Property Management Leader Alex Jackiw Talks Current Events, Future Goals and More

Self-avowed political junkie Alexandra (Alex) Jackiw, CPM, CAPS, is executive vice president of Buckingham Companies, AMO, an Indianapolis-based full-service real estate management, development and construction company. She is also president of Buckingham Management LLC, Buckingham’s property management subsidiary, where she oversees a diverse portfolio of conventional, market-rate and tax credit multifamily assets in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. This portfolio totals more than 16,000 units as well as over 300,000 square feet of commercial space.In addition, Jackiw serves as president of the National Apartment Association (NAA) Education Institute as well as an NAA regional vice president for region 3 and on the legislative, strategic compliance, and budget and finance committees. An experienced speaker and trainer, Jackiw has presented programs at numerous industry conferences as well as several universities.Given all of Jackiw’s property management expertise, MHN Managing Editor Teresa O’Dea Hein polled her on some of the hot topics of the day. MHN: Are your properties involved at all in the current political campaigns? If yes, how?Jackiw: Several of our properties serve as polling places during elections, which is a great service for our residents and also provides a wonderful opportunity to have the public visit our properties. We also partnered with the Indiana Apartment Association recently to get residents registered to vote. Helping residents understand that they can have an impact on local and state initiatives through the power of their vote and getting legislators to pay attention to the voice of the renter has been an important outreach project for our state association.MHN: How are your communities coping with the rising prices of fuel, including heating oil and gasoline?Jackiw: Energy conservation is a big focus at Buckingham. We have retrofitted light fixtures with CFLs (compact fluorescent lights), installed motion sensors in common areas to control lighting, changed out timers with photocells to better manage common area/exterior lighting, and installed water-saving devices. We are in the process of reviewing all property utility bills to ensure that municipalities are charging the proper rates for utilities and we are also graphing consumption to more readily identify potential problems with utility usage or waste. In addition, we are rolling out an incentive program for our maintenance personnel that will give them an opportunity to share in any utility savings they generate on their properties. We recently executed a contract with a regional provider to bulk purchase natural gas and locked in a very competitive rate for the next 18 months. That contract will effectively reduce our cost per therm by almost 50 percent.MHN: How are green initiatives coming into play in your work?Jackiw: We are certainly actively promoting recycling and looking at “green” products of all kinds.MHN: What are your biggest property management challenges?Jackiw: Certainly, the state of the economy is our biggest challenge at this point. We’re watching job losses carefully and also monitoring the stability of our vendors and suppliers. Long term, the entire industry is struggling to find qualified people to fill property management positions. We anticipate that in the next decade, there will be a shortage of talent and we will need to be creative with our staffing.MHN: What strategies have you used for successfully addressing these issues?Jackiw: Staffing is a continual focus for Buckingham. We are committed to developing our people internally through our in-house training programs and encouraging staff to pursue the CAM, CAPS and CAMT designations offered through the National Apartment Association. We have established a training program for on-site personnel to help prepare them to take on more responsibility. We have also successfully implemented multi-site manager positions where it makes sense geographically. That provides greater opportunities for our stronger managers and simultaneously reduces costs.Buckingham is actively involved on the advisory boards of two universities — Virginia Tech and Ball State — that offer a four-year degree in Residential Property Management. That involvement gives us access to the “best and brightest” students interested in a career in property management. We provide both summer internship opportunities and full-time employment for graduates. At last count, I believe we have more than 15 RPM graduates from the two college programs currently working at Buckingham.We have a supervisory training program for all of our managers to help them develop the necessary management and leadership skills to effectively supervise staff. People don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses — so we need to make sure our personnel are being supervised effectively. This becomes even more crucial now that for the first time in our history, we have four generations working side-by-side in the workplace. A “one-size-fits-all” management style does not work well with that dynamic in place.MHN: How do property management practices need to change to keep up with this growing industry?Jackiw: The multi-generational workplace requires that managers develop new skills. This will need