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IREM expands its global mindset

A strategy to position the association as the global leader in property management education

By Journal of Property Management

In 2023, IREM set off on a mission to become more global. Yes, IREM has a successful international program, with members already in over 40 countries, but could IREM do even more outside the U.S. with more intentionality? 

Renee M. Savage, CPM®, CCIM

In response to this question, last year, IREM began working with a consultant to develop a strategy to grow business and increase brand awareness outside the U.S. in a more consistent and proactive manner. If you read Renee M. Savage, CPM®, CCIM’s article on the work of this year’s International Advisory Council (IAC), you know this is a far-reaching project with an anticipated lasting impact.

IREM’s journey to becoming international

To understand the potential effects of the global strategy, it’s important to note that IREM has been working outside the U.S. for over 50 years.  In 1970, IREM and the Canadian Association of Real Estate Boards entered into a franchise agreement. In 1975, that agreement transitioned to one with the Real Estate Institute of Canada (REIC). This partnership continues to this day and is IREM’s oldest.

To recognize the growing presence of members outside the U.S., IREM established its first body overseeing international work in 1983, originally called the International Affairs Committee, which serves as the root of the current International Advisory Council (IAC). Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, IREM investigated how it might expand further by taking exploratory study trips to Hong Kong, London, Russia, and Australia, among other locations. 

In 1998, the first chapter outside North America was formed in Poland, a direct result of funding that IREM received from the government following the fall of the Berlin Wall. This funding allowed IREM to kick off programs not only in Poland, but Russia and Hungary, too.

By 2000, the international program had expanded enough that the first international program manager was hired, and soon after, the first non-U.S. instructor was approved to teach for IREM. 

In recent years, IREM has seen the recognition of IREM chapters in both Canada and Japan, with each country having at least three chapters. IREM is a founding member of the International Ethics Standards Coalition (IES). The IES is a body working to maintain and promote a universal set of ethics principles for real estate and related professionals. You can read more about the coalition here: The first non-U.S. IREM President, Cheryl Gray, CPM®, from Canada, served in the role in 2019.

The COVID years and beyond

Like many companies, IREM digitized quickly when the COVID-19 pandemic started, which presented new opportunities for the international program. IREM’s online portal was expanded to permit students everywhere to take exams online, and the interface was translated into Japanese and Chinese.

IREM’s instructor training program moved online, allowing candidates from all over the world to attend and get approved without having to travel. This opened the path for new instructors throughout Asia and Canada, but also in newer markets like South Africa and the United Arab Emirates, paving the way for massive growth in both those markets over the following years.

In 2024, IREM expanded its online products by offering Canadian versions of self-paced certification courses. While these versions were already available in the classroom or with live virtual instruction, now students in Canada can study solely online through interactive modules, creating new studying opportunities in a country with a very dispersed population across a large geographical footprint. With this introduction of products directly for the Canadian market, IREM started displaying prices in Canadian dollars, as well as U.S., a first for

IREM’s global strategy

“IREM recognizes the need to look beyond U.S. borders to position itself as a leader in the property management industry and as a provider of property management education,” says Savage. As a result, a global strategist was brought in to help IREM pinpoint a strategy and implementation plan that would support IREM’s long-term efforts.

Barry Blanton, CPM®

The research stage of strategy development kicked off in early 2023. A Presidential Task Force of members was formed, interviews were conducted with key stakeholders, including the IREM Board of Directors, the IAC and staff, and an assessment tool by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) was used to help identify strengths and weaknesses. Barry Blanton, CPM®, 2022 IREM President, chaired the Task Force.

“It has been a humbling experience working with such a diverse and accomplished group. I can’t wait to see where their labors will take us,” states Blanton. 

As the strategy took shape, it developed into four parts. The first section took a deep dive into the landscape in which IREM currently works. It asked the task force and stakeholders involved to think about and identify potential partners and competitors working in the space with a similar potential audience to IREM’s. 

Next, a market matrix was developed by creating a key set of criteria to help IREM assess opportunities outside the U.S., such as, “What does the property management market look like in this specific area? Do they require licensing? Is translation required to convey IREM materials to property management professionals?”

Next was a review of how IREM works in other countries, specifically our licensing and partnership models.

Lastly, Global Leading Practices—a set of 10 concepts that will foster globalization across IREM during the implementation phase—were developed and will be monitored by the IAC. “I want to recognize all the efforts that have gone into developing this strategy,” adds Savage. “We are working to develop a path forward that is not only feasible from where we are currently organizationally, but that will expand our growth over time.”

IREM has already started taking steps to implement the strategy, but change happens in stages, and the full realization of the strategy will take several years to complete. 

A bright future

IREM’s members outside the U.S. continue to enhance IREM as an association. In 2023, IREM held its first Global Summit outside of the U.S., in Toronto, Canada, and, in 2024, IREM gained its largest group of members yet—from the United Arab Emirates—with more than 20 getting certified in the first quarter of the year.  

IREM is taking a refreshed look at the contributions of its international contingent and more intentionally weaving a global mindset throughout the organization. As the number of members outside the U.S. continues an upward trajectory, who knows where IREM will find itself next. “This strategy comes at a time when globalization is not an option but a necessity and truly reflects IREM’s identity as a forward-thinking organization. I, for one, am happy to be part of this progression,” concludes Blanton.

What’s the difference between “global” and “international?”
Good question. When it comes to working outside the U.S., the terms are not the same. “International” typically denotes a U.S.-based company, business, or association that works with a handful of countries. For an association, it denotes one where membership and services are developed for the U.S. market and then that U.S. product is exported to a handful of countries. Sometimes, this includes country-specific localization.

“International” implies adapting to specific markets, whether it is the U.S. or another market. “Global,” on the other hand, refers to the whole world. A global association creates goods and services that are more universally applicable rather than tailored for one or a few countries. “Global” implies that one country does not outweigh any other and products are developed and applicable to a worldwide market.

Journal of Property Management

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