Doug Myers – Acosta
There might be some hyperbole when Doug Myers laughingly describes how the real estate director in any enterprise—of which he is one—can still be perceived as the proverbial redheaded stepchild. Given the difficulty of property transactions, he understands the basis for the stereotype. But he sees it getting less pronounced, at least for his employer.
Myers manages his firm’s real estate portfolio and juggles other responsibilities for Acosta, an international sales and marketing business that has almost doubled its footprint through mergers and acquisitions since he brought his legal and real estate savvy to Jacksonville, Florida, headquarters in September 2020.
Accommodating all the new sites, software and personnel under one corporate umbrella would seem challenging under any circumstances. Much more so when these new holdings are brought into an already substantial real estate portfolio that, even before COVID-19, was due for consolidation.
“It may not be rocket science, but the complexities of corporate real estate touch upon so many disciplines,” Myers tells Blueprint in February. “The physical assets, the impacts to talent management and human resources, not to mention all of the planning and costs associated with furniture and equipment, infotech, building security, and on and on.”
Myers fits the role with credentials that include a law degree and an MBA he earned simultaneously in 2001 from the University of Florida, from which he has developed an expertise in real estate, IT and business. Maybe just as important, he says, is his appreciation for architecture that makes him, in his words, “a one-stop shop for all our real estate needs.”
Another in the fold
Last year’s company focus was acquisitions, with a final one called OeP, whose innovations in virtual marketplace promotions should enhance e-commerce. Since Myers joined the company, Acosta also has acquired the national sales and marketing agency Impact Group, food-service sales agency The CORE Group, and merchandise promoter and brander Premium Retail Sales.
All those companies are being integrated, with Myers working with teams that assess which sites to keep as is, which to downsize and which to sublease or close. Last year, Acosta’s active portfolio jumped from 140 to almost 250 sites while his team worked to scale back in the 150-to-175 range. “That’s no slam-dunk,” Myers says, as in many cases it means negotiating with landlords to end leases early or finding tenants for subletting unwanted space.
It also depends on a myriad of amenities, as some sites might include a kitchen or warehouse that’s required for successful sales pitches but not something landlords necessarily want to keep. Though the pandemic has limited his opportunities to visit sites, he did take one long road trip last year with stops in Chicago, Cincinnati and Charlotte, North Carolina, to check on high-profile projects and operations.
“Always good to go and kick the tires,” he says. “The roadmap to the future is long and real estate professionals have got to have a bigger seat at the table to help their companies optimize their portfolios and build to the new normal.”
That new normal is likely fewer square feet at most Acosta sites and more collaborative spaces for those retained. There being a nationwide glut of office space and shortage of residential housing, Myers agreed with a recent observation from his boss Tim Opelt, who is vice president of Acosta’s procurement team, that some commercial properties could convert to a hybrid or mixed-use model that includes dwelling units.
Then there’s integrating the data from each acquisition, for which he’s partnered with Quarem, a specialist for aggregating portfolio data for commercial customers and one of Myers’ favorite “proptech” companies.
“Anyone inside corporate real estate knows that data resides in disparate and unconnected systems, but it’s high time to go get it and make it work for us.”
Not just real estate
Thus, at least at Acosta, the responsibilities of the real estate director have multiplied many-fold, and with his background, Myers says he has an advantage.
“Whereas a commercial real estate lawyer may only understand the intricacies of leasing and contracting, I can bring a broader and holistic view,” he says. “I’m part of design function, of purchasing furniture and equipment, and of dealing with a host of other aspects of commercial real estate.”
As to how he garnered this background, it grew from his high school interest in architecture. But by the time he became a University of Florida undergrad, Myers’ interests shifted toward law, but with a focus on the design and construction of physical structures.
“The best classes I took in law school dealt with property,” he says. “Ultimately the law provided me with a path to business that ended in a non-legal role where I’ve found my niche. I’m still wearing my legal hat, but I’m predominately on the business and real estate side of the aisle.”
It was a long and circuitous path to Acosta, as the young Myers initially worked as a state prosecutor before logging a few years as an associate with two civil law firms. From 2010 to 2020 he held in-house positions and gained insight into the proptech industry as a cofounder of a data visualization firm and performing contract work for Quarem’s executive team.
Though he loved those roles, Myers knows he’s found his calling at Acosta and keeps busy in other areas of life, too. He’s the father of two school-age kids and an author who’s begun two novels and churned out a book on sustainable economics, which, he says, is tied to modern real estate management.
“The reason I fit in here is the variety of work and problem-solving,” he says. “It can be like playing hot potato, where we inevitably get burned if we hold onto one task too long. Or it can be like running a railyard, where any misstep or delay can cause everything to back up for weeks if not months at a time.”
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. III 2022 Edition here.
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