Tony Marano took over as COO of Cushman & Wakefield on Feb. 1, a position that had gone unfilled for five years at the giant New York-based brokerage firm. In his 29-year career, the 50-year-old Marano has held several real estate positions at Lucent Technologies and AT&T. Now, he is on the other side of the table. NREI caught up with Marano to discuss his plans to keep C&W in the one of the top spots among brokerages.

NREI: Why was this job unfilled for five years?

Marano: Bruce Mosler, president of U.S. operations, had been taking on most of the duties of COO in addition to his regular responsibilities. But the firm had grown so much that it felt the need to fill the position. Bruce focuses on strategy, business development, acquisitions and recruiting. I focus on operations. Frankly, it's hard to completely separate his duties from mine, but my responsibilities will be broken down as such; process, resource allocation, financial control, sales — to a certain extent — and basically making the place as efficient as possible.

NREI: What will be your focus as COO?

Marano: As a leader, a lot of my time is spent communicating our strategy so the daily decisions that are made are in line with those objectives. To do that, you have to keep people focused, meeting with them and breaking down organizational barriers.

NREI: Coming from Lucent and AT&T, the tenant side of corporate real estate, can you tell us what is going through the minds of corporate tenants during these tough times?

Marano: With the economy in the condition it's in, everybody is thinking the same thing — how they can contribute to the bottom line. And from a tenant perspective, that means paring down the cost of real estate. You can do that in two ways: by shrinking your footprint or reducing operating costs. One of the trends in manufacturing has been to combine all your resources under one roof: marketing, research & development and sales. Then with your footprint in a good position, you need to ask, ‘How much is it costing per sq. ft.?’ If you are housed in Class-A space, do you need to be there?

NREI: How will your experience on the tenant side of corporate real estate contribute to your role as COO?

Marano: In two ways. One, I have the real estate experience, so I understand the business whether you're a buyer or seller of the service. Two, I ran a business. Whether you run a manufacturing, real estate or airplane business, there is a lot of commonality. Having run a business for the past 29 years, I have found my transition here to be pretty easy.