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Limitless opportunity

Celebrating resilience at the 2022 IREM Global Summit

By Journal of Property Management
Premier Party at the Backyard in Dallas
Premier Party at the Backyard in Dallas

From embracing your inner rockstar to increasing accessibility for people with disabilities, the topics covered at the 2022 IREM Global Summit empowered attendees to go out and exemplify the Summit’s theme of forging forward with “No limits.” Held in Dallas, the Summit offered invaluable face-to-face networking, a lively kick-off party and closing Gala, plenty of opportunities to celebrate, and energizing education and keynote sessions.

2021 President W.A. “Chip” Watts IV, CPM®, CCIM, CCIM, C2EX, AHWD®; 2023 President-Elect Libby Ekre, CPM®; 2022 President Barry Blanton, CPM®; 2023 President Renee Savage, CPM®,CCIM; 2023 Secretary/Treasurer Dawn Carpenter, CPM®

President Barry Blanton, CPM®, of Blanton Turner, AMO®, opened the Summit with an inspiring General Session that celebrated this year’s IREM award winners. President Blanton awarded a Presidential Commendation to Saul Gumede, CPM®, group CEO of Dijalo Property Group in Johannesburg, South Africa, who has been instrumental in founding and developing the IREM South Africa Gauteng Chapter. This is the first Presidential Commendation—a recognition awarded at the sole discretion of the current IREM President—in the association’s history, which speaks volumes about how much Gumede’s efforts have enriched IREM and contributed to the Institute’s growth.

Saul Gumede, CPM® (center) accepting IREM’s first ever Presidential Commendation award, flanked by fellow South Africa Gauteng Chapter members (left to right): Thembeka Mbambo, CPM®; Nandi Malindi, CPM®; Khululiwe Sarah Shezi, CPM®; Olive Ndebele, CPM®

The Opening Session also recognized the 2022 class of IREM Foundation Scholarship and Elaina’s Sustainability Fund recipients, Diversity & Inclusion Succession Initiative (DISI) Leaders, Student Leaders, 30 Under 30, Next Gen CPM Leaders, and the Chapter Innovation Award winners. 

Self-care and celebration

With the quickening pace of this ever-changing world and so many competing priorities all the time, everyone could use some stress-busters and resilience-boosters. During the education session “Resigning as General Manager of the Universe,” change and leadership expert Kim Becking presented her keys to thriving through the chaos.

  1. Resign as general manager of the universe. “Life is to be lived, not controlled,” she said. “So many of us are walking around in fight-or-flight mode, and we need to learn to let go of the little things.”
  2. Overcome momentum busters. How many times have you taken back-to-back meetings, skipped lunch, or delayed taking a vacation? These habits can decrease your resilience, so prioritize your well-being. She encourages people to whittle their to-do list down to a must-do list of only three things every day. “When you finish one, focus on the next thing, not all the things,” she said. She also suggests making a “NOT-to-do list” of known energy-drainers. For example, her list includes doing her own taxes.
  3. Build connection, collaboration, and community. Embrace your colleagues and be an active listener by saying, “Help me understand.” And live the platinum rule: “Treat others the way they want to be treated.”
  4. Keep positive and stay grounded in optimism. “I don’t mean toxic positivity; it’s not all rainbows and unicorns,” she said. “But in the midst of the hard, you can still find the good—sometimes you have to dig deeper to find it.” Try incorporating a 3-to-1 positivity ratio: for every negative thought, stop and think of three positive things. “And make yourself a laugh folder,” she said, adding that it could include any photos, memes, or TikToks that make you smile.

Zeroing in on what owners want

In the panel discussion “What Owners Want,” panelists discussed how asset and property managers are crucial links between tenants and owners. “Owners want a good bottom line, return on their investment, and timely reports, but what I find is almost as valuable are the anecdotal stories about the tenants,” said Patty Nooney, CPM®, executive vice president of Madison Marquette and a former IREM president. “Owners want to know you are in there talking to your tenant on a regular basis. Are you hearing that they’re happy, or do they have another office in mind on the other side of town where they may move?”

From left to right: Jeanette Flory; Patty Nooney, CPM®; Gail Duke, CPM®

These boots-on-the-ground perspectives are increasingly important, as owners are learning more about how much space office tenants want to retain as well as up-to-date expectations, like in-demand amenities. The panelists also touched on the importance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives and the critical role of technology. Jeanette Flory, CEO and founder of Cereus Asset Services, said that introducing technology can alleviate some duties so that property managers can have more face-to-face time together with their tenants. She also emphasized the role that both property and asset managers can play in helping achieve ESG and financial initiatives. Flory urged property and asset managers to collect information on those processes and expectations, “so that you can help effectively execute that strategy.”

Closing the generational divide

Keynote speaker Phil Gwoke

The importance of effective intergenerational communication was at the heart of keynote speaker Phil Gwoke’s session, “Talent Management: Generational Expectations for the Workplace.” Presenting with humor and heart, Gwoke said what makes baby boomers, Gen Xers, millennials, and Gen Zers distinctive isn’t their year of birth, but rather what was going on in the world during their formative years. “You have to learn how each generation learned to communicate,” he said. Baby boomers used telephones. Gen X had pagers and answering machines. Many millennials had cell phones available during their formative years. Gen Z, born between 1996–2010, has always had rapid-fire text messaging available. These various forms of communication have influenced how we interact in the workplace.

“No one is trying to upset other people, we just have differences in how we communicate,” he said.

As many companies focus on next-gen employees and recruitment, he emphasized understanding Gen Z better. Characterized as risk-averse, resolute, and cooperative, Gen Z yearns for more human connection and wants to work around others. Gwoke said that other generations shouldn’t mistake their relationship with tech or their use of text messaging and voice-activated services, like Alexa, as them being less capable or less willing to learn and work.

