Courtney Gaines has been in the multifamily industry all her professional life. Over the course of 15 years at Westwood Residential in Texas, she climbed the ladder from leasing consultant to director of management over the firm’s portfolio of 14,000 units. Armed with that experience, Gaines recently joined Gainesville, Florida-based The Collier Cos. as its new vice president of operations. Collier is the largest multifamily owner in north central Florida, with more than 9,800 apartments throughout the region. As head of operations, Gaines’ responsibilities will extend to more than 40 properties and will include working with property owners and operations teams to achieve strategic revenue goals; ensure an exceptional experience for clients and residents; and deliver optimal occupancy and NOI. Gaines sat down with Multifamily Executive to chat about her new role and the challenges ahead.

MFE: What was your first job in the multifamily industry?
GAINES: My first job was as a leasing consultant. When I graduated college with two degrees in history and political science, I didn’t know exactly where my professional career was going to take me. A friend found me a job at Westwood Residential, where I stayed for 15 years before joining Collier.

MFE: What appeals to you about the multifamily industry?
GAINES: The diversity. Every day is a different day. You never know what to expect. I like the flexibility of the multifamily industry. I love the idea of helping people find their homes. And I think the fast-paced nature –and the “go get ‘em” attitude—makes every day exciting.

MFE: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
GAINES: I think the best career advice I’ve ever received is that not everybody will work at the same level that you do. You have to understand the people you work with, know where they’re coming from, and find the best way to utilize their talent. Understand them, so you can properly manage and get the most productivity out of them. You have to know your people in order to grow your people.

MFE: What are some of the things you’ll be doing as VP of operations at Collier?
GAINES: My main role is going to be working closely with our partners and our operations team to achieve a financial plan, meet revenue goals, and put in place systems that will build upon client and resident satisfaction. Collier is very in tune with its customer service and client and resident satisfaction, so I will be leading our operational teams to achieve these objectives, including keeping our occupancy level high and generating more net income for our assets.

MFE: What are you looking forward to about your new role?
GAINES: The new challenge. I’d reached the director of management level at Westwood, and there was nowhere else to go. I’m the type of person that really needs a challenge and more growth. In looking at new companies, the one thing that was very important to me was making sure that there was room for advancement. For a company that’s highly motivational, being extremely in tune with employee enrichment and development is important. Also, this position, with its 40 properties, definitely gave me that challenge that I was looking for.

MFE: What do you see as a significant challenge for the multifamily industry in the coming years?
GAINES: Obviously, with the economy the way it is, the most significant challenge is being able to raise revenue to the levels where you’ll be able to achieve your financial plans. Most markets are still flat. Others are gaining slightly, but still finding that balance. You have to keep your expenses down, but what is going to be hard is to see those rental rates increase back to the level they were two or three years ago. They dropped quickly, but it’s going to be hard to get them back to where they were.

Other multifamily industry ascensions:

  • Loyal Proffitt is Dallas-based Riverstone Residential Group’s new executive vice president for the company’s South Central region. Proffitt’s team is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day management and operations of nearly 16,000 units across Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.

  • Todd Schwartz has been named vice president of Boston-based Castle Group’s fast-growing Tower Division. Schwartz, who has more than 16 years of experience in property services, will manage the firm’s condominium assets.

  • Sterling McGregor has joined Hertz Investment Group as executive vice president and chief marketing officer. In his new role, McGregor will be responsible for raising funds and overseeing marketing operations for Hertz Capital Markets Group, a new affiliate of California-based Hertz Investment Group.