Purposeful Intent is a series of curated in-person Corporate Real Estate and Workplace events to have open discussions and thought leadership around the future of work.
For this episode of the StartWell Podcast we sat down with Simon Davis to learn about his impetus for founding the series, experiences hosting it through 2022 across North America and expectations for the year ahead.
In a rush? Here are some highlights from this conversation
- Moving from UK to US and starting a new life. (0:27)
- Real estate technology and personal background. (3:25)
- The future of work and real estate post-COVID. (6:21)
- Team culture and logistics for meetings at a startup. (13:01)
- Hybrid work environments and company culture. (15:37)
- Work-life balance and remote work during the pandemic. (18:56)
- Workplace technology and its future post-COVID. (25:14)
- Workplace culture and employee empowerment. (28:19)
- Diversity, inclusion, and social impact in the workplace. (31:02)
- Innovation and creativity in the workplace. (37:07)
- Events, networking, and mentorship for professionals. (40:43)
Spend time with this conversation - here's the full transcript
Qasim Virjee 0:27
All right, so, Simon, welcome to the studio.
Simon Davis 0:30
It's great to be here.
Qasim Virjee 0:31
I'm so happy that you made your way to Toronto.
Simon Davis 0:34
You know, it's, it's a city that's actually been been a, an interesting part of my story. And just a place that I immediately connected to the first time I came here probably 1520 years ago, moving over from the US, moving over in the UK to the US, you know, I sort of embarked on a world where I really didn't know anybody. And I found some of the very early events I went to, I was naturally drawn towards Canadian brothers. I remember being invited to a dinner at my first ever Cornette event that was just for people that weren't American, and several Canadians, some of whom will be there tomorrow. We're at the event. And, you know, the first time I came up to Toronto, I really just sort of fell for it. Right. I have always felt that it's sort of like a smaller, nicer, friendlier version of New York. Right? It has that vibe, it has that energy. It has that cultural melting pot, it has amazing food, good people. And yeah, it's just it's always been somewhere that I feel drawn to and when we are when I established purposeful intent to an interest anniversary today that I'll talk to you about, but when I established purposeful intent, I always wanted to bring it to this area specifically. So super excited for tomorrow and for for having our first international event in Toronto. Yeah,
Qasim Virjee 1:47
well, I'm it's funny hearing. And I said, I think I saw when you landed a you posted something on LinkedIn or something. Is that a yes, the first international event? And it was weird for me to hear that about someone coming to Canada? I don't know. Yeah, maybe we're so we become myopic, you know, we encompass the world. And at the same time, like we are Canadian, so we're always hearing people going out into the world, but being of the world anyway. So it's awesome to have you guys do your thing here. And we're really happy. I'm really happy to host you tomorrow in our big studio. But let's talk about coming from the UK to the US what was the impetus for you,
Simon Davis 2:25
as often the case, it was a young lady, who I've now been married to for 18 years, I was going back and forth to Arizona from London, for a client that I was working with the company called land securities, Trillium. And at this time, sort of back in late 90s, early 2000s, they bought the BBC has entire portfolio of property and leased it back to them. And as part of that deal, they needed technology to run all of the core services like lease administration, and space and FM. And the CIO at the time find this little company in Phoenix, Arizona, who he felt was the was the best fit. None of us really agreed. But you know, he was he was leading the charge. So we ended up going back and forth to Arizona a lot of times. And actually on my first trip, I met my my, my now wife, Jill. And so after we got met, she lived in the UK with me for a while. And then after we got married, we decided to settle on Arizona. So it's been close to 18 years now.
