Justin welcomes Chris Skyles, Co-Founder and Chief Growth Office of AnthemIQ. Chris introduces AnthemIQ as an end to end solution to take tenant assignments digital. Justin shares his experience and adoption of AnthemIQ.
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- Chris Skyles’ background in commercial real estate – 1:15
- The inspiration behind AnthemIQ- 3:20
- AnthemIQ increased productivity in it’s first year – 5:30
- Adoption of AnthemIQ – 8:00
- AnthemIQ makes it easier to update clients in real-time -11:00
- Brokers can use AnthemIQ as a differentiator to win business – 13:00
- The support team of AnthemIQ drives adoption – 14:35
- AnthemIQ is an end to end solution – 17:00
- What’s next for AnthemIQ – 20:00
Connect with Chris Skyles
Connect with Justin Smith
Justin Smith: Hey, Chris.
Chris Skyles: Hey.
Justin Smith: Chris, we made it somehow some way.
Chris Skyles: We made it.
Justin Smith: I love it, and this is your office or your house?
Chris Skyles: So actually I came home our office right now. We are running, Elevate Growth Partners, Anthem IQ, and Elevate Development Partners, our development arm, all under the same roof. So it can get a little chaotic and loud in the office these days. So if there’s a podcast, I come home.
Justin Smith: You start to tell the difference between home and work sometimes. I asked my wife about polishing the concrete at our house, and she said, “I have limits.”
Chris Skyles: Exactly. You got to keep a little sacred space at home.
Justin Smith: Totally. I figured we’d just jump right in. So AnthemIQ, I know what it is. You could probably help describe it for folks, if that’s a great place to start. That’s one of your initiatives that we’re talking about today.
Chris Skyles: Yes, no, of course. Maybe we start a little bit with my background because I think that will lead us into Anthem IQ and the journey there. My background is really as a commercial real estate broker in Austin, Texas, focused on office tenant rep. I’m still an active tenant rep broker. I’m doing far less transactions that I used to, but I still do a few transactions a year. I’ve been doing office tenant rep in Austin for 17 or 18 years now. And I was kind of one of the top producing office tenant rep brokers in our market for about a decade. So that’s my background in commercial real estate. My entire adult professional life has been devoted to commercial brokerage. We had really carved a strong niche at the boutique farm that I owned providing real estate services and tenant rep services to technology companies. And this was back in like, ’06, ’07 and ’08 before the tech scene was really very robust in Austin. So we were kind of the first commercial real estate firm focused on that vertical and we gained a lot of traction. Then as tech exploded our client roster and list really grew. And so that was an interesting moment because now you’re representing a lot of the tech founders and CEOs in a city like Austin. They’re very innovative group of people. And so they were constantly challenging me and our firm and saying things like, “Hey, Chris, there’s got to be a better way to help us find space that doesn’t involve you blowing up my email box with thirty different marketing PDFs and floor plans and stuff. There’s got to be a better way.” These are people that are used to building digital products that use Google to find the restaurant they’re going to eat out and use Zillow to find their house. They’re kind of digital natives. That was really where the idea to build Anthem IQ came from. It was really inspired by our clients.
Justin Smith: I love it when they’re like, “Hey, we could just crank out a model for how to put this together right here, right now.” And you just say, “okay, let’s, let’s go with it.” But the client really drives everything, right? What they need, what they feel and how you can help support them.
Chris Skyles: When you’re competing in a services industry, like we are in commercial real estate, everybody is looking to differentiate and there’s no way you’re going to win if you’re not listening to what the clients want. What the clients were saying was your industry’s in the stone ages. It’s affecting my process here and finding space, get current is what they were saying to us.
Justin Smith: Yes, you’re cramping our style, which is funny because in a lot of industries now with AnthemIQ you’re ahead of that for a lot of people that aren’t in the tech scene. That’s what I have experienced with customers where you allow them to get out of their email box and have a dashboard or a portal. They see that everywhere else, but they don’t see it here. I really enjoyed providing that for clients. It’s been super helpful.
Chris Skyles: That’s awesome to hear. I love hearing that. It’s completely transformed my commercial brokerage, in so many ways that we can talk about. Usually when there’s industries that lag in tech and innovation, especially industries the size of commercial real estate, like multi-trillion dollar industries. That’s where some of the biggest opportunities are. So, we feel very fortunate.
Justin Smith: How has your brokerage changed? That’s a great segue. You should be in the news or the weather, your segues, those are good.
