TBY talks to Daniel Álvarez, Principal & Senior VP of Cushman & Wakefield, on long-term strategy, the economic value of culture, and crafting the right business plan.

Daniel Álvarez
Daniel Alvarez was appointed Managing Partner at Cushman & Wakefield/AB Advisory in December 2014. Prior to joining C&W, Alvarez leaded the Corporate Services division at Colliers International. Attending corporate real estate projects across Latin America, he consistently received Top Producer awards for the region. Alvarez holds a business administration degree with a major in finance and is the only Certified Commercial Investment Member by the Chicago CCIM Institute in Costa Rica. He is also enrolled in executive Education programs at the Harvard Extension School and Incae Business School.

How would you evaluate the performance of Cushman & Wakefield/AB Advisory over its six years in Costa Rica, and what strategy are you following to maintain such results?

My partner was initially based in Mexico City, then about six years ago he moved here and saw some opportunities for the company, though he did not necessarily start developing a fully operational office. Approximately two years ago, I joined the company as Managing Director and partner of the Cushman & Wakefield alliance to develop a full service office here, which includes our brokerage services, investment sales, project management, and facilities management, as well as valuation and consulting. We are the only fully operational commercial real estate office within Central America. We have a team of approximately 25 people and are number one in terms of revenue and market share.

In 2016, the company plans to open an office in Panama. Can you describe your plans for expansion and your five-year investment?

We are covering projects in Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, and will realize some other projects in Guatemala, though this is not yet active. Those markets are not yet large enough to support a formal office. It is easy for us to take day trips to support our operations. When we partnered, the board of directors asked me to prepare a five-year business plan with a corresponding investment plan. That five-year plan essentially outlined and indicated the way that we want to expand the business over the coming five years in terms of geography and service lines.

What are the challenges and opportunities presented by doing business here in Costa Rica?

Of the negative things that are said about Costa Rica, infrastructure and bureaucracy are the two most clearly recognized challenges. Bureaucracy is more of an issue, as infrastructure, though it was lacking for several decades, is a relatively easier problem to solve through adequate investment plans. We need a structural reform to truly solve our problems from the roots; however, I do not see that happening in the next 10 to 20 years. On the bureaucracy side, we can do some things to improve the situation, but we cannot change it at the root. The size of the economy may be an issue sometimes, as some of our larger clients thinking about bigger investment projects in the medium to long term are investing millions of dollars in small countries. The Costa Rican workforce is one of the most educated and hardworking workforces in the region, which is a huge asset to have. In addition to that, the culture of the people here is quite open to American culture, European culture, and other Latin American cultures. We do not have the cultural barriers that are found in other areas of Latin America.

What are your expectations and goals and priorities for 2017?

Our main goal is to be well positioned as the leading commercial real estate firm in Central America; that is our first and foremost objective. Our clients also say that we are the leader in the region, which is our clear target. In 2016, we have completed eight major private bid processes with our competitors in Costa Rica, and we have won all eight. We just want to keep on that track and work as hard as needed to do so. That is our culture; we work hard and play hard. We want to go the extra mile not on paper, but in reality.