Paul Nelson has a very specific routine that he’s spent a year perfecting at Arrow Electronics. It’s a plan the real estate executive is using to modernize how the $23 billion Fortune 131 components and computer solutions company operates worldwide. With its meticulous execution, he’s helping Arrow gain a competitive edge by consolidating into a new headquarters, introducing a digital facilities ticketing system, and unifying one corporate brand across the enterprise. Nelson spoke with American Builders Quarterly about how his routine pans out during a typical work week.
While most people are winding down with a relaxing weekend, Nelson has already started his work week. Around 4:00 p.m., he starts organizing the week for his teams in Australia, New Zealand, Asia Pacific, and other important global markets.
“I identify our hot topics, and this strategy enables me and my team to understand what each region will encounter and need over the next five days,” he says. In addition to regular remote support, Nelson visits each region—his internal customers—two to three times per year.
Arrow started on New York’s famed “radio row” more than 80 years ago and has grown to a global company that has business segments in global components, enterprise computing solutions, and value recovery—the full life cycle of electronic components. Arrow’s real estate portfolio covers more than 500 locations across 60 countries. For 80 years, Arrow operated in a decentralized way. That served the company well in its early stages, but now, the new Arrow is mitigating risk and increasing efficiencies to speak with one voice across what has become a vast and complex organization.
Nelson, a process engineer by trade who hails from the United Kingdom, joined in late 2014 to create a playbook, process, and department for Arrow’s real estate division. Since his arrival, he’s helped create a global real estate team with transactions, facilities management, construction, security, fleet management, and sustainability components.
Arrow Electronics has been around since 1935, and has grown to 143 locations in North America alone. Each of those spaces range from medium-sized offices to massive distribution centers, which means each property has different needs. Some are brand new, and others need continual maintenance.
When Nelson arrives at his Colorado office on Monday morning, he checks voicemail and e-mail messages to discover what, if any, issues related to the portfolio arose over the weekend. Then, he follows up accordingly and updates his team on the week’s activities. Nelson will usually check in with the company’s chief information officer at this stage of the work week.
Paul Nelson discovered his creativity and interest for design at a young age. Like most children, he grew up playing with LEGOs, but Nelson took his love for the little plastic building blocks a step further by submitting his own plans to the company’s head office. At age 12, he designed and built the Golden Gate Bridge and submitted his masterpiece to a UK competition. Nelson won top prize and a trip to the original Legoland park in Billund, Denmark.
Since Wednesday is usually Nelson’s busiest day of the week, Tuesday is an important prep day. He typically can be found preparing for a series of conference calls, readying presentations for executives, or getting information on various real estate transactions to teams and internal customers. When Arrow is considering a new project, he’ll meet with members of each business group to explain the process and gather input.
This step becomes especially important during Arrow’s ongoing headquarters consolidation that will unite nine Denver offices into one new campus. The company is building a second tower next to a current office and filling the area with green spaces, a gym, and connections to light rail and mass transit.
On these critical days, Nelson also works to update others on key projects, such as Arrow’s ongoing modernization, designed to make it easier for customers to interact with the company. A new ticketing system designed with 360Workplace provides an easy interactive process.
“We’ve deployed several tools that our customers can use to get what they need online faster and easier than ever before,” he says. “They get the same type of response and a consistent level of information back from us each and every time, the most important item about the ticketing system is that the customer is heard and knows when their request will be actioned.”
It’s still dark when Nelson’s alarm wakes him early each Wednesday morning. He’s in the office and on the phone by 4:30 a.m. MST to start a day of global conferences. The first call covers the entire portfolio, includes a cross-functional team of more than 90 people, and lasts four hours—with each region calling in at a specific time to discuss needs and details.
At 8:30 a.m.—when most people are just starting their day—Nelson dials Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, Arrow’s outside real estate firm. He then talks with a global project management team for an hour before launching a sustainability call, followed by a security call. He spends another hour talking with one of four large sister companies under the Arrow umbrella. Finally, he spends the last part of his 12-hour day talking finance with Arrow’s corporate support team.
“By the time I finish with my Wednesday, I’m confident that I know what’s going on in the world, at least for an hour or two,” Nelson jokes. With almost 600 active projects, the long day is necessary to keep all involved parties informed.
After a jam-packed Wednesday, Nelson treats his Thursday like a catch-up day. He follows up Wednesday’s conversations with e-mails, phone calls, and one-on-one discussions, has a standing meeting with Arrow’s CIO, and starts to wrap up his work week.
Although his workload is rarely light, Friday is reserved as Nelson’s “free day.” He strives to book as little as possible so he can use the time for immediate needs and to address anything critical around Arrow’s Denver offices and its local portfolio. This is also a key day to meet with staff as there are always items to discuss about careers and other related employee items.
Saturday is the only time Nelson’s schedule slows down a bit. With four children, he works with his wife to stay as organized at home as he is at work.
By implementing his weekly schedule, Nelson harnesses his type-A personality and brings structure to what would otherwise seem overwhelming.
“It lets people know how I spend my time and what is the best way to get ahold of me,” he says. He also builds in necessary wiggle room—other than Wednesday, Nelson can shift and flex appointments as needed. That bit of wiggle room helps Nelson maximize his time as he works to make Arrow more efficient and cost-effective. In 2017, he’ll finish a project started in 2016 that will integrate offices around the world from past acquisitions to execute on the Arrow brand and increase collaboration.