The Multifamily Women® Podcast will explore insightful discussions on the importance of not only elevating women in leadership but also becoming mentors and helping shape the future of the Multifamily industry. As technology advances at rapid pace, you will hear from top experts on the ever-evolving roles women play in multifamily organizations, how they got started in the industry, roadblocks they’ve faced along the way, and what they’re doing now to build and strengthen their current organizations.
The Argument Hangover
Jocelyn and Aaron Freeman lead Session 2 of the Multifamily Women’s Summit. Carrie Antrim, Co-Founder of Multifamily Women and Chief Operating Officer of Multifamily Leadership, introduces the Freemans as “relationship whisperers.”
“They just get it,” said Antrim.
The Antrim family has known the Freemans for a while now and can vouch for their abilities.
“They know how to take any relationship – romantic, children, co-workers, whatever it is,” said Antrim. “They’re not just fixing. You could have an amazing relationship and they’ll take it to the next level.”
Rather than sticking around for an interview-style conversation as Antrim has with previous guests, she simply turns the stage over to Jocelyn and Aaron Freeman to give their own presentation.
Aaron kicks things off by talking about the mental, emotional, and physical struggles people have been going through during the pandemic. He says shutdowns and restrictions have made clear how important relationships really are. Then, Jocelyn interrupts his speech, accusing him of taking her line in their demonstration, leading to a brief, awkward, and of course feigned argument.
They use that as a jumping-off point to bring up how often arguments, tension, and disagreements can happen in a relationship. Jocelyn says she doesn’t discourage confrontation; it’s important to talk things through. Rather, she wants to talk about the argument hangover.
That’s the awkward, tense period that follows an argument where people don’t feel as comfortable with one another or are harboring resentment.
“Think about how you feel when you get into some tension with somebody,” said Aaron. “Guilty? You feel upset, you distance yourself from them.”
Since people want to avoid that argument hangover, they limit themselves to two options: avoidance of particular topics, or avoidance of the person. In both of those cases, Aaron says, you’re missing out on the opportunity to connect more closely and more deeply with that person.
“That’s where the juice of life actually is!” said Aaron. “We can’t just go around avoiding because you miss out on the real opportunity. The real opportunity is relationships, because relationships – when you get down to it, whether it’s the money, whether it’s the business driving the revenue, what people are doing – success in your life comes down to relationships both in your personal life and your professional life. That’s where true fulfillment is.”
The Freemans handed out worksheets that include a portion where people can pick out a relationship in their own lives, then jot down notes on how to improve or strengthen that relationship. As people finish that exercise, they’re then told to blow up a balloon that was placed in front of them. Then, they try to hit the balloon back and forth to themselves without hitting anyone. From there, they turn to a partner beside them and share their favorite menu of all time while playing with the balloon. The purpose is to show the effect the distraction had on the quality of conversation. Those distractions aren’t inherently bad, but they do affect your ability to give your full attention.
Communication Personality Types
Jocelyn says people know the cliché, “Communication is key to all relationships” but aren’t provided with training in communications skills.
“Here’s the thing: it’s easy to say you’re a great communicator when people agree with you,” said Jocelyn. That’s called positional leadership. She points out that people have seemed to be in staunch disagreement quite frequently these days. “True influence is being a true masterful communicator in those moments [of disagreement].”
Shifting Customer Expectations and How Work Will Change
Shifting customer expectations is changing how we work and lead teams. Women influence 83% of all consumer spending in the United States so Carrie Antrim had a conversation with Kesha Fisher and Nicole Wray, both of Greystar, to consider how revenue goals and performance are influenced by women.
The last guests of Day 2 of the Multifamily Women® Summit are Nicole Wray and Kesha Fisher, who both work for Greystar.
Fisher works in Newport Beach as the Senior Director of Real Estate. She started as a Regional Manager and was promoted to Senior Regional Manager for the Development Team, then went to Director and finally Senior Director. She’s been with the company for seven years in total. Now, she oversees assets for development on the West Coast, and her portfolio is 100% lease-ups.
Wray is based in Scottsdale, Arizona and is the Managing Director of Real Estate for Greystar. She started there in 2010 as a Regional Manager, and from there was promoted to Director, then Senior Director, and finally Managing Director. Today, she oversees all assets in Arizona and the corporate office. In total, she says they have about 44,000 units, 130 buildings, and are the largest corporate office in the company.