Qasim Virjee 3:21
So man, so you were a young man, when you came to Arizona. I was a
Simon Davis 3:24
young man. Yeah, definitely. Still try and be as lively as I used to be. But But yeah, it was it was a new world for me. And it was intriguing because I to this day, don't know, if it wasn't for that opportunity. If ever I would have come to Arizona, right? It's not typically a place that tourists go from the UK, right? They want to go to the closer areas like Florida or they want to go to Vegas, but you know, so for a lot of people, Arizona was sort of a stopping point. I will still go into restaurants, bars, shops sometimes and people will be like, Oh my god, I love your accent because I don't get a ton like are you from Australia. And I think that's why the reason why I would drawn to Toronto because I like having a much bigger melting pot. Arizona is getting there. But still, you know is is not as multicultural as anywhere else I've ever lived but it's home. It's it's a nice place to go and relax. And I have a soon to be six year old who takes up a lot of my time. Which is fantastic. So yeah,
Qasim Virjee 4:20
my daughter's four and a half. No great four and a half going on, you know at five. It's the best ages they really are. Yeah, so much fun. So every every day is such an adventure. So much fun. Um, so that's really interesting to me because I've been to Arizona. I've been to Phoenix, Phoenix. Yeah, yep, that's where I've been. So spread out. But the people are nice. Chill. Very easy to be there. Yeah, absolutely. Very relaxed. So let's talk about this real estate story. You you were previously to moving to the States you were already in some facet of real estate. Yeah,
Simon Davis 4:56
I kind of fell into real estate technology. Had a university sort of my My full background is I did a law degree, decided in May last year that the people who were doing law degrees weren't the kind of people I necessarily want to spend the rest of my life working with. And branched out and I did a master's degree in business with it, really enjoyed the technology side of the space, and then kind of sort of fell into a career coding I learned very, very quickly that I am not a coder, my brain does does not work that way. My wife is completely opposite. She's very mathematical, very mathematical, very analytical, whereas I'm way more subtle on the on the social sciences side of the space. But what I found I was very good at which at the time, I think it was more of a premium was being able to be that bridge between, you know, the Propellerhead, technology nerds, and the business people. So I had roles where essentially, I would help develop requirements and understanding of, you know, what were the business trying to achieve, and be able to translate that into computer language for the, for the developers to build. And then just, you know, by happenstance, went to a property company in early 2000s. In the UK, and that was sort of where it all all grew from there. Certainly not a career I'd aspired to be as a kid. But yeah, now it's, you know, 2022 years plus, all around corporate property technology. So, yeah,
Qasim Virjee 6:14
it's fascinating, because, I mean, I would think that that whole realm was pretty nascent, when you got into it. And even now, I mean, like a lot of the kind of, what do we call it? Do people say Prop tech, prop tech, cre tech, prop tech, tech to anything, and you've got something new. But the prop tech kind of startups that I've been seeing, you know, in various incubators, accelerators around the world, are not necessarily solving new problems, a lot of them, you know, and their solutions are not necessarily unique. It's just the the fervor for, you know, innovating in an industry that seems stayed in particular locales can source capital from VCs, it seems like, but what are you seeing from the landscape of let's say, you know, software that's available for operators of property, now versus then?
Simon Davis 7:08
Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, you hit the nail on the head, because one of the big things that we do see is, you know, people ubiquity, ubiquitously use the term prop tech. And when I meet somebody who says, Oh, you're an expert in Prop tech, my immediate thought in my head, that I don't always vocalize is how can you be right? Because prop tech consists of everything from residential, to industrial to retail, to commercial, even within the commercial space, break it down between, you know, technologies that are geared towards the financial side of the deal and the brokerage side of the deal versus where I've always played, which is, what happens inside of the portfolio. Right? How do you ensure your leases are paid? How do you ensure you've got the right amount of space? In this day and age? How do you ensure you can bring people to the office using the right type of tech and then track the actual utilization? Right, so it's a very, very small piece of Prop tech. And I think that's why, you know, we're seeing, we're seeing more investment in Prop tech on a larger scale. Because it hasn't been traditionally very innovative at all. And really, I think what COVID has done is kind of changed the mantra. There's a friend of mine in the UK, a guy called Chris Kane, Chris used to be head of real estate for the BBC, and for Disney. And he has a great book called where's my office, and this was actually pre pandemic, talking about the fact that, you know, really, the equation was broken, because office space is always seen as a deal between, you know, the investors, the landlords, etc. And the user of the actual space, you know, the actual physical employee was rarely considered. And I think it's something has really come to the fore within, within COVID. So I think now, where we're seeing sort of significant growth of of solutions, is those technologies that actually help people make better use of when they're in the space, help people advise, maybe when they should even be coming to this space. We're seeing a lot of investments still in that because it's, you know, there's no clear market leaders, frankly, across the board. And I think we're also now seeing a convergence of things we've hoped for for years, which is really focusing on the role of HR, and IT teams within the whole property and FM space. Because, you know, I see people talk about products, and they think they came out of nowhere, whereas in reality, some products that now have a real validity within the within the corporate realm, you know, like tools for booking officers very simply, in the past, they were a, you know, a technology RFP that was done to replace an Outlook or Gmail, right. They weren't necessarily seen as being nascent to the workplace side. So, you know, I think the workplace drive is big, but I think also as workplace and real estate practitioners, we need to start thinking about those other areas. You know, fascinating for me on my journey with purposeful intent back in February, I went to a conference on the future of work. And I noticed prior to and one of the big drivers for me in going only one person was a real estate person. And I think the big You know, shoe that's gonna drop on my traditional world is that, you know, the impact that HR has the people side of the future of work, right doesn't necessarily correlate with or doesn't totally correlate with, with physical space, which a lot of the real estate and workplace people are looking at. So I think there needs to be that third and fourth elements around that. So workplace real estate, HR and technology coming together to determine, you know, what are the solutions, you know, frankly, that will make our employees the most effective, efficient, productive. So, you know, I think there's a lot of a lot of change coming,
Qasim Virjee 10:37
I agree with you, I think that's a very interesting encapsulation of the kind of like state of things, in terms of like, how the industry is changing for commercial real estate office space provisioning. And also for a little bit of the cultural element of post COVID workplace reality where people kind of like, looking to, to your point of like, not wanting to work with other lawyers, looking to change your career to to avoid them? You know, I think everyone feels that way, not just about lawyers. Some lawyers are good people. No,
