Colin Dyer: Good Recessions and Global Growth

Jones Lang LaSalle's Colin Dyer talks about global growth and the benefits of the Staubach Co. acquisition.

Colin Dyer has served as president & CEO of Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. since September 2004, overseeing a global real estate services firm that comprises more than 30,000 employees in 60 countries. The London-based executive recently spoke with CPE senior editor Paul Rosta about company strategy, the global economic outlook and real estate trends. (A profile of Peter Roberts, the firm’s CEO for the Americas, appears in the July issue of Commercial Property Executive.)

Q: What will be the main elements of Jones Lang LaSalle’s global strategy for the next several years? In particular, which of your service lines appear to be especially well positioned for growth?

A: If you can have a “good” recession, we’ve had one. We did a very astute acquisition of the Staubach organization before the recession, and we were able to integrate the two businesses. We continue to be able to pick up on the momentum that we had during 2006, 2007 and 2008. So we start the 2010-2015 period with a lot of confidence and a lot of momentum.
Obviously, the agenda is growth. We see a lot of opportunity for LaSalle (Investment Management) to grow its investment management business worldwide. … We see growth opportunities for our corporate services business. For us, it’s a very appetizing strategic menu for the next couple of years.

Q: Generally speaking, what do you expect to account for the majority of Jones Lang LaSalle’s growth globally over the next few years?
A: Our principal driver is organic growth. We have set the entire business (plan) by that agenda. If you have a business that’s focused on organic profit growth, you’ve got the right sort of mindset across the organization. Selectively … as our confidence in the business and economic recovery is strengthened, we will be looking at acquisition growth.
Clearly, the economies that are internationally in better shape are the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies. We’re in a very fortunate position of having been in these countries for 15 and 20 years, such as Russia and China. That gives us a very good position in these economies.

Q: By all accounts, the global economic cycle is in a time of transition, if not turmoil. Which concerns should be foremost for real estate executives around the world?

A: The good news is, the depths of the recession are behind us and economies are growing. Although things are moving forward, there will be periods where individual countries or individual businesses will go backward for a while.
You can’t drive a business forward by looking in the rearview mirror. We are moving the business forward—we are committed to a growth plan. … We are just getting on with life, and that’s what I believe the rest of the business world has to do.
To my mind, there’s a great opportunity for real estate. Gradually, over a period of time, transparency in all markets is improving. … By transparency, (we mean) honesty in dealing with people, (simple, understandable business structures), legal guidelines, and visibility in pricing and returns.

Q: On another front, what operational and strategic challenges are on your mind these days?

A: (In running) an advisory business, an investment management business, there is a whole raft of continual improvements. The challenge is in technology, in training people, in hiring the best people, in joining up businesses between countries.
All of these are challenges that any business wanting to grow can address. We at Jones Lang LaSalle have always chosen a comprehensive approach to the demands of growing a business. Because as a business we are very collaborative, we’ve deployed methods for moving all these agendas forward.
The big challenges of developing all those areas of a business are ones that we are (approaching) on an increasingly worldwide basis. To me, the challenges are managing a very broad-based business going forward in the most efficient possible way, making sure that the best practices are spread. We are increasingly finding ways of connecting up our businesses, client needs and business systems around the world.