I like to study other brands. Lifestyle brands are especially interesting to me. The marketing and branding that transform otherwise common products and services into industry leaders are intriguing to me. The truly successful lifestyle brands have an emotional element, making consumers feel something beyond their product or service itself. At PMP, we are a service business and we are focused on the client experience, so it is important for me to find inspiration and motivation in other brands. As the old saying goes, people may forget what you tell them, but they will never forget the way you made them feel. This is the legacy I would like for PMP to leave in our industry. That we redefined the HOA client experience through innovative products and a truly extraordinary customer service experience.
Brad Watson has over fifteen years of experience in the residential real estate industry. A founder of Property Management Professionals LLC (“PMP”) in 2008, Brad has assembled one of the most dynamic, diverse, and respected teams of management professionals in the industry, serving as the foundation for PMP’s extraordinary success.
Prior to PMP, Brad was the Director of Land Acquisition and Forward Planning for KB HOME, North Los Angeles Division. While there, Brad helped to expand KB Home’s Los Angeles County business to market dominance, generating nearly 500 Million dollars in annual revenues and over 1,200 unit deliveries. Brad was also responsible for working with the California Bureau of Real Estate (“BRE”) to establish Homeowners Associations for new KB HOME communities, which included the creation of Association BRE budgets, drafting Association Governing Documents, including CC&Rs and Bylaws, and holding declarant Board Members positions at new communities. Brad’s forward planning background at a Fortune 100 company provided the foundation for a unique and sophisticated approach to community association management.
A native Californian, Brad attended the University of Southern California where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance. Brad has served on the Board of Directors of the Building Industry Association (“BIA”) and is an active member of the Community Association Institute (“CAI”), earning designations as a Certified Manager of Community Associations (“CMCA”) and Association Management Specialist (“AMS”).
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I have a unique background in the Association Management Industry. Prior to starting PMP Management in 2008, I was the Director of Land Acquisition and Forward Planning for KB Home, one of the nation’s largest homebuilders. In addition to buying and entitling land, I worked with the California Department of Real Estate to establish homeowners associations for all our new communities. Additionally, through my role at KB HOME, I worked with many of the industry’s association management companies and saw a need for a different approach to community management — focused on innovative products and platforms and a truly extraordinary customer service experience.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Frankly, what ultimately “pushed me” to going out on my own and starting PMP was the real estate recession in 2007/2008 that crippled the national homebuilding industry. It provided the perfect opportunity to continue my passion for building and working with communities but in a recession-resistant industry.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
I would say my entrepreneurial aptitude developed out of a need. My previous industry all but vanished after the recession so I was forced to reinvent myself. As it turns out, and in hindsight (which of course is 20/20), I was much more entrepreneurial than I had ever thought. Today I could not imagine working for a large organization, other than my own, of course.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
It’s a funny story. Jim Carr, my current business partner at PMP, was the Executive Vice President of my previous employer, KB Home. During the recession, he was tasked with laying off our entire team, including me. He actually took me to an Islands restaurant, of all places, to lay me off. After he informed me my position was being eliminated, the conversation pivoted to my next professional opportunity. After some brainstorming, we collectively came up with the concept for a new approach to residential HOA management, focused on innovative products and extraordinary service. Leave it to Jim to take a terrible situation and help turn it into a thriving business. He’s where I get my entrepreneurial spirit and who inspires me still to this day.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
PMP’s competitive advantage is the same thing that both inspires and drives our success — our unwavering focus on extraordinary service and our efforts to elevate the client experience. We truly understand what most other management companies forget — we are a service business. If we are not providing extraordinary service to our homeowner and Board Member clients, then we will ultimately fail as an organization.
The secret to our success is not really a secret at all. We consistently deliver on our promise of innovative products and extraordinary service, which has fulfilled a demand in the common interest development management industry.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- It’s never been just about me. We have an amazing team of collaborators and leaders who have built PMP and are responsible for the extraordinary success. I think that is the most important leadership trait I have learned over the past 12 years. I’ve promoted a very flat organizational structure that encourages creativity and collaboration. Nearly all decisions, whether operational, structural or marketing-focused are vetted as a team. The end results are better products and services from a team member’s buy-in.
- I am extremely competitive and always have been. Even if I am not naturally good at something, I will outwork anyone to ensure my team’s success. I believe this competitive nature is imperative.
