As we continue to adapt to new realities, IREM’s leadership team keeps the organization moving forward and responding to the needs of its membership. JPM spoke with the three incoming executive leaders to hear more about what’s ahead in the upcoming year.
President Barry G. Blanton, CPM
Blanton Turner, AMO
President-Elect Renee M. Savage, CPM, CCIM
San Diego, CA
Secretary/Treasurer Libby Ekre, CPM
MEB Management Services, AMO
President Barry Blanton
JPM: What long-term initiatives will you be working on in 2022? Are these plans carried over from the last board?
Barry Blanton: For the last few years, the IREM leadership team and our professional partners at IREM HQ have worked together to develop a strategic plan that continues beyond the year of any one presidency. So yes, we will be continuing our work on a number of the initiatives that we’ve already started. One of the overarching initiatives we’re looking forward to furthering during my tenure (and beyond) is our work related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). That’s something that will be woven throughout nearly everything we do at IREM, because not only is it the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. There are a lot of talented people out there we want to attract to our industry.
JPM: What other initiatives will you continue to work on?
BB: We’ll continue advancing some that are near and dear to us, such as our Next Gen outreach. We want to meet our younger members where they are, and help them connect the dots, if you will, just as we want all our members to feel connected and getting good value from their IREM membership. IREM remains the leader in education, ethics, and networking within our profession internationally. We are working hard to ensure that we are removing barriers to entry relative to DE&I and taking a leadership role in welcoming everyone into our industry and profession. We’ve learned many valuable insights from COVID in terms of being able to connect the world virtually, and we should not throw any of those opportunities to the wayside as we come out of the pandemic.
JPM: Are there any other membership or institutional needs that have arisen because of the pandemic?
BB: Even in the face of some of the most challenging times we’ve experienced professionally and personally, two things occur to me. First, we’ve moved years forward in our technology. I’m not one of those technology geeks who thinks anything new is great; rather, I feel we should use technology to make things better tomorrow than they are today, especially in the real estate industry. Second, as a profession, real estate managers have never been more valuable than they are today. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve shown agility, creativity, and problem-solving abilities. I’m proud of being a professional in this business, and I think everybody in it should be proud. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve repeatedly seen real estate managers running toward—not away from—problems.
JPM: What are some new developments in the industry that are shaping IREM’s plans for the near future?
BB: We’re fortunate to be working with James Scott, IREM’s Innovator-in-Residence and lead researcher at the MIT Real Estate Innovation Lab. He’s keeping us informed about new innovations and trends. We’re also working with several colleges and universities, asking them to urge students entering the workforce to consider property management as a profession.
JPM: Are there any particular areas you’ve identified as meriting more attention?
BB: I’m particularly excited about one initiative that’s been brought up before and was pursued by past IREM Presidents Cheryl Gray and Chip Watts: to work with our National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) commercial affiliate members, Certified Commercial Investment Members (CCIM), Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR), Counselors of Real Estate (CRE), and Realtors Land Institute (RLI). We have an opportunity to leverage the advantage that we are all NAR affiliates. In the past, the commercial affiliates have tended to look at themselves individually, when instead we can look at ourselves as a collaborative group of professionals who can support each another.
President-Elect Renee Savage
JPM: What initiatives are you most excited to be working on this year?
Renee Savage: One of the things that I’m really pleased about is that our leadership team has remained completely focused on the strategic plan we have in place, so each year we can focus on projects within those areas. The strategic plan has carried over from the prior year, and we’re staying focused on DE&I, Next Gen, and ensuring our members have a positive IREM experience.
JPM: How will your experiences from earlier leadership roles inform your current role as president-elect?
RS: My current role as secretary/treasurer and my experiences in the year prior have had a really positive impact; I got a lot out of being exposed to the entire IREM organization. My passion has always been Next Gen, so I would be interested in continuing to support their influence and activity throughout the organization. We’ve made many strides in the last few years, and I want to make sure we continue to make their voices heard in the different volunteer groups, working with our strategic plan, and helping set our direction as an organization.
