Talking with alumni enable us to see whether what we taught was useful and gives current students the opportunity to learn from the guests’ experiences. A recent visit by four alumni, now working with Allied REIT, was interesting for lots of reasons.
Obviously, current students want to learn about the day-to-day duties of what is discussed in class. Emily Forster, Alicia Scott, Jennifer Tait, and Paul Teakle provided many details. Since Allied is well-known for specializing in “Class I” buildings, these details also show that even “standard” jobs have interesting variations.
Instructors provide key ideas and an organizing framework for students to discover the more subtle implications. Given the number of times which I have mentioned it, all students should know that “tenant relations are important” and to be aware of how the decision maker fits into the operating system.
Guests can say the same thing and tell better stories. Allied offers Tenant Appreciation Events in which their own tenants as the star attraction, such as SOMA. Or, they organized a Sweater Day (in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund) where the temperature in a building is turned down by two degrees and people are encouraged to wear a sweater instead.
The stories also helped to illustrate a bigger point: tenants will always complain and you will become tired if you react to every complaint. If you set priorities, act professionally (which is harder if somebody is yelling at you) and do a good enough job, the complaints change: complaints about air conditioning and bad smells are replaced by “The Christmas tree should be moved so that it can be seen from the street.”
Emily, Alicia, Jennifer and Paul also noted a common confusion about the job of a property manager. Many people think that the job is about properties and buildings: i.e. fixing toilets, the roof, HVAC system, building envelope, and so on. They noted that, most of the time, property managers are solving people problems (while keeping an eye on profits). That important lesson shows another example of why communication, creating value (e.g., for the tenant) and financial analysis are Big Ideas.
Property Management is a 24/7/365 job but everybody needs to sleep sometime. So, there is a lot of collaboration: you may not know all of the answers and, in a good system, you can learn from somebody else on the team.
Finally, it is interesting to see people mature. Most students are nervous when presenting; we ask them to present in a friendly classroom environment in order to become comfortable later when they have to do the same thing in a more contentious business environment. So, during this visit, these former students were much more confident and more excited than the students who are presenting in class now. And, as many recruiters note and students in the class noticed, passion shows through.