile. This works if you are a CEO, rising manager or a sales rep. This goes for anyone, regardless of what industry you work in — retail, B2B or non-profit.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Your attitude determines your altitude. This has always been my mantra. It’s of my firm belief that your mindset and confidence drive how far you can go toward achieving your goals.
How can our readers further follow your work?