Carrie Antrim, the Chief Operating Officer of Multifamily Leadership and Co-Founder of Multifamily Women®, begins the conversation by bringing up the amount that women contribute to the nation and world’s GDP. She gives the statistic that the total contribution is $26 billion in labor every day in the United States alone.
“How important is it that those voices – our voices – are represented in the higher levels, at the table with the decision makers?” asked Antrim. “And how does that affect every decision that’s made?”
Wray answers first, reflecting on her own career with Greystar, where she was promoted from within several times.
“That growth for women can happen and does happen,” said Wray. She says Greystar has several women at the very top at the Executive Director level. “It’s still not uncommon, for any of us, I’m sure – I know I walk into a room with developers or big mega-institutional clients – to be the only woman in the room, the only one not wearing the grey suit. That’s fine by me, but I still do notice. But I would say overall, it has been getting better.”
She says she sees women taking advantage of opportunities more often and in a more strategic way.
“Don’t be afraid to kick down a few doors,” said Wray. “Sometimes you need to be a little relentless in standing up for yourself. And sometimes it takes a few years to get comfortable enough in your own skills and your own capability, but it’s key.”
Fisher says she believes it’s important for women to have a seat at the table, not just because they’re women.
“I’m a double-minority – I’m a woman, and I’m a woman of color. In my position, I’m the very first woman of color. So being at that position in development and construction, I’m typically the only woman in the room. Speaking on development and speaking on construction is not typical for women,” said Fisher. She says that it took a while to learn.
Fisher says it’s also important to ensure other women are there with you, and that you’re paying it forward.
Finding Future Leaders
“How are you identifying future leaders, both within the organization, who you see and work with every day, but also outside the industry, bringing new people in?
Women’s Influence at the Executive Level
Turns out change management is a critical step in inspiring innovation within a company. Understanding how to leverage and integrate both typically male and female behaviors will be the path to modern leadership norms and success in a tech-led world. In this conversation with Kaycee Kisling and Kim Senn Cross, we dive deep into what executive women are doing to continue to engage their teams.
After a break, Day 2 of the Multifamily Women® Summit continues the conference with Kim Senn Cross and Kaycee Kisling. Carrie Antrim, the Chief Operating Officer of Multifamily Leadership and Co-Founder of Multifamily Women® who is hosting the summit, says this pairing is a good mix because they are both very innovative and focus largely on new technologies.
Kim Senn Cross is the President and founder of a multifamily consulting firm called the KSC Group. They do things like help desk support, data conversion, and more. They support clients on all platforms.
She started in the industry in 1990 at Lincoln Property Company. She’s worked for several companies in several locations along the way.
“What we’re doing is just trying to be of service to the industry and help our clients through the challenges of prop tech. And anything else we can do to help make it easier to use software.”
Kaycee Kisling is the Managing Director of Multifamily Investments at a property management company in Scottsdale called Mark-Taylor, Inc. She’s been with the company for 16 years and oversees about 30% of all the build-to-rent products and helps them stay up-to-date with the latest technologies.
The Times, They Are A’ Changin’
“We talked a little bit earlier about change and getting by,” said Antrim, pivoting from introductions to the start of the discussion with Cross and Kisling. “Why do you think it’s so hard? Do you experience it being difficult to introduce change?”
“Change is difficult, positive or negative,” answers Cross. “If you’re on a platform and you’re looking for change, it disrupts the entire company, then the organization. You’re taking something that you’re familiar with and you’re introducing something that’s brand-new. Your super-users, your strong users and learning just like everybody else in the company.”
Even good change, like being newly promoted, can be difficult. The pandemic also showed how difficult change can be, although much of it turned out to be fantastic and likely to stay permanently.
Kisling agrees, particularly through the coronavirus, there was no option but to change.
“In the absence of knowledge and understanding is fear,” said Kisling. “Superusers – people who feel like they know how to navigate a platform or they know how to navigate a process – when they don’t know what it’s going to look like on the other side, how they’ll adapt to it, they’re fearful. I think navigating through that requires a lot of transparency – radical transparency from your leadership team. Just having people that can galvanize you around why you’re making the change so they really understand the precipice behind it, down through every user level, they are easier to opt in and adapt to the change ideas and get excited about it.”