Chris Skyles: So the brokerage has changed in some very measurable ways. And I’ll start with just, let’s just talk about production. By the way, AnthemIQ was originally called ElevateIQ. The name of my brokerage is Elevate Growth Partners. And so it was really built to be a competitive differentiator for my brokerage and my brokers. The reason we would win business and clients we want to work with us is because ideally, we would have this tool that nobody else had. We quickly learned that a lot of people wanted access to this tool, and it was a much more exciting business to spin that technology out and license the technology to outside brokerages and brokers. But initially keep in mind, we’re building the tool to solve a problem that we were encountering, that our clients were asking for. So our initial experience with Anthem was controlled, to just Elevate Growth Partners broker users. And so when we connected our brokers to the product AnthemIQ, we doubled our annual broker production in the first year. And the first year of following connecting our brokers. That was just a direct result of what AnthemIQ does which is a workflow management tool, but it will allow a broken to take their client from search all the way to sign lease on one collaborative digital interface. And many of the manual steps involved in the work are now automated within AnthemIQ, and that gives you quality control, but it also allows the same broker to do more deals per year.
Chris Skyles: So like me in my prime, I was doing like probably forty-three deals a year. And that was just like working as hard as I could. There were no more hours in the day, but it’s a service, so I couldn’t scale myself. So then you’re capped. If I had been connected to Anthem, I could have done a hundred deals because I could handle so many more transactions when it’s all organized in that workflow. So we doubled our annual production because our best brokers were able to handle more deals. It was putting us in a better competitive position to win deals because the product really resonated and solved a lot of pain points for the client as well.
Justin Smith: Yeah, I’m imagining the doubling right. That’s enough to get your attention and for every broker that’s short on time. What I really felt was helpful was scaling it within our own team, allowed you to scale your teamwork better. I could only imagine that on a firm-wide basis, office by office.
Chris Skyles: For the broker listeners, on the podcast today, it’s interesting because we’ve all experienced that situation where you’re halfway through a transaction and either your plate gets too full, or you have a life event where you have to invite in a co-broker or a couple of co-brokers from your team. And bringing them up to speed sometimes can almost take more work than just trying to finish the deal yourself. With Anthem, it’s as simple as adding a user from your organization to that transaction and then they can immediately spend 10 minutes every property, the client’s favorited or disinterested and every proposal that’s been uploaded into Anthem. So they can get caught up in real time in a matter of minutes instead of hours, days, or weeks.
Justin Smith: Yes, adoption. I’ve definitely experienced, what it took for me to become familiar and what it took for our team. And then now we’re maybe a dozen clients in of which ones adopted very quick, which ones need a little more handholding and support. How do you try and make the adoption as frictionless as possible?
Chris Skyles: So adoption is the big challenge. We talked about our industry commercial real estate being somewhat in the stone ages when it comes to tech and innovation. The reason for that is the main stakeholders, the brokers and the big brokerages they’re not always the most naturally interested in or curious in technology. So adoption has been slow for tech and that’s kind of stifled innovation in our sector. What we love about Anthem is the people pounding the table the loudest are the clients. Saying stop working with me like this. And the more digitally native those clients become, they’re buying their goods and services online. They’re shopping for their houses online. They start to go, this is unacceptable. You can’t push thirty separate static PDF attachments over to me and expect me to make any sense out of it.
Chris Skyles: I think the biggest driver of adoption is the client. And so what we like to do if a new user signs up for Anthem, my task to our customer success team is do whatever you have to do, hold their hand in training to get them live with a client. Because when a user goes live with a client and they see in real time, the client favoriting and disinteresting and interacting. And then the client calls them and says, “Hey, this is so cool. This is so much better than the last time I found space.” Then that broker never goes back. But if they never have that aha moment where their client is raving about it, then they might say, “why am I going to invest the time to learn something new?”
Justin Smith: Yeah, without a doubt. It’s funny I’ve even found some that if they have a challenge with it, they still prefer it. Sometimes we’ll have a weekly meeting with clients where we’ll navigate it for them and with them together real time, they’re in Dallas and we’re in SoCal. I love being able to just quickly have the whole project right in front of you. And then everyone who needs to be there to be able to present it and include other like a service vendors and other team members. I found that part really helped.
Chris Skyles: Thank you for saying that. Again, I want to drive back to what the product started as was a bunch of clients saying, stop sending me PDFs and spreadsheets. Then that led me to ask the question or kind of make this statement, I need some kind of software product that can ingest all these flyers and data and turn them into one like digital survey where all stakeholders can log in, on a web-based platform and be looking at the same thing. And clients can review options and favorite and disinterest and request tours. So our product started as let’s call it a digital survey. Now, today it will take you through every critical milestone from presenting search results to your clients, to scheduling tours, to comparing proposals side by side, to uploading a lease and doing a lease abstract and to actually running and managing your tours inside of the application from a mobile device. It’s really brought a lot of efficiency to every critical stage of a transition.
