LIVE BLOG: Chicago’s top CFOs talk real estate with JLL

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JLL CFO Christie Kelly (at left above) is moderating a panel discussion on the role of real estate in today’s corporate world before a gathering of some 50 C-level executives from across Chicago. The event, which is being hosted by JLL, is taking place at the Eataly Chicago food emporium in River North.

Panelists include American Medical Association CFO Denise Hagerty; Coyote Logistics CFO Jonathan Sisler; Robert Bosch Tool Corp. CFO Katina Xouria; and William Blair & Co. CFO Jon Zindel.

A minute-by-minute recap of the group’s conversation is below:

5:10 p.m. — Hagerty: “For us, our real estate decision-making is all about brand and culture. The brand had gotten very tired for us. So [our move to the former IBM building] worked out very well. For our employees to walk into a place that’s bright, airy and sunlit has made a huge difference for us.”

5:15 p.m. — Xouria: “Real estate is very expensive, but it’s not about cost for us. It’s about how you get the most out of your spend to energize your workforce.”

5:17 p.m. — Sisler: “As an organization, we’ve found that when you put an employee in a space that they love, they sell better.”

5:20 p.m. — Zindel on William Blair’s planned move to the new 150 N. Riverside office development: “Our decision was very,very organically built from the bottom up based on how our entire team is working and what kind of space best fits our needs.”

5:21 p.m. — Xouria on the impact of technology on the workplace: “We’re trying to get to a totally wireless building. There’s challenges to that, but that’s our goal.”

5:23 p.m. — Xouria on telecommuting: “We have not yet gone to the extreme of taking desks away from people who work occasionally from home, but eventually we’ll get to the point where there are no assigned desks.”

5:25 p.m. — Hagerty: “We have a lot of collaboration space that’s not being used and we suspect it may be because our younger workers are solving their problems via instant messenger and text.”

5:27 p.m. — Sisler: “We move people to new desks every 6 months. We want them to get comfortable with different groups, different people.”

5:29 p.m. — Zindel: “[As we prepare to move,] We’re trying to get people away from the 1980s fixation on having an office and focusing on what they will have in terms of technology, improved functionality, etc.”

5:31 p.m. — Sisler on Millennials: “Our feeling is that if you give them training and give them the right direction and a sense of why they’re there, they’re very hardworking and they do very well for us. We look for people who are competitive and who have done well in a team environment.”

5:33 p.m. — Sisler on his company’s fast growth: “The biggest challenge in that is having the right management (we promote people very young) and balancing our growth with profitability.”

5:36 p.m. — Hagerty on what the AMA looks for in a partner/vendor: “So much of what we face is reputational risk, so it is crucial to us to have partners with high integrity.”

5:40 p.m. — Zindel on his firm’s move to 150 N. Riverside: “it was important for us to feel like our space was a building within a building.”

5:42 p.m. — Xouria: “When I started as a CFO, my biggest concern was the financial statement. Now I’m focused on sales and marketing and growing our market share. I’m focused on attracting and retaining talent and real estate. We, as CFOs, pull it all together to make sure the company makes the right decisions on all these fronts.”

5:47 p.m. — Xouria: “We’re freeing up a lot of office space and turning it into collaboration space.”

5:51 p.m. — Xouria on committing to Illinois: “The reason we’re still (headquartered) in Mt.Prospect is because the value the people that we have. We think that having the right people is more important than tax incentives or anything else.”

5:53 p.m. — Sisler: “The talent pool here in Chicago far outweighs any other drawbacks.”

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