We often talk about the partnerships that exist between property managers and their constituents: their tenants and residents, their vendors and, in the case of third-party property managers, their ownership clientele.
But there are partnerships that exist behind the scenes, partnerships that can exert career-advancing and even career-changing influence. In a period of extraordinary talent shortages, such partnerships, once established, provide a level of stickiness to a career in property management and, therefore, a major draw to the field for both up-and-coming talent and seasoned pros.
Property management, arguably more than any other real estate discipline, touches on and has access to so many ancillary disciplines, be it brokerage, development, finance or legal (to name just a few), but all of them help set the foundation for success. IREM Board of Directors member Mindy Gronbeck, CPM, CSM, CRX, puts it best.
“The perspective is surprisingly broad for beginning property managers,” she says. “There are so many ways to grow once you get into your career and you start figuring out what you enjoy, what you’re good at and what’s challenging to you.” Personally, I cannot count the number of people I know who started in this industry doing one thing and blossomed into another discipline under the broad umbrella of property management.
The fact is that skills can be taught. The major sticking point to retention is boredom. Gronbeck points out that healthy partnerships can prevent boredom from setting in. Partnerships that you forge with those varied professionals can both inform your understanding of your daily responsibilities and help you to be better at what you do. They provide a holistic approach to property management. How much better is a manager who understands at least the basics of leasing and engineering, for instance? “It’s a matter of adding value,” she says simply.
But such advice and counsel are not freely given. It takes drive and commitment on the part of the property manager to build those relationships, and then take advantage of the open communication that results. Herein lies the special sauce of mentorship, by the way, which begins by actively seeking out connections that are meaningful and creating a sincere, trusting and ongoing dialog.
That’s right. I said dialog. Remember that, like all relationships, mentorship is a two-way street. After all, growth isn’t limited to the younger generations, and a more seasoned professional who attacks their day-to-day responsibilities with an open mind and a willingness to accept new ideas can also benefit from that relationship. Too much ownership of a process or a too-rigid hierarchy, on the other hand, can stifle such growth, ultimately leading to stagnation and—much worse—boredom.
Another important partnership comes from a surprising place: the local competition. The reality is that, despite the competitive nature of local market growth, we’re not always competing for the same piece of the pie, and I’ve never met a property manager who isn’t willing to sit down with a so-called “competitor” and share certain methodologies—within the limits of ethics, of course. There’s plenty of market to share, and if a relationship builds from a chance meeting in the field or at an IREM chapter event, much good, and career opportunities, can come from it.
Gronbeck is a good example of this dynamic at work. “I love hearing what other people do,” she says, “and hearing how different companies tackle this or that issue allows us and our department to grow.”
It should come as no surprise that I see association membership as key to building those relationships. But joining isn’t enough. You must become an active participant, contributing and giving back. The rule mentioned above applies here. Relationships are not freely given. But once you seek them out, you’re building a level of depth. Contribute to the association’s goals and you add another layer of depth. Answer a call from another member in need and you add yet another layer.
The truth is that the longer someone stays in this industry, broadening their scope of understanding and the relationships that contribute to it, the more apt we are to groom and retain top talent.
Barry Blanton is the 2022 president of IREM. In addition, he serves as chief problem solver and a founding principal of Blanton Turner, in Seattle.