- A willingness to jump into the trenches with my team whenever necessary. There is no job that is too large or too small and I am not above any job at PMP. I believe it’s inspirational for team members to see leaders working as hard as them, if not harder, and it sends an important message that you’re not above putting in the work.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
I studied finance at the University of Southern California where, as a business student, the focus was primarily to join one of the large investment banking firms or a fortune 500 company after graduation. So, that’s what I did. I immediately when to work for KB Home after graduation, and I was there for nearly a decade. At the time, I never thought of starting my own business and thought the Fortune 500 path was my end all be all. My journey undoubtedly led me in my decision-making today. However, sometimes I wonder where I would be if I would have branched out on my own sooner.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
To avoid burnout it is key to surround yourself with inspirational leaders who keep the company culture light and fun. This is vital in our industry- the service industry. I tend to get pretty serious at work, so by design, I have helped build a leadership team that is result-orientated but also knows how to have a good time. They completely balance me out and help keep the office environment light and creative.
On-going support and training are also vital to ensure your team has the tools and support necessary to grow within their career. In studying many other successful brands, I have learned not to underestimate the benefit of internal training and the direct correlation to not only a productive work environment but loyal employees.
It is also important to embrace a healthy work-life balance for your team and understand this does not mean the same thing for everyone. Simply because I have the bandwidth to work 12-hour days does not mean everyone else does. Everyone needs to define their own unique work-life balance to maximize their productivity. I make it known that I do not expect members of our team to keep my hours. I want healthy, balanced team members who maximize their productivity and only they know what that looks like for them.
Lastly, and along the lines of a healthy work-life balance, it is important to create an environment where your employees do not grow to resent the company. I allow freedom and never make them choose between work or going to their kid’s baseball game, dance rehearsal, etc. Since opening our doors in 2008, I have always preached that I never want my employees to miss an important life event because of work.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Integrity is everything. Do what you say you’re going to do and practice what you preach. When you miss the mark and screw up, which happens to all of us on occasion, own up to the error and make it right. It is important to keep in mind that the entire team is always watching you and looking to leadership for guidance and inspiration. As leaders, we set the example for what we want others in our organization to aspire to be.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
I feel now more than ever there is an integrity deficit. Never before in my lifetime can I recall a time where our leaders played so fast and loose with the truth. We need to reset the expectation that being honest and credible is paramount and essential to rebuild trust and credibility in our communities.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
As hard as it may be, it’s important to fight the need to control everything. A lot of entrepreneurs are “type A” personalities and have a hard time not micromanaging people, processes, and procedures. Let go. Hire strong professionals and give them the flexibility to do their jobs their way. There are several methods to get to the same end result and to achieve the desired goal. It does not have to be your way or a single way.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
While I cannot speak for all entrepreneurs, there is no doubt that entrepreneurship comes with a rollercoaster of emotions. First and foremost, it’s your company — your business that you have grown since infancy. There is always going to be an emotional element there. I also find a lot of my entrepreneurial peers to be emotional by nature. In many ways, I feel that this very emotion is what drives success. Speaking only for myself, I am plagued with a [irrational] fear that no matter how large we grow our business or how successful our company is, that I will still fail as an individual. While I know this sounds ridiculous, it is this emotional fire that drives me every day to do better and continue to strive for our ultimate success. I don’t know that I will ever feel fully satisfied and that in and of itself creates a rollercoaster of emotions. I remember earlier this year when we were awarded one of our largest association client accounts that I had been working on for over a year, the emotional high wore off by lunch and I was already anxious about our continued growth.