JPM: What kind of changes are you thinking about introducing this year?
RS: Some organizations bring a new leadership team in and immediately want to change things; I don’t have an agenda. I strongly believe in the strategic plan we have in place, and it’s unlikely that anything in 2022 would derail us from our five areas of focus. I’m excited to see how we can impact our organization through our new DE&I initiatives. We’ll be bringing on a new team member in a paid position to focus completely on DE&I and how we incorporate our initiatives, not only through IREM organizationally, but also throughout our membership and our chapters.
JPM: How can IREM leadership continue to meet the needs of real estate managers and the industry?
RS: I’m an observer. I try to sit back and listen to what our members are saying or watch what they’re experiencing, and, through that, identify what new needs they may have. From that point, the leadership team and everyone at IREM headquarters can develop ways to support our members through whatever changes may arise.
JPM: How will you address any new membership or institutional needs that have arisen because of the pandemic?
RS: No one had ever gone through this before, so it really was an exercise in watching what was happening in the world, listening to our members, and watching other associations—even non-real estate groups—to see what information was needed to help our members move forward. Some of our members are used to saying exactly what they need, like placing a customer order. But many times, when something unprecedented happens, they don’t know exactly what they need, so you have to be really observant, analyze what you’re seeing, and push out this information to support members. This pandemic has taught us that every year is different, and we must be nimble enough to respond to and support our members.
JPM: What else are you looking forward to in 2022?
RS: I’m really looking forward to being more engaged with our members. We’ve lost almost two years of true, in-person engagement. I’m looking forward to being a little more “feet on the ground” again and attending more IREM events throughout the country and, fingers crossed, the world.
Secretary/Treasurer Libby Ekre
JPM: Which initiatives will you be focusing on this year?
Libby Ekre: The exciting part about our existing strategic plan is that we’ll have the opportunity to work together with consultants to help us focus on further driving industry awareness of the CPM designation. Where it is known and understood—both here and internationally—the CPM designation is recognized as a valued professional credential, but we can always expand that sphere of influence to increase awareness.
JPM: How will your previous leadership experiences inform your approach during your time as secretary/treasurer?
LE: My experiences working alongside many incredible CPMs on several committees and task forces have allowed me the opportunity to deepen my industry knowledge and widen my view. This, along with IREM’s in-depth market analysis, will definitely prove helpful in evaluating what’s going on in the industry today, and what today’s members are looking for. Member engagement is just one of our priorities as well as DE&I; we want to make sure we not only raise awareness about IREM, but also encourage active engagement and make sure that everyone has a voice.
JPM: How will IREM continue to meet the needs of property managers and the industry as a whole?
LE: If you asked a property manager why they would join IREM and why they would become a CPM, they would almost certainly mention that we offer the highest quality education available with the utmost ethical standards. Our profession is always growing, and we need to be innovative to offer our stakeholders opportunities based on the most up-to-date information available. This is critical for our Next Gen group and how those real estate managers will impact our future.
JPM: How will you address new membership and institutional needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?
LE: Every year, we’re refreshing and revitalizing, but I think that one especially positive development that came about in response to the pandemic is that IREM really catapulted ahead with virtual education. It worked because we had leaders at IREM Headquarters already working on that. It certainly wasn’t done at just the push of a button, but the Knowledge Solutions team at Headquarters was definitely able to hit the ground running because they had already been preparing for expanding our offerings to incorporate online learning. The demands imposed on IREM by pandemic constraints ultimately ended up shining a light on one of our key strategies—that we remain committed to being educators and lifelong learners.
JPM: What are the other areas that IREM can prioritize that will have an immediate impact on the real estate industry?
LE: The legislative wing of our association is impressive. They’re at the forefront, working closely with NAR and other real estate associations on government policies that directly affect our industry. I don’t think there’s a group of real estate practitioners anywhere that stays more up-to-date and capable of affecting change than this team at IREM Headquarters.