Ironic, isn’t it, that we fear one of the facts of life and business that remains closest to us: Change.
And yet, as the past two years (and counting) have proven, the world around us is changing fast. But the world is always in a state of transformation, leading us to adapt and accept these shifts. To resurrect an old saying, change is the only constant.
But change is also the catalyst for opportunity. As a reflection of the opportunities I see for IREM and real estate management, my theme for the next year as IREM President is “No Limits.” It’s a little unexpected because the past two years have been defined by limitations. But innovation has also been sparked—by necessity, and by progress. With that in mind, we pivot to a new day. We pivot toward our future.
We could fill a book with the breadth and depth of change that’s redefining the property management profession (remember that word. We’ll be getting back to it). For now, let’s focus on drivers of change like technology, partnerships and awareness. In all these areas, we’re discarding pre-existing rules to achieve a new level of agility and creativity.
In each of these areas, there’s still much work to do. Over the course of my tenure as IREM President, I hope to help define that work, and along the way make clear the message of all the progress we continue to make.
We have to start this mission by re-evaluating our methodologies. The way we, as an industry, have always done things just won’t carry the day anymore; we cannot be limited in our approach to innovation.
Take technology. Historically behind the tech wave, property managers have come up to speed with such applications as virtual property tours and digital meetings. How many of us were using Zoom prior to 2020? The past two years have positioned us to embrace ongoing tech advancements as they become more practical—applications including robotics, 5G communications and artificial intelligence.
Our partnerships are reshaping for current challenges. Professional real estate managers are working side-by-side with their residents and tenants to keep them in their homes and businesses, often fighting unfair characterizations by a sometimes short-sighted media. These connections, forged in challenge, help set the tone for the future.
Dealing with COVID-19, the ultimate litmus test isn’t about making sure the rent is paid. It’s about collaborating with our clients more closely than ever, to advise on solutions that meet the needs of our residents and tenants while also satisfying owners and investors. I’ve seen the best come out of people throughout this time. Were there exceptions? Of course. Were they the few? Absolutely.
By enhancing our partnerships, we enhance the awareness of what property management means, and what property managers can do. We’re moving the needle in terms of how we can do business and work together. We’ve proven that property management is as much about people as it is about property. And we must continue to build on that truth.
The focus of real estate managers has always been on building resident, tenant and owner relationships. Today, we also focus on our industry profile. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and Next Gen are, of course, already key issues for IREM. They’ll remain so as we imbue this profession with new, fresh thinkers—our future leaders. We need to continue to broaden this approach as we compete with the world at large for talent.
Leadership in the real estate industry can no longer be defined in monolithic terms. But, as we embrace DEI, we must remember that where we stand today is due to the efforts of those who came before. Inclusion—the “I” in DEI—includes everyone. Seasoned IREM members are part owners of both our current success and our future opportunity. They remain part of our story and should be justly proud of the change they see around them.
That story needs to get out. We need to do a better job of relating that message—not just to the media, but also to students in search of a career path. Other disciplines in real estate garner much larger, multi-million-dollar headlines. But at the core of those numbers is value. And where does value come from? It comes from NOI, which in turn comes from revenue minus expenses and managing both with ethics and expertise. Value also comes from the exceptional experiences we provide through professional management. That’s also our story.
I’m happy to see so much outreach taking place throughout the IREM chapter network with that story in hand. But, interestingly enough, we must also reinforce that message within our membership. In the daily rush of business, it’s easy for all of us to forget that story and the value we bring. IREM intends to continue to send that message through our educational programs, our conferences, our written and video content.
It’s easy to forget that property management isn’t just an industry. It’s a profession that’s wide and varied and made up of many different types of professionals: marketing, creative, maintenance technicians, human resources, accountants. All of these make up the fabric of property management.
There’s still a lot of work ahead to remain relevant in the eyes of students, NexGen, our employees, our clients and owners, the media … and ourselves. This is the task at hand, for all of us, this year. The world is changing. We must continue to change, too. The innovation we’ve embraced must continue. Positive change equates to progress.
And progress knows no limits.
Barry Blanton, CPM, is the 2022 president of IREM. In addition, he serves as chief problem solver and a founding principal of Blanton Turner, AMO in Seattle, Wash.