Daniel State, Managing Partner, Rustler Property Services Romania, spoke with Property Forum about the trends in the facility management market and the specialisation of companies in cost optimisation, which has become more important than ever in the context of rising energy prices.
This interview was first published in Property Forum’s annual listing of "The 50 most influential people on Romania’s real estate market”.
How has Rustler Property Services Romania’s business evolved over the past year and what are your prospects for 2022?
We are in a mature stage of our business and in 2022, we mark 10 years of activity in the Romanian real estate market. In the last year, our company has focused on continuity and the improvement of internal processes – the quality of services offered to our clients. At the same time, we focus on developing new business lines – I would mention Project Management, Audit and Technical Due Diligence of buildings and the systems/equipment that serve them, and WELL certification processes. On an operational level, we expanded our activity in cities where we were not yet active by taking on new projects, thus strengthening our presence nationwide. At the same time, in recent years, we have further aligned our values and organisational culture to the real needs of our colleagues through specific internal programs, coordinated both locally and internationally, between all Rustler Group entities.
Which business segment contributes most to the company’s bottom line?
Currently, the Facility Management business generates the highest profit of the company’s turnover, which also positions us in the local market as one of the most important specific suppliers. As we all know, the logistics and industrial sector has experienced the highest level of expansion in recent years, favouring the natural and organic development of our team of specialists at the national level, as well as the growth of turnover. Our portfolio includes some of the most important developers in the logistics, industrial, office, retail and private hospital sectors, in Romania. The contribution to the financial result also includes adjacent departments to “core business”, such as Property Management and Project Management.
Have you noticed any changes in the demand structure since the start of the pandemic and what are your forecasts now, that all restrictions have been removed?
Given the context of the global pandemic, we have focused and worked hard to keep operational activity on a steady line. The focus has been on all team members, and then we have shown our concern to provide the same high-quality services to all our customers and partners. Both the pandemic period and what followed the pandemic, taught us to be cautious and reserved in our forecasts – these are aspects that are beyond our control. The specifics of our job oblige us to pay attention and be responsive, but also adaptable at the same time to the events around us.
Is the war in Ukraine affecting your operations and what impact could it have on the local market?
I think this is a topic that affects us all. Both personally and in business. The outbreak of armed conflict, even more so at our borders, has generated local and global reactions that are still being felt. All these, combined with the context of a pandemic crisis, with difficulties in supply chains and processes for raw materials and components, have led to reserved actions in business environments. Personally, since the early days of the conflict, I have been in close contact with my colleague in Kiev, the managing partner of the Ukraine branch, in an attempt to find humanitarian solutions. At group level, together with the board members, we tried to respond to the needs of our colleagues.
Utility prices have risen significantly over the last year and inflation has already reached double digits in Romania. How do you manage these developments in your business and the prices you negotiate with customers?
As a principle, we have always followed a transparent policy towards our clients, which has proven to be even more appreciated in this difficult context, but also beneficial for both parties. We will maintain operational transparency in dealing with our customers by applying open cost policies. This practice maintains the high level of trust we benefit on the real estate market and strengthens our successful partnerships. There has been an increase in the necessary time for managing the same type of activity compared to the previous period, due to additional verifications in order to find and implement various solutions for our customers. In this context, I would like to underline a basic aspect of our work: we are constantly looking for and implementing solutions to optimise the operational budgets we manage. These were and remain our main duties and concerns, even before this crisis.
Are there certain trends in the area of facility management that emerged in the pandemic that will be present after the health crisis is over?
We continue to take a number of preventive actions – the pandemic has highlighted the vitality of taking a new approach to hygiene standards, both in office and shopping malls and in the other types of properties we manage. From a technical point of view, actions have been intensified to limit the spread of the SarsCov2 infection. In all the locations we manage, the impact of social distancing and the WFH and hybrid-working system has put additional pressure on the operational costs issues.
What types of real estate projects dominate Rustler Property Services Romania’s portfolio?
We mainly provide technical services and manage properties in the industrial, logistics, retail and office segments, as well as other sectors. Rustler holds an important position on the Romanian market, providing specialised technical services, and we rely on our teams of professionals because we have the expertise and experience to meet the highest standards and needs of our partners. We can mention niche segments in which we are the main partner of our customers, through the specific technical solutions we offer, transparency and flexibility. We are honoured when we are requested to find solutions to difficult or challenging situations. Among the special projects, there are interventions with own staff in restoration of electrical connections of 20kV, but also on complex fire detection and extinguishing systems.
What is the biggest opportunity Romania offers in facility management?
I think the biggest opportunity this field offers is the diversity and the ability to combine so many other areas into one: architectural and engineering design, civil works, technical maintenance, legal and specific technical standards, finance, investment, but also soft-skills: diplomacy, communication and time management. Among the biggest opportunities, but also challenges, from this perspective, I list: the need for specific legislative updates, increasing supplier and customer awareness of new technologies and the search for new energy efficiency solutions. We are constantly looking for qualified technical staff to join our team and further support this market trend.
What role do you think team development plays in the growth of Rustler Property Services Romania?
This is my favourite topic since, together with my partners in Rustler Gruppe, we place great value on the professional growth and development of our team members; this is an aspect we have constantly preserved and instilled over the past 10 years, through the company’s values and mission, to each colleague. I believe that for every hierarchical level, there are needs to develop and improve skills, and we are constantly looking for the best directions to go in. My goal and vision also include the growth and development of the leadership team, and in this regard, I focus on both individual and organisational growth and development.
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