Justin Smith: What are some creative way people are using it to differentiate in the pitch? I got to imagine that it’s all about the pitch, right? We all spend so much time on that part.
Chris Skyles: I’m going to admit something to you and the listeners. I would say what I see in Elevate is maybe 25% of the time either the client or the broker has a reason why maybe Anthem is not the right path for that particular transaction. However, a hundred percent of the time Anthem is used to present as a differentiator and a better way to do this process and we’re getting insane results on winning new business. So I guess what I’m saying is I’m seeing brokers pitch and win on Anthem and then sometimes decide not to use Anthem for that transaction, but it dramatically increased the win rate when you can go in. At Elevate, we actually get competitive with it. So we’ll go in and we’ll learn just enough about the client we’re pitching to build a mock dashboard and we’ll upload the client logo. And then when we talk about technology as a differentiator, I literally show them their Anthem dashboard and I invite them all to the project in real time. And then I say, okay, get on your phone and then they’re looking at all the properties on their phone. You take them through that experience and then you issue the client a challenge. You say “whoever you’re going to interview after challenge them to run a brief search and share some search results with you and kind of measure their deliverables and not experience compared to what I just showed you. And you decide what’s going to be more efficient and collaborative for your team.” And when you do that, it’s almost a hundred percent win rate on new business.
Justin Smith: How can you go through that experience and not feel that way and knowing what you know, and what I know about the experience. Yeah, I love that. It is so powerful and so funny, getting people out of email but to have just the portal and the dashboard in the one place.
Chris Skyles: Everything in one place, access your Anthem dashboard as a client or a broker and everything related to your transaction is living in a beautiful user interface. That’s branded to the client.
Justin Smith: Tell me about support and what that looks like. I know I’ve had a zillion questions and gotten a zillion and one answers. And then if you ask enough questions, then you get invited to talk with the engineers or work on stuff together. What’s that look like for people?
Chris Skyles: I love it. We have an amazing support team. Our entire support team sits in Austin, Texas, where we’re headquartered. Some of the key stakeholders in our support team were transaction coordinators at my brokerage, which did nothing but build Anthem dashboards for brokers. So what’s awesome is when you need support with our Anthem product as a user, you’re talking to somebody who really understands the broker’s point of view because they worked on that side of the equation. But then you’re talking about people who have been here since the beginning and so know all the ins and outs of our products.
Chris Skyles: So we’re really proud of our support because when you’re dealing with our support team, everybody’s in Austin, it’s not outsourced overseas or to other countries. And these are people who have really, really strong backgrounds and understanding of commercial real estate, because you talked about adoption. That is our biggest challenge. The biggest limit to Anthem scale is going to be adoption because the total addressable market is big, and our product is amazing. But now it’s how many people can we get to use it. We really believe that support team is going to be critical to driving that adoption because we can empathize with our user. Our user is not the most tech savvy person in the room.
Justin Smith: I have found not only do I use it, my assistant uses the support. And then we of course have wanted to be locked step with the client, and I found nave and use it too. I feel like it’s everything to have that be accessible and as simple as can be. That goes a long way of having the people that are transaction coordinators that know what you’re thinking. I love it. That’s so huge. I feel like that’s what’s so lacking on a lot of platforms is having that real-time support.
Chris Skyles: Yes, thank you. It’s really great to hear that. I really have a soft spot for our support team because they probably work as hard as anybody out Anthem, because again, our users are not the most tech savvy folks, so they have a lot of questions. So it’s a really high touch division of our company.
Justin Smith: Tell me about the road map. Where are we taking this show?
Chris Skyles: The roadmap is all about end to end. So we want to be the place that brokers live. That a broker would start their day and we want to do that. By delivering a solution where the broker can literally take their client from search all the way to sign, lease, and every critical step in between you all is happening within Anthem.
Chris Skyles: There’s a lot of products out there for commercial real estate right now. And they’ll just solve one piece of the puzzle. So then if you want to be a broker using good technology, you got to have twenty tools open to get through a transaction. So Anthem is really being built and everything about our roadmap is designed to be a single solution end to end, and really like an enterprise caliber solution.
Justin Smith: What are we missing? What would be a next step if you were thinking out loud?
Chris Skyles: Next step, as it relates to what?
