David Menaged is the founder of TROT, a commercial real estate marketplace that’s on a mission to make flex space work better for everyone. Founded in 2020, TROT connects building owners with available space to businesses looking for their next flexible office.
Throughout his 30-year career, David has worked with both owners and businesses and realized that there was a disconnect in the way flex space was perceived and rented. He founded TROT as a response to this disconnect in order to reformat the flex space experience for everyone.
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We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
David Menaged: My interest in real estate started at an early age while growing up amongst the buildings of New York City. As a child, I even asked my father if I could own 1155 Avenue of the Americas on my way to a family ice skating outing.
After graduating high school, I began my career with the principals of Adams & Company Real Estate, LLC as a broker, where I was trained by the principal on networking, lead generation, and developing client relationships by canvassing businesses and passing out flyers for the company’s services. I discovered that, while there was a lot of rejection involved in real estate, I loved working with people and developing strong one-on-one connections with both my colleagues and clients.
I left the firm for a brief stint in my family’s apparel business, but later rejoined the Adams & Company Real Estate, LLC team, working my way up to director and managing a team of brokers. Throughout my 10 years at the firm, I secured many successful assignments through impeccable work ethic and developed many strong relationships with colleagues that I still network with today.
In 2008, after realizing I desired more growth opportunities, I founded Intrepid Real Estate Group. As current principal, we facilitate a variety of real estate transactions, assisting landlords and tenants in navigating the intricacies of the New York City office market. The firm currently brokers between 40–60 lease transactions a year.
Throughout my experience, I have become an expert on New York real estate, real estate socioeconomics, flex workspace, construction and building layout, understanding city landscapes and identifying what businesses would fit well in certain neighborhoods, entrepreneurship, and general business best practices.
I credit my success to my father’s example of a strong work ethic by starting at the bottom, putting in the work and rising through the ranks, and the irreplaceable colleague relationships I’ve built along the way.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
David Menaged: The key learning for businesses and people in the past few years is that things can change on a dime. We saw thriving cities all over the country turn into barren urban landscapes literally overnight. I believe everyone learned that flexibility is so important. Regardless of the area of their business or life, the ability to react at a moment’s notice proved to be the difference for many areas of life. I saw companies that I have worked with for years turn the homes of hundreds of their employees into “remote offices” and that enabled them to keep their businesses going.
In terms of the real estate industry, with 67 percent of CRE decision makers now incorporating flex space into their strategies, the value of short-term agreements can not be overstated in these times. Instead of a business having to deal with long-winded problems by deferring payments to the building owner or worse, going into default, those with short-term commitments found their solutions much sooner and with much more ease.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
David Menaged: Oftentimes businesses find that they need to reinvent themselves. Obviously this looks different from industry to industry but the overarching approach is quite similar. As we watch the world change before us in real time, it is important to know that change is inevitable and what worked yesterday, more often than not, will NOT work tomorrow. Be nimble, innovative, and ready to do things differently than you did before.
With everyone tightening their belts, businesses are looking at expenditure and cutting costs where they can. That’s why short-term real estate is going to be key. It allows businesses to enjoy having offices in desirable locations, without being tied into three, five or ten year leases.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
David Menaged: There have been few industries that have been impacted by the pandemic more than real estate. Assets that were once the apple of the eye for so many in the industry became real management challenges. Once teeming office buildings became as quiet as a morgue and companies, many of them really stable, found their businesses in a state of uncertainty never seen before. This has led to major shifts on how building owners and companies approach their office needs.
From the owners perspective, they realized the need to improve optimizations leading to the creation of more amenity spaces, more flexible lease lengths, higher-end space finishes, fully furnished spaces and a number of other things that were considered taboo just a few years ago.
I adapted by reacting to an industry that has been interesting for quite a while, but in my opinion was fundamentally flawed in its delivery to the market. Until now, the flex/coworking solution was created by default, NOT by design. Owners for too long ceded control of the offering to third-party providers. Because of marketing norms and cumbersome leasing processes that were synonymous with the industry, the path of least resistance was to hand it over to third-party providers.
I founded TROT, truly believing that short term flex rental needed to be controlled by the owners in a way that equally benefits businesses. TROT is a marketplace where owners can list their spaces for free, market and chat directly to the renters, whom we call trotters, and license space directly to them. I believe it’s a game changer and totally reformats the way short-term flex space will be marketed and rented.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
David Menaged: I wish someone told me to make PPE and become a vaccine manufacturer! Realistically, I’m not sure it was so much advice that was needed at the start but more life-long training that one needed leading up to it in order to navigate all of the challenges.