Antrim asks what people should do if they come to realize the change they’re trying to make might not be the proper path.
Taking Control of the Company from A to Z
How do you take control of a company from A to Z? Leading a company or team requires you to make sudden shifts from marketing meetings, to HR, to discussing financial transactions, and everything in between. Cindy Fisher and Georgianna Oliver look at the full enterprise of running a company, department, or team and how with a strategic vision, top leaders are getting people involved when they may not understand the overall strategy.
The second group of guests in Day 2 of the Multifamily Women® Summit are Cindy Fisher and Georgianna Oliver. Carrie Antrim, the Chief Operating Officer of Multifamily Leadership and Co-Founder of Multifamily Women®, is carrying out an interview and leading a discussion between them.
Georgianna Oliver has been in the industry for over a decade, beginning in multifamily management and then moved on to start a few companies of her own. The most recent of them is Tour24, a new self-guided tour product for apartment complexes that so far is live in over 300 different properties.
“It’s a true startup, in the sense that it’s hard. It’s really hard. Our biggest challenge, which you guys will understand is buy-in from the site managers, the leasing teams, and access,” said Oliver. Right now, she’s trying to raise a few million dollars to be able to hire more people and advance the technology they’re using.
Cindy Fisher is the president of a multifamily developer, investor, and property manager called KETTLER.
“I didn’t plot my course, exactly, it just came upon me.”
She worked in property management for about 5 years, then spent almost 20 years in multifamily, focusing largely on financing. From there, wanting to do something different, she went to the Washington Post. She worked for a couple nonprofits as well. After a while, she linked up with a real estate investor named Bob Kettler, who took a liking to her.
“I am a change agent. I love change, I love being in the middle of disruption. I love being part of restructuring, reorganizing, and figuring out how to get organizations where they need to go.”
That’s what she was brought in to do.
She transformed the KETTLER organization, making it much more integrated and trying to figure out what drives the industry, so they’d know what to do moving forward. Bob Kettler decided he wanted her to run the company.
Making A Team of Leaders
“Before we get into managing teams and change and all that, I want to go a little inward,” said Antrim. “You both, I would imagine, on any given day, are going from finance meetings, to HR, to marketing. You’re doing all of the things there are to do. How do you switch hats quickly and still remain present for the people you’re interacting with every day?”
“One thing I want to say is, you have to step in and step out,” answers Oliver. She explains, some teams you check in with once a month; others, you check in with once a week; others, you talk to daily. Throughout that, you have to keep the big picture in mind and workflow anything that isn’t functioning.
“Never lose sight of those details that could cripple you.”
Oliver’s other piece of advice is to bring what she calls the E Factor.
“Bring that energy. Like what happened when we walked in the room here!
Giving a Damn is Good for You and Your Business
The future is bright in Multifamily for people that give a damn. Good leadership is about developing strong relationships, supporting and developing other leaders. Stacy Stemen and Sarah Saglam highlight those who really care, are engaged, are involved, and how they manage their daily duties to stay so involved.
Carrie Antrim, the Chief Operating Officer of Multifamily Leadership and Co-Founder of Multifamily Women®, kicked off Day 2 of the Multifamily Women® Summit by inviting Sarah Saglam and Stacy Stemen to discuss what sort of things they truly care about.
Sarah Saglam is the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales Operations at LeaseHawk. Stacy Stemen is the Senior Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Development with a real estate investment company called Passco. Both are extremely focused on relationships and creating a sense of family within the office.
The three are dressed in matching shirts that read in a graceful yet playful font, “I give a damn.” The word “damn” is underlined. The font and design match the lettering used as a centerpiece for the summit, with the words “Multifamily Women” hanging overhead between the chairs when the presenters sat.
Giving A Damn
Antrim starts the discussion by getting right to the point: “We’re talking about giving a damn. What does that mean?”
For Sarah Saglam, giving a damn means being passionate about the people you work with, the things you work for, and creating a culture of kindness. That requires recognizing milestones and being aware of what people are going through. Something as simple as a sticky-note showing your appreciation for someone can make a huge difference in someone’s day.
You often spend more time with your work family than you do with your own spouse or children, so you should celebrate those relationships. Do things to lift each other’s spirits and support one another.
