Gabrielle McMillan is CEO of Equiem, an advanced technology platform which create communities within high rise office buildings. It delivers a hotel like experience for happier workers, more productive relationships between tenants and enhanced building efficiency. Think coffee, lunch and dry cleaning delivered to your desk, thriving interest groups and concierge services which rival the best in the world. Based on the understanding that sky scrapers often house more people than a country town, Equiem transforms buildings into workplace communities and helps landlords attract and retain tenants while providing powerful data insights to better meet their needs.
Equiem has filled a lucrative gap in commercial real estate, an industry well overdue for a tech shake up. Since its launch in 2011, Equiem has expanded to more than 100 buildings worldwide, representing over 4.6 million square meters of real estate. Growing from 2 to over 250 employees with offices in Australia, the US and UK, Equiem names 10 of the 11 largest Australian real estate investment trusts as clients, capturing a staggering 30% the premium and A grade office market. Amazingly Gabrielle has achieved all this without a background in real estate or technology.
In this week’s Success Stories episode, Gabrielle talks with Catherine Robson on having the right idea at the right time, her plans for global domination and the classic leadership resources that helped shape her career.
As project manager of digital and online strategy on the Rialto Regeneration project, Gabriel began the search for a tech solution that linked tenants with other tenants, the landlord and created a sense of community within a building. Unable to find an existing product but confirming interest in such a platform after conversations with CBRE and JLL Property, Gabrielle thought filling this gap in the marketplace could be a lucrative business opportunity.
“There’s a lot of office towers in the world and they have all got communities in them. It’s one of those funny things; the right idea in the right moment. It’s really not that complicated. It’s one of those ideas people say, ‘I’m surprised no-one else is already doing it”.
Unfazed by the fact she didn’t have a background in tech or real estate, Gabrielle gathered the right people around her and set about creating the product she had been searching for.
“I’m a big believer in working with people you can trust and people that you can communicate with. Then, even if you’re not the subject matter expert, if you can work well with people, you can trust them and communicate with them, you can get anything done together.”
Equiem launched in 2011 and implemented across Melbourne’s iconic Rialto precinct, becoming Australia’s first advanced tenant engagement platform. A portal linking all tenants of a building together with news, events, space bookings, social feeds, analytics and providing valuable data insight to landlords.
“This amazing, valuable data set is being created for the landlord. This communication channel completely revolutionises the way the building is managed, the way you make capital investment decisions and the way that you surprise, delight and therefore retain tenants,” she explains.
Real estate is one of the largest industries globally and from the outset, Equiem seemed like a business opportunity with appeal beyond Aussie shores.
“One of the tipping points for us came a couple of years ago when we started to raise external capital and we started to really look at how big the business could be. That’s when we really started to set our eye on the prize of other markets,” says Gabrielle.
Contracts in the US and UK marketplace soon followed and Gabrielle relocated with her family from Melbourne to New York this year. With over 250 Equiem staff including teams based in New York and London, Gabrielle doesn’t believe there’s a silver bullet to successfully lead a global team but knows authenticity and vision are critical.
“I think you could ask any leader and they’d say that every day they come home they wished they did something different. They think they didn’t quite nail that conversation or didn’t quite get it right,” she says.
“As long as you are being you; you tell the truth and you communicate as openly and honestly and transparently as you can. The other thing is being clear on the vision and sharing that vision. Because if you are not going to do it, who else is going to? People want that. They want to be reminded why they’re working here and what they are trying to achieve”.
Her crazy travel schedule can make routine hard to stick to, but Gabrielle prioritises pockets of time for self-care as a must.
“You need to understand it’s ok to take a bit of time out, to take a morning or work from home for a day if it means you get a bit more head space. When you’re well rested, you are much better at solving problems,” she says.
“Drink lots of water! I notice a huge difference if I keep myself hydrated, how much better my brain is functioning.”
“Chapter one of that book is all about you cannot change the other person you can only change what you are doing. Every action has a reaction and if you want something to change, you have to start with you”.
“The one thing that you can always do, is change what you are doing and change your approach. I think that’s excellent advice”.