Undeniably, the past two years have created challenges, the likes of which we’ve never seen. It’s no new thought that challenges create opportunity, but as IREM’s 2023 president, Renee Savage, CPM, CCIM, states, the opportunities for change have themselves changed. In what is tiringly called the New Normal, she says our ability as property managers to make an impact on our constituents—be they clients, residents, tenants, or vendors—is unprecedented.
The nation emerged from the pandemic with a new understanding of how best to conduct business and the fact that productivity does not necessarily take place just in the office, a realization that impacts both how the office and the home function. We have embraced the technologies that prior to COVID were often viewed as off-putting or even threatening. And we–and by “we” I mean more senior practitioners—are starting to listen to new and different voices.
Let’s focus on those voices, because in a sense, the other realizations depend on them. The choices young professionals have in their career paths today have been well-documented–their need to see a social conscience in their employer, and the freedom to work where and when they want. Their onboarding is vital since they “get” the advantages of technology and they understand our increasingly young stakeholders, who share many of the same expectations. As such, they come to us with new ideas.
“There are a lot of right ways to do things,” says Renee, who is president of SavageCRE in San Diego. Speaking generally, she notes that, “The next generation understands this. Even if they don’t have the background of more senior practitioners, they bring their own ideas and opinions to their jobs. They see things differently than we do.” The responsibility of senior leaders, then, becomes to “allow the Next Gen’s voices to be heard.”
By listening to these new voices, we’re reversing the tables on mentorship, making it a two-way street, and learning from our youth. In so doing, as Renee points out, “we’re creating a more diverse and inclusive environment in property management.”
But inclusion means just that. This more open dialog among peers of all ages positions us well for whatever challenges lie ahead. Just as the years of COVID-19 were a crisis we never experienced before, we emerge to an environment that is new to all of us. The hope is that having passed the test of this unprecedented challenge, there is little that can surprise us.
Using IREM’s work during the pandemic as an example, Renee cites “the best practices we developed for membership. But how was this accomplished? We didn’t sit in a room by ourselves. We talked to those on the front lines, here in the states and members globally, to determine what would work and what would not.” Protocols for safe environments, programs to help tenants and residents through their rent-payment issues and how emerging technologies can forward both our need to protect our people and places and make our work more efficient are all the results of those conversations.
The pandemic taught us that new challenges cannot be met with fear. And I am proud to say that we, not just as an association but as an industry, responded with new and impactful solutions. We communicated, we rallied, and we listened to voices globally to implement those solutions. In doing so, we developed a new level of preparedness for the unknown.
In January, Renee begins her term as IREM president. It’s been my privilege to work with Renee over the years, and it’s my confidence that the Institute will be in good hands. I say this because she understands as well as anyone the need to listen to those diverse voices. That said, it seems appropriate that the last words in this year’s column be hers.
“There is a new mindset emerging in this industry,” she says. “It comes from our ability to connect globally and immediately and share issues and possible solutions. It comes from our growing ability to listen to different voices, no matter age or culture. Those things that once divided us now unite us, making us stronger and better able to respond, no matter the next challenge that awaits us. I know we’ll respond proactively, and with great, positive impact.”
Barry Blanton, CPM, is 2022 President of IREM. In addition, he’s Chief Problem Solver and a founding principal of Blanton Turner, AMO in Seattle.