to continue to be a strong focus in the years ahead. Companies that have mastered the art of managing and developing diverse staffs will reap the rewards of higher employee satisfaction and lower employee turnover. And, there is data to show that lower employee turnover also translates into lower resident turnover.Utilizing technology to enhance productivity and efficiency will also be critical. We live in a world where customers, clients and other stakeholders expect instant responses to their questions and issues. Communicating frequently will be important and each message sent will need to be customized. In addition, being able to drill down and utilize data to track trends and develop customized approaches to marketing and operational efficiencies will set companies apart from their competitors.MHN: What have learned over the years that you could share with other property managers?Jackiw: Wow! Too numerous to mention. I believe that my success as both a manager and a business person is directly proportional to my ability to communicate effectively with a broad range of stakeholders and listening is a key aspect of that communication. Understanding how to help people excel and working to develop their potential will translate into business success. Other than that — learn to have fun doing what you do. It’s a tough business with lots of aggravation and challenges, but it’s rewarding and meaningful work that makes a difference in people’s lives.MHN: How do you keep your property managers motivated and energized?Jackiw: By staying motivated and energized myself. Giving people the opportunity to try new things and learn new aspects of the business keeps everyone engaged. I like hiring talented people, giving them the tools to get their jobs done and then getting out of their way. Sometimes, if jobs are too narrowly defined or rigid policies are established that inhibit creativity, people can’t do their best work. I think my job is to provide input and remove obstacles that limit everyone’s ability to get the job done.MHN: As leader of NAAEI, what are your major goals?Jackiw: NAAEI has been extraordinarily successful on a number of fronts over the past several years and I’m proud to have a leadership role in moving the organization forward. Certainly, one of my major goals is to ensure that we meet the objectives of our very generous investors/contributors. I believe we are doing that.My second goal is to promote our designation programs to industry professionals and show them the value of those designations. We have great anecdotal data that proves that designates generate stronger financial results on the assets they manage. We have state-of-the-art designation programs in place for on-site property management personnel and multi-site supervisors. Over the past two years, we have upgraded and re-wr
itten the CAM, CAMT and CAPS designation programs and are encouraged with the enthusiasm our affiliates have for delivering these new programs. We have partnered with IREM (Institute of Real Estate Management) to produce an exceptional Fair Housing training program that provides participants with real-life scenarios and case studies that help them understand the nuances of Fair Housing.My third goal is to promote the property management industry as a profession to those who are not familiar with it. We are doing outreach to high schools and national groups like DECA to get the word out about our profession. We’re partnering with a number of universities throughout the country that offer property management degrees or real estate curricula. We’ve also launched a comprehensive Web site — — that provides great information about the industry and provides an exchange for both employers and job seekers.MHN: What are your hopes/plans for the future?Jackiw: I’ve had a very rewarding career in property management. From a professional standpoint, I’ve had the opportunity to develop and grow a management organization that has a strong reputation in the industry. I want to continue to move the company forward and provide new challenges and opportunities for the Buckingham team.I want to continue to find time to give back to the industry through trade association work and teaching. I remain very active in the Indiana Apartment Association, National Apartment Association (NAA) and the NAA Education Institute. I try to set aside time each month to teach designation programs around the country and to guest lecture at universities.MHN: What’s your favorite book that you’ve read in the last year?Jackiw: That’s tough. I read a lot and usually have several books going at the same time. My recent favorites would have to be: “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith — it was a kick having him speak at the NAA education conference this past summer in Orlando; “Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes” by Mark Penn and E. Kinney Zalesne; and “The War Within” by Bob Woodward.MHN: Which Web sites do you most often read/visit/consult?Jackiw: I’m a news hound and political junkie so I am always on the CNN Web site and scan several times a day. I visit the NAA Web site regularly as well. I don’t know how I survived before Google.MHN: What hobbies do you enjoy in your free time?Jackiw: Travel has always been a passion of mine. I also love to garden and spend time with my two Labrador retrievers and four cats.