The first three months of the new year have simply flown by. Our team was more motivated than ever and the hunger for success was insatiable.
Our sales team celebrated the first big deals of the year and worked unceasingly on upcoming contracts. In the background, new marketing concepts were honed, while management anticipated and planned the future of the company.
We honestly don’t know the meaning of standstill. Once one idea has just been worked out, there are three new ones on the table and five more swirling around in our heads. Yes, that’s the way it is at BB Estates! We never have to chase up new ideas for long. The difficulty lies more in choosing just one of the many. Because let’s be honest – it’s just not possible to implement every one of our ideas.
“Not only do you have to have more ideas than the rest, but you also have to possess the ability to decide which of these ideas is good.”
After all, as large as we may sometimes seem, we are a medium-sized, owner-managed company and not a multinational corporation. Nevertheless, we are known for “lateral thinking”, which is why we often come up with what might be considered rather untypical ideas. Our goal is to always produce a flood of ideas and, to this end, we are always looking for inspiration, further expanding our own horizons.
For inspiration and motivation, we have always liked to look across the Pond, that’s no secret. That’s why we really wanted to explore Silicon Valley in person. It is about an hour’s drive from San Francisco and, as most of you will know, is home to Apple, Facebook, Google and co.
This spring, the time had finally come. We, in this case CEO and Marketing, flew to northern California!
The small road trip began in San Francisco in springtime temperatures. The feeling of strolling through such a multifaceted city as SFO in a T-shirt, denim jacket and sunglasses set the thought-carousel in motion. We took the cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf and past the legendary seals frolicking about on Pier 39. The obligatory visit to Chinatown and a coffee in the Financial District were of course also part and parcel of setting the mood.
After a day in this often-foggy city on the Pacific, we headed south towards Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is not a town as such, you should know, but an entire region. The name is directly associated with the aforementioned resident companies such as Apple and Google. However, the history of the region goes back way before the founding of these superlative companies.
In the 1920s, a professor at the famous Standford University noticed that his students all moved to the east coast after graduation, so he offered support in setting up businesses. This was the birth of the one of the very first incubators. Over time, for example, Kodak, IBM and even NASA settled here. So, the region was long populated by lateral thinkers before things like search engines and smartphones even existed.
It was very clear to us that the impressive Standford University was definitely on our bucket list. As we walked across the imposing grounds, we noticed that it was “Parents Weekend”. On such weekends, parents visit their children, the students, and get an impression of life on campus. The families were well equipped with T-shirts, each printed with the appropriate slogans such as “Standford Mom”. When we visited the official store, we realized that the Americans really did invent merchandising. Here you could buy just about anything you could imagine with the Stanford logo on it – from Stanford Mom, Daddy and Baby shirts and hoodies to sportswear and flags. Just unbelievable!
Our insight from this was that the goal is to create something that everyone would like to share in. In this case, it was the students and their families as part of Stanford; in our case, it is about users, customers and employees. After all, a mom who proudly wears her Stanford-logo T-shirt shows that the university has built up an excellent image with which everyone can identify.
In our thoughts, we have drawn the parallels with our company, because our team is really proud to be part of it. This in turn fills us with pride, supports us enormously in the mission “from broker to brand” and will always be a flagship for us.
Next up was a company that we’ve always admired: Apple!
The company premises are located in Cupertino: an unspectacular, very normal town. We saw a small Chinese take-away at the entrance to the town and couldn’t help but wonder if Steve Jobs had eaten a noodle soup here for lunch.
Unfortunately, there was no chance to get into the grounds of the company. The “Apple Park”, which will be completed in 2018, is understandably inaccessible to the public. But there is the “Apple Park Visitor Center” directly opposite, which we visited of course.
In addition to a 3D model brought to life by reality technology on an iPad, the Center also has a café and an Apple store – the only one in the world where merchandise is sold, by the way. From the roof terrace we could admire the Apple Park, an architectural masterpiece hidden behind tall trees. We find the name truly appropriate, at least the part we could see. Take a look at Instagram, where we have posted some snapshots.
Although we weren’t allowed to enter the park, the 3D model provided a good insight. The entire Visitor Center is also built in the same design as the Apple Park: clear, clean lines everywhere. We weren’t expecting anything else here. We have been told that, even today, new teams are still moving into the huge, circular-shaped Apple Park every week. It reminds us of our Frankfurt headquarters in the U.F.O., which is also an architectural gem – another parallel!
To see where it all started, we drove to Steve Jobs’ parents’ house. This is actually not far from the tech giant’s current headquarters. It is a typical American house in a small side street, where everything seems carefree and idyllic. But what happened here in the seemingly inconspicuous-looking garage actually revolutionized the lives of all of us! Don’t come here expecting a big sign referring to Steve Jobs or something: if you didn’t know already, you would never guess what was founded here in 1976.
