In the newest latest episode of The VLDI Podcast, Lee Ebaugh, Director of Real Estate & Business Continuity at Toshiba, breaks down how Visual Lease has transformed his team’s ability to provide accurate and reliable data to their decisionmakers. Tune in to learn more.
VLDI Podcast Episode 14 Transcript
Hi. I’m your host, Joe Fitzgerald. Welcome back to the Visual Lease Data Institute Podcast. Here at VL, we empower organizations to leverage their lease portfolio as a strategic asset. Our platform is uniquely designed to meet the needs of every team that interacts with a company’s lease portfolio and associated environmental data to reduce risk, drive confident and sustain lease accounting compliance, and provide the visibility required to make agile business decisions.
Today we are joined by Lee Ebaugh, Director of Real Estate and Business Continuity at Toshiba, America Business Solutions and Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions, both of which are a part of one of the world’s largest conglomerates with a complex global lease portfolio of real estate and equipment, all of which, prior to Visual Lease, was managed through disparate systems and processes.
To Lee, as head of the organization’s leasing team, that was not sustainable even before the new accounting compliance standards came into play. Today, Lee’s team has about 150 real estate leases, including office, industrial and lab spaces, plus an additional 1400 equipment and vehicle leases, all of which are managed in Visual Lease.
So Lee, let’s take a trip down memory lane. What was your experience before implementing Visual Lease and what ultimately led you to consider using Visual Lease?
Hi Joe, it’s great to be on here with you. So, when I first joined Toshiba in 2013, all of our leases were being tracked through Excel and even using Lotus Notes as basically an electronic file cabinet. I had experience working on various platforms during my career handling lease administration and both representing landlords and tenants. I knew that there was a better system out there.
Also, at that time I was just a team of one, so I really needed something better so I could focus on negotiating the leases and being able to drive what mattered to the businesses. I started evaluating a number of options to help manage our portfolio and with looking at all the different options that were out there at that time, Visual Lease just really, right off the bat, seemed like it was the best one. It was user-friendly and intuitive. I mean, I don’t want to sound like I’m a sales pitch here, but it was really good for what I was looking for. On top of it, since I was a team of one, it also meant that I had to implement the system all by myself and I had to abstract every lease into the portfolio all throughout my background.
This was probably the easiest abstracting that I’ve ever done in my entire career. Another thing that I liked about the system was that I could provide read-only access to the system, to all our stakeholders out in the field. Because I was starting to get inundated with, with questions on the various leases. And since I was a team of one, I couldn’t focus on what was really important.
So it was great being able to provide all of that lease information in one spot and point them to where they could get all the answers, and once again, it was user friendly. They could easily access all the information that they needed, including a copy of the lease, you know, so when we abstract all the clauses, we point directly to the page on the lease and all they have to do is click on it if they want more information based upon that abstract. So it was extremely helpful with that.
Now it’s a little different. I do have a small team and we still abstract everything in house. In fact, I was just talking to our corporate real estate specialist and she was saying how easy it is, honestly to be able to abstract. And she’s abstracted quite a bit as well. And then, you know, later when we were evaluating different platforms for lease accounting, Visual Lease really remained at the top of our list. So, you know, we’ve remained a customer of Visual Lease all this time.
So in listening to you talk, I mean, first off, in your early days, you were clearly wearing a lot of hats, right? A team of one, doing a lot of jobs. You mentioned, you know, Lotus Notes, haven’t heard that in a while, Excel, which we know is a fairly popular tool a lot of folks like to use and other manual approaches before going to Visual Lease.
Is there anything else, particularly as the accounting folks came on, that you’d want to walk us through in terms of how you use Visual Lease day to day? You mentioned read only access versus, you know, the ability to make changes and whatnot. Is there anything else about that that is different now in the process with Visual Lease.
We try and control what’s in Visual Lease as much as possible because the less amount of people that have access to change things also helps the integrity of all of that data. And that data is is extremely important not only to us, it’s important to finance. They also control who has that access. And we work really well together. I know I’ve heard some, I guess, horror stories between real estate and finance that they don’t always communicate really well. I think we really collaborate tremendously well with finance. I mean, my wife’s a CPA, so I kind of understand the importance of constant communication with finance teams and what they’re looking for. Our team is really process-oriented, so we don’t miss any critical steps with all the various transactions we’re working on.
You know, as you mentioned, we have 150 real estate leases. We don’t typically enter into leases over a three year term. On top of that, we also start our transactions eighteen months prior to the lease expiration. So we’re basically as soon as a lease has started 18 months later where we’re starting to work on it again. And as of this morning, we have 66 active real estate transactions we’re negotiating, along with 25 relocation projects my team is working on.
With all of the transactions that we have going on, we have to be really process-oriented so we don’t miss any important steps. And one of our important steps that we have is to ensure finance has the information they need to do their jobs. And we look at our relationship as kind of a team effort.
Let me pivot to another issue. The International Sustainability Standards Board recently announced a phased approach to ESG reporting allowing organizations to first focus on climate related disclosures. Curious as to your thoughts as to how this will impact how companies manage and track their leased assets?
Yeah, that’s a good question. So at this time, there aren’t any formal requirements from our parent company relating to ESG. Now, that being said, me personally, I’m a well accredited professional and our senior leadership, you know, we’ve always been focused on sustainability and how our buildings and offices can help the overall health and wellness of our employees.
And that always has been important to us, and it always will continue to be important to us whether or not there’s any sort of ESG reporting requirements.
So I’m just curious, as you think about it, do you see Visual Lease playing a role as you find yourselves needing to accumulate this data and provide some carbon calculations and reporting as these standards evolve?
We could in the future. On a personal level, I think having ESG is good to force those companies to start thinking about sustainability. Start thinking about all of these things that that they, I think, should have been doing all along anyway. But that being said, whether or not we have to do any sort of formal reporting or anything like that, that’s still one of our priorities.
So Lee, as a member of the Customer Advisory Board at Visual Lease, tell us your thoughts about how you feel about being a member.
I think this is a great thing that you guys are doing. Visual Lease is seriously the second thing I open every day behind my email. So I usually get emails, questions on leases or whatever negotiations that are going on. I immediately open up Visual Lease to be able to get a lot of the answers.
It’s really important to what we do, and I have to say that the CAB… I think that right there what you guys are doing is a big thing where you’re purposefully listening to us as customers and are doing something about it. You know, because I remember we talked about reporting and I know a lot of us were saying the reporting features aren’t necessarily where we want it to be. Okay, that’s good news. Our to-do is we’re going to help improve some of it and that was great.
Is there anything else you’d like to touch on before we wrap up?
Honestly, I appreciate this opportunity to discuss these things with you. You know, as I said previously, I don’t want to sound like I’m a sales pitch for Visual Lease, but it really has helped my team to be able to provide good, reliable information. So that’s usually what I tell my team, one of our most important things that we can do is to provide good, reliable information in a timely manner to our decision makers.
Honestly, I believe that Visual Lease helps us do that, and it’s really been transformative honestly, through my career here at Toshiba, being able to use this platform has been really helpful.
So that’s going to conclude today’s episode of the VLDI Podcast. Hey, Lee, really appreciate you doing this, thank you so much. If you enjoyed this episode and want to catch up with other resources from the Visual Lease Data Institute, be sure to follow our LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages @visuallease, as well as our new LinkedIn community page.
Links to all our pages will be in the YouTube description box. And don’t forget to tune in to the next episode of the Visual Lease Data Institute Podcast, where our focus is on helping you leverage your lease portfolio to stay ahead of what’s next.