IREM’s New President Shares 2009 Goals, Reinforces Green Commitment

Pamela W. Monroe, CPM brings over 25 years of professional property management experience to her new role as president of the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) . Currently, she is also senior vice president of Community Realty Management Inc., Pleasantville, N.J., which she joined in 2002. Monroe tells MHN Managing Editor Teresa O’Dea Hein that since beginning her career in Mobile, Ala., she has overseen all types of multifamily housing in areas as diverse as the Southeast, Texas, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and the Virgin Islands. This detail-oriented management executive sees the wide-ranging value of “green” initiatives and also cites a lifetime mentor’s advice “that real estate management is all about dollars and cents. A nickel saved here and a dollar there can have a major impact on the bottom line.”Monroe graduated from the University of South Alabama with a B.S. degree and holds a real estate broker’s license from the state of Alabama. Since earning IREM’s CPM designation in 1985, she has been active in the organization. Monroe was an IREM chapter president for two years in the late 1980s and began her national involvement in 1990, serving first as a regional vice president. In 2003, she was named “CPM of the Year” by IREM’s South Jersey Chapter No. 101. She also has been active in other real estate groups and held officer and board positions with local and state apartment associations in Alabama and Louisiana.MHN: What got you into the property management business? What do you most like about it? Least like?Monroe: I got into the business by accident. I had been teaching school for a couple of years in Mobile, Ala., and took a job during the summer as an assistant property manager. When school started, I got a call from the person who was the property manager I had reported to. She said that she was having a hard time adjusting to Mobile and decided to go back to Dallas, where she came from. And she encouraged me to take her job. I thought about it and realized that I could make as much money in property management as I could teaching school. What’s more, I enjoyed it more than teaching. So…I took the job and have never looked back.As for what I like most, I’d say that it is the people you deal with and the fact that you’re doing something different almost every hour of every day.In terms of what I like least, it’s probably the fact that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all of the things I think I need and want to do. MHN: With turnover typically so high in property management, what ways have you found to improve employee retention?Monroe: I try to hire the best people I can at the outset. I also believe strongly in creating a family environment in the workplace, one that is upbeat and supportive and encourages people to succeed. When you encourage people to take personal ownership of a property or properties under his/her oversight,  I find that that person will step up, take pride as an owner and make the right operational decisions.MHN: What innovations/strategies/techniques can the property management industry borrow from other fields to improve its operations?Monroe: In real estate management, we wear many hats, and must operate across many disciplines—accounting, management, human resources, risk management, legal, and more. To stay on the cutting edge, we must draw from the fundamentals across all of these fields. Clearly, customer service is critical to what we do and my industry role model, in this instance, is the hospitality industry.MHN: How are the housing crisis, the struggling economy and the high prices of basic essentials affecting property management in general?Monroe: The new emerging model in investment real estate is based on a return to fundamentals. It’s all about getting back to basics.  Specifically, owners are looking to extract value through strong real estate management—management that focuses on improving ROI by optimizing operating revenues and controlling expenses. I’d add that given the extremely fragile economic environment in which we’re all operating, we’re being challenged more than ever before to stretch our resources and do more with less.MHN: What is your biggest property management challenge? How have you addressed it?Monroe: Identifying and maintaining the best talent is my No. 1 challenge. In terms of how my colleagues and I address it, we constantly are seeking ways to create a nurturing and supportive environment and provide mentoring for our staff as they’re confronted with new and more complex challenges. Our goal is to have good people stay and grow with the company, and not move on. On the other hand, we understand that some folks may be presented with career advancement opportunities that we may not be able to match at a specific point in time– in which case we’ll wish them well and let them know that they’ll be missed.MHN: What have you learned over the years that you could share with other property managers?Monroe: I’ve learned that:•    Common sense matters!•    Detail matters!•    Ethics matter!One of my lifetime mentors, Abe Mitchell from Mobile, Ala., once told me that real estate management is all about dollars and cents. A nickel saved here and a dollar there can have a major impact on the bottom line.MHN: How are your communities coping with the rising prices of fuel, including heating oil and gasoline?Monroe: Things are particularly tough in the Northeast, where our firm operates, and especially so in places where utilities are included in the rent. We constantly are promoting resident education to help us address our challenges and looking for “green” options to help us minimize costs to the extent that we can.MHN: How are green initiatives coming into play in IREM initiatives?Monroe: We at IREM recognize that the long-term benefits that will result from the green movement are undeniable in terms of social responsibility, reduced costs, increased operating efficiencies, and more. So our members are committed to adopting sustainable building operating practices to help ensure that the properties they manage are environmentally sound, healthy places to live, work and shop.In terms of specific initiatives, IREM signed a “Memorandum of Intent” with the U.S. Green Building Council back in July outlining collaborative efforts to promote green building development, energy efficiency and environmentally responsible building operations. In addition, we have developed a mission statement that reads: “IREM is dedicated to supporting real estate management strategies that advance an environmentally sustainable and economically prosperous future.”We are doing a number of other things to encourage and support our members’ efforts to ‘’go green” – including:•    Harnessing the collective knowledge of our members and the real estate industry in identifying “green” best practices and then establishing means to support adoption of thee practices.