“It doesn’t mean they are lazy; they just grew up with a different set of tools,” Gwoke said.

He urges older generations to be understanding and kinder, and resist feeling frustrated if they need more guidance or support. To attract Gen Z workers, promote your company’s culture and values, and use their peers who work with you to help spread this message. “Utilize their voices, not so much the voices of experts, to be effective,” he said.

Once they are your employee, be clear on their duties, responsibilities, and the milestones they are expected to achieve to reach the next level. Check in with them often, and offer mentorship opportunities. “Demonstrate you are caring for them on a regular basis,” he said.

Accessible, welcoming properties

Brett Heising highlights the importance of ensuring accessibility for individuals with disabilities

Being truly limitless means accommodating those living with disabilities in your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) measures. Brett Heising, who lives with a disability and uses a wheelchair, emphasized how important accessibility and accommodations are and said that leading with compassion is the key to achieving these goals.

An often-overlooked segment of the population, more than 64 million adults in the U.S. live with a permanent disability, Heising said. While specific laws dictate accessibility in commercial and residential properties, he said residential properties lag behind in having accessible units ready. “I want you to focus on this holistic notion of how housing plays into everything,” he said. “Without an accessible home base, everything is an uphill struggle.”

The Fair Housing Amendments Act requires that apartment buildings built after March 13, 1991, must have seven adaptable design features if someone with a disability rents the unit:

  1. Accessible building entrance on an accessible route
  2. Accessible public and common areas
  3. Doors that are usable for someone who uses a wheelchair
  4. Accessible route into and through the unit
  5. Light switches, outlets, and thermostats must be in accessible locations
  6. Reinforced walls for grab bars
  7. Usable kitchens and bathrooms

“These guidelines are critically important,” he said. “If you do these seven things, you’re doing better than probably 90% of your competition.”

Along with making properties accessible, DEI also means opening up your team to people with disabilities. “If you have the chance to give someone the opportunity, please do it,” he said.

Tech for buildings

COVID has sped up tech development and adoption, and maintenance is one aspect of property management that is being transformed. During the education session “Better, Faster, Stronger! When Tech Unites Maintenance and Operations,” panelists discussed these tech innovations, including electronic resident requests for maintenance, electronic work orders, and keyless entry. Panelist Ian Mattingly, CPM®, president of Luma Management, says his company has many ways for residents to make maintenance requests—chat in the resident app, online resident portal, app-based portal, or phone call using voice recognition tech. “They want the optionality,” he said. “That’s one of the things that we see time and time again in renter surveys: they appreciate the ability to do things on their own time.”

Some maintenance workers are more resistant to the change. Mattingly said their workers get a monthly stipend to defray the cost of using a personal device. Timothy Kramer, CPM®, ARM®, vice president and director of operations for Draper and Kramer, Incorporated, AMO®, said that many of his team’s maintenance workers still prefer a paper process.

Because of employee turnover, Mattingly said that they haven’t seen many improvements in productivity. “But we are seeing gains in resident satisfaction as well as our online reputation, which translates into above-market rent increases, and that certainly, in my opinion, more than compensates for not only the cost of the systems, but also the lag in productivity.”

Kramer said that the tech has helped them gain efficiencies on the management side.

For property managers facing resistance to tech adoption, Kramer and Mattingly advised finding ways to incentivize the change. “With adult learning, we really only learn if there is a clear benefit to us,” Kramer said. “If it’s a dozen donuts on Tuesdays, do that. If it’s tied to their bonus, do that.”

Said Mattingly: “I’m an advocate in making the right thing to do the easy thing to do,” he said. If a maintenance team member wants to work from a print work order, then they need to manually enter the information and be the one who closes the ticket, Mattingly said.

The panel also talked about the future of technology and their expectations that advances in augmented reality and machine learning will create maintenance and operations efficiencies.

Achieving your best

Keynote speaker Col. Nicole Malachowski, USAF (Ret.)

Met with a standing ovation, closing keynote speaker Col. Nicole Malachowski, USAF (Ret.) drew on the lessons she learned as a fighter pilot and the first woman on the USAF Thunderbirds demonstration team to inspire attendees to strive for their best.

“The path to success is always nonlinear, and it takes a lot of courage, trust, and vulnerability,” she said during the session “Pushing the Envelope: Being the Best When It Counts.”

To achieve those three attributes, she outlined seven concepts to always keep in mind.

  • Nobody wants to lead a scripted life. “It’s okay to dream big, be different, break barriers,” she said. “Don’t ever write yourself out of the script, and don’t write out anybody else or their ideas.”
  • Nothing of significance is ever accomplished alone. Even during moments of frustration, remind yourself that your teammates “take as much pride in doing their job as you do.”
  • Acknowledge and show gratitude for others’ expertise. “Take time to show gratitude to all those who enable, empower, and resource you to do what you do.”
  • Always be trustworthy. “You build trust by being trustworthy.”
  • Honor the wingman contract. This is the shared culture, mission, and values of an organization or relationship. “It applies to every single person in an organization equally, from the newest intern hires all the way up to the CEO and senior executives. It enables and empowers everyone at all levels of an organization to make independent, agile decisions at the exact time and place that your owners and tenants need it.”
  • Ask for and offer help. “It doesn’t matter how good, experienced, elite, prideful, or high up in that organizational chart you are, you’re never too good to ask for help when you need it.”
  • Loosen your grip. Using her example of tolerating turbulence in an aircraft, she says giving up control of the uncontrollable will save time and energy.

Reminding the audience that we’re still emerging from the pandemic’s turbulence, she urged everyone to cherish their colleagues and network. “Continue reminding each other that you’ve come a long way and you’re going to come out of this stronger and better.”

Journal of Property Management

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