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Bright spots in business

REME Award Winners United Plus Property Management and The RMR Group shine a light on their success

By Myrna Traylor
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As the saying goes, winners aren’t born—they’re made. The idea bears repeating when evaluating what makes certain organizations, and teams within those organizations, so successful. The IREM REME Awards recognize exceptional performance and contributions to the real estate management industry, and celebrate success as the best of the best in each category. These winners of the 2019 REME Awards have demonstrated, in a multitude of ways, just what being the best looks like.

“Our profession has so much talent, and I’m so proud of the spectacular work that each of these winners is doing every day,” notes IREM President Don Wilkerson, CPM. “We’re thrilled to celebrate their accomplishments and the ways they have impacted our industry for the better.”

Without further ado, here are this year’s REME recipients:

AMO of the Year: United Plus Property Management

Jeff Arnold, chief operating officer of United Plus Property Management (UPPM), LLC, the management arm of the United Group of Companies based in Troy, New York, reports that their status as an AMO is critical to attracting developers, lenders and asset managers. “It’s one of our No. 1 arrows in the quiver when we’re out looking for business,” he says.

And business is good. UPPM has about 3,000 employees managing more than 300 units of active adult (age 55+) properties, 2,500 student housing beds, 2,500 multifamily units and half a million square feet of commercial space in Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, Georgia, Florida and Colorado.

COO Jeff Arnold leads a 2019 economic forecast panel discussion at an IREM New York Capital Region chapter luncheon.

The active adult space is a strong focus for UPPM. With the huge number of baby boomers looking for convenient and carefree retirement living, the company is thriving. In addition to the nuts and bolts of property management, the Senior Umbrella Network (SUN®) programming touches on wellness and lifestyle topics for residents. It includes healthy living, financial planning, education and entertainment.

“As more developers try to enter this space, they’re having trouble qualifying property managers” who specialize in active adult living to satisfy lender requirements, reports Arnold. “The SUN program is unique and sets us apart right away. That, along with the AMO accreditation, gives us a little more horsepower.”

And while the SUN program is a corporate cornerstone, other notable efforts bubble up from local managers and their teams. “We encourage property managers to organize outreach and speak to stakeholders in their communities,” Arnold says. In one such case, managers for student housing at Hudson Valley Community College were able to make special arrangements for the football team to use student housing when they arrived for practice before the term’s official start. It wasn’t just a matter of unlocking doors, though. UPPM held special events to welcome the athletes—and provided free gear.

“We give our team the training and the tools, and they go out and put that into place. We collaborate with the home office and the site teams to make good things happen,” says Arnold.

United Group CEO Michael J. Uccellini, CPM, speaks to IREM members at a local chapter meeting.

Some of that training is acquired through United University, a program for UPPM’s site teams, including office staff, property managers, assistant property managers, leasing agents and community managers for student housing sites. Created in 2016 and following a college-like format, participants take classes at their own speed and receive an “associate’s degree” upon completion. “Once they have their associate degree,” says Arnold, “they can get their IREM ARM [Accredited Residential Manager]. When they complete their “bachelor’s degree,” they can start working toward their CPM designation. So, we integrate IREM learning into our United University.”

Besides fulfilling a company leadership development goal, the United University serves to help combat attrition. UPPM incentivizes participants in the program: Those who participate in the United University program, then remain with the company for a year after receiving their associate’s degree, receive a monetary bonus. “This new generation has a hunger for development, so we give them this platform,” says Arnold. “And the participants love it. It’s something that people don’t see at other companies.” He also notes that past participants of the program, once they have their bachelor’s degree, are automatically invited to interview for any open positions.

The exchange of new ideas and opportunities has extended to the wider world of IREM. “I’ve had a couple of different companies call and ask how to put an education program together,” Arnold says. “That’s what I like about IREM; we all learn from one another.”

UPPM’s training extends to social media as well. Greg Eves, marketing and PR specialist for UPPM, works with managers in all of the company’s properties to execute a social media strategy. Since each of the 30 properties has its own Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts, UPPM instituted a set of social media guidelines known as Socially F.I.T. “The guidelines help managers be aware of their online reputation,” says Eves. “We also encourage each account to get new reviews on fresh content as soon as possible, from new tenants or residents, and make sure that each property is showcasing its amenities in original, organic programming every week.”

Employee and Leadership Development Award: The RMR Group

Training and development are prominent aspects of the corporate culture at The RMR Group, an alternative asset management firm based in Newton, Massachusetts. With more than $32 billion in assets under management, the company is committed to attracting, training and advancing highly qualified talent.

The Leadership Development Program (LDP) recruits recent graduates from top-tier MBA programs, as well as applicants from within the organization, to participate in a two-year rotational program with four six-month rotations. LDP associates work alongside top executives and managers in all facets of business operations. Associates explore meaningful, impactful projects and gain exposure to investment, leadership and operational strategies that allow the organizations to evolve and reach their highest potential.

Associates of The RMR Group’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) in action.

The program begins in the corporate office near Boston with real estate projects in acquisitions, development, property management and asset management. “Associates go through a series of rotations across The RMR Group and its managed companies: Five Star Senior Living, TravelCenters of America and Sonesta International Hotels Corporation,” says Eileen Kiley, senior vice president, chief human resources officer of The RMR Group. “Associates have the chance to work on relevant projects, be innovative, have an impact and learn from senior management in companies with distinctly different platforms. This makes RMR’s LDP an exceptionally well-designed experience that accelerates their development.”

Another premier program in RMR’s development portfolio is Managing with Impact (MWI). The workshop helps managers set clear expectations, delegate and provide targeted performance feedback, all with the goal of helping employees perform at their highest level, deepen their contribution to the organization and grow professionally. “Managers’ use of MWI techniques can enhance individual and team performance, while delivering measurable results,” Kiley says. “These practices are also helping managers work collaboratively, and foster creative problem-solving and innovation across teams. In a high-growth environment, these skills are essential.”

In the workshops, managers also learn to collaborate with all people in their sphere of influence, from tenants to staff to construction companies and other vendors. “There is intensive role-playing and communication practice,” says Julia Paluka, area manager and broker of record, based in RMR’s Denver office, who has gone through the MWI program. By sharing the training throughout the company, managers learn to take a consistent and proven approach to solving problems and managing staff.

RMR also offers an on-boarding program for employees at all levels. Managers are able to supplement one-on-one training with online modules that employees complete to ensure essential knowledge and skills. Employees like the approach and appreciate having the online resources for future reference.

Still, personal improvement isn’t limited to work. The LiveWell Employee Wellness Program helps team members with several lifestyle areas, including health and fitness, financial planning and work-life balance. Along with education, there’s a healthy dose of competition. Employees take webinars to learn the basics and can use a dedicated mobile app to participate in challenges. “Many companies have wellness programs,” says Paluka, “but RMR’s LiveWell program is very interactive. Employees can post photos and videos of their accomplishments to cheer one another on.” These programs, along with tuition reimbursement and mid-year bonus programs, demonstrate RMR’s commitment to its employees and managers, which will support the company’s growth. “The Executive Committee is keenly aware that human capital is essential to the company’s continued success,” Kiley says. “They are very proud of how our growth has provided our employees with opportunities to grow professionally and into leadership roles.

“By continuing its investment in leadership and employee development programs, The RMR Group is building a team of committed, engaged and talented professionals who are key to RMR being a premier, world-class alternative asset manager.”

Journal of Property Management

Myrna Traylor is a contributing writer for JPM®.

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