“If you know what women want, you can rule!” says Bette Midler in the film “What Women Want” and Mel Gibson (Nick Marshall) proceeds to prove her right when he suddenly can hear everything that every woman he meets is thinking. We should be so lucky.

Imagine now that you could hear everything that your tenants were thinking – that you knew everything that they wanted. If so, you’d be in the best position to renew your leases and fill your space at the highest possible rate and under the most advantageous terms. Without actually knowing what your tenants want you might assume that they demand the best per square foot rate they can muster or the shortest term, and you’d be right about both. But then that’s too obvious ? like knowing that women like shoes. Everyone wants to pay less and knowing that won’t separate you from the crowd and empower you to secure an extension.

Knowing the seemingly unknowable does not require some special power. Instead, it requires that your organization establish a constant and positive communications stream between it and its tenants. Make it your business to open lines of communication ? take down any barriers and construct an easy means for your tenants to communicate with your organization at any time of the day.

My suggestion is to immediately install a web-based operations management system that provides meaningful amenities to your tenants while creating an easy and effective, traceable and reconcilable means for them to communicate with you.

You might discover a few important and unexpected facts that are unique to this economic downturn.

For example, the lowest price per square foot is no longer sufficient alone to secure your tenants. Tenants are willing to spend the money to gain operating efficiencies because those efficiencies translate to dollars on their bottom line.

You might be surprised to learn that tenants generally do not like talking to the property managers or engineers about their needs. They’d rather communicate electronically. Contrary to the assumption that real estate management is a strictly people business, in truth, tenants just want what they need on time and at a fair price without the unnecessary distraction. A great property manager is like a great waiter – getting tenants what they need when they need it without extended interaction.

You might also learn that flexibility is paramount in a changing economy – that flex space and flexible lease terms are key to operating in unpredictable economic times. Flexibility respecting demising walls, cubicles and employee density are all hot topics. In an economy driven by increasing home office usage and greater office “virtuality” don’t forget that you need to make it more attractive to come into the office than to work at home. Create collective work areas that are attractive to the eye and to the body. Hear your tenants.

How do we know what tenants want? We know it because we’ve made it our business to create an easy and effective means for owners and managers to listen more carefully to what is going on in tenant spaces.