With 37 years in commercial real estate – 22 of them at Granite Properties – Sandy Benak has worn many hats during her career. From leasing professional to Senior Director of Corporate Marketing, she’s also served as an officer on the boards of several professional real estate organizations.
“I transitioned from leasing to marketing in 2015,” said Benak. “At that time, the Houston portfolio was leased up and Dallas was going gangbusters. The Dallas office didn’t have time to handle the marketing and needed someone to oversee our outside marketing support agencies. I began to see the opportunities for enhancing our brand.”
Benak’s creative and marketing efforts have resulted in rebranding the spaces throughout Granite’s portfolio, which include 28 million square feet of commercial properties in Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Nashville and Southern California. Conference spaces are branded “Meet.” Fitness Centers are “Move.” “Eats” refers to on-site cafes. Each building’s lobby spaces are known as “The Lounge” and outdoor spaces are known as “The Yard.”
“The branding gives us recognition at all Granite buildings across the country,” said Benak.
Connecting through charitable work
She rebranded Granite’s charitable giving program, which began in 2009, as “TogetherWeConnect.” Granite-owned properties host customer socials, fitness classes, and lunch & learns that meet Granite’s purpose statement of “Inspiring People to Flourish through the Places We Create.” A holiday-themed event, for example, allows building tenants (Granite refers to them as “customers”) to socialize while assembling gift boxes that go to a senior living facility. A summertime event encourages building customers to socialize while assembling treat boxes for the Girls and Boys Clubs.
Some of these events have taken a back seat during the pandemic. But Granite’s ideology hasn’t changed. Benak says they’re always asking, “What do our customers want?” Right now, that means more flexibility in their lease terms and office spaces.
Flexibility is key
“’Evolve’ is the leasing platform we created to respond to today’s business environment,” said Benak. Whether a customer is looking for a fully-furnished office space with pre-wired telecom assets or wants to create custom workspaces, Evolve allows them to do so with flexible lease terms. “None of us knows where coworking is going, but we’re able to offer our customers the flexibility they’re looking for,” said Benak.
Another marketing innovation is Granite’s “Inspire Wellness” program, which started in 2020. Granite invested more than $10 million across its properties to maximize safety and wellness for its customers. That included the installation of Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization, which continually purifies building air by producing high concentrations of positive and negative ions, cleaning the air within 30 minutes.
“It all goes back to our purpose statement,” said Benak. “If we can inspire people and pave the way for them to have a better workday, it makes them want to stay. It’s a way to retain customers, but it’s also the right thing to do.”
Serving the industry and Westchase
Benak earned the real estate industry’s CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member) designation and served in CCIM leadership both locally and nationally. Since joining the Westchase District Board of Directors, Benak has been appointed to the Marketing & Communications Committee and the Public Safety Committee. She is eager to work in both portfolio areas. “The District has always been ahead of the curve. I love the idea of attracting more people here. And public safety is important because people want to feel safe about where they work.” Benak knows the area well, because Granite’s corporate office is located on Briarpark Drive in Westchase District.
When she’s not working, Benak enjoys hanging out with her family, which includes two grown children, their spouses, and husband Dan. Attending and watching baseball is a family pastime. Benak is an active volunteer with Parkway Fellowship and Hearts for Ghana, which provides schooling and housing for orphans in Ghana.