Ironically, we fear one of the facts of life and business that is closest to us: change.
And yet, as the past two years (and counting) have proved, the world around us is changing rapidly. But the world is always in a state of change, which drives us to embrace and accept these changes. To revive an old saying, change is the only constant.
But change is also a catalyst of opportunity. As a reflection of the opportunities I see for IREM and real estate management, my theme for next year as IREM President is “No Limits”. This is a bit unexpected because the last two years have been defined by boundaries. But innovation has also been fueled – by necessity, and by progress. With this in mind, we move on to a new day. We move towards our future.
We could fill a book with the breadth and depth of change that is redefining the property management profession (remember that word. We’ll get back to it). For now, let’s focus on the drivers of change like technology, partnerships and awareness. In all of these areas, we are abandoning pre-existing rules to achieve new levels of agility and creativity.
In each of these areas, much remains to be done. During my tenure as IREM President, I look forward to helping define that work, while also clarifying the message of the progress we continue to make.
We have to start this mission by re-evaluating our methodology. The way we’ve always done things, as an industry, that day won’t go away; We cannot be limited in our approach to innovation.
take technology. Historically on the back of the tech wave, property managers have increasingly come up with applications such as virtual asset tours and digital meetings. How many of us were using Zoom before 2020? The past two years have positioned us to embrace ongoing technological advancements as they become more practical—applications including robotics, 5G communications, and artificial intelligence.
Our partnership is reshaping existing challenges. Professional real estate managers are working side by side to keep their residents and tenants in their homes and businesses, often fighting unfair characterization by the sometimes short-sighted media. These connections forged in the challenge help set the tone for the future.
To combat COVID-19, the final litmus test is not about ensuring that the rent is paid. It’s about collaborating more closely with our customers than ever before, to advise on solutions that best meet the needs of our residents and tenants while also satisfying owners and investors. I’ve seen the best out of people all this time. What were the exceptions? Of course. Were they few? Absolutely.
By growing our partnership, we increase awareness of what asset management means, and what property managers can do. We are pushing the needle in terms of how we can do business and work together. We have proven that property management is as much about the people as it is about the property. And we must continue to build on that truth.
The focus of real estate managers has always been on building the relationship of resident, tenant and owner. Today, we also focus on our industry profile. Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and Next Gen are, of course, already major issues for IREM. As long as we associate this profession with new, fresh thinkers—the leaders of our future, they will remain so. We need to broaden this approach as we compete for talent with the world at large.
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 because of the efforts of those who came before. Inclusion- “I” in DEI- includes all. Experienced IREM members are part owners of both our current success and our future opportunity. They continue to be a part of our story and they should be justifiably proud of the change they see around them.
That story needs to get out. We need to do a better job of connecting that message not only to the media, but also to students looking for career paths. Other topics in real estate made huge, multimillion-dollar headlines. But at the core of those numbers is value. And where does the value come from? This comes from NOI, which in turn comes from revenue minus expenses and management with both ethics and expertise. Value also comes from the exceptional experiences we provide through professional management. We too have the same story.
I’m glad to see that the entire IREM chapter network is reaching so much with that story in hand. But, interestingly, 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 it brings to us. IREM continues 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 is a profession that is wide and varied and is made up of many different types of professionals: marketing, creative, maintenance technician, human resources, accountant. All these make up the fabric of asset management.
There’s still a lot of work to do to stay relevant in the eyes of students, NexGen, our employees, our customers and owners, the media… and myself. This year, the task is at hand for all of us. the world is changing. We too must keep changing. The innovation we have adopted must continue. Positive change equals progress.
And progress knows no bounds.
Barry Blanton, CPM, is the 2022 President of IREM. In addition, he serves as chief problem solver and founding principal of Blanton Turner, AMO in Seattle, Wash.