Inside HqO: Palmer Simpson

Inside HqO PalmerSimpson
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Palmer Simpson

HqO Account Executive, Canada 

Palmer Simpson joined HqO in July 2021 to oversee all Canadian accounts and help grow HqO across Canada. Prior to HqO, Palmer worked in Global Investments and Asset Management at Manulife. Focusing on the Canadian market, Palmer oversees HqO’s Canadian accounts and leads its growth across Canada.

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You have quite the background! Tell me about your real estate experience before HqO.

I graduated from the Queen’s University School of Business and joined the commercial real estate world to work in Global Investments and Asset Management for three years. I was fortunate enough to learn on a very large scale, because I was conducting and analyzing deals in Canada, the U.S., and the Asia-Pacific region. 

I did a lot of different things and worked across a variety of divisions, whether I was dealing with acquisition and dispositions, asset management and portfolio optimization strategies, development projects, or lease deal negotiations and modeling. I describe my real estate knowledge as that of global real estate management with a plethora of different initiatives. 

You’ve certainly done a lot! How does that background help with your current role at HqO? 

Everyday I wake up, it’s a whole different day, and it really depends on what I’m trying to accomplish or where I’m trying to go. I oversee all Canadian accounts, and I’m here to help grow HqO across Canada.

As more of the Canadian workforce returns to their workplaces, I’m super excited to introduce them to HqO (and vice versa). We are already expanding in the Canadian market, with great partnerships like our work with Slate Asset Management and Cadillac Fairview.

Is Canada behind the U.S. in reopening public places? 

Unfortunately, yes. That being said, there has been an uptick in activity downtown Toronto, which is exciting! Right now, I’m having initial discussions and contacting companies who I think would be a good fit for us, whether it’s their asset size, their portfolio optimization strategies, or their investment strategies. Whether it’s reaching out to a potential client or a potential brokerage, for example, to try and open up other doors for us and work in a synergetic way.

We’re helping them solve their clients’ problems by creating technological advancement and competitive advantage, and it’s also been helping us out by getting us in the door. During these initial discussions, I do a little bit of consulting on the return to office and help companies plan for what the future workplace may look like. 

As you navigate the fluctuating market, which teams do you collaborate with the most?

At HqO, I want to engage everyone I possibly can to help them understand the Canadian market and for them to help me understand how to enable technology here. I work with Marketing to get a broader image of HqO in Canada out to the market, and I also work with the Sales, Customer Success, and Executive teams as well. 

Everyone wears a bunch of different hats here, so everyone is the master of their own craft but also is very helpful in other domains. 

So far, what projects have you worked on that excited you the most?

I’m really excited by our focus on creating the safest, most productive, and engaging workplace for our client’s tenants. We help landlords and owners make smarter, more calculated decisions on how to do so, by making live and actionable data available to them. 

In the backend in HqOS, you can see the data and analytics side to really help a client make a more customized approach. In terms of capital budgeting, a lot of companies are doing guesswork as to where they should be investing their money, but HqO allows them to really make more calculated decisions. No longer is it a guessing game for our clients that their conference room is always overbooked, or their gym is too small. 

What is the most important thing you’ve learned from an HqO client?

A new technology hub is being formed across the waterfront in Toronto and one of the coolest things that I’m seeing is how technology is evolving the workplace to help people feel safe and motivated to go into the office every day.

Some of our clients are creating offices that offer these technology and transit hubs to tenants, that in turn help them attract high-quality talent. 

People actually want to be in the office, and I find that there’s a new shift in mentality from preferring remote work to now craving that social interaction. One of the things I talked about in my recent Observations blog is that the workplace that people left in 2020 is not the same space they will return to. The office is now viewed as a place that you want to go to, to collaborate and socialize with your colleagues. 

That’s really interesting — part of what’s innovative about how people are using HqO is that they’re using it as a recruitment tool for talent.

Totally, and it’s technology that enables the attraction of new, higher-quality talent to the building. 

One of the things I keep thinking about is that companies aren’t really downsizing their spaces. Some are actually upsizing. No longer are offices going to have minimalistic square footage per person, they are already increasing the square footage per person because they are going to make more creative and open spaces. 

For example, a workspace may need to expand to another floor to make space for a mental health and wellness hub, or a maternity room.

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What kinds of technologies are you seeing being used today that you think have a place in the real estate world?

Modular construction, for sure. Modular construction is widely used in parts of Asia where there is not a lot of available space to build a new building in downtown areas. So instead of trying to shut down streets, they will build pieces of the building beforehand and then transport them to the site to build them. Think of it as building a lego set, but the individual lego pieces were built off-site. 

That way you can control all aspects of the construction, so you don’t worry about things like the weather. You don’t have to worry about external factors such as natural disasters or traffic. In that sense, you’re using 3D printing and climate controlled centers to build pieces of the building, and then essentially putting the pieces together while on-site.

I also think that using blockchain technology as a method  of transacting business using smart and secure contracts is really interesting. Instead of the contracts going into escrow, you essentially have companies using blockchain technology such as Ethereum to have a secure network and a smart contract. 

Those are  innovative ways that technology is changing operations in the real estate world. How do you think technology is shaping the future of the workplace from a tenant experience perspective?

It is connecting tenants to the building in a way that has never been possible before. Tenant experience technology is especially critical to entice tenants back to the office when they’ve been accustomed to this new version of working. How do you entice them to drop the pajamas and put on a suit, or sit in traffic for an hour to come back to the office?

The way that you engage your tenant population in the building is so crucial, and part of it is enabling technology to do that. Connecting your tenants to the community that surrounds their building is a huge part of this process, to help invigorate the local businesses that have been so hard hit by the pandemic. 

Have you seen tenant experience technology in workplaces in Canada before? 

In a lot of buildings in downtown Toronto, the buildings are very antiquated and don’t have a lot of amenities. A lot of companies are now spending money on new amenities like bike rooms, shower rooms, gyms, and mental wellbeing spaces. Having these spaces dedicated to helping the transition back to the office is where I think a lot of companies are going to become successful.

There are so many ways that technology is making life in the office easier. For example, if an employee has to call down to the building manager every time they want to book a conference room, it’s a hassle when compared to simply pressing a few buttons on their building app. 

If it’s a headache to get into the office and do all these things, then why come back in? That’s where tenant experience is changing the workplace and allowing for new technologies to come to fruition. 

Great answer! Finally, what excites you the most about working at HqO?

When I worked in global asset management in my prior role, I had a variety of proptech companies pitch me on tenant experience and proptech initiatives. I asked a lot of questions like: What’s the implementation process like? Do you integrate with different services? How many Customer Success representatives do you have? 

The engagement numbers I saw at many of these companies were very low. As a business person, when you look at an engagement score of 15% to 20%, why would you put your money into that? When you see a much higher percentage in our buildings, that’s where I believe in HqO. 

When I was unsatisfied with the pitches and information I received, I talked to someone at HqO and all of my questions were answered. I had great conversations, saw high engagement scores, and had a plethora of Customer Success team members I could speak to. What excites me most about the growth of the company and the future of HqO is the people, the culture, and the results. If you don’t have the engagement, why invest? That’s where HqO separates itself from the competition.

Inside HqO pulls back the curtain and introduces you to the people who make HqO the undisputed leader in tenant experience technology. For more information on HqO, click here. If you’re interested in joining Palmer and the HqO team, check out all of our current openings here.

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