Deluxe Entertainment Services Group has been a leader in the tech side of entertainment since 1915. A large part of its key to success is agility and adaptability. While those are characteristics that you expect in tech, they are skills necessary to the management of the company’s brick-and-mortar real estate as well. In April 2017, Ben Soble, vice president of global real estate and facilities, joined the company and has been proving his worth. “We are in the business of providing services to the entertainment industry, and that is a business that calls for constant change and nimble response to a very fast-moving sector,” Soble says. “Sometimes you get your orders and start to march and suddenly you have to turn left instead of right, midstride. You just have to learn to disengage your ego.”
This ability to roll with the punches and thrive in an environment of constant change is no surprise. Soble comes to Deluxe with 20 years of experience in real estate and facilities management, 10 of those in international work, and with more than 100 buildouts under his belt. He now acts as the gatekeeper for all of Deluxe Entertainment’s office space. “My job is to ensure that our real estate footprint matches the needs of the business,” Soble says.
He is responsible for 80 locations worldwide, the majority of these leased properties. His role runs the gamut from understanding leadership needs to acquisitions to design to remodeling to facilities management to closure. “I must understand location needs, things like, ‘Will this be client-facing?’” he says. “Then I have to do my due diligence on locations; work with brokerage, scouting, bringing choice to leadership; then develop space, design, and deliver; and then, after they open, manage the facilities.”
Already in his tenure with Deluxe, Soble has completed an overhaul of California offices and received a promotion. But all this is small potatoes compared with what he is working on now. In Bangalore, India, he is managing a transition from a 33,000-square-foot space to a 100,000-square-foot office park. Even with all this room, Soble will have to be creative to fit everything in. He needs 1,650 seats—some with open-bench workstations and others in L-shaped desk spaces—as well as an NOC room, all to provide distribution services to Deluxe clients.
The current building developed on an as-needed basis. “When you have an operation that has just grown for 12 years, the spaces have not always been planned,” Soble says. “We have an opportunity to design something great.” The property is designed to be beautiful, an experience, a state-of-the-art-facility, and an office park that is LEED Gold-certified and built to attract top-notch employee talent.
Floor plans and all the fixture details are finalized, Soble has approvals, and the building is slated for an impressive four-month turn around, opening in September 2018. When asked about working in another country, Soble says, “International work is not that different. You have to know the real estate and construction rules, but if you have to build a space, you have to build a space. You take the steps.”
Relationships are Key
Soble insists that, no matter where you work, you must focus on transparency and communication. “You kind of get to be the mayor of where you are,” he says. “You know everyone, what they like, what they want.” This does not mean that Soble thinks his job is to tell people what to do. “Listen to your customers and understand their needs,” he says. “Don’t just infuse your opinions—maybe your experience, but not your opinions.”
For the India office, like all projects, there are a lot of relationships to manage. “It’s a really cool job,” Soble says. “You don’t sit on your butt on a computer. You interface with so many types of people. That includes, internally, everything from understanding pain points for clerical workers to deliverables for the CEO. And then there are so many professionals: designers, brokers, and lawyers.”
Soble is going to be using those incredible communication, relationship, and follow-through skills to help overhaul pieces of Deluxe’s culture and structure. Beyond managing individual locations, Soble has also been tapped to design and implement some consistency in standards and practice for Deluxe spaces. This large, complex, and dynamic company is looking to shift to a shared-services model, with a more centralized approach to real estate management. The company wants to unify the work experience for its 8,500 employees and numerous clients, in terms of workplace allocation, perks, and design.
“As we build new facilities, we will be infusing a culture of efficiency and workplace standards,” Soble says. These standards are important for branding, ensuring that customers have a sense of the Deluxe design. It will also allow Soble and his team to have more purchasing power. Already, many people who are not his direct reports are looking to Soble for guidance in real estate choices.
Ben Soble is a busy man. He is flying around the world, participating in meetings with global partners, and managing domestic employees. When asked about real estate management and development, it becomes clear that the work continues to fuel his passion for the field. After years of working his way up and learning to build relationships, spin on a dime, and follow through, he is bringing Deluxe a lot of enthusiasm and knowledge.