Simon Davis 11:13
I think there has been a big awakening for people in terms of determining what do they really want to do? Yeah, when the world shuts down, and you can't do whatever you want to do, what does that make you miss the most, you know, for me, and part of the reason I started this journey was for me, it was family. Like, I loved the fact that I got to spend so much time with my daughter between the ages of three. And now, because I was home. You know, before that I was probably traveling, I think the most I flew in a year was an actual flown Miles was like 200,000 miles, you know, so I'm away pretty much every week. So that was a big, big change for me, and I'm seeing that change across the board. I don't think we're seeing a great resignation yet related to culture or workplace or those elements, I think it's really more just an awakening for people to realign where they want to be and what they want to do in their life. Yeah,
Qasim Virjee 12:02
and I hope, I hope that's true. Because, you know, as someone who's lived all over the world, who's worked all over the world, run companies and work for companies that are not just global and footprint, but employ up to 400,000 plus people, and have seen, you know, this corrosive corporate culture that drives slaves into fear paradigms. And giving them the joyous benefit of weekends off, you know, that whole like 1950s Bullshit, is, is pervasive, especially in North America. And I think consumer corporate culture has kind of, like, gotten to such a point that it in the pre COVID world was at odds with challenging the status quo, people kind of felt that as long as I could buy enough stuff, you know, give me just enough dopamine. This is like the tangible you know, Instagram Tiktok reality, swipe enough swipe hard enough, and you know, I'll be happy. Anyway. But without critiquing that stuff. I really have dug into culture a lot, right? And team culture. And that's something that we constantly are kind of like analyzing here at start well, and it's something I was telling you as we were walking into the studio that, you know, it took me five years to kind of re or not even reassess, but to accurately pinpoint who the best focus is, within a team, who the best focus of our attention and our communication is to be applied in organizations. And it's not necessarily the senior leaders that come together on campus in meetings, you know, SLT off sites that we facilitate all the time. For our general audience. SLT is is not a sandwich. It's, it's not. There's no bacon in it, or you know, salmon instead of bacon. It is a senior leadership team, right? And someone on my own team at Starbucks. someone on our team asked me today, when they saw one of our members book, one of those they were like, what's SLT mean? So like jargon, kind of convoluted things. But whoever comes to start well to collaborate and innovate, hopefully, in their team sessions is brought here. And the people who facilitate them coming here are really, really important to us because they appreciate not only the value that their team will derive from the experience, but they do the legwork to figure out how to bring those people here. And that can be quite a lot in today's reality, like, every day on campus here, we're facilitating up to 20 different teams to come together. And a lot of those have suitcases like people will have flown in straight from the airport into a session at stairwell. So imagine the kind of like effort you were talking about being kind of a, like a road warrior, you know, in your previous life, pre pandemic. A lot of people still have that reality and if you're a leader of a big company You know, you have to get out to the markets. And so it's really interesting, especially Toronto now, maybe taking a little bit of interest for some organizations away from New York as being a meeting place. We've seen that over the last, let's call it since Trump, where people are picking Toronto as it's like Northeastern, you know, North American meeting place. But yeah, as people convene, there's a lot of logistics that the support staff, you know, EAS, whether it's EAS HR people, even into culture, and people that they do that. And there's a lot of difficulties, I would think in managing hybrid realities, right? Virtual teams and remote teams that are now across like, 10 different time zones, because we're remote first. So we have to hire in Guatemala, you know, it's crazy, that the amount of stress that that is probably incumbent upon people in people positions,
Simon Davis 15:57
it's a big change. And, you know, I think I think some of that stress, stress could have been unfounded as well. You know, the actual reason that we go that I call the company, purposeful intent, was a nod to a friend of mine, who, you know, when the pandemic started him, and I had a conversation, and he said, you know, the people, there is a valid position in the office, but it needs to be with a purposeful intent, right, there needs to be a reason for you to come in and something to do, it can't just be mandated, thou shalt be in the office two days a week, or you must be in the office on a Wednesday, because people are seeing through that already, right. They're just sort of seeing as to genericized. And there needs to be, you know, a real thought given to where, when, and how people work to get the best out of them. You know, you look at sort of that remote only culture now. And we're certainly seeing companies that are saying, you know, what, instead of having office space, we're going to bring our people together once a quarter in a different part of the world. And I think we'll see more of those changes. But I think that's the big thing for me is people looking at the way that the future of work evolves with that with that purposeful intent to how they use every asset, they have human capital, physical capital, and space. And that's, I think, is is why we bring people together to discuss that, because it's the connectivity. I mean, I think that's, you know, for me, in life, the biggest driver, right? Yeah, personally and professionally is the connections you make and and how you maintain those. And
Qasim Virjee 17:21
honestly, as a small business owner, and as someone who's, of course, like my business is established to support the culture of other teams and other companies. It's something that I always ask people constantly, right? I'm always asking team leads to say, why don't your people bloody love working at your company? Why are they proud? Firstly, are they proud to work at your company? Secondly, are they empowered to speak on its behalf? Thirdly, would they bring people they respect to work with them at your company? Right? You know, it's crazy. But if you actually dig into stats, like referrals for HR are so low across the board, and almost every company, like you would think that a company would naturally grow because the people who work there would want to bring in their friends to work that, right. It's not the case that I find anyway,
Simon Davis 18:12
and I'm sure you sometimes see, very, physically the opposite. Yeah,
Qasim Virjee 18:17
exactly. And then your teams build, because people are supposed to fit into cogs. I mean, there's larger questions here, right to do with, like, how do you scale corporations with out a purely functional mindset? And, of course, the data and the availability of data is obscuring some of that stuff, in terms of just assessing success for a company based off of productivity. And then the question of kind of tenure, you know, when you're looking at public companies, what is the tenure that everyone has at a company and wants to have? Are people now thinking career track and wanting to stay at a company for their whole life? And if so, is it their life's work? Or is it to pay the bills to live? So yeah, all of these questions, of course, are being addressed now more than ever before, perhaps, or at least now more than last 70 years entirely.