Justin Smith: In the end, the end journey. For me, what I experienced was I didn’t really know if it needed a place, but I was able to work on a large e-commerce assignment where I had Anthem in there with the whole executive team. And it was a great personal risk for me being like, okay, do I feel confident enough in my abilities to use the platform for a large assignment? It ended up being a fantastic experience and for me, for the team and for everybody involved. It was interesting to think through site selection, the digital survey, the tour, adding all the pictures and the videos. All that was fantastic. That was my first time of looking at like multiple RFPs and results and being able to go side by side. I loved that. That was great. And then it’s lease document negotiation time, and then you go into the legal world. The legal black hole and then a re-emerge, victorious with a signed contract.
Justin Smith: I’m not sure the lease negotiation has a need to be in there or not, but in the life cycle, it was interesting to think through like the document doesn’t go in there, does it, should it, could it, would it and that kind of stuff. That’s the only part where it was like, the Anthem parts over for the time being until it’s done signed a new abstract.
Chris Skyles: Yes, that’s right. So there are a lot of legal nuances to inviting changes to the document within our product because it’s a legal process and not one that brokers should really be involved in beyond the business points. So that particular part of the process is not a huge point of focus for us right now. We acknowledge that these leases need to get worked on by outside legal counsel, likely they’re not stakeholders within Anthem. And then when that’s all worked out, the clean document can be uploaded into Anthem for everybody’s viewing. Some of the key things that we’re really going to be focused on now is the different stakeholders.
Chris Skyles: So our product was first and foremost built for the tenant rep broker and the tenant client. And so we really feel like we have those user journeys down really well. But now we want to create more features and more compelling reasons for leasing agents and project leasing agents to be actively engaged and for landlords to be actively engaged. We’re aggregating amazing and powerful data and insights. Imagine if as a landlord, you could know that when a building has an onsite cafe, it gets favorited 38% more times by tenants inside of Anthem IQ. There’s powerful data and insights that we can start making available to other stakeholders that weren’t our primary stakeholder, but that if we want brokers to live in Anthem, we need to really get the same level of journey and process that we’ve mapped out for the tenant and the tenant rep. We want that mapped out for leasing agents and eventually even like when you start thinking about sales, investment sales and purchases. That workflow can be mapped out in a similar journey. So we want to take what we’ve discovered about end to end on the tenant rep and leasing transaction, and we now want to build those products for leasing agent and for investment sales and purchase and sale brokerage.
Justin Smith: It’s so hilarious, I’m in all three of those food groups. So, I totally recognize where we’re deficient or having the zillion different tools and the ones that aren’t end in and they don’t cover all of it. You’re preaching to the choir on that. No doubt about it. It’s interesting to think of the information and the insights and the data that there’s more use for it. There’s so much like actionable use that could come out of that. That’s powerful that you can forego or that you can harness.
Chris Skyles: Yeah, I know we aggregated over a billion square feet of data in the first year. And I think when you look at other products and how long it took them to get to a billion square feet, it’s pretty compelling and exciting to think about where this goes. Especially, I won’t say firms by name, but we have active enterprise level paid pilots going, on soon to be five of the biggest firms in the world. And so as they start to bite off licenses in hundred unit increments, testing them to roll them out nationally or globally, it starts to get really exciting to think about how much data we start to aggregate from these amazing enterprise customers.
Justin Smith: Portfolios are only getting bigger, right. Portfolio sales and the amount of assets that are out there just from a certain amount of players is off the charts.
Justin Smith: Well, that’s fantastic. I’m a sensitive to your time. I think that’s the big stuff and for the roadmap is always interested to see where you’re going, but that’s a big addressable market. So we’ll keep our eyes and ears out for a new announcement.
Chris Skyles: That’s awesome. Thank you very much. It’s always good to trade notes. Thank you for being an Anthem user and one that’s so vocal about what you love and what we can improve on. That kind of feedback. Actually, that’s something that we know talked about, but something that’s been a really important part of the Anthem story because it was built within a brokerage and then spun out. I purposely kept the brokerage and AnthemIQ, this now separate software business kind of physically connected. And I did that because the feedback that would come in from our own broker users directly to our product managers and our engineers was so invaluable to hear what clients want and what brokers needed to do. And I just thought, God, this is such a beautiful synergy to have Elevate as a broker user customer sitting at times in the same room as the people building the product.
Justin Smith: And we brokers on a hundred percent commission usually are extremely transparent about what’s working and what isn’t right and vocalizing any concerns, or if it doesn’t work, we don’t use it. We generally don’t have the time to be able to do that or like the risk to be able to do that. It took me a small moment to overcome that, to sign up. And now it’s a year past that and I’m glad I did. Thankful for you and everything that you built.
Chris Skyles: Well, thank you so much. Thanks for your time today and I look forward to visiting again.
Justin Smith: Awesome. Thank you, Chris.
Chris Skyles: Okay. Thank you.