Knowledge & Insights

Interview Series: Conversations With VOOU + Adam Guli, Director of Client Services at Stok

In this collection of conversations with business leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, and creatives from around the globe you will hear from some of the best and brightest, and weird and wonderful sharing their thoughts, ideas, and insights on industry trends and opportunities as we journey through 2021 and beyond, and provide us with some short advice on how to lead, learn, and live and love.


Visions of Renewal with Adam Guli, Director of Client Services at Stok, in Denver, CO (U.S.)

Adam and I know each other because we worked for the same company in Asia once upon a time, but not at the same time. But the bonds you form living and working in Asia extend beyond geography and organization. Your immediate network grows quickly and lasts a lifetime (well, hopefully. We're not at the end yet, I pray)!

Adam's time in Asia was spent based in China but working the region, in Business Development and Sales roles as a Global Account Manager for Haworth - the company I worked for but after Adam has already moved on to Teknion where he was Sales Director until moving back to the U.S in 2016. Since then, he's working to build and grow strategic businesses aimed at providing comprehensive business solutions, integrated people, and place. Now at Stok, an integrated real estate services firm providing sustainable design, project management, and engineering and commissioning services, Adam is ready to talk about where he sees the industry and market going and the opportunities that lie ahead. Enjoy!


What 3 business trends do you believe COVID-19 has accelerated in your industry for 2021 and beyond?

A lot of what you’ll likely be seeing is a rethinking about space in general. More specifically, the social ability of space – corporate spaces, public spaces, airports, etc. I think there's going to be a real focus on how we design and develop environments where people feel that it's business as usual, but it's done in a more deliberate and healthy way.

I think big corporations are or will be, rethinking the kind of space that they actually require. This means there is going to be an in-depth analysis of who the true “essential” are and if they require a space to come to, and what the function of that space will require.

And then you’ll see the shedding of space - getting rid of a lot of real estate and looking inward to determine what core competencies an organization possess and the value provided.

What do you believe then will be the impact on the property organizations?

There will be an adjustment period, but real estate will always come back. It's about repurposing, reusing, and reimagining how these places are going to be occupied.

You’re currently seeing more hubs popping up - smaller places versus the big malls that have been slowly dying over the years. Then you look at industrial, which is now reaching fever pitch because of the Amazons, Best Buys, and the Walmarts, and a lot of big organizations shifting their model to just having a warehouse and delivery support. I think real estate is still going to be a hot commodity, it's just going to take on a different form.

What opportunities lie ahead as a result of the pandemic situation?

Industries redefining themselves. There are going to be companies who are looking for handouts because they want to keep doing business as usual. They're going to struggle, and many disappear.

Then you also have the companies who are innovating and rethinking their approach to create something new and different - a beacon for people to be drawn towards.

Plug and play spaces are also becoming very popular. New industries are continuing to develop and emerge. For example, cannabis, which has been thriving because consumption is going up and more states are legalizing it, is now seeing a shift to further support that industry. You now have sub-industries, such as technology, finance, logistics, etc. all emerging to tie into the growth. These are growing like crazy! That's the opportunity right there - these verticals we've never really looked at before or were on the fringe, are now at the forefront.

I also think there is a lot of opportunity due to the way we have been forced to change the way we interact with each other. For example, the way that we communicate with our doctors is another example of change. As a result, the healthcare industry is going to see a whole renaissance of supporting technologies and investments. Already the experience has transformed from a 90-min ordeal to a 10-minute video call.

How do you believe business or business leaders can deliver better outcomes in times of crisis?

I think a lot of business leaders have now had to reflect inward to better understand their organizations, what it means to be a leader, and how they're going to navigate through something that no one's really navigated through before.

It's a testing period right now of what leadership really is and how it needs to evolve to engage, support, and empower remote work. I believe that the organizations that are shedding people left and right are probably not going to recover or rebound very well. Organizations that are deliberately looking at their core competencies and how the business has performed in the past and begin to invest internally on their revenue drivers are going to come out of this a lot stronger.

Think about the amount of talent that's on the streets right now. I don’t believe that talent is going back to what they know – the way things were. There is no way you’d go back to that because you’ve been shed and feel underappreciated. As organizations start ramping up and recognize the potential talent opportunities, they will need to implement building mechanisms to capture all that great potential, and will then be in the position for success and expanded growth.

Great leaders are thinking about how they grow their organizations, not shrink them. And how they empower their people to drive innovation and inspired outcomes.

Small organizations that have weathered the COVID storm, are primed to take advantage of larger companies shedding employees to protect the bottom line. Some large organizations; such as Airbnb have gotten back to basics and are more profitable than ever. We are in a new era that is challenging the status quo and forcing companies to recognize the focus needs to be around the health and wellbeing of the people to ensure the viability of the company.

I think one of the most challenging aspects is the building of company culture and maintaining it when continuing to work remotely. What's going to draw that talent to a company when you can't meet your manager in-person and you don't know what it's like to interact with your team? How do you define culture, identity, and accountability through distance? Investment in understanding the mindset of the employees will lead to engagement strategies designed to lift the organization.

What distinguishes great leaders from merely good ones?

Great leaders are willing to listen to the people around them, adapt ideas into a strategy, and execute on a plan.

I think great leaders are able to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of their people and put them into a position that will higher success. Not understanding the talents and barriers of the people around you and expecting that they “should” perform in situations that are not aligned with their strengths, is a failure of many leaders.

What is something that could currently help you?

Direction. For me, as long as there's a target and a goal – something to head towards, I’m good. Last year challenged me as everything was stagnant and flatlined. Change, whether for good or bad means movement and an opportunity to thrive.

What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

Investing time and energy into people. Spending time to get to be part of people’s lives, whether for work, personal or family. Fundamentally, these relationships are what drive success and create opportunity.