Simon Davis 19:08
And I think the questions that I certainly the US people never thought they could ask before, you know, nobody ever really conceived three years ago saying to my boss, Hey, can I work from home two days a week, unless it was very progressive company? Because everybody always had that argument. No, it's not going to work. And now we've had two years to prove that it actually can work. And I think, you know, I saw coming from, you know, I was born in Ireland. I raised in the UK, lived and travelled a lot of places. My father was an architect. And one of the things I'll always remember, you know, firstly was coming to the US having to negotiate up my vacation from five days, which was typical at the company five days earlier, I managed to negotiate up to 10. And then after two years, I got an extra 10 days and this was coming from, you know, I came out of college to work for a bank in the UK and day one I had 28 days vacation. And the thing I found bizarre was In Arizona, when I was working there, people were proud of not taking the whole 10 days, because they felt it was more of a commitment to the company, you know, people would it would be coming early leave late and just wasn't the mentality that I was used to. And just, I think that's sort of whole work to live versus live to work culture. And I think people now are looking at that in a very different way. And even senior people that I know, that have been very much focused on, you know, early, early mornings in the office in a suit and tie, you know, late evenings, they're at least getting to the point where you don't do an eight o'clock meeting anymore in the office, right, you do it from home, and then you might go into the office. And I think giving people more of a balance has got to be a good thing. giving people more agency to make the decisions about what is best for them as they work is the right way. You know, we're hearing I think from a lot of sort of boomers my my biggest chagrin these days is actually against Alan Sugar in the UK because he he equates working from home to just being lazy, you know, on the couch, doing nothing not wanting to succeed and who is this chap, Alan Sugar he's he was the sort of the I mean, I guess probably the the most closely you could equate to a Donald Trump pre Trump's presidency. He actually did the, the equivalent of the of the apprentice, which I think is Dragon's Den in Canada in the UK.
Qasim Virjee 21:17
So he was sort of well, they're different shows. Yeah. Dragon's Den is a different form of that kind of a sorry, it was more the Dragon's Den. Okay. Kind of like sit on a panel and assess sit on a patent company. Yeah. So
Simon Davis 21:28
Alan Sugar, he was actually founded Amstrad. Amstrad was Alan Mikoshiba was the AMS and Amstrad and you know, very, very successful, very rich. But his commentary is all, I think, very negative and very unfounded in terms of what people do when they work from home. And I think we see that a lot is that people that have never done it or experienced it, or who are probably scared to try and manage it. They just fear it, they try and pick holes in it. I see all the time on a daily basis from brokers, who were saying you can't do this, you know, and then sort of fit in some instances, not all brokers, but in some instances, fear mongering, trying to encourage people to be back in the office because they know that that will give them more of their deals. Sure. So
Qasim Virjee 22:09
it's all brokers don't get me started on brokers. Yeah, you know, it's funny, because that's a whole nother sideline note is the pandemic kind of wiping out the cockroaches somewhat in the industry, at least here in Canada, so many brokers were without income and left to choose different jobs. You know, yeah. We've had a great calling. And it's very interesting, because when we were in Toronto at 1%, vacancy rate in 2019 1%, you know, we had like, here in Toronto, we start well, we had a waiting list that was probably about, you know, a year long for people to get into an office, we're very small campus, 20,000 square feet, you know, at the time, 9000 square feet allocated for offices. The rest, you know, common space event space, meeting space. So we were kind of like already on the zeitgeist pre pandemic coming in to where we are now. It's always been a mission of mine to kind of get out of office space, to be honest, because carrying the risk in leasing 20,000 square feet, and carrying that risk for the landlord is ridiculous.
