Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Professional know-it-alls

Property management a burgeoning career field

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During the Christmas/Boxing Day sales period as well as over the New Year's shopping sprint, the Free Press and other news outlets reported that people were lined up as early as 2 a.m. in the morning in anticipation of finding a deep discount on their most desired product.

These excited shoppers (crazy people in my opinion) were participating in the annual ritual of what's now called the "shop till you drop" syndrome.

Yet, I doubt these sales hounds paid any attention to the fact the parking lots were cleared, the buildings bright and shiny, the floors clean and well-maintained and everything was in working order. I further doubt patrons had even a spark of thought to the behind-the-scenes work of managing all that brick and mortar. So, just who is behind the requirements for building maintenance, negotiating leases and collecting rent? Who is responsible for the financial management, public relations, advertising, contracting for repairs as well as the recruitment, retention and training of staff?

No matter whether you visit a shopping plaza, a hotel, an office building, condominiums or apartment blocks, there's a quiet army of professionals busy working 24/7 behind the scenes to ensure everything is of the highest of standards and all levels of customers are fully satisfied. Yet, which occupations make up this army of professionals?

These behind-the-scenes professions run the gamut from lawyers, accountants and sales professionals to engineers, machinists, welders, cleaners and exterminators. However, the leading occupation required to ensure the highest level of oversight and customer service within a specific property is called a property manager. There are many dimensions to the role of a property manager, including the need for knowledge of a vast array of professional jargon and complicated legislation. In fact, one can safely say the property-management profession is one of the rare occupations where an incumbent must truly be a know-it-all.

By this I mean property management is an "inside/outside" job. That's because the property manager must be fully aware of every working element inside their property while at the same time paying close attention to what's happening outside and around their property. Customer and employee safety is of paramount concern so intense attention must be paid to issues such as a street water-main break that can have a devastating impact on a nearby property. Then again, with respect to planning, a property manager must also be fully aware of longer-term trends such as tax increases and legislative changes along with longer-term operational staffing, inventory management issues and optimizing return on investment for an owner.

The good news for 2014 job-seekers is the occupation of property manager is a wide-open field of career opportunities especially now that baby boomers are more quickly moving into a retirement mode. It's an occupation that requires a good deal of common sense accompanied by a combination of practical, hands-on experience, ongoing education and progressive professional credentials.

The designation programs, known and trusted throughout the industry, originate from the Institute of Real Estate Management in the U.S. and are offered in Canada exclusively through the Real Estate Institute of Canada (REIC). REIC offers nine professional designations across Canada covering all aspects of the real estate industry, three of which are directly related to property management. These designations are as follows:

The premier and universal designation of certified property manager or CPM is an extensive program that combines education and experience. Individuals take courses in professional ethics, the analysis of a property's physical and fiscal performance, implementing policies and procedures to enhance short- and long-term property values and market and retaining and improving tenant, resident and employee relations.

A second professional designation, the accredited residential manager ARM, is of special interest to those involved in small to mid-size residential and condominium property management portfolios. A third designation, the accredited commercial manager (ACoM) is awarded to those individuals with specialized skills in commercial management.

Grant Stevensen, vice-president of A.S.H. Management Group and Ron Penner, vice-president of operations for Globe General Agencies, both lead full-service commercial and residential real estate companies. Both professionals are exemplary examples of career and leadership success within the property-management profession. As role models, both leaders have attained the professional designation of CPM, among others, and are strong proponents of continuous learning.

Stevenson and Penner describe the profession of property management as one that has at least four career ladders offering a broad range of interests. For instance, individuals can work in front-line management of residential, commercial or industrial buildings and if interested, they can progress to a role as assistant property manager. With further training, experience and advanced credentials, interested professionals can graduate to overseeing a team that manages large portfolios of multi-family, office, retail or industrial properties, and finally they can progress to senior-level company executives.

Stevenson and Penner also suggest property management is a very hands-on, dynamic profession where a different problem is encountered every hour of every day. It's a good role for someone with entrepreneurial sensitivity who can think on their feet and has good common sense. At the same time, individuals need to be detail-oriented and be able to quickly attain intimate knowledge of all aspects of their buildings. Strategic-thinking skills are important as a property manager needs to know what's coming over the horizon so they can mitigate any potential risks.

One of the benefits of this fast-paced profession is the opportunity to meet a broad spectrum of people including service providers, vendors, entrepreneur owners, sales professionals, consultants and clients. As well, it's a profession in which both men and women can equally excel, learn and grow. Of course, potential candidates must have a strong customer focus because a property manager has a wide variety of customers ranging from the corporate customer to the building tenant.

Today, property management is one of the unique occupations where candidates do not require a degree for entry into the profession, although this can provide a solid base. It's a job role through which a mature individual of any age and with the right personal character can get in on the ground floor and work their way to more senior positions by combining practical experience with ongoing professional development and industry-recognized credentials. It's a demanding occupation, yet one that is extremely satisfying for people who love a fast-paced work environment and one where every hour and every day requires the ability to tackle an unexpected problem.

Stevenson and Penner, leaders in the property-management industry want to alert readers to the multiple opportunities becoming available in the field of property management. So for those of you who like a challenge, the year 2014 might just be the right time for interested parties to explore this career further.

Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, CCP, M.Ed. is president of the Legacy Bowes Group. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2014 H1

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