As a leader, I’ve always worked to communicate, been respectful and collaborative, and stayed true to my morals and ethics. I’ve learned that you can only control yourself in any situation. Being a leader is about influence. The only influence that I can have on others is leading by example and letting employees know that every role matters and I appreciate their efforts.
Amy Weissberger is an experienced businesswoman who started her career at the site-level and worked her way up the corporate ladder at Morgan Properties, the nation’s fifth-largest apartment owner. Amy joined Morgan in 1994 as a young, motivated, and committed leasing professional when the company employed less than 200 people. Since then, Amy’s strategic skills and ability to streamline operations company-wide have helped Morgan grow to more than 2,000 employees and 300 apartment communities consisting of over 75,000 units. Her work has not only supported internal growth but landed her multiple promotions — including her current role as Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy.
Thank you for joining us Amy! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?
Growing up as a child I never thought I would have a career in multi-family real estate. During college, I noticed an ad that was posted by an owner who needed someone to manage their Center City, Philadelphia apartment community. I applied and interviewed for the position and since the owner really liked me, she offered me the job. Even though I didn’t have any experience at the time, I managed 33 apartments which really piqued my interest in real estate.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
When you work in real estate long enough there are always going to be amusing stories to tell. My most interesting story as a property manager was when I first took over Morgan Properties’ Kingswood Apartments and Townhomes, where our corporate office is located. It was winter and I noticed pansies all over the property that had seen better days. I called my regional manager to tell her we had dead flowers and I was going to ask the landscaper to pull them. Thirty minutes later the COO of the company at the time noticed the landscapers pulling all the “dead” flowers and said, “What are you doing?!” I was furiously informed that those pansies are a perennial flower that goes dormant in the winter and comes back in the early fall. Needless to say,I quickly learned a lot about landscaping!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Iwas promoted to Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy this past spring, and as part of my new role, I am looking at the organization as a whole and identifying ways to help us reduce administrative tasks at the site. My role is to evaluate the functions at the property and corporate levels and determine solutions that will enable us to streamline our operations so the teams can focus on leasing apartments, taking care of our properties and providing best-in-class customer service to our residents. We are also looking at ways to continue to attract and retain exceptional talent. This is a huge project that requires working with the internal departments who support the site teams, while also identifying and implementing industry best practices for technology and processes that will help our organization continue to thrive in the future. My role is to help our owners achieve their strategic vision for our company through organizational design and help the departments and the site teams with the change management.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Iam proud to say I work for Morgan Properties as I truly believe it is a fantastic organization.Our founder, Mitch Morgan, started the company in 1985 and initially bought three properties that comprised his portfolio. He understands that his employees thrive when they work in a family-oriented atmosphere, and his sons, Jonathan and Jason, also grasp those fundamentals. It’s ingrained in our culture that every employee affects the overall success of the company. Jonathan and Jason stepped into leadership roles within the past 10 years and the culture Mitch instilled over 30 years ago still exists to this day. The company also prioritizes the continuation of its employees’ education past their undergraduate degrees, internally though continuing education and externally by offering tuition reimbursement programs. Morgan helped to support me while I went back to school and obtained my Master’s in Training and Development from Roosevelt University, and I’m very grateful to have been given that opportunity.
Is there a person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are a lot of people who have mentored and supported me through my career. The one person who stands out to me is a woman who had a dual role as COO and Regional Manager at Morgan Properties many years ago. She actually hired me and early on recognized my drive to grow, and always nurtured that ambition. One story that comes to mind is when we were looking to expand outside of the Mid-Atlantic area and were considering potentially acquiring properties in South Carolina. I expressed an interest to help in any way that I could, and she went to Mitch Morgan and asked if I could assist in conducting the due diligence. I can honestly say there hasn’t been one leader at Morgan who has boxed me in from growing or trying something new, and I think that is very unique for such a prominent organization.
The Real Estate industry, like the Veterinarian, Nursing and Public Relations fields, is a woman dominated industry. Yet despite this, less than 20 percent of senior positions in Real Estate companies are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what do you think is the cause of this imbalance?
Ithink the cause of this imbalance is that most large corporations and family-owned businesses in real estate that I have come across are run by men, and therefore they hold the executive-level positions. I believe that the ceiling for women in the multifamily real estate industry is shrinking. I have seen more women in regional positions and vice president positions than ever before, but that trend needs to continue.
In order to see more women hold executive positions in any industry, we need to give them opportunities to apply for those jobs and encourage their continued professional development while allowing them to maintain a work-life balance. Having a successful career should not be at the expense of having any personal life. I do think that it is easier for men who are in higher level roles because they can go home and usually their significant other is handling more of the responsibilities of maintaining their home. I am not sure that most executive women could say the same.
