Telecommunications services company British Telecom Group Plc. (BT) has upheld a presence in the Americas for the last 30 years. During this time, its headquarters has been in New York, California, and now Dallas, Texas. Even before finding its current HQ, however, BT was in an area of Dallas that didn’t support the needs of all its employees.
Steven Marley, head of real estate and facilities management for BT, recalls the former headquarters as being a place where he sometimes went an entire day without seeing anyone. Fluorescent lighting and tall gray partitions created a work culture that Marley describes as “isolating and insular.” Needless to say, such an environment wasn’t conducive to collaboration.
“People would go into their offices and stay in there all day,” Marley recalls.
But Marley knew the necessary changes had to be more than just swapping out dated furniture. It was going to take an overhaul of the entire Dallas headquarters.
BT had several boxes to check when looking for a “new urban” campus. Ideally, it would not only have plenty of office space, but also residential, commercial, retail, and recreational amenities. He also wanted it to be easily accessible for BT employees in other offices and attractive to young talent.
After four months of searching, the company found that Cypress Waters—a 1,000-acre office park—was the perfect fit. Located between Dallas and Fort Worth, it is roughly five minutes from DFW Airport and right next to the LBJ Freeway and Belt Line Road. This made it easier for Marley to bring the established company culture in London over to the United States.
“Being a British community, we have a lot of employees and UK visitors that don’t like long commutes,” he says. “They like to take a stroll. It’s good for them.”
The development includes a 362-acre lake surrounded by developing trails, parks, and a lakeside town center. It’s what Marley calls “a master plan community.” With housing, restaurants, and surrounding nature, what more could employees need?
BT wasn’t the only corporation drawn in by Cypress Waters either. The company joined the likes of Cheddars, Nationstar Mortgage, Meritage Homes, and 7-Eleven. On the half-floor of a three-story, 188,440-square-foot building, it currently houses about 250 employees.
BT is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in 180 countries. As for BT Americas, its offices can be found in 16 key cities across the United States and Canada. Additionally, it operates in 20 Latin American countries with more than 4,000 employees throughout the region. With such a large portfolio, maintaining a company culture that’s consistent can be a challenge.
Still, Marley isn’t deterred. In fact, one of his most important goals is to make each BT property feel similar to other BT properties.
“When I go to London, you feel the culture, but when you get outside of the UK and Europe, people don’t know the company,” he says. “We haven’t had a strong regional identity.” Part of this results from BT acquiring a series of different companies, including Infonet, Ribbit, Wire One Communications, Radianz, and Comsat International. Until recently, each location maintained its own aesthetic, but Marley says the five-year goal is for all of the offices to have the same global look and style. The Dallas HQ is setting the standard for this comprehensive facelift, with the next new-look space outside of Dallas opening soon in Houston. This will be the flagship site for BT’s smaller regional offices, and operate under the project name “Rocket.”
“It gives people a new identity,” Marley says. “We are working on how these properties can add to the culture.”
The Real Reward
While transforming BT’s expansive list of American properties is a daunting task (an estimated 50 offices and 300 leases in total), Marley had his fair share of corporate real estate experience prior to joining the company—16 years, in fact. His former employers include Citigroup, AT&T, and Verizon. Immediately before joining BT, he was Nokia’s head of real estate in North America.
Although his day-to-day is ever-changing, Marley’s main role is still to manage and enhance BT Americas’ real estate portfolio. With this comes negotiating site acquisitions and dispositions, new site selection, budgeting, strategy, construction, and lease administration. He’s also responsible for managing the facilities departments, as well as the data centers in his respective markets.
His efforts are paying off. During his time at BT, he’s reduced the office portfolio spend and footprint by an estimated 40 percent through design and implementation of new workspace standards. He’s also found new ways to consolidate sites to conform with BT’s corporate strategy.
That being said, the true gold for Marley lies not in the numbers, but in how the changes have positively impacted BT’s employees. Upon reflecting on the company’s one-year anniversary at Cypress Waters in December 2016, he sums up the fruits of his labor with one simple sentence:
“The environment is much more collaborative than before,” Marley says.