This is a very different feeling from when I worked at a Fortune 500 company. I loved my job, I was extremely proud and I worked hard, but it was not the same feeling I have with this current position. I did not have an entire organization relying on my performance. I did my job and I did it well, but it was not my organization. I was able to unplug and detach in a way that I am unable to do now.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
I love business development and sales. That’s my passion. I love making and cultivating client relationships and earning their business. I get a sense of excitement when I compete and earn a new association client. That is the ultimate for me. As we move into new states and markets, the challenge leads to even greater achievements and elation. Our team recently partnered with one of the largest age restricted master planned communities in Utah, in fact our first client in Utah. It was exhilarating and euphoric to be brand new to the state and earn the business of such a huge, well respected client.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
It’s hard losing someone on the team. Especially someone who has made an impact and aided in PMP’s growth in a meaningful way. I love our team, and seeing them move on is usually a darker day for me. I understand that is not realistic to believe your team will spend their entire professional careers at your company, but that doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye. Fortunately, we have yet to lose a really big client though I am sure it will happen one day. This is where I am going to heavily rely on our team of leaders to lift me up.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
I rely on my team around me for inspiration and focus on moving on. I often have to remind myself this journey is a marathon, not a race. There will be good days and bad days. Great employees will come and go, as will clients. But it is important to focus on moving forward in a productive way. I feel our entire leadership team shares this core value and we lift each other up when necessary.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Taking proper care of myself is imperative to my success. For me, that starts with a good night’s sleep and staying healthy. I personally cannot function if I don’t get a full 8 hours of sleep. I will have a difficult time handling the unforeseen challenges and emotional highs and lows that come with my job.
- A healthy work-life balance. I naturally work long hours, but I carve out my personal time on the weekends. I diligently avoid working weekends, including work calls and emails, unless of course, it’s an emergency.
- I reward myself for my hard work. Terrific vacations are the ultimate reward for me, and they give me something to look forward to. Weekend day trips and massages are other ways I reward myself for working hard. These personal rewards help my perspective and keep me motivated.
- My team. I would not be where I am today without my stellar team, many of whom have been with me since the beginning. They keep me focused when necessary and keep it light when appropriate. They are who I go to when I need to vent and who I rely on for sound advice. They feel comfortable telling me when I’m wrong, and I respect their options. My team is who helps me ultimately navigate the emotional highs and lows of my role.
- I like to study other brands. Lifestyle brands are especially interesting to me. The marketing and branding that transform otherwise common products and services into industry leaders are intriguing to me. The truly successful lifestyle brands have an emotional element, making consumers feel something beyond their product or service itself. At PMP, we are a service business and we are focused on the client experience, so it is important for me to find inspiration and motivation in other brands. As the old saying goes, people may forget what you tell them, but they will never forget the way you made them feel. This is the legacy I would like for PMP to leave in our industry. That we redefined the HOA client experience through innovative products and a truly extraordinary customer service experience.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience is being flexible and open to new ideas and ways of doing business. If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that you must be able to adapt to the changing environment. On March 16, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic we were faced with a stay-at-home order and had to pivot quickly as an organization to comply with State and local directives while at the same time serving our clients. Luckily, due to our infrastructure investments over the years, we had the technology to work remotely, but it presented numerous challenges.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
When I was younger school never came easy to me. I wasn’t the kid who could put in zero effort and still get good grades. I had to work exceptionally hard to do well, but it f paid off. I was accepted into a top-tier university, the University of Southern California. I graduated with a business degree and a respectable GPA, and I was ultimately hired by a great company out of college, where I worked for nearly a decade before getting laid off as a result of the greatest real estate recession of our lifetime. I then had to re-invent myself, starting PMP from scratch. My story from adolescence has been one of hard work, perseverance, and resiliency.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
As much as I try to always lead by example, I will admit that in my moments of weakness I worry. My Executive Vice President jokes that “I borrow worry”. I will worry about things that haven’t happened and sometimes find myself worrying that I forgot something I’m supposed to be worrying about. However, I only let a few members of my team see this side of me. I really rely on my team to inspire me when things get tough. At the same time, I am great at putting on a good game face and my employees rarely know when I’m bothered. But to those close to me, they know when they need to step up and provide additional support.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
I understand and remind myself often that as a leader, my team is watching me and how I react to difficult situations. I reiterate often that everyone is a good winner, but true character is defined by how someone loses. When things do not go our way as an organization, I am the first person to instill confidence and help lift the team-up. I feel this is one of my greatest assets as a leader. I remind our team that our business is a marathon, not a sprint and that there will be successes as well as failures, but so long as we continue to work tother towards and common goals and shared objectives, we will ultimately be successful. At the end of the day, I truly believe that to be true.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal”- Earl Nightingale.
I am a huge advocate of setting goals, writing them down, and checking in on them regularly. I think it’s important to do this for both professional and personal development. I regularly encourage our team to set end goals and regular intentions. I truly believe that achieving your goals is the key to happiness, and at the end of the day, that is all I wish for my employees — a happy and fulfilled life.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Website — https://pmprollc.com
Instagram — @pmpmanage
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!