Lisa Picard | CEO of EQ Office (Rebroadcast)
During this episode, we are rebroadcasting a Leading Voices favorite with Lisa Picard, CEO of EQ Office. EQ Office is the vertical of Blackstone that oversees the office assets of one of the world’s leading investment firms and its acquisition of the portfolios of Sam Zell’s Equity Office, CarrAmerica, Trizec, and other office assets. Lisa’s story exemplifies one of the most compelling career trajectories in real estate and passionately articulates the meaning, the ripple effects, and opportunities around innovation in real estate. This is a pre-pandemic discussion of the office business which will be a great background for our conversation right after the New Year with Boston Properties’ Owen Thomas about the current state of the office business.
Lisa Picard is a woman with a vision. Thanks to technology, the office development space has evolved from a B2B market to B2C, and she’s on the front lines of in an industry resistant to change.
“We’re really not producing products per say; we’re creating ideas. And so, … organizations’ access to ideas is really through collaboration, connection, of having really high-quality talent.”
Lisa grew up in Southeast L.A. County with her twin sister and Depression-era parents who taught her to cherish and respect her resources. This instilled in her a fascination for her urban environment, and she went on to study Urban Planning at California State Polytechnic University.
After graduation, she worked closely with the City of L.A., and she saw how developers had a different view book than she did. She wanted in and applied to MIT to dive deeper into development, planning, urban economics, and finance.
Just before heading to MIT, at the age of 22 her father suddenly died and her mother the summer after, and Lisa had what she calls her mid-life crisis at 22. As painful as the grieving process was during her time at MIT, it taught her the importance of embracing each moment fully and staying true to herself.
Navigating the Development Field
After MIT, Lisa moved back to San Francisco and began her journey with the Bristol Group where she had the freedom to grow and learn what a deal looked like and how to create one. From there, she joined the Hines team in Seattle and rode out the rollercoaster of the dot-com era. Next, she was approached by Canyon Ranch, where she learned the power of experience and brand.
“Humanistically, there’s always got to be an invitation… when I say an invitation that’s the brand piece, that’s the promise of whatever it is, when I have that engagement with a piece of real estate.”
When she was let go by Canyon Ranch, she felt like she had lost her sense of identity. She moved back to Seattle, and learned how to value herself as simply “Lisa Picard.” She started Muse Developments focused on multi-family development, and was soon approached by Skanska to expand their business in Seattle. She agreed and joined them in merchant building.
Her vision for bringing humanity and experience-driven spaces into each of her projects made a big impact on Seattle, but she felt called to influence other cities. So when Equity Office approached her, she was ready to join them.
As the CEO of Equity Office, Lisa is focused on the vision and positioning of projects, like the Willis Tower in Chicago, in a way that satisfies the desires of the market.
She looks at it with the mindset that every worker needs a balanced diet of productivity: concentration space, collaboration space, and community space. This is what the modern workforce desires, and that is the value and level of service she is striving to deliver as she repositions assets.
Being a Woman
At first, Lisa admits that she tried to fit in. But thanks to her mentors who instilled confidence in her and empowered her to believe in herself, she learned her worth. She hopes to do this for other women.
When you work in the urban environment and real estate, what you put into the environment affects people. It changes the urban environment and you have to give a sh*t. You have an obligation to people and your surroundings.