Dan Haefner has emerged from the “dark side.” After a brief stint as president of the multifamily leasing and marketing firm Sales Inc., Haefner has decided to leave the vendor industry and return to multifamily operations. Next month, Haefner, who spent 10 years as the chief information officer at Atlanta-based Lane Co., will join Newport News, Va.-based Drucker & Falk Real Estate as executive director of multifamily management.

Haefner is tasked with overseeing the firm’s 28,000-unit fee-management portfolio throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. He is the newest member of a re-energized company lineup that includes president Jim Ledbetter, former president of Transwestern, who joined Drucker & Falk this past March.

Haefner talked to Multifamily Executive about his new role.

MFE: What prompted you to return to multifamily operations?
DH: Lane Co. was going through some challenging times [when I was there], so I looked at other opportunities and thought I’d go to the dark side and become a vender. It was a great experience, and it has caused me to have a new appreciation for what our partners in business do on a daily basis. But what it also did was cause me to realize what it was I truly loved doing, which is property operations. Drucker & Falk is a tremendous organization, and an opportunity like this may only come around once in a career, so I am extremely excited by this change.

MFE: What will be your top goals as Drucker & Falk's executive director of multifamily management?
DH: Initially, I want to gain an understanding of client relationships and the strengths and weaknesses the organization currently holds. But ultimately, I want to help grow the company profitably and focus on smart growth and opportunities to create additional value for our partners and clients, as well as create opportunities for all of our employees.

MFE: What specific opportunities do you see for fee managers given today’s economic turbulence?
DH: Quite a few. A lot of owners and developers have taken back management control to keep their revenue streams, but it won’t be long before some of them realize the value an experienced third-party manager brings to the equation and begin considering this as an option again. Owners sometimes find after the fact that the anticipated benefits of bringing this function in-house are not what they expected. There are also incredible opportunities with different asset managers—banks, servicers, etc. And you have a lot of owners who are aging and don’t have a transition plan or an exit strategy, so they are looking for that exit strategy.

MFE: At Lane, you were known as a tech guru. What tech initiatives do you have planned for your new role?
DH: Nothing specific. Yet. We will be looking at how to leverage technology to manage more by exception versus managing every piece of data—whatever technology gives us the ability to act quickly and communicate more effectively and allow us to provide better service to our partners/clients, residents, and employees.

MFE: What prompted Drucker & Falk to re-energize itself?
DH: 2008 was the company’s 70th anniversary. We have a proud history, and an anniversary is