Inspired by the typical American 0815 garage with its incredible history, it went on to become the search engine giant Google. The company doesn’t so much have headquarters as an entire Google city. Since the grounds are so vast, there are colorful bicycles all over the site to enable employees to easily get from A to B. Please don’t snitch on us: we also grabbed a bike and cycled across the grounds. Just like at Apple, of course, public access is strictly prohibited. But even on our little cycling tour on the staff bikes, we could get something of a feel for the mindset and workspirit.
The Google site in Mountain View is like a playpark for adults. At lunchtime, you could almost believe you were in a schoolyard.
It’s mainly young people in jeans, hoodies and sneakers strolling around here, many with a dog on a leash in tow. We found the countless food trucks that came by at noon really cool. The food looked so good. There was Vietnamese and Indian food, poke bowls and more. Unfortunately, our order was rejected at the food truck because we did not have an employee ID card – our camouflage was blown. There was even a hairdresser’s truck, a volleyball field, vegetable beds and hula-hooping out on a parapet.
Google has managed to create a place that an employee doesn’t want to leave. Why? Because he finds everything he needs at work and much more. He probably only has to go home to sleep.
At Google, too, we have seen on a large scale what we have been implementing on a small scale for a long time. We have exactly the same basic idea. That’s why our office areas are not typically located in a second-class row of shops. Instead of sitting behind windows plastered with property listings, our agents sit in open, spacious lofts equipped with a bar and table football, and the evening can be enjoyed wonderfully with your colleagues on the roof terrace.
Silicon Valley, more specifically Menlo Park, is also where you’ll find Facebook. The company now also owns Instagram and WhatsApp as well as Oculus VR, the virtual reality hardware manufacturer. Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t have as accessible a space to let off steam as Google, nor does it have an informative visitor center like Apple. But the very thought of what might be going on behind the colourful facades of the buildings was somehow impressive.
Social media has become a central organ for us to communicate with you. We wondered what life would be like today without a smartphone at hand, with which you can quickly check social media like Facebook and Instagram, google for information or send holiday greetings home via WhatsApp. The obligatory snap in front of the entrance of Facebook – which by the way is located at 1 Hacker Way – and off we went to Ebay.
Here, too, at first glance you might not think that this place is in any way spectacular. But the colorful letters on the big sign in San José made it clear to us: this is the home of Ebay, and not just any 0815 commercial area.
We found Ebay to be a very welcoming company for the public. Of course, you couldn’t get into the offices here either. But we saw some of the bustle through the windows. During a large lecture, for example, countless codes were projected onto the wall. We couldn’t decipher what it was all about, but it was still exciting.
We drank with the staff in the beautiful lobby – which has, by the way, exactly the same armchairs as we have in our office – a unfortunately not-so-tasty espresso. But that wasn’t the point. Outside there was a nice lounge, which reminded us of our own roof terrace in Frankfurt.
Back in SFO, we thought about where best to let all the impressions, insights, parallels, differences and inspirations sink in. Spontaneously, we remembered the Napa Valley, which is also just an hour away from SFO. On the way to “Wine Country” we crossed the famous Golden Gate Bridge: of course, with loud music and the top down, as it should be.
To sum up, the people of Northern California just seem incredibly relaxed. Is this perhaps because temperatures there rarely fall below 15 degrees even in winter?
In Germany, on the other hand, it has poured with rain in the last few weeks with not a blink of blue sky. This can get even us, the always-motivated and cheerful BBE-ers, down from time to time.
That would never happen in California! Maybe it’s also due to the impressive landscape and the right mindset. Or is it simply an outward, laid-on mood? Presumably it’s a mix of it all.
It was definitely good for us to experience these vibes once. In the famous Silicon Valley, it almost looked as if no one was older than thirty years old. A suit and tie are foreign to everyone – that’s more than clear to us now. The companies located there have had a significant influence on us. For us, a world without Google, Apple and Facebook would be hard to imagine!
In retrospect, the actually unspectacular is the spectacular for us. It shows that a big idea can simply change everything if you believe in it. It confirmed for us our own mission and encouraged us to continue with just as much ambition.
Even though Google, for example, was so cool and colorful, we quickly realized: in addition to the relaxed west-coast mentality, we also like the bustling east coast, where the slick, suited-up movers à la Michael Douglas live out their Wallstreet mentality.
It is important to look to the left and to the right, to be inspired and to take a peek at the “big ones” from time to time. As Pippi Longstocking said: “I make the world as I like it!”
We would never have thought that we would use this quote in the context of work. But why not? It just fits. Namely, that was our fundamental insight. We go our own unique way, which includes a bit of Wall Street, a lot of start-up spirit and, above all, 120% passion for what we do. All this meets with more than 45 years of experience, which we actively use and continuously expand – mixed with many new approaches.
We are sure that, on this basis, we will never run out of ideas.