Simon Davis 23:09
Yeah, I was just reading this week, I think that there's, you know, 30 million square feet of space available in London, biggest inventory they've had, right, and that's
Qasim Virjee 23:18
New York is like 20%, or something like that. And I think it's
Simon Davis 23:22
all those different factors that are playing into this. And I think, you know, brokers have to evolve to survive, you know, our, our mutual good friend, Dave currents. He's one of my favorite people to read on LinkedIn, because he's so thoughtful about what he's posting and talking about. And he's also still living that world every day where he's meeting people that just don't seem to get it. And I think a lot of it, it's a mentality where they don't want to get it, they want to be right. You know, there's probably some vested interest in certain areas. This is
Qasim Virjee 23:50
always been the case in every industry brokers in general, any middleman who has not got skin in the game, I always find I'm a little biased about this. No, I'm not biased about this. I just thought it through. And I've experienced this in many different applications of business, I think over the years, but like, if you're in the middle, you have to do such a great job. If you're going to be Meritus, you know, and build an illustrious career. That's not just transactional, right? Of being good at relationships. That's the thing and very few people excel at that as commercial brokers, real you know, real estate, that's residential is very different. Because if you're putting a family and a home, you know that those guys are gonna yell at you if you put them in a bad home, right? Or at least they should. But with an office space, the person who made the purchasing decision and dealt with you as a broker is probably going to get fired if it's a bad deal, for some reason down the line. And then they'll come back to you to help save that day again, and with a new lease. So we used to see that in 2018, where people brokers in Toronto would be really just like cutthroat with not respecting the intent of or even the, let's say the sustainable cultural values of a company, put them in a bad space, because they knew that they were keeping them warm for the next deal. And just keep milking that company over and over and over again. They were leeches, you know, a lot of them. So cool to see that changing. But you're right. I mean, it has to change, I think every industry has to, has to shed weight or has the opportunity now post COVID, to kind of shed some dead weight. And the technology piece of it also is going to come into play to allow brokers to do more, if they understand their role, and not be frightened by redundancy. Yeah.
Simon Davis 25:37
And I think I think, you know, you're better off getting ahead of that curve, right? If if you can use technology and data to understand and predict what's going to happen, and you know, that a client is going to reduce that space significantly, then you want to be out in front of that, or you don't want to be sat in the backseat while they come to that conclusion themselves, because they will come to that conclusion. And I think that's one of the things that's changing. Now, we're seeing more landlord based technologies that are being put in play, we're seeing more thought around technology to help people use the office in a better way, more tie into technology to help you work in different ways better, right, work asynchronously work from remote locations better. And I think for me, that's gonna be one of the biggest changes we'll see over the next three or four years. You know, when I look at the ecosystem that I was speaking about, around sort of corporate real estate and workplace technology, there's probably about 300 systems in total, most of those companies are probably between 10 and 15. entire staff, with a few of them being in the four or five hundreds, I think what COVID is going to do, it's going to bring in some big hitters, the likes of slack and Salesforce, Google, etc, that can now realize a 10x on their investment by selling their products to a wider audience. You know, I personally see slack is probably going to be one of the biggest enablement tools in the workplace that space as a tool to help people collaborate, communicate, and I would assume, ultimately, to help people make better use of when they should be together. Right. And if you're a five person company, and you see slack coming your way, you know, you better watch out. And I think there's gonna be, I think, a couple of tech products, there are some that have blown up over COVID. And because of COVID, and some that were developed just purely through COVID. So there'll be there'll be a realignment, but I think we're going to see a lot of new players into the space, they'll for sure, traditionally haven't been there. So and I think also the widening of what work is, right? Because it was very siloed. Before, as I mentioned earlier, you know it having said responsibility, HR having responsibility, workplace and FM having responsibility, those, those silos have to be broken down in order for it to be meaningful, again, to the real consumer, which is the employee of the company using the space or not using the space on a daily basis. Yeah, like
Qasim Virjee 27:49
a fundamentally space, commercial space or otherwise, a physical space should empower the people using it. Absolutely. And I think the best thing to empower them with is anything that reduces friction to their day to enable their happiness. That's, that's like our thing here on Star Wars like to say, happier days make for better workplaces, you know, or make for better work teams, or however you want to explain it. I think people should be happy. We're all more effective when we're in a good mood. Yeah. And it's so funny, because like when people are well fed, caffeinated, hydrated, soft furnishings of their choice to sit on, and no one is breathing over their neck, you know, and they feel empowered to be in that place. And they feel like they actually chose to be there. That's another thing that's very interesting about this whole get in the office cubicle kind of debate. Goldman Sachs shaking a finger at everybody, you know, we pay you a quarter million. You want your bonus? Part of it is the the monetary motivator, you know, but to like, do, as you're told, but fundamentally, I mean, yeah, I think if people actually are empowered to feel like they made the choice to join an organization and then to stay there. They should own that choice. Yeah, and the choice shouldn't be like, dangled over there. Yeah,