I think what’s most important – and what I myself can always improve on – is to have that true appreciation and gratitude for the blessings we all can identify in our lives. The world saw that things can change in a moment’s notice and both the things and people we thought would always be there all of a sudden weren’t. Appreciation would have to be it for me.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
David Menaged: I see no reason to think that the explosion in the use of a multitude of technologies would slow down one bit. As we employ these technologies and realize that we can either accomplish more in the same time or accomplish what used to take us a day, in a matter of minutes, leaving more time for other things, we become more reliant on them.
I remember the days when a closing would take hours with multiple parties in a room spending hours signing hundreds of pages as opposed to the same transaction today, which often are done with buyers and sellers on opposite ends of the world, attorneys holiday conducting the closing from the beach and all signatures completed digitally. We realize the efficiencies and the ways of old become obsolete.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
David Menaged: I would say around 10 hours a day combined. Where possible I try to limit my time in front of a screen. I’m a family man, so I much prefer spending time with my family to endlessly scrolling but in a world where technology is vital to bring together teams and businesses, I spend a large portion of my working day on calls,or TROT demos with owners and businesses.
With managing the TROT team and partners from Los Angeles to Istanbul, racking up a bunch of screen time is inevitable. Where possible, I still love to meet with owners face to face as you can develop a much stronger relationship in my opinion.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
David Menaged: At TROT, we’re a small team and I’m lucky that every single TROT employee really believes in our mission. When hiring, it’s important to me that everyone is passionate about what we do – and genuinely thinks that this business model is a game-changer for the commercial real estate industry.
The TROT team is made up of real experts in their own fields, but after 30 years in the real estate industry, it’s safe to say that’s probably my expertise. It’s great to have a team that wants to learn all about the industry we’re disrupting, to learn more about my experiences of how it all works, and then put that into practice in the work they do.
As a team, we’re pretty open and great ideas come from all over. I’ve always said that part of my role as the founder is to inspire the team and make sure we’re all working towards the same goal.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
David Menaged: For businesses I think it is figuring out the many challenges that seem to come up on an almost daily basis. Over the past couple of years it’s been a pretty wild ride. Starting with the pandemic to some of the social unrest that took place, to never ending the governmental wrangling, to supply chain issues, and the latest issue of inflation, just being sane is an accomplishment. That said, in the toughest of times usually lies the biggest of opportunities.
In real estate we are in the midst of a monumental shift in how we use our commercial space. I still believe that for many companies there will be a time that it reverts to what it was prior to the onset of the pandemic, but for many it has permanently changed.
I believe that for TROT specifically, it’s a really exciting time, and we’re having so much fun getting the business going. Getting through tough times is best done by remaining calm and focused on your mission, not listening to outside noise that will distract you and moving forward with fortitude. We want and are hoping for TROT to be a product that makes booking and finding flex space as simple as possible and helps both owners and businesses.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
David Menaged: As a founder running a tech business, I’m constantly being exposed to new skills, new technologies and new approaches, whether that’s learning in more detail about SEO, digital advertising or our tech platform. It feels like I’m adding to my skills every single day. Overall, I’m most interested to continue learning about all these innovations that will make business, and the world, a better place.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
David Menaged: While I can’t speak for other business leaders, here at TROT, we’ve got an incredibly high retention rate, in fact, anyone who has joined us in the journey is still with us today.
In my experience, culture often comes from trusting in your team and letting them perform at their best. My goal is to help drive the vision and reduce any friction that might arise in TROT, helping remove obstacles where possible so my team can focus on what they need to get done.
TROT highlights the importance of flexibility in commercial estate, but also reflects the change we’re seeing in businesses generally; a desire to choose how and where employees work. Business can’t afford to be rigid. Nimbleness and flexibility are vital these days.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
David Menaged: My first choice would be adaptability. As we’ve seen over the last three years, it has rapidly become a coveted superpower. Though I definitely feel like I’ve been developing this superpower through the entire pandemic. After all, it’s part of the reason TROT exists.
Mind control would also be great. I wouldn’t have to spend so much on advertising and could just make people sign up for TROT!
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
David Menaged: For me in 2022, I’d love for people to discover TROT; both on the owner’s side allowing them to utilize the TROT platform to make the most of their vacant office spaces and for businesses to discover a new, more flexible way of finding and booking short term space.
Our biggest ambition in business is to see TROT succeed. We’ve spent two years working on the technology and speaking with owners and businesses to help build TROT into something that will help disrupt and change the commercial real estate industry. Now we’re enjoying the fun part of sharing it with building owners and businesses!
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank David Menaged for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with David Menaged or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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