What 3 things can be done by a) individuals b) companies and/or c) society to support greater gender balance going forward?
Ibelieve that individuals, companies and society need to identify who is the best candidate for a position. We need to look at their background, track record, skillset and eagerness to learn and grow. If we are doing all of those things, we can avoid the inequalities that we are seeing daily. At the end of the day, the best person should be chosen for a position regardless of gender.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Ibelieve it’s challenging for women to find their work-life balance, but I do think it’s changing. Balance is key because women tend to be the primary caregivers and house caretakers, so more of the responsibility falls on them. Women and men need to know that it is acceptable to go home at the end of the day, and it’s also acceptable to stay late when it’s necessary. That’s the uphill battle that female executives experience. I have older kids now so I’m able to travel more, but when I was younger I wanted to go home each day at an early enough time to cook dinner and take care of my family’s needs. I also needed a chance to decompress from my workday so that I could feel my best both at work and at home, and I did not always feel like I could have that balance. I often felt guilty for leaving work and also felt guilty for not spending enough time with my family. I am seeing more of a balance now with the younger generation who are prioritizing their work and home lives and am hopeful that we are heading in the right direction for women.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry?
Many things excite me about the real estate industry, but the first is definitely technology as it’s changing the way we communicate with our residents. Technology has enabled our residents and prospects to have everything at their fingertips. From smart homes to resident portals, we are able to give renters more on-demand services that fit their needs. We are also using technology in new ways to help run our communities. As software programs become more intuitive and integrations get smoother, our teams are able to do more in fewer systems and that is exciting for us to be able to onboard teams quicker and assist them in making their jobs easier. More than ever before we’re seeing self-service technology being implemented, and we’re excited to expand on how we can create a continuous community-feel throughout our portfolio and improve employee engagement while continuing to expand the organization.
Business intelligence platforms are another area giving us more insight into our functionality as a company. They’re allowing people to focus on what’s working, what isn’t, and how we can make strategic decisions that have a financial impact.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
The most paramount and number one problem that’s concerning to everyone in the real estate industry is finding skilled maintenance technicians. This is becoming more challenging and we need to identify ways to attract and train maintenance teams. As we all know, things break in a home, and issues have to be addressed quickly to keep residents satisfied within our communities. It’s important to come together as an industry to attract and retain this skilled labor force, as we’re seeing skilled labor roles diminish in our industry and our country. We need to look at different trade schools and apartment associations to help us come up with a solution. Yes, we can outsource maintenance work, but it takes longer for the work to get completed, and it isn’t the same quality as when you have a dedicated team of service professionals working at the property.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
Asa leader, I’ve always worked to communicate, been respectful and collaborative, and stayed true to my morals and ethics. I’ve learned that you can only control yourself in any situation. Being a leader is about influence. The only influence that I can have on others is leading by example and letting employees know that every role matters and I appreciate their efforts.
Communication is critical as a leader. You set the tone for your team. Follow up and follow through. If I don’t have an answer to a question, I always follow up to get the answer. It’s okay not to know the answer. But you have to follow through or else people lose faith and it chips away at your credibility.
Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
1). We are all responsible to help rent apartments or to renew apartment leases.
2). Regardless of which department you aspire to work in, the foundation for everything we do is based at our properties. Everyone’s job supports that in some way, shape or form and it is everyone’s job to pick up trash.
3). You learn that people tend to let their hair down once they get home. While we’re running a business, we also have to remember our properties are homes for our residents. Multifamily is different than any other real estate sector because when we make a sale, the person moves in with us. This is their home, and it’s our job to take care of our residents.
4). In property management, you wear many different hats which keeps the job interesting. It takes many skills to be a successful property manager such as customer service, marketing, team building, the list goes on. It is a very complex career that requires financial business acumen and an understanding of HR aspects as well.
5.) You learn how to handle tough situations that you never thought you would have to deal with and you get to experience amazing things that happen in people’s lives while they are living at your community. Working in property management is like no other industry.
Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be?
It’s important to me that people have fun and love what they do so that coming to work is something to look forward to on a Monday as much as a Friday. My movement would be to help people find and fuel their passions. I believe that is part of the reason why the professional development programs at Morgan Properties have been so successful. Once someone realizes what they’re passionate about, we help them set personal and professional goals and find their career path, whether that’s on or off-site. At the end of the day, I am not only an influencer but an educator and hopefully a mentor. I would hope that by helping others in our company learn and grow through the years, I have a small role in guiding the next generation of leaders towards achieving in their own professional and personal growth.