Be fearless. This might go without saying, but this industry does not reward the timid or the apprehensive. Don’t let fear of rejection hold you back from accomplishing great things. Once you find what you want or feel like you understand what the market needs — go for it!
As a part of my series about strong women leaders of the Real Estate industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vickey Li.
Vickey Li is the CEO and Co-Founder at OnePiece Work, a flexible workspace operator with an expert network that connects innovative leaders in tech.
OnePiece Work was built upon Vickey’s experience living and working abroad in major metropolitan cities like Shanghai, Hong Kong, and San Francisco.
Her passion for community and extensive experience in commercial real estate led her to the vision of a cross-border co-working space that would promote entrepreneurship, innovation, and accelerate global expansion for startups.
In just three years, OnePiece Work has expanded to 10 cities globally and is a community of over 350 companies worldwide. Recently, OnePiece Work ranked 8th out of the 100 fastest-growing private companies in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Business Times.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?
Real estate has always been my greatest passion. I immigrated to the States with my family when I was 15 years old. Prior to that, I had moved numerous times to over 10 different cities. It allowed me to see the world from a new lens, and I saw how each city’s real estate depended on the developments at the time. To me, I see real estate as a fundamental support to our everyday life — from working, living, and entertainment. I have found this industry very fascinating because buildings hold so much history, and most big cities view their real estate as landmarks, while they do have some buildings that stay for decades, there are also new developments all the time, bringing in new business and opportunities.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occured to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
My real estate journey actually started in short-term residential property management in hopes of owning a hotel. My career in co-working came more by accident — many of my clients happen to be freelancers, contractors, and project-based teams who all worked remotely from coffee shops, libraries, etc. Co-working spaces weren’t a new concept, but it’s something my tenants were interested in, and thus, my journey into the workspace industry began!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, we recently launched our On-Demand Workspace Access service, which gives those who are looking for a more flexible option for office space. It’s essentially allowing our clients to “Pay by the day” without the commitment of a contract or lease. It really launched at an ideal time, as those who were used to working in a traditional office space have now shifted to working from home. OnePiece Work’s On-Demand service allows them to book a workspace, a private office, or meeting room directly from our website. Many of our On-Demand clients feel much more productive in a COVID-prepared office environment because their work-life balance improves, and they enjoy the time away from distractions that working from home entails.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The strength of the OnePiece Work service is just that — a commitment to service. Providing a move-in ready office solution is not our only focus, and the market has plenty of move-in ready options already. We care deeply about localized, custom solutions that go beyond simple office space to serve the unique needs of each customer.
For example, visitors to our Santa Monica office instantly absorb the space’s cool LA design, inspired by old school Hollywood theater. Members there are collaborative and creative, just like their neighbors up and down Wilshire Boulevard. Our more industrial San Francisco office sits in the center of the city’s entrepreneurial tech community, and the members can’t get enough of our hackathons and late-night coffee runs.
Each location has access to localization resources to help companies land in new markets more efficiently. Our Community Managers also have a deep understanding of the other locations’ communities so they are constantly making business connections across cities and workspaces. Beyond this, our commitment to cross-border funding means that we can and do invest in our members that run early-stage startups.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I give so much credit to the success of OnePiece Work to my team of employees. They truly empower me to be the best CEO, and I am inspired by their thoughtfulness and dedication. My team finds ways to surprise me on my birthday or “National Boss Day.” It’s the small gestures that make such an impact. Many of my employees have been there since the early days of OnePiece Work and it’s extremely rewarding to see how much we’ve grown since then, as a company and as a team.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. The Real Estate industry, like the Veterinarian, Nursing and Public Relations fields, is a women dominated industry. Yet despite this, less than 20 percent of senior positions in Real Estate companies are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what do you think is the cause of this imbalance?
This industry — which I do consider to be part of the broader financial industry — requires a deep understanding of the market, the trends, and the challenges of each space in order to succeed. Generally, that knowledge can only be gained over time or through collaboration.
Long work hours, social networking outside of the work day, and finding the balance between aggressiveness and compromise are critical for anyone that wants to build a career in this field. But more attention should be paid to differences in how the same behavior is perceived from women and men, and who is rewarded for it. I always encourage women to fearlessly advocate for themselves, and build community with those who will forcefully advocate on their behalf.
What 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender balance going forward?
As I look to the future, my experience teaches me that being true to oneself has to come first. Individuals should ground themselves in what drives them towards their end goals, and speak up for kindness and justice when they feel that their values are not reflected in their work environment.
Companies must commit to empowering their female employees, and be constantly aware of equity in opportunities for everyone. This means supporting both mental and physical health in the workplace, with options like wellness rooms for new moms or programming on mindfulness and balance.
As a society, we need to build support from the ground up. I hope leaders can focus on creating impact through the networks and channels that they own to share tangible resources and education, especially for those who are unable or unsure how to make their voices heard.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
It’s been rewarding to be able to meet with numerous women founders and executives throughout all industries, and especially in a male-dominated industry like real estate. The one challenge I hear time and time again is the struggle to be taken seriously as a woman founder — especially in regards to funding and social business situations. Thankfully, a lot of the challenges women entrepreneurs and CEOs have had in the past are becoming less prevalent as more women are successful business owners, investors, and moguls.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
My advice for other leaders boils down to two things: passion and resilience.
Passion will drive you to dream bigger and build a company that you love. It creates the vision that other people — your employees, your investors, and your customers — can all believe in.
Being an entrepreneur or a CEO requires a tremendous amount of effort, patience, and sometimes a little bit of luck to get to where we want to go. Ultimately, resilience outweighs it all. There will always be big challenges and small obstacles, and more often than not, many of them happen all at once.
It is our role to learn from them, and not see them as failures, but as opportunities to be honest, fearless, and trust the team around us.
Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
(1) Find your data, and check it often. Different real estate reports are published daily, weekly, monthly, and annually that will give you an edge on current trends you need to know about. Make a habit out of studying and absorbing these reports to inform your business approach and how to best navigate the market. I dedicate time every morning at the start of my work day to this study.
(2) Focus on the data that matters to you. There is plenty to read and review, but it’s even more important to stick to what is relevant and helpful for your business goals. For example, I could read a report every day about what’s happening in the Class A market in the city center, but as OnePiece Work has many locations throughout suburban areas, I need to find details and data about these building trends as well.
(3) Recognize tomorrow’s opportunities. Historically, our industry has been slow to adapt to change. It’s important for us as “insiders” to remember that our end consumers are humans. The way to find tomorrow’s opportunities is to study the current human migration, lifestyle, and priority trends and determine whether the space we have can fit that need. If not, we must find ways to adapt and adjust.
(4) Act fast! A good deal won’t wait — the best finds are always gone in a flash. When we were looking for a Palo Alto office, I made that decision within 24 hours of finding the space. Even if you are not in a rush yourself, if you feel decisive about a property or opportunity, it’s important to move quickly.
(5) Be fearless. This might go without saying, but this industry does not reward the timid or the apprehensive. Don’t let fear of rejection hold you back from accomplishing great things. Once you find what you want or feel like you understand what the market needs — go for it!
Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’ve always been intrigued in the “4-Day Week” ever since the book came out by Andrew Barnes and Stephanie Jones. I do agree that compressing the work week into 4 days can really boost productivity, profit, as well as employee mental well-being. I haven’t yet pulled the trigger on that idea, but it’s something that I could see myself implementing in the future.
How can our readers follow you online?
Feel free to connect with me on Linkedin!
Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights!