From left to right: Paul Giulio, Vice President of Development, Hill Management Services; Brooke Harlander, Partner in Training, St. John Properties and Bobby Lanigan, Acquisitions and Leasing, Merritt Properties

Paul Giulio, Vice President of Development, Hill Management Services; Brooke Harlander, Partner in Training, St. John Properties and Bobby Lanigan, Acquisitions and Leasing, Merritt Properties participated in a discussion that examined how COVID-19 has impacted their professional and personal lives. Issues include challenges they have faced and overcome this year, ways their respective companies demonstrated resourcefulness and resiliency, and the role of NAIOP Maryland and their business network to help keep them connected.


BROOKE HARLANDER (BH): “Relationships are extremely important in our industry. Over the past several months we have experienced how critical it is to maintain strong connections and touch points. I am an extrovert to my core and have leaned heavily on my coworkers and professional network to keep my energy and spirits high. At first, I didn’t know how we would continue with our leasing activity, but our team and leadership worked through the initial shock of the shutdown by first communicating with our tenants that we were 100% available and then by discussing options with others and sharing best practices.”

PAUL GIULIO (PG): “Working on the development side, the difficulty level in working through the permitting and approval process was significantly elevated at the start of the pandemic. I felt a strong responsibility to find ways to keep the spirits of my coworkers at a high level because we were all navigating situations we have never faced before. Daily conference calls replaced in-person meetings and we looked for solutions to minimize delays. Our sense was to tackle one issue at a time and work through things
with a calm and measured approach.”

BOBBY LANIGAN (BL): “With my new focus on development projects in the Raleigh area, I needed to find a workaround to getting on a plane on a weekly basis to visit job sites. Like everyone else, I learned how to be more creative to keep track of construction and leasing momentum and that included leaning heavily on new technology and my relationships in the North Carolina area. Luckily, we have an in-place team in that region. I am proud to say that I have mastered the intricacies of Google Earth. Oh yes, and my daughter was born in March, which added to new scheduling practices with my family.”


BH: “With real estate deemed an essential business, priority No. 1 was making sure we supported the needs of our clients — every day. Many needed to remain open to provide critical services and we found creative ways to support and stay in contact with them.”

PG: “I participated in all management-level decisions concerning the operations of the company and we considered the unique situations of our entire team with the goal of providing full flexibility. Daycare was an extreme issue for some and we immediately pivoted to Zoom conference calls for all meetings.”

BL: “Our corporate office was configured in a way where we could maintain safe social distancing, and we are operating at approximately 50% capacity now. The most important aspect was remaining respectful to the feelings and different situations of each employee. This continues to be a work in progress as people work through their circumstances and we support everyone fully.”


PG: “It was gratifying to realize that the commercial real estate industry was approaching every situation with a unified approach, including applying pressure on our elected officials to reopen. It was extremely helpful to receive the constant communication from NAIOP Maryland concerning the guidance for the phased re-openings, including short summaries that made it easy to digest the important takeaways.”

BH: “Especially at the beginning, I was a sponge in my efforts to collect as much information as possible about best practices and industry expert predictions for the immediate future and long-term. Specifically, NAIOP Maryland’s Spencer Levy webinar was incredibly informative and, since I didn’t have as many in-person showings, I used my extra time to expand my professional skill set with the NAIOP Center of Education classes.”

BL: “No company or individual operates within a silo, and the spirit of collaboration was on full display when discussing best practices to maintain health and safety. We sometimes take for granted how easy it is to receive the full support of our competitors. This is among my favorite parts of the local real estate industry. I participated in many NAIOP-sponsored webinars and found tuning in to be a valuable use of time and the information insightful.”


BH: “Like many others, our company quickly adapted to the shutdown using some existing technology that was already in place, along with some new, which significantly eased the transition. More recently I was able to complete two leases quickly, with groups that are intimately involved in their respective communities. Because SJPI is fully integrated, I was able to help these businesses find space and get open on a quick timeline, which was was essential to their success and ability to meet the COVID-related demand. The past few months have shown me how much people rely on the services from the clients in our portfolio, and I’m grateful that we can do our part to support them.”

PG: “NAIOP Maryland rallied together to send communications to the Governor and county executives concerning the sense of urgency everyone was feeling about reopening the state. This effort made a significant difference. Our team faced an onslaught of calls from our tenants and we did whatever necessary to support them, including help with the completion of PPP applications. Everyone had to quickly adapt to the situations we were facing.”

BL: “Our company has spent considerable time building relationships and a sense of trust with our tenants, and this mutual respect helped everyone. Our goal remains to do what is right for the customer and work together through this crisis. There were many lessons learned including maintaining open and honest lines of communication at all times and being completely transparent.”