How Avison-Young opened 50+ offices in 3 years with help from Dropbox for Business

Avison-Young

In 1978, renowned commercial real estate firm Avison-Young was founded in Edmonton, Canada. Today, Avison-Young has 64 offices in 55 markets, across Canada, the US, and Europe. In 2014 alone, the company opened nine new offices and acquired nine other firms. It’s no wonder Avison-Young is one of the world’s fastest-growing commercial real estate services firms.

Part of the reason the company is able to grow so quickly is because it’s designed to do so, with its overhead kept to a minimum. But this wasn’t always the case.

When the firm started ramping up the pace of its expansion in 2009, each new office was furnished with a separate server for file storage and backups. It soon became clear that if the company wanted to scale quickly, it would need to find a better solution.

“Servers are expensive, and additional software or connectivity pushes the price tag up even more,” said Lyndal Hanna, Avison Young’s VP of Information Technology. “But the greater cost is the time. When we’re adding locations and onboarding new users, we need to be able to work quickly.”

Plus, with its rapid growth strategy, Avison-Young wanted to stay as lean and flexible as possible — so the team could focus on business opportunities, not hardware and infrastructure.

“We don’t want to spend our resources amassing multiple servers and an organization to manage them,” Hanna added. “We don’t have programmers or an in-house help desk. Our IT philosophy is to outsource as much as we can so we can react quickly without compromising our service standards.”

So in 2011, when opening up a temporary office space in Boston, Hanna decided to test out a simpler alternative to a server. She went with something she was already quite familiar with — Dropbox — and set up the team with Dropbox for Business accounts.

The Dropbox for Business pilot worked so well, Hanna found herself using it again when it came time to open up an office in Los Angeles. Today, with more than 250 people using Dropbox, Hanna is able to “have users up and running in a matter of minutes,” she said.

The Avison-Young team uses Dropbox in a variety of ways, from collaborating on deals across the country to working together on a budget. The team even uses Dropbox for Business to help corporate acquisitions go smoothly; Hanna sets up a designated folder to store relevant documents, and then grants access to the new staff, attorneys, and others involved in the process.

And when it comes to reducing IT needs, Dropbox for Business has allowed the company to keep its resources lean — even when it comes to file backup and recovery. “One of our staff members accidentally deleted 14,000 files once,” Hanna said. “Had we been on a traditional file server, we would have been scrambling for days. But with Dropbox, we recovered the files in no time. It was so nice to be able to tell the panicked users that we’d be able to get everything back.”

To learn more about how Dropbox for Business can help your team grow while staying lean, try it free.