Embracing the 'future of work’: Peter Doyle on getting the most out of your premises

Peter Doyle is supporting PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in making its Commercial Bay dream a reality.  The project is now in its final stages with PwC targeting to move into its new Auckland premises in April 2020. While Peter continues to lead the PwC project, his personal journey has recently been to transition from client to consultant; after 7.5 years as Chief Operating Officer at PwC, Peter is now an independent property advisor.

We’ve worked with Peter on Commercial Bay and recently we sat down with him to get an insight on how he has successfully managed workplace strategies, new build refurbishments and office moves for commercial premises.

The What:

“It’s not simply about moving into a new building, its more about embracing new ways of working, utilising technology and supporting flexibility.”

When we asked Peter about past projects he has worked on, he said that each project gave PwC the opportunity to do something the business hadn’t done before.

When PwC shifted its 80+ employee’s into new premises in the Waikato in 2012, Peter had the opportunity to think about the ‘workplace'. He emphasised that “focusing on collaboration invariably leads to increased performance, and that’s exactly how the Waikato premises was designed; removing hierarchy, utilising technology and creating a more open and engaging space.”

Peter also led a significant in situ refurbishment of PwC’s Wellington premises, that it had occupied since the 80’s and was no longer suited to the firm’s needs.

“This was a challenging project; re-modelling existing meeting rooms, removing offices, replacing floor coverings and providing new furniture all whilst the landlord undertook seismic remediation and maintaining business as usual.” Peter also stressed that having sufficient provisions in the lease for early termination was important for building in flexibility as at that time PwC had its eye on moving in the not too distant future.

In 2015, PwC was presented with a fantastic transformation opportunity, as an anchor and naming-rights tenant, to partner with Willis Bond who developed the award-winning PwC Centre in Wellington. Peter explained that “the space PwC was working with was very different; a low-rise building, 2,500m² floor plate, 3-metre-high ceilings and with the ability to staff circa 350 employees over 1 and half floors.” A part of Peter’s skillset is partnering with people who have track records of success and he gives credit to his numerous project teams within PwC and the other consultants he has worked with to achieve great outcomes.

Peter does not only work on the large-scale deals such as Commercial Bay and the Wellington PwC Centre, but also smaller projects like PwC’s premises in Tauranga which staffs 15 employees. Over his 16 years at PwC he has led projects of all shapes and sizes. Peter explains that while the budgets and teams may be smaller, the same skillset, methodology and rigour apply equally to smaller scale projects as they do the large ones.

The Why:

“Don’t forget: Why are we doing this?”

When we asked Peter what advice he would give to someone who is starting out on a property move, build, renovation or workplace review, he said without hesitation that you need to be really clear on what the driver is for the project – “what is the why?”

“Does the client just want to find a new space because its lease is expiring or is there a broader strategic objective?”

Peter is a strong advocate of a workplace strategy, because all moves and renovations can provide opportunities for change.

“Moving or refurbishing can give you a reason to look at what’s happening around the concept of ‘workplace’ and how people are working. Not having your ‘why’ solidified at the outset can cause difficulty when it comes to engagement with the business, because there is no clear driver for your workplace objectives.”

The How:

“Tenants need to have a good understanding of the market; don’t just listen to the developer or the building owner. Do your own research.”

Peter identified that a common area where tenants fall down in their negotiation is a lack of research.

“It is important for tenants to understand the market and not just rely on the first set of commercial terms put in front of them. If a tenant undertakes its own research on market standard rent, it will get a better feel for where a reasonable starting point for negotiation is.  This may necessitate getting external advice, but the investment can often reap rewards later on.” PwC’s size and market position means it has had a lot of negotiating leverage (especially when it’s been the anchor tenant of a development). Many businesses do not have that to the same degree, but Peter’s view is that tenants often have more bargaining power than they think.

“In New Zealand, in my experience, the people on the other side of the table are generally good people to work with. Negotiations don’t have to be a debilitating battle, so asking for what you want can be as simple as that, asking. Knowing what you want to ask for, and identifying your priorities as a business, requires an appropriate level of research and planning, but doing the ‘homework’ is fundamental to maximising the success of projects.”

The Who:

“New Zealand has a high calibre of professionals who can work under pressure.”

Peter has been fortunate to have worked with a broad range of consultants who are already at the top of their game. We asked Peter about putting together project teams.

“I have a good feel for who in the market is good at what they do. But the challenge in the property and construction market is limited available capacity, so resourcing can be hard.”

“As a project director, you cannot do it all, so it is important to build a strong team around you who are across the disciplines that you need. New Zealand has a high calibre of professionals who can work under pressure.”

“Additionally, without support from the leaders of the business any change is much harder. I’ve been fortunate that PwC has always had strong leadership advocating for, and supporting, the change management required when adopting new ways of working.”

“When making what is invariably a significant investment, it is important to stay connected after a move or refurbishment. You need to ensure the key people involved in the project are still there for a period of time – they have the IP and have been on the journey.”

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This is one of a series of interviews we are doing with influential leaders in the property sector.

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MinterEllisonRuddWatts was delighted to assist Peter with PwC’s relocation to Commercial Bay, with Ross Pickmere (Partner, Commercial Property), Mark Crosbie (Partner, Construction), Jennifer Campbell (Senior Associate, Commercial Property) and Lucy Hannon (Solicitor, Commercial Property) acting. 

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