“It’s a very competitive market right now, so the more things you can do to create a culture of kindness and a feeling of family will really resonate in retaining and attracting talent,” Saglam explained.
Stacy Stemen says passion is the most important element of all this. It requires you to go outside the box, go beyond the norm, and create a powerful energy that people want to be around. Stemen says that needs to start from Day 1, and that you should always be welcoming and encouraging toward your teammates.
Having an attitude like that helps people to be happier in the office, which makes them more excited about work and therefore more likely to stay with the company for a longer period of time. There are all sorts of ways to do that. Passco, for instance, has charity drives that give money to organizations chosen by people within the company and engages their employees with charity walks or runs. Things like that can make people feel bigger than themselves, as well as making people feel closer. A plus from that, Saglam says, is that people are more likely to buy from or contract with companies that are involved with nonprofits.
Stemen says she gives a damn about giving back to the community.
“It’s just important that you make yourself stand out. Everybody can be the norm. I live by a saying: ‘Live beyond your desk.’ You may be given a job – you may be in accounting,
How Improv Can Help With Everything
“Inevitably, momentum and energy don’t lie,” said Hailey. “So you can create a space in your teams or your companies where you’re using these ‘Yes, and’ principles to brainstorm effectively, and then you implement the boundaries and the ‘No’ in the editing process. But there’s sacred time for brainstorming.”
Lyndsay Hailey closes out Day 1 of the Multifamily Women’s Summit. She makes a grand entrance, walking out to the song “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers and draping her legs over the back of an interviewee chair as she tips herself over it upside down.
“It’s so nice to finally be back on stage!” she shouts, legs flung up in the air, head hanging near the floor.
“I’m here to offer you a different perspective today,” she says, laughing at the very intentional pun that went along with her positioning in her chair. “The improv perspective.”
Hailey says improvisation is just making things up on the spot without preparation. “It’s synonymous with comedy,” she says, though she says it started out as a theatre game invented by a woman named Viola Spolin. It was meant to help actors get more deeply into character, but shifted in the 70s.
The format for improv comedy is that each exchange starts with, “Yes, and…”
“What does ‘Yes, and’ mean? It means not only am I going to agree to something, I’m going to agree to it instantly, and I’m going to add specifics, emotional value, weight, support, in whichever way I can to make you feel like a genius instantaneously,” said Hailey. “An improviser knows that instantaneous agreement can elicit a laugh, so that’s kind of exactly what we’re going for all the time.”
Hailey flips back around in the chair and starts jokingly listing her accolades and what makes her qualified to speak on the subject of improvisational comedy. She brings up that she’s worked with Channing Tatum and toured with Second City, an improv comedy troupe, as well as touring the nation teaching improv.
Finally standing upright, Hailey says this is her first time back on stage for three years because of hiccups caused by the pandemic.
“I wanted to share what I believe in passionately and what has helped me gain any success in my field,” said Hailey. She says improv is taught outside of comedians, “Because our underlying philosophy of ‘Yes, and’ and rules of agreement enhance productivity, innovation, creativity. We create a universal language of support for companies.”
In the “Yes, and” format, the response comes instantly. You don’t have time to judge the choice of the ensemble, you just immediately support them.
“There’s lots of ways to ‘And’ a ‘Yes.’ Some is through emotion, verbal specifics, through creating or committing to a character or a choice that your ensemble members made,” explained Hailey. “But we know that if we do that right away, the very nature of instantaneous agreement will evoke a response from the audience. Why? Because it’s atypical in our society to agree to something right away.”
She provides an example, setting the scene of her driving a car with her improv partner next to her. She’d say, “Hey, Sheila, I’m going to drive this car right off a cliff!”
“In real life, Sheila would be like, ‘No, no, no, what are you doing, you can’t do that! Please stop the car!’ Improv Sheila is going to be like, ‘Ooooh boy, I can’t wait! Let’s roll down the windows so everybody can hear me scream!’ That instant agreement to something that’s absolutely wild is what we can draw on.”
She leads into an exercise based around the idea of immediately giving up judgement. She asks people to reflect on what they thought when they saw her upside down in the chair, and consider their inner critic. Then she tells people to picture their favorite cartoon animal. Next, she says to fuse their inner critic with the voice of that adorable an...