Ripe for Success: Strategies for Leasing Wins

Published on August 16, 2018 in PECO Culture, Leadership & Development, and Areas of Expertise
Vasili Lyhnakis
Vasili Lyhnakis
Regional Vice President of Leasing

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This month’s #PeopleofPECO theme is all about being “ripe” for success. With over 12 years of experience at Phillips Edison, Vasili Lyhnakis knows a thing or two about what makes his leasing team successful. As Regional Vice President of Leasing, Vasili leads our leasing team in the west. He knows that success isn’t achieved by one person working independently- it’s a team effort, involving a shared strategy, being locally smart, and continuously learning about the transformation occurring in our industry with technology. Read more about Vasili and his team in the blog below.

Communication, collaboration, and learning are essential to my team’s success. We share with one another what retailers are expanding, how the deals are getting done, and whether those deals are effective with our merchandising plans. In our business, it’s critical to know our shopping centers inside and out and the community that our shopping center serves, so we can attract the right retailers for the right space and execute our long-term plan for each individual shopping center.

With a team covering eight states, we often see trends where others cannot and sharing this information with the rest of the team is key. We meet regularly in person at our regional office to collaborate, learn, and spend time together. Technology has given us the ability to gain a better understanding of our properties, including performance, in real time, so most of us (including myself) are in the field more than ever. We’re also fortunate to have more eyes and ears on the ground with our expanding National Accounts team, who meets regularly with our growing retail partners. That being said, it’s important to me that my team gathers together so they understand they aren’t alone in their efforts.

Working in sales is tough - it’s not a career for everyone. To keep our team motivated, we share our successes and our failures, recognizing that not all deals happen. Also, we have a little fun when we’re together: BBQs, hiking in our beautiful mountains, or just enjoying some drinks as an escape from the mental challenges we encounter day-to-day. But it’s not just social when they come to the office. They interact with other department heads from research, construction, marketing, and legal to expand their knowledge base.

So what makes the Phillips Edison leasing team “ripe" for success? My team shared the strategies that they felt have led to success for their professional careers, for PECO, and our retail partners.

Cross-Department Collaboration – Fred Reynolds, Director of Redevelopment
“How are we the best at what we do? Because of our PEOPLE. We know success is achieved by the collaboration of many different people and departments. For example, we recently executed a lease with Humana Healthcare, a $41 billion-dollar company, for their Iora Urgent Care Clinic at Sunburst Plaza in Phoenix, AZ. This deal required the collaboration of almost every department at Phillips Edison. A targeted email blast created by the marketing team led to the opportunity with Humana. From there, leasing, IT, asset management, construction, property management, accounting, recoveries, risk management, finance, research, lease administration, and legal all got involved at various points in the process. 

By (literally!) helping to re-locate two of our tenants to different spaces within the center, we added Humana to Sunburst Plaza and it is now 94% leased. We couldn’t have made such an impactful deal happen without so many departments going above and beyond.”

Being Locally Smart – Marissa Visconsi, Senior Leasing Professional
“Out west, it seems like there are two dogs for every one person. The pet industry is huge and continuing to grow, so having a pet store is vital. More than ever, people really care about what they’re feeding their pets. As a part of this community and a dog owner myself, I understand the consumer demand for healthier pet food options. We are all passionate about the same things- our furry four-legged family members.

Being in touch with the interests and needs of the community and having that local insight helped me to determine that a healthier pet food store would thrive at Coronado Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  So I worked out a deal with Marty’s Meals, a popular local business that offers holistic pet food. On a professional and a personal level, I recognized the value that a retailer like Marty’s Meals would bring to our shopping center and the community. Adding Marty’s Meals to the center created a win/win/win situation – for the business, the local consumers, and Phillips Edison. Having an in-depth understanding of the local customer base really sets the stage for success.”   

Focusing on Relationships – Carol Sitzenstatter, Senior Leasing Professional
“I attribute my success in leasing retail space to focusing on a number of items consistently every day and when it all comes down to it- it’s about building and keeping strong relationships. I focus on being responsive to brokers’ and tenants’ requests for information, then work to target the best retail tenant mix. Follow up with prospects consistently and once the deal is done, continue those relationships you’ve just built. Make certain that there is a smooth transition until the tenant is moved in, and that they’re happy afterwards. A satisfied tenant can lead to future referrals, additional leases signed, and renewals in years to come.

By following my self-set “rules”, I was able to bring Ben’s Barketplace, a health food store for dogs and cats, to Sterling Pointe in Lincoln, California. The animal health market is an expanding and lucrative market, and I knew they would thrive as part of our tenant mix. This franchise is expanding throughout the greater Sacramento area, so by nurturing a strong relationship now, we ensure that they think of us first when it comes time to continue their expansion.”

Cold Calling – Yes, It’s Worth It – Chris Young, Senior Leasing Professional
“Cold calling is part of the job description. It sometimes feels like a thankless effort. But a recent deal with Kids Empire at Towne Crossing Shopping Center stands out because, believe it or not, this deal came from a cold call. My original call was to a restaurant broker for a vacancy in Plano. The broker told me they weren’t looking in the market at that time, so I kept asking questions and found out she was working with Kids Empire- a group from France that is coming to the States with strict site criteria. Our site matched their criteria and we started drafting a letter of intent. After a couple of great meetings, they are now signed up at Towne Crossing and we are working other deals with them in the PECO portfolio. Moral of the story is cold calling works- just be persistent and confident!”

Boots on the Ground – Josh O'Toole, Leasing Associate
“Working in leasing, you will have spaces and properties that are challenging. When I started, one of the shopping centers in my portfolio was about half vacant. We have since completed three new deals, with a couple more currently underway. There are a lot of strategies you can try for leasing- but the success at this center came from hitting the pavement. By just being locally present in the area, networking with friends at other local businesses, and making my face known in the area, I was able to sign these deals. I still cold call, I still use social media, and I still work with the brokers I’ve built relationships with. But the success at this property would not have been possible without having my boots (or sneakers!) on the ground.”

Develop Your Team – Vasili Lyhnakis, Regional Vice President of Leasing

As my role has changed from dealmaker to VP, so have my strategies for success. My main goal now is to continuously develop my team and help them grow. As markets shift and retail evolves, our leasing efforts will change and new tactics will emerge (direct messaging on Facebook, anyone?). However, developing a strong team mentality will always be essential.

We must keep in mind the “old school” strategies that have proven to be successful time and time again. There is no substitute for collaboration, knowing your markets, building relationships, cold calling, and having boots on the ground.

In this ever-changing industry, what have you found to be your tried and true best strategies for being “ripe” for success?

Vasili Lyhnakis
Vasili Lyhnakis
Regional Vice President of Leasing