Like so many businesses and individuals, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented Kelley Commercial Partners with unprecedented challenges, but it has also given us a unique opportunity to focus on the continued improvement of our knowledge of the commercial real estate sector and the values by which we run our business. To begin, our commitment to the safety of our employees, clients, and customers has been and will continue to be paramount. Ensuring the readiness of our team to work remotely is part of that commitment. We’ve garnered much insight by working more closely with banks and the Small Business Administration as many of our clients navigated the tricky waters of PPP loans and other unplanned COVID related expenses. Finally, maintaining financial stability for our clients and our own company continues to be a top priority and our team grows more confident each day that we have the knowledge and values to keep moving us all moving forward. Many of the companies we interact with — both locally and across the country — have faced challenges that require a higher level of patience and empathy as we all wrestle with the uncertainty a pandemic has delivered.
The good news is that these lessons are making us a stronger company, one more prepared than ever to face whatever the next decade may bring. Many of our team members quickly adapted to working remotely and some will likely continue working from home after the pandemic is gone. Our cloud-based brokerage management, accounting, and payment have been very effective tools to ensure that we operate as efficiently as possible, whether from behind a desk at home, in the office, or on a property site.
However effective these applications have proved to be, the true defining characteristic of our company’s success has been our team’s ability to earn and maintain the trust of our clients. If this year has taught us anything, it’s that most clients care far less about exactly what we know and instead place much more importance on how we show that we truly care about them both personally and professionally. Our agents go through rigorous training and development to ensure they have the skills and knowledge that our clients expect and deserve. However, as we all know, even the wisest counsel can only be heard after trust is established and skills are proven. This focus on always coming to the table with a positive attitude and willingness to do the hard work of building trust has been in place since day one and will remain a principal aspect of our company culture far into the future.
We work throughout the state in many property categories — unimproved land, build-to-suit, retail, office, industrial, hotels, multifamily. Prior to March, we were spending more time on retail and office requirements. Today we are working with a variety of industrial and distribution needs as well as acquisitions by users and investors. We believe industrial properties will be active over the next several years to answer the needs of online distribution and manufacturing.
We see some retail space making a transition to more service and medical uses. Owners of retail properties that are able and willing to make that conversion will benefit by diversifying their tenant mix. COVID and the growth in online shopping have caused owners of retail properties to convert empty spaces to uses not directly affected beyond online shopping. COVID accelerated the transition, and that will continue.
Office space users are also weighing their future needs. Some are looking for more traditional office plans providing an emphasis on safety; others are planning to make remote work permanent. However, we are confident the value of working together, in person will bring the office market back to a more normal state during the next two years.
The pandemic did force us to pivot some aspects our business plan, but our focus on unwavering client support has not changed. Our standards are still as high as ever and we measure our performance against those standards. We are grateful for the opportunities we have had during this past year and know that 2020 will be thought of as a year that taught us some valuable life lessons. Now the challenge is remembering these lessons as we move through this stage of the pandemic into a future filled with hope.
For the December 21, 2020 issue Arkansas Business asked seven industry leaders to share their expectations for 2021, both before and after the coronavirus vaccine is widely available. Hank Kelley shared his look back on the year 2020 and what he expects to see in the upcoming year for the commercial real estate business.