Simon Davis 29:04
I think also just a reduction in stress. If you know, you've got to take your kid to the dentist or you want to go and see them play soccer, and you don't have to beg and plead your boss to worry about them looking over the cubicle and you not being there. Okay, so treating people like adults, it's empowering. So
Qasim Virjee 29:19
it's funny that right, I didn't in my whole career, you know, because I'm this weird dude who's just been an entrepreneur and creative, like my whole life, right? So it's kind of an inside joke with myself and the people that know me. Well, when I actually got hired in IBM, right, because IBM was like the it's the quintessential, you know, evil, large, conglomerate, multinational that doesn't care about anything and doesn't have a head answerable only to shareholder value, you know. But what was really funny was when I was I didn't know any of this like Monty Python ism to be true. Until I was in the belly of the beast and, and I got a few weird kind of calls from people You know, after 500 person calls or duties, like looking at the spreadsheet of who stayed on the call for how long, right, you know, those sorts of weird like reprimands that have nothing to do with, you know, my efficacy or commitment to fulfilling my role at the company. And I was really surprised because it was like it was, it was shocking, I just laughed all the time. And I call it out to people, and they didn't like that. And so I kept getting shanked. And then my head was was was definitely something being haunted. Because the work that I was trying to get the company to do was was way beyond its capabilities, and would raise flags for people. I guess, who didn't want to recognize the biases and dogmas and fear culture in the organization? And weird stuff happens, you know, like people are just not enabled. And anyway, so I think wherever the corrosive corporate culture is not moving forward, at least now, people are a little bit more motivated, and here in Canada, to look elsewhere. You know, and I think that's good. I think a lot of those like stayed publicly listed, zombie companies will find it difficult to attract the type of talent that needs to sustain their, you know, absolutely will their growth and fuel their kind of constant. Yeah,
Simon Davis 31:18
I mean, you know, one of my biggest learnings over the last year, and actually somebody I've met at the conference I referenced in London back in in February, as a young guy with Mills, Mangie, Mills, we actually got him to come and speak at our event in LA. And, you know, he talked a lot about attracting Gen Z black talent to employers, and it opened my eyes, right, you know, I'm almost 50 year old white guy and things I never even considered or thought of in the past as being blockers or stoppers, you know, which really are, you know, he mentioned one stat that really resonated that, I think was 30% of Gen Z, black talent changes their name when they come into the corporate culture, because people can't pronounce the name and don't make the effort to do that. And they feel it's easier to change their identity, than to try and push that through. And that's something that I called Simon has never been to experience, and he's like, but it makes you realize some of that, you know, I think a lot of the other aspects of working with with mills and his team on those areas is really understanding things that I would have had no clue about before. And I still only have, you know, sort of a partial connection to but now I realized the importance of it, you know, the importance of being able to grow diverse teams globally. But the importance as well, it's not just to stop, you know, he made a very interesting reference back in London, to, you know, any company that after George Floyd was murdered, just put a black square on Instagram, people that were looking to, you know, potentially be employed by these companies, what do they do, they go to Google, they put in the name of the company, they look at the board, and they see five white faces, they're not going to be interested in working for that type of a company. So I think technology has really helped enable people to quickly uncover, you know, the real, the realities of some of these organizations that might purport to support things that they really don't. And I think we're seeing more and more of that, when you look at sort of where companies are investing in the US particularly in, you know, certain, you know, certain sensitive areas, like, you know, abortion, etc. And some
Qasim Virjee 33:09
of those Oh, right, trying to get people in different states to do what they need to do. Yeah, yeah. So
Simon Davis 33:13
you know, I, as a company, say, Yes, I'll pay for my employees to travel to different state for medical procedure. But on the other hand, I'm donating $2 million a year to a politician who clearly is not of that same mentality. And I like the fact that people call it out, it was also eye opening for me, you know, Mills came over to LA, and he's, he's using the term woke several times, you know, and using it in the right way that people are awakened, you know, woke in the US as an insult these days were in whenever I hear it, I think it's, it is an awakening. And we need that we need to be, I think a more you know, holistic society more conscious of these, of these biases that we've had for years, we can't just try and ignore them, right, we need to work these things into our cultures into our companies. And as you know, people that can sort of help lift up, one of the things that we try and do it PII is really focused on that, right. So we have internal metrics that we do publish out about diversity, so we ensure that it's at most 50% male, at least 30% people of color, we're looking at bringing neurodiverse people in, we have a policy where we'll bring a couple of people to events that otherwise wouldn't be there, maybe based on their youth, maybe they're from this disadvantaged community. And we're really focused on that we're focused on you know, diversity of speakers, you're not going to see
Qasim Virjee 34:30
that's why he invited me to attend because, you know, I broke ass. Like, ask him don't pay anything. Just give us a place to host this event.
Simon Davis 34:38
This is the best this is, you know, I think so working with with like minded individuals is the biggest drive for us. And you know, I love being here at this space. I'm excited to welcome everyone here tomorrow. And, you know, who knows where we go from here, but that's, that's part of the reason that I wanted to get involved with, with what I'm doing right is to is to sort of, you know, see where you can go create actively meeting new people and what what we can do together, you know, is, is for the future, but but I think it's exciting to connect with like minded people agreed,
Qasim Virjee 35:10
let's take a step back purposeful intent founded when just during the pandemic,
Simon Davis 35:17
our first full. So yeah, our first day of sort of full time was on April 1. But the data referenced earlier, having a six year old and also being somebody who's been very into social media my entire life, my wife has always ridiculed me for how many pictures I post on Facebook or Instagram. What I love now is that, you know, every morning when I wake up, I'll hit the memories button. And I'll go back over the last 510 years and see what we did. A lot of it is obviously focused on on my daughter these days. But something I noticed when I landed in Toronto today, and I did that was a year ago, I posted first in person conference in over two years, I was heading to Las Vegas. And the reason that date is interesting to me, especially with being here today is that was really the start of a six week journey that culminated in purposeful, intense inception, because I went to six different conferences, and I felt that nobody was really hitting what I felt was needed post pandemic, which was bringing these incredible people together, but given them the opportunity to talk about what they're experiencing, right, every conference format,
Qasim Virjee 36:25
is like, let me push some shit off the stage on you. And then you go network right over drinks at the end, and then whatever that's on you. And when really the point is to get people together and get that brain trust going and have that experiential. That's what I liked this whole workshop format. So tell me a little bit of the format of the event that came out of this?
Simon Davis 36:45
Yeah, so I think you know, and again, I think based on that sort of six weeks, plus 22 years of doing these types of events from every angle from an attendee, a sponsor, etc. You know, I really felt that the missing elements were very much bringing people together with us with a sense of community. So the the middle of our days, we do three one hour workshops, facilitated workshops. All we bring as purposeful intent to the table is great facilitators on a topic. So some of the topics we're going to talk about tomorrow include demystifying the metaverse, we're going to talk about actionable data for the workplace. And what we do is come up with those topics, and then have a discussion with the group's around what what is important to them. So we don't pre canned any content, we're not presenting, we're facilitating a discussion, and there's been a real benefit in terms of getting people to communicate together. On You know, in those subjects, we book in that with, with speakers, but what I also do, and commit to the speakers will never be paid, so to speak, people will never pay to speak.
Qasim Virjee 37:50
Okay. They will be Thank you for clarifying that.
Simon Davis 37:53
And and then the other aspect is I try and get people that are sort of on the on the fringes of the industry. I've certainly sat at many conferences and you hear somebody speak and you think I could probably do this. I want people to they're going to make really people stand up and question everything they've thought in the past. Tomorrow, we have two tremendous speakers, Linda Nazareth, whose background is really from an economics perspective. And she's going to talk about, you know, what's happening in sort of the future, and really the why of work as we go forwards. And then Eric term end, is coming into town, and he's going to really focus on sort of some of that futuristic aspects of how do you build teams? So a lot of what you were just talking about, same? You know, how do you build teams that can shift to this new way of working? So, you know, these aren't real estate people, they're not people that think about things like space plans and allocations and furniture, these are, you know, people that are really thinking on a much more macro level. And that's what we want to do is, is bringing that thought, and then you know, my other bugbear with conferences has always been, you don't necessarily get great experiences from a networking perspective. They're not, they're not always inclusive. So what we do with our events is, you know, we put we put on a great dinner. For Toronto, we're putting on a great dinner in the evening that everybody who's been part of the day is invited to we've done more extreme things in the past and we will again, probably the most memorable our first event we had the you mentioned earlier being a wannabe rapper when you were younger, but we had the MC from Run DMC perform live amazing. But in addition to that, he did a phenomenal fireside chat about lots of things, but including, you know, creativity, diversity inclusion, you know, being a young black kid with glasses, who like poetry was essentially his background for now that made him into one of the world's foremost rappers. But I think hearing those conversations and about, you know how he innovated, right? We saw a lot of parallel between him and our first speaker that day a gentleman called Duncan Wardle, who we're going to bring back in San Francisco and Duncan's background, he was the former Head of creativity and innovation at Disney. But the thought patterns of, you know, a Disney executive with how they reimagine their parks, and a young, aspiring rapper, and how he imagined the lyrics were incredibly tied together. So it was, I think, you know, really interesting insight. And a lot of, you know, does get around those topics we talked about of innovation. And, you know, bringing what Duncan calls naive experts to the table, he has some tremendous stories about one that will resonate with me, you know, was about sort of how they develop some of the spaces in, in Disney in Shanghai, they brought in a pastry chef to one of their meetings when they were talking about development of space. And he did this exercise where he asked everybody to draw a building, and or draw a house, right? And I'm sure you and I would have various different variants on drawing a square with a suit with a triangle on top and a window and a door and a couple of windows are five years old man, or maybe, maybe if you're more design aesthetic, you might take it 3d. Well, the pastry chef lady, she actually draw a house that looked like a Chinese bun. And that was actually the inspiration for some of the houses they put into Disneyland in Shanghai. Cool. And I just love that concept. And that's sort of something that I want to take to our events of having that sort of expert, but not somebody who's who's going to tell you things you might think you already know. So absolutely,
Qasim Virjee 41:26
I mean, it's really critical for people to be able to think outside of the box. And to do that you almost need to shine light into the box. Yeah, for sure. Cool, man. Now, I'm very stoked for tomorrow. So purposeful intent has been how many sessions so far, how many different cities,
Simon Davis 41:42
this will be all six city. So we had, we started off in Phoenix, where I'm based in in February, we did a small event in San Diego. And then we did events in New York, LA, Toronto, and actually, this is five, six, we'll be in San Francisco at the end of the year. And I'm stoked, because last week, I got word that we're going to host it at Salesforce as Ohana floor, you know, beautiful space, all about connection connectivity. So, you know, I feel like we're moving things in the right direction and getting getting good visibility. And, and I think sort of, you know, just changing the game in terms of how people are looking at connections and networking and and learning together. So what's the
Qasim Virjee 42:26
plan for next year? Do you think anything that's on the docket as of now?
Simon Davis 42:29
Yeah, I mean, we're looking at the cities, it's going to be a combination. You know, we've certainly seen sort of that we have to be thoughtful in terms of where we bring the city bring the events, we tried to do an event in the city, and just didn't get any interest, you know, as a, as a, as a sort of CEO of a one and a half person startup. That was my biggest learning this year. But luckily, we, you know, we pivoted quickly enough that we were able to move it. But I think, you know, at the outset, we're gonna look at doing probably Boston, la San Diego, we will probably do New York again, we definitely drive down Toronto, potentially Montreal. And then we're also going to do a couple of, of what I would call pop up events. So we're gonna get down to Australia. And probably do, you know, in the same week, do an event in Melbourne, one in Sydney, and do the same in Europe, determine yet where but I think for me, part of that is really is to look at the international perspective, right and hear different things. I mean, I, you know, eight years or so ago, I was working for an Australian company called Sarah view. And at the time, you know, the Australian market, they were way ahead of the curve when it came to activity based work, you know, they were very much a company that already or country, well, people already had that balance, right, their focus is more on what they did for outside of work than in work. And they develop real estate solutions to meet that need. So I'm fascinated actually, to go down there just to hear. And that's the other beauty of these events, right is to hear what people are actually doing and experience that right. And Intriguingly, you know, for me, I've had several of my sponsors come up to me and just be like, Wow, Simon, we learned so much just by sitting back and listening to you know, our audience, which is typically real estate in workplaces. Executives talk about what they're experiencing. So yeah, that's that's sort of part of the reason for the for the growth to to other other countries.
Qasim Virjee 44:20
And this is what you do now, right? Is this the only thing that you do?
Simon Davis 44:24
Yeah, yep. Yeah, this is my my full time gig I'm gonna do I do some consulting for some of the My background is all in in really the tech world. So I do consulting for sort of some of the tech startups in our space to help them build out their products. I, you know, you mentioned earlier about about the solutions out there, we still see solutions to problems that don't exist. But I've also conscious in my background of seeing products that if they had a different sales leader or a different focus, or they had some connectivity, the industry would have been very successful that have failed. And so what I try and do is work with companies and brands, where I feel they have something unique seek and help them grow in whatever way possible, whether that's with, you know, introductions to the, to the PI community and the right types of people to help them or, you know, simply talking, developing, you know, functional requirements and helping them with processes, etc. So, that's kind of what I do to in my spare time when we're not working on the events,
Qasim Virjee 45:20
totally loved hills with the events. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. That's awesome. Yeah, I see a mentorship network this turnkey, right, not just you. Yeah,
Simon Davis 45:27
absolutely. You know, we bring will bring six facilitators tomorrow, all people with very different backgrounds and experiences but all people that could be a benefit to to pi and the wider network as they go through, you know, the different challenges they're facing. So everything from you know, organizational design, to physical design, to obviously tomorrow's focuses more on the technology, but in the past, we've done you know, focuses around DNI innovation. So, you know, the people the core of PII, in terms of the learnings are certainly the moderators that are that are helping bringing out the right types of discussions So, always grateful to them for for participating in our events.
Qasim Virjee 46:08
Excellent, man. Wicked. Cool. Thanks for joining me. Thank
Simon Davis 46:12
you. We're super excited for tomorrow and excited for future future with a start. Well, absolutely. It'll be long and illustrious, love it. That was good.