Physical offices aren’t going anywhere: Why shop culture is key to business growth

Think office space isn’t that important? Think again. But only when you create this kind of environment.

BY ANTHONY HITT for Engel & Völkers

April 12, 2021

More than a year into the COVID pandemic, the debate of just how important a physical office is to our industry continues with acute focus. After all, 2020 was a record-breaking year. If real estate professionals were able to service their clients and transact business remotely during the most volatile of times, perhaps office spaces aren’t as important as we may have thought.

Not so fast.

Engel & Völkers experienced its best year in 2020, but it wasn’t simply technology that enabled our network to thrive. It was because of our shop locations.

The shop concept

The first Engel & Völkers shop opened more than 40 years ago under the brand’s founder, Christian Völkers. That original boutique location in Hamburg, Germany has served as the blueprint for every shop since, from the brand’s first expansion to the Balearic Islands to our latest shop opening in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.

Across states, countries, and continents, every Engel & Völkers location reflects this shop concept, which has been refined over the years to instantly evoke the feelings of our brand values: competence, exclusivity, and passion.

This means that whether you’re looking for real estate expertise along the cliffs of Taormina, Sicily, or Philadelphia’s Main Line, the Engel & Völkers shop is instantly recognizable. Our global architecture and design team ensures that each shop boasts the signature white facade and features purposeful design aspects throughout. Space has function with service at its core. From large windows that showcase our finest listings, to open concept workspaces, down to the espresso machine inviting clients to come inside — the experience has been thoughtfully curated with the purpose of providing a luxury experience to anyone who walks in our doors, anywhere in the world.

Creating a community hub

When we enter a market, we start with a shop buildout. Its location is strategically chosen within vibrant areas of the community, so that the shop can be used for more than transactional work. Physically and conceptually, our goal is to be at the center of the communities of which we serve.

Transitioning to remote work

When we were forced to change our working habits overnight, our network transitioned smoothly. While the switch was significant, our advisors stayed connected, continuing to work together efficiently from home, thanks to our global Google Workplace and World IPS platforms. We were used to working as a cohesive unit, but how we did this shifted.

This also translated into a virtual culture of digital happy hours, sales meetings, and best practice sharing events with other shops. This is what our shop concept had been nurturing all along.

A greater competitive advantage

The commitment to the Engel & Völkers shop is stronger than ever, for both the satisfaction of our clients and the success of our advisors. As COVID cases decline, many companies have decided to work remotely for quite some time, if not indefinitely. In this new era, our shop concept will continue to be a competitive differentiator, as it goes beyond the physical storefront.

Agents are certainly capable of selling real estate while working remotely, but our advisors have said they want to be back in the shop. Agents who don’t have this sense of comradery may not feel the same. But for us, this environment facilitates innovation and makes our people better professionals and better equipped to overcome challenges. It’s about having the right combination of the digital and physical shop presence that will continue to differentiate our advisors. To us, a shop is our home.

Learn more about Engel & Völkers.