From Porter to President: New Pinnacle Leader Shares Management Goals

Rick L. Graf was recently named president and partner at American Management Services, dba Pinnacle, the largest third-party fee manager of multifamily housing in the U.S. Currently Pinnacle’s central region president, responsible for a management portfolio of over 60,000 multifamily units, Graf moves into his new role on September 1. (Pinnacle Co-Founder Stan Harrelson will continue as CEO, concentrating on business development.)Graf, a 12-year veteran of Pinnacle, will continue to work out of the company’s much-expanded Dallas office. Under his leadership, Pinnacle’s primary focal point of operations will move from Seattle to Dallas, “based on the city’s centralized U.S. location and pool of talented property management personnel.”Graf’s real estate career includes more than 30 years of property management experience, starting as a porter in an apartment building.  A Certified Property Manager (CPM), he earned a real estate degree from Richland College in Dallas. Graf will be especially busy in the coming year because he is president-elect of the Texas Apartment Association; his one-year term begins in April 2009. Graf is also a regional vice president of the National Apartment Association (NAA) and has recently been elected vice president of the NAA Education Institute.  Plus, he has been instrumental in expanding the property management curriculum he developed as a professor in the Dallas Community College district to a degree program offered by the Texas and National Apartment Association Education Institutes.  MHN Managing Editor Teresa O’Dea Hein recently asked Graf what his plans will be as president of Pinnacle. MHN: What will be your top five areas of focus as president of Pinnacle?Graf: To grow our platform; to attract a high caliber of associates to our firm; to enhance our customer service to our clients; to expand into other service sectors; and to continue to have fun doing what we do every day. MHN: What innovations would you like to introduce in Pinnacle¹s approach to property management? Graf: It is still a very basic business. What sets us apart is our ability to execute the business plan for our company to enhance our customer’s profits and growth. MHN: With turnover typically so high in property management, how does Pinnacle try to improve employee retention? Graf: To attract better quality associates to our firm and then enhance their experience with our firm and recognize them for the great work that they do each and every day. MHN: What got you into the property management business? What do you most like about it? Least like? Graf: I started in the business as a part-time porter when I was still in high school in South Bend, Ind. I had gotten property management in my blood and after some 33 years, I am still very excited about our business. I enjoy helping people and knowing that we are providing housing for literally thousands of people around the country. MHN:  What did you learn while working as an apartment building porter that continues to inform your property management goals and decisions today? Graf: The site experience has taught me to really value everyone in the organization, from the porter to the president. MHN: What strategies/techniques can the property management industry borrow from other fields to improve its operations?Graf: A better I/T platform will enable our firm to enhance our services to our clients. A more expansive service mentality will enable us to continue to grow along with our clients.MHN: How are the housing crisis, the struggling economy and the high prices of basic essentials affecting your business and your customers? Graf: We have benefited somewhat with the return of many former homeowners to the rental pool. The need is still there to provide quality housing to the community of renters within our various markets.MHN: How do you think property management will need to change in the next five years to keep up with the changes in every other aspect of society?Graf: The business will continue to contract, with the larger firms taking more market share as we expand. The need for firms with an expansive platform will take advantage of the opportunities in new areas, which will include opportunities in other countries providing services for a wide variety of clients.Pinnacle, an American Management Services Company, third-party manages a portfolio of apartment, office and industrial assets valued at more than $17 billion, with over 4,600 employees in 42 states. Pinnacle’s multifamily portfolio consists of more than 160,000 units. In the last five years, Pinnacle has opened offices in Tokyo and Beijing and soon expects to launch operations in Korea and the Middle East.