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Commercial Real Estate
Business Observer Friday, Jul. 5, 2019 3 months ago

q&a: Mike Griffin

New Savills' Tampa market leader plans to heighten firm's presence in the region.
by: Kevin McQuaid Commercial Real Estate Editor


Market Leader, Tampa




Mike Griffin joined commercial real estate brokerage and tenant rep specialist Savills in 2015 following an acquisition. Last month, the company promoted Griffin to Market Leader of its 15-year-old Tampa office, where he hopes to grow the company’s presence. Griffin succeeds Senior Managing Director Cheri O’Neil, who had led Savills’ Tampa operation for more than a decade. She intends to return to brokerage work full time within the firm.



Why did you decide to go into commercial real estate, and how and why did you begin working at Savills?

I joined Savills a little over four years ago, after it acquired my old company, Vertical Integration, which had a similar focus on tenant representation and also was based in Tampa. Prior to that I was in college at the University of South Florida. The reason I went into commercial real estate was because of my mentor and former boss at Vertical Integration, Ann Duncan. She started that firm in 2001 and I was her first employee. Because it was a very successful boutique firm, Savills saw the talent that Ann and the team she had put together had and its ability to help Savills grow its occupier services work in Tampa and throughout the U.S.


Much has been made about how you were the youngest chairman in the history of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce when you held that post. How old are you?

I’m 38 now. I think the chamber job was really a testament to where we are now as a community. When I talk to younger people now, I really relish being able to tell the Tampa story, which is now a story about opportunity for everyone. I’m a Pinellas County native, and the son of parents who worked in education and criminal justice. The Tampa Bay region today embraces people who work hard and are ethical, and I like to think I have been a small part of that success and advancing that sense of opportunity.


What changes do you anticipate making to Savills Tampa operation? How do you intend to “execute strategies to grow the company’s presence in the area”?

First and foremost, we’re very fortunate because we have a great team in place already. Our foundation is very solid. Integrating Ann Duncan’s team with the Savills team has been a very exciting process, and I think going forward you’ll see that we’ll continue to integrate additional services and talent because we have a great story to tell. I want Savills to be the place where the best talent wants to be and can thrive. So to that end, we’re going to be developing talent and recruiting new talent from local colleges and even from other professions. Culturally, as a company, we’re focused on teamwork and we’re data driven — there are no silos here. Because we’re very focused on the occupier side of the table, we think that will continue to be very exciting to people, and I’m very interested in continuing to tell the Savills story because it resonates.


What “complimentary service lines” to tenant rep has Savills added recently?

A big part of that has been the integration of the occupier services team here in Tampa. And together with that we’ve invested tremendously in technology and our platform Knowledge Cubed won an innovation award about a year and a half ago, so we’re leveraging data and utilizing lease information and visualizing that for companies to make the best real estate decisions they can as never before. Our strategy also will focus on combining consulting, lease administration and project management teams in Tampa, so that they can share more information and offer services collectively. And with Tampa becoming more of an international city, that benefits us, because we have an international presence and a global focus, so we can help anywhere in the world. To have those resources in our back yard is unparalleled in this marketplace.


Which firms do you view as Savills’ primary competition in Tampa?

I think we compete with about five or six firms that have cross-broker focuses, such as Newmark and Colliers and Avison Young and the like, but unlike others, we are specialists and we’re focused on tenants exclusively. That creates a big differential between us and the competition. Others work in the space that’s tenant representation but no one else has the relentless focus on the occupier as we do.


Savills says your efforts have saved clients more than $75 million over the past few years. How was that accomplished?

We accomplished that by being very competitive and creating leverage where it didn’t appear to exist and by taking extra steps to gain value for clients. We try to generate value in every project we’re a part of, and the numbers add up. We’re very proud of that. The markets at present certainly tend to favor landlords, but there’s still a lot of opportunity — incentives for tenants around free rent and (tenant improvements) — that can go a long way. It’s just a matter of not automatically hitting the easy button.




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