•    Webinars on the subject•    Educational sessions at our national meetings•    Recently publishing “A Practical Guide to Real Estate Management,”  a comprehensive, “how to” publication that highlights green benefits and implementation strategies•    Making lots of other “green-related” resource material available in our Journal of Property Management as well as on our recently launched and enhanced, interactive generation of IREMFIRST (For Information, Resources, Solutions and Training), our comprehensive, online information resource for IREM Members and the real estate industry at large.MHN: Are there misconceptions about what “green” means in the real estate sector?Monroe: Those who think that “green” is a fad are sorely mistaken. “Green” is here to stay!  And those that think that green is just about energy also are mistaken. Indeed, “going green” can embrace many approaches – from water conservation, to waste management, to choosing recycled materials…and much, much more. Moreover, “green” is not just about cost saving
s, it’s about social responsibility. Across the board, routine client surveys to assess renewal intentions indicate that a building’s green practices—or lack of them—are an increasingly important consideration for tenants and residents.MHN: What will be your top five areas of focus as president of IREM?Monroe: Actually, there are six areas we’ll be focusing on.First and foremost, we want to raise awareness of the need for superior management, marketing and leasing skills – and a proven record of performance – to handle the increasing number of distressed commercial real estate assets expected to come on stream as a result of the economic chaos in which we find ourselves. Our nation’s economic viability requires real estate management professionals with top-notch credentials to inject value back into distressed properties by protecting income streams, controlling expenses, positioning and/or repositioning them to deliver the best possible ROI and, ultimately, to command the best possible price when they are sold.To these points, IREM credentialed members are well-equipped to address the management challenges posed by a down economy. Among other factors, they get considerable content on the subject in the educational courses we require them to take to earn their credential. As well, we are now offering Webinars and making other tools and information available to them on managing troubled properties in these troubled times. And we are encouraging them to share experiences, tips and advice on the subject on the dynamic, interactive “Community Forum” segment of IREMFIRST (For Information, Resources, Solutions and Training), our comprehensive, online information resource for IREM Members and the real estate industry at large. What are the other five challenges I will be focusing on?In recent years, we have scanned IREM members in several forums to identify the key things that keep them up at night. And the answers always are the same:•    Fast-changing technology•    Identifying and retaining the very best talent•    Business competition•    Risk management issues•    And sustainability. So, my leadership team and I are committed to building and expanding on the efforts of our predecessors to help our members successfully address these five challenges.MHN: What innovations would you like to introduce in IREM’s approach to property management?Monroe: IREM believes in the power of knowledge and the importance of sharing it. To this end, we have come up with what we call the IREM “Knowledge Exchange,” and have even created a staff position titled Senior Director, Knowledge Exchange. Simply stated, IREM’s Knowledge Exchange is about establishing the means by which we harness the resources of our membership, our industry, and our staff in the creation and dissemination of leading edge knowledge.To accomplish this, IREM needs our members and others to participate – to share their knowledge, to ask questions, to join in open communication and debate – to be actively involved in the knowledge creation and sharing process. And IREM will provide the tools, systems and processes to facilitate participation. One of the primary tools we are now using to make the IREM Knowledge Exchange a reality is the recently launched, highly interactive. new generation of IREMFIRST (For Information, Resources, Solutions and Training), our comprehensive, online information resource for IREM Members and the real estate industry at large. Accessible at, the site uses the internet communication/collaboration systems that have grown in popularity over the last few years (e.g. community forums, blogs, etc.) that encourage online professional networking and information sharing among industry peers.MHN: How do you keep your property managers motivated and energized?Monroe: I believe in encouragement and praise. As well, I believe in providing financial support to those of our employees who are interested in pursuing an IREM education – with the goal of earning either a CERTIFIED PROPERTY MANAGER® (CPM®) or ACCREDITED RESIDENTIAL MANAGER (ARM) credential.MHN: What advice would you give to a property manager reading this article?Monroe: First, I’d encourage them to get involved in IREM and look toward our organization as their “career partner.” Whether they are newcomers to the industry or seasoned veterans, we have a comprehensive array of resources to help them maximize their professional performance, meet the challenges of or ever-changing business environment, and benefit them at every stage of their career. I’d also encourage them to network, network, network. What you know is very important, but so, too, are meaningful professional connections—when times are good and not so good.  MHN: What’s your favorite book that you’ve read in the last year?Monroe: “It’s Your Ship” by Captain Michael AbrashoffMHN: What hobbies do you enjoy in your free time?Monroe: As an IREM officer, and one who does an enormous amount of travel domestically and internationally, having free time is a rarity. When I do have the time, I go to the gym for spinning classes.MHN: What’s playing on your iPod these days?Monroe: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”MHN: Which Web sites do you most often read/visit/consult?Monroe: My number-one site is