Episode 7: Salesforce Wants its Employees Out On the Ranch

by Yvonne Harris

In this episode of Welcome to the New Normal we discuss how Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff wants to buy a ranch as a new location for meetings and team building, and apparently, he’s taken his inspiration from Disney. As office workers shudder at the idea of returning to their desks in city offices, the allure of the great outdoors is a tantalizing bet.

Tune in to the Welcome to the New Normal audio podcast now and follow along with the script below.


How would you like your company to buy a ranch?

Meetings, training, team building, all in the great outdoors?

A place where you can take your family for an outing?

Somewhere to really let go, while immersing yourself – and your loved ones – in your company culture?

Well, that’s what Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff wants to do.

So what’s he planning?

Benioff said he’s looking at buying a large piece of land, maybe a large ranch in the United States where Salesforce can build the next generation of Crotonville.

Crotonville, by the way, is the leafy New York state campus that General Electric built in 1956 as its epicenter of culture and training.

The land would be used for team and culture-building activities, as well as employee orientations and training sessions.

Here’s the surprise: Benioff told the Wall Street Journal he’d taken inspiration from Disney, and that the Covid experience had accelerated his plans.

He said that “What Disney has done so successfully with their parks is that you show up at a Disney park and you smell Disney, you see Disney, you feel Disney, you hear Disney”

“That’s what I want my new employees to feel for Salesforce,” he said. “That’s the culture coming through”

A ranch is maybe a nice idea as an escape from the city…

But will Salesforce become a cultural phenomenon to rival Disney, even if it’s only within its own ecosystem?

They are already going a bit that way, with all of their wonderful goodies.

I have a big collection of their stickers, but still on the hunt for their hard-to-find stuffed animals.

Er… nice, OK…

But is that what its employees really want? I’m sure if Justine worked there it would be a resounding yes

I want the hoodie, the backpack, and everything!

How would you like your company to invest, to get you out of the office, working, and team building?

Lots of options here in France: Maybe a Chateau on the Loire? A vineyard on the Rhone? A chalet complex in an Alpine Valley?


Getting back to the office

If companies are looking at the great outdoors to meet the needs of their employees (and their business models), how are things looking for the office space market in cities?

As of the beginning of May, the “back-to-work” barometer published by office security company Kastle Systems, t paints a pretty gloomy picture, at least in the US.

The barometer showed just 16.3 percent occupancy in New York offices, up a measly 0.1 percent from the previous week and just a few percentage points from November.

So What are the implications for the urban commercial real-estate market?

Well according to a Financial Times article titled “The boss is back but the workers are staying at home”, it’s touch and goes.

The crux is the competing visions of the workplace of the future, and how to offer workers the degree of flexibility they expect when they choosing where and how they do their jobs.

The article quotes NY leasing company Colp-Haber predicting in a recent note to clients, “class warfare may soon be coming to an office near you regarding the scope of hybrid work”.

Does this mean that companies are going to start marketing the lifestyle benefits of working with them?

An interesting point in this FT article is the comparison between our current situation, and the Black Death in the 14th century, which left fields without farmhands, forcing landowners to grant better pay and conditions to serfs.

Happily, Covid19 didn’t claim nearly as many victims as the Black Death – which killed around a third of the European population in the Middle Ages.

But Covid 19 has still changed the game for employers, forcing them to rethink the conditions they offer to attract and retain the talent they need to thrive and survive.

Key to this is flexibility, having the most appropriate collaboration tools, and providing a decent environment that’s attractive.

And – got to stress this because this is an argument we see and hear again and again – these new environments and ways of working need to meet the very real needs of younger employees, jobseekers who want to get the first foot on the jobs ladder, who desperately need a shared physical space where they can network, learn and thrive.


1 trillion

We’ve talked about spaces in the great outdoors, and spaces in cities, and the flexibility and collaboration tools that are going to determine how it all pans out.

But there’s also the virtual space: the cloud.

And according to McKinsey research, the cloud has just transcended IT in value and is now worth a massive 1 trillion dollars.

And where would we have been last year without the cloud? Everything that made confinement possible without bringing our economies to a complete halt relied on tools that store and manage all that data on the cloud, from our office tools, collaboration tools, and even the hosting service for this podcast…

On that note, Thanks very much for tuning in!

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