Who Will Follow?

Who Will Follow?

Next month I pass the presidential reins of IREM to Christopher Mellen, CPM, ARM, of Simon Cos., in Braintree, Mass., as he prepares to become our 2016 president.

Leadership that changes every year can imply chaos. Continuity is assured by two constants: A permanent professional staff and a strategic plan, a living document that can both guide the activities of leadership while allowing for market-driven change and provide flexibility enough for the personality and interests of each succeeding president to shine through.

Needless to say, this structure is not unique to IREM. Virtually all of the associations catering to the commercial real estate industry have similar models, providing what is essentially a corporate strategy for the foreseeable future.

So it is an appropriate time to ask: What is your succession plan? Who is next in line to take the helm at your company? What is the contingency plan if someone should leave for greener pastures or, God forbid, pass away?

The day of the lone gunslinger, the real estate entrepreneur who would write a lease on the back of a cocktail napkin and entertain some vague notion of leaving the family business to the kids, is gone. Certainly, that model was long ago rendered extinct as the industry evolved into a more corporate model, with overarching governance, policies and procedures and even government oversight.

But succession is more than policy and procedures. It speaks to leadership and culture. In my last column I referenced the model set down at our shop by Eugene Burger, and noted that it is still a model that resonates with our clients and constituents around the word. How can anyone in line for succession fail to embrace such a model?

For that reason, succession planning should never be a last-minute exercise, but rather should be the natural (to the extent that anything in business can be natural) result of a unified, coherent culture, supported by years of team-building. It is the result of gradual growth, one of training and expectation; of setting clear, achievable goals and careful analysis of performance metrics and then letting the strongest performers rise to the top.

And here is the biggest challenge. It is also the result of letting go. There can be no room in a successful succession plan for micro-management.

I believe that even in today’s more corporate environments, too much of these forward-thinking concepts are regulated to the second tier of priorities. There are always more immediate needs and fires to douse, and it’s always easier to just do it all yourself. Ultimately, a position such as that only stifles the true talent that might be in your midst.

There was a term that emerged a few years ago that has unfortunately fallen on hard times. I would like to bring it back. The term is intrepreneurship . . . the act of behaving like an entrepreneur for the company where you are employed. It carries with it the sense that an employee can think for herself and isn’t afraid to make a decision, or even a mistake.

With that in mind, you may want to ask yourself:

Are you grooming intrepreneurs?

Are goals and expectations clearly spelled out?

Who do you trust, and if you cannot point to every member of your team, why not?

Are job descriptions and reporting structures absolutely clear?

Are you grappling with heavy turnover? If so, why is that?

Do you offer, or at least encourage, ongoing education to sharpen the skills of all team members?

Succession planning is a process, not just a choice. It’s a years-long application of best management practices. And quite literally, if done properly, it will pay dividends for generations to come.

So, to paraphrase a popular advertise slogan: What’s in your succession plan?

In addition to her role as IREM 2015 president, Lori Burger, CPM, PCAM, CCAM, is senior vice president of Eugene Burger Management Corp. in Rohnert Park, Calif.

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