Running a successful office takes a diverse range of skills and approaches, but standing out as a unique office brand takes something extra: creativity, focus, and an extreme focus on detail. A case study in just how it all comes together came by way of our LinkedIn Live discussion with Vlad Buzoianu, CEO of Cluj Business Campus (CBC). CBC was planned from day one to be a different kind of office, a mini-city in the center of Cluj-Napoca.
To make the vision come to life, CBC needed a wide range of amenities and services available on site. “Offices, residential, restaurants, schools, kindergarten, high school, bar, football pitch, rooftop bar, a lot of stuff, it’s constantly adding to that list,” Vlad said. “Our clients aren’t just the office tenants, it’s every single person inside.” So the amenities CBC offers is meant to offer the individual people that use the space everything they need within 100 steps. It’s an approach to real estate Vlad calls “New Urban.”
With a name like Cluj Business Campus, CBC is meant to hearken back to the experience of working around a university campus. “We compared this to a school or university experience,” Vlad added. “If I only met people from business management, my university experience would be much smaller than a campus experience with this diversity.”
That’s what Vlad told a group of managers and team leaders for CBC’s tenant companies when he gathered them together to build support for the building’s community plans. By transforming CBC into a community with world-class amenities like the football field, rooftop workout area, and gourmet coffee shop, Vlad told them that their workers would be happier and more productive.
We compared this to a school or university experience. If I only met people from business management, my university experience would be much smaller than a campus experience with this diversity.
A vibrant community, much like what you would find at a university, was always the game plan for CBC. Vlad explained that by focusing on giving the space users amazing events and a strong community, the goal was to turn every occupier into a brand ambassador. But he quickly realized that building the kind of sustainable, long-lasting community CBC was going for would need a lot of buy-in and support from the tenants themselves, and instead of trying to get everyone to become active community members, starting small with 10 or 20 percent of the total population would be much more realistic. “If we get to 50 percent,” he said, “It’s a dream. You’ll never convert 100 percent into a community.”
Enlisting the managers and team leaders of CBC’s tenants turned out to be a successful strategy for Vlad and his team. More and more people started to get onboard with the idea that your workplace could be more than just a place to do work, and a variety of events took off focused around the themes of community, health, and learning. Space users began to take ownership of the community, too. “One company wanted to be in charge of charity, and another in charge of sporting events,” Vlad said.
Activating the property community paid off massively in terms of branding for CBC. For those of you reading this who think branding is just an afterthought for commercial real estate, consider that a well-established property brand can help drive higher lease rates, greater tenant retention, and perhaps most timely of all, help anchor your building’s value when remote work is more common than ever. But achieving this goal takes focus. For CBC, Vlad and his team did something every real estate firm should do early on: identify brand pillars. For CBC, the focus was on redefining the workplace, and building community around specific values.
Brand is everything. We built our business so that our strategy meetings aren’t just about strategy, they are brand meetings.
“Branding is much more than having a nice logo or an article about us in the press,” Vlad said. “Brand is everything. We built our business so that our strategy meetings aren’t just about strategy, they are brand meetings.” He added that everything you do, including the LinkedIn Live event itself, is a brand signal, and that it pays to scrutinize the details of your property experience when trying to establish a strong brand.
That means every single part of your space users’ experience with your property, from how they secure space to how they gain access to that space to the experience they have using that space, needs to be carefully managed to ensure people are happy. Vlad shared the example of the onsite coffee shop, where baristas are hired not just on the basis of their ability to do latte art, but on their sense of humor. “When we interview our baristas we make them tell jokes and we take them out for a beer to see what their sense of humor is like, that’s the detail level,” Vlad added.
Now that CBC is a success, Vlad is working on an even more ambitious project: WildHills, a similar business campus and incubator located on 100 acres of nature at an old Austro-Hungarian stable in the countryside near Cluj. “Our brand strategy is a country club for innovators,” Vlad said. With planned features as ambitious as a wakeboarding center located on site, Wildhills will certainly turn heads and make headlines when it is finished in 2023. And it wouldn’t be possible without the creativity embodied by Vlad and his team.
Vlad shared a piece of advice for other real estate professionals: “Focus on your strong points.” In areas where the competition might be ahead of you, build parity not by meeting them head-on, fighting for the most modern building or best amenity set, but spend effort in the areas where you can surpass the competition. Perhaps that is interior design, connectivity to the surrounding neighborhood, or on-site food options. There is no single recipe for community and brand success, so talk to your occupiers (the individual people, not just their representatives), consider tracking Net Promoter Score, and see what is working and what isn’t. From there, the sky’s the limit.