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Has the Property Management Industry Prepared the Next Generation for Succession?

IREM and other organizations are making efforts to spread the good news of a career in property management.

Much has been written—even in this space—about the dire nature of succession in the real estate community and the aging of practitioners in virtually all disciplines related to the built environment. To hear some pundits, it would seem that the graying of commercial and residential real estate is not only at hand, but is so far advanced that in a few years, there will be no one left to switch on the lights. Well, I see the future of the industry—and particularly property management—in very different and much more hopeful terms.

Like everyone else, I am concerned about quantity and dwindling numbers. But I am encouraged by the efforts IREM and other organizations are making to spread the good news of a career in property management.

Simultaneously, I am inspired by the quality of new entrants to the field. Their enthusiasm tells me that property management is alive and well and attracting a new generation of savvy, committed practitioners, due in great measure to those above-mentioned initiatives.

The effort to raise a new, committed generation of professionals is aided as well in the classroom—at the secondary level, where students can get an early exposure to the field at career days, and in higher education, with degree-granting programs in all facets of real estate. Increasingly, property management is being recognized as a serious academic discipline worthy of formal education and a specialized degree.

In a way, we have one woman to thank for that growing recognition: Dr. Rosemary Carucci Goss, who in 1985 launched the nation’s first degree-granting property management program, at Virginia Tech. Ironically, as I write this, Dr. Goss just celebrated her retirement after a 42-year career in academics.

She put professional management on the college map and continues to help other colleges establish property management programs. Today, there are more than 40 colleges and universities around the country offering some degree-granting program in commercial real estate, and we at IREM are working diligently to increase the number of programs specific to our field.

We are also joint venturing with other industry associations to spread the good news of a career in property management. For Instance, our San Francisco chapter is active in San Francisco State University’s Create program, shorthand for Commercial Real Estate Alliance for Tomorrow’s Employees. The goal, as stated on its website, is to provide “funding and support for college-level instruction, job shadowing and internship opportunities relevant to employers, in order to meet the hiring needs of building owners, investors, operators and service firms.”

Likewise, this year, two other chapters—Western North Carolina and Sacramento—are kicking off IREM’s involvement in Restart, a program with a two-fold mission. Restart is designed to break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage by engaging committed local volunteers to give back to their communities and prepare disadvantaged adults to gain employment in property management.

Fresh, young talent bringing new and enthusiastic voices to the field is the goal of all of these initiatives, and IREM tracks the pace of those efforts in the Journal of Property Management’s annual presentation of the “30 Under 30,” coming out in the July/August issue.

I find the stories provided by this cream of a new crop personally inspiring, recalling even to a seasoned hand as myself the reasons why the field of property management is so impactful to the lives of the people we touch. It’s reinvigorating to see what I have done for nearly 30 years through the eyes of smart and dedicated newcomers.

Take as just one example CPM candidate Rachel Teller, who is chief operating officer of Winstar Properties in Los Angeles. In many ways, Rachel, a wife and young mother of two, has already proven her grit and pedigree as founding partner of a firm in this male-dominated industry.

Looking forward, she is committed to leading by example and in her own words, “to break more boundaries and lead the way for the next generation of ambitious young people who are ready to work hard, make a difference and achieve great things no matter age, gender or background.”

Or take Nandi Malindi, CPM, an asset manager with Dijalo Asset Management (Pty) Ltd. in

Johannesburg. Poetically, she describes the next generation of professionals as “part of the bouquet of a society,” and she takes her responsibility as part of that culture very seriously, a responsibility to “do better—be honest, genuine and of good values as we use our skills, strength and creativity. The life of ethical property professionals, the success of the property industry and its future all lie in the hands of the young leaders of today.”

People such as these represent the best of the industry as a culture—its need for a rock-solid ethical framework, for plain and simple hard work and for association involvement to progress best practices and generate new ideas. In so doing, they will serve as ambassadors to the larger community, further spreading the good news of a career in property management.

It is easy to grow jaded or to find oneself going through the motions of daily work responsibility. As seen through the eyes of these up-and-coming professionals, property management isn’t a field that suffers a lax attitude gladly. The industry itself and the vast and changing needs of our constituents—our occupants and our ownership clients—demand the best from us. I am confident we will continue to check that box.

Let the pundits cry doom and gloom. I meet young CPMs and candidates around the world and I am filled with hope.

Don Wilkerson 2018/2019 president of the Institute of Real Estate Management. In addition, he also serves as president and CEO of Gaston and Wilkerson Management in Reno, Nev.

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