Five Things We Learned from James Patterson


For James Patterson, Cushman & Wakefield’s Chief Executive of Australia and New Zealand, diversity and inclusion should be at the heart of an organisation’s growth strategy. In our Shaping What’s Next podcast, he talked about how leaders have a crucial role in building an inclusive environment, the current market trends he’s closely watching, which sectors have a strong margin of growth, and more.

In this blog post we take a look at some of the key points from that conversation.

Taking a step back and having more focus are two guidelines that James would give himself if he were to go back to his first day as Chief Executive
“I have a leasing background so I did leasing for 25 to 30 years. I basically spent most of the time walking the streets and talking to tenants. If I could go back to my first day as Chief Executive I would have suggested I take a step back, become more focused, and focus on building out the Sydney business first. That’s what I learned in the first six to twelve months. So there’s a lot of things that I’d probably do a little differently, but I probably wanted to do it quickly and now sitting here nearly five years later, we’ve got a really strong platform. The markets are really talking about Cushman & Wakefield.”

Investment opportunities are strong in the fit-out side of the business
“We currently have a business that is probably 20% the size of our major competitor in a market with enormous upside. So I think our goal is certainly ramping it up, and still remaining focusing on office, retail and industrial sectors across Australia. 

I think there’s an enormous opportunity in our PDS [Project & Development Services] business, not only from a projects point of view but from a Design & Build as well. We know there’s a really strong margin of growth there. We really need to focus on our embedded accounts. We have our occupier services business, so I think there’s opportunity there to grow that into the investors’ space.”

James considers outsourcing and coworking as market trends that have huge potential for investments
“The opportunities for Cushman & Wakefield and other big providers who are global is enormous over the next five to ten years, so we’re all watching the outsource market. From an office point of view, it’s really interesting that really low vacancy in the key markets in Sydney and Melbourne has led to an influx of coworking space creation. This is fantastic because it gives the bigger corporates the opportunity to have more flexibility around how they use space. Traditionally, prior to the expansion of coworking [operators] like WeWork and Regus, a lot of firms would take extra space to factor in growth, which is really a challenge if they don’t grow because then they’re carrying a lot of extra space.”

Leaders should ensure that there’sopportunity with the business to make a difference in the community
“It’s very much about making sure that we as leaders have the opportunity through the business to make a difference in the community. In Australia, we’ve done a lot in the last three years. If you look at our journey, especially with the likes of Anna Town coming on board who really drove our Vivid [Sydney] platform, you can see a passionate group of people across our whole business who want to make a difference. 

Vivid Sydney has been a great opportunity for us as an Access & Inclusion partner. Vivid is a 23-day light show. It’s one of the best in the world. We were the inclusion partner in 2017. We built a playground in 2018. We went in with an idea of making Vivid more inclusive. We then built a playground, went out and raised $260,000 and had 60,000 people through. The next year we’ve had a bigger playground and raised $300,000 from corporate Australia and we had 210,000 people through, of which 8% were families with disabilities. So that’s one part of it that we wanted to give back to the community.”

He is passionate about making a difference in the workplace
“I was really keen when I took on this role to build a culture in this business that was different from all the other firms. I wanted to make it a different place to work and hopefully encourage people to come here for a reason, not just because they’re a mercenary agent chasing their money, which happens. That will give them something different to think about when they come to work, and hopefully they will then be more engaged and be more fulfilled not only from their point of view but from their families’ as well. So I think our journey is really just starting. I think we’ve really made a difference, and a number of our clients have said that. So I think that’s quite rewarding.”


To listen to the full podcast, visit our Shaping What’s Next page on Spotify External Link, Apple Podcasts External Link, Podbean External Link, Stitcher External Link, or TuneIn External Link. Subscribe to our podcast series to ensure you never miss an episode.

Note: The above article has been edited for clarity.


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