It doesn’t matter what YOU think, it matters what the customer thinks.
I had the pleasure to interview Lisa Picard. Lisa is President and Chief Executive Officer of EQ Office, where she leads culture, vision and strategy for the company. She is passionate about curating great spaces that maximize human potential, particularly in this age of rapid automation and technological advancements. As CEO, Lisa drives the strategic direction for the organization, inspires her team to find creative solutions that challenge past assumptions and helps customers identify new pathways for success. Lisa joined EQ in 2016 as its Chief Operating Officer to advance the company’s organizational vision, technology platform and investment strategies. In 2017, she was named CEO and immediately began work to shift the organization to have greater relevancy in the marketplace. Prior to joining EQ, Lisa was Executive Vice President at Skanska Commercial Development, where she was responsible for establishing the company’s strategic development and investment for the Pacific Northwest. She also founded Muse Development in Seattle, and worked several years for Hines Interests, where she managed multiple national accounts for pension fund investments in real estate. Lisa holds two master’s degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She regularly lectures at MIT and the University of Washington on topics she is passionate about, including design thinking, mindful leadership, real estate innovation and understanding risk in changing markets.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
With a background in design and finance, having developed hotels, resorts, office and urban residential projects, I have a unique focus where I create unconventional value in real estate by focusing on the humanity of our solution. I joined Blackstone’s office investment platform as its COO, then quickly became its President and CEO. Prior to leading EQ, I managed Skanska’s west coast investment strategy for commercial development, specifically its all equity investment platform in Seattle. I managed to get two masters degrees from MIT after growing up in Los Angeles. I now regularly lecture on topics of design thinking and mindful leadership, as well as driving innovation and understanding risk.
Why did you join your company?
○ I initially joined EQ as COO and was attracted by how the company uses its scale, legacy and resources while still focusing on humanity in the industry. While other real estate owners talk about square footage and floor plans, we focus on the experience; how space feels, activates and performs. We don’t look at our tenants just as customers, but rather as partners, co-creating spaces that meet their needs and preferences. We put our customers ahead of our products and work diligently with companies of all sizes to develop dynamic work environments that help to inspire talent.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
○ As business cycles shorten and the work economy evolves with technology and markets, I noticed a massive opportunity for disruption in the generally conventional commercial real estate industry. While office leases are traditionally longer, I saw a need for flexibility, immediacy and culture and launched a new identity for EQ, complete with new offerings, like repositioning select properties to improve customer experience and partnering with best-in-class flex operators to offer more leasing options, to focus on bringing humanity into the workplace to better meet our tenants’ evolving needs.
○ At EQ, we believe that flexible, responsive and dynamic spaces for greatness — not just places to work — can help solve companies’ most pressing business issues, helping them grow, attract and retain talent. In today’s war for talent, office space can be a company’s silver bullet. We at EQ work with companies to co-create spaces that facilitate growth, build community and inspire talent.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?
○ I’ve had some remarkable coaches, both directly and indirectly, that span multiple industries. My biggest mentors have been people that inspired me to just be myself. That’s the single best bit of advice I’ve ever received.
How are you going to shake things up next?
○ By focusing on people that aren’t being served in our market and need a place to connect. I believe remote work is the next big landscape because it will tap into a workforce that is not fully being utilized, like people who are parenting kids (namely mothers), as well as those who seek a more nomadic, experiential worklife.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
○ Before I went to an “old boys club” event, my professional coach reminded me to just be myself.
○ My bike racing coach always enstills that “if you aren’t moving ahead, you are moving behind.”
○ And finally, the head of marketing at Canyon Ranch Resorts used to always tell us “it doesn’t matter what YOU think, it matters what the customer thinks.”
What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Share a story with us.
○ My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor that discusses the right and left brain as nearly two separate human beings.
○ Hidden Brain podcast which is mostly about the biases we hold as humans.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this.
○ This is a tough one… I’d say either Serena Williams since it’s so fun to hang out with such badassery, or Tim Cook because of his coolness in pressure and role at really the only tech company that has seemingly remained core to its values without compromise to the customer.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
○ I’m on Twitter at @lmpicard, Instagram at the same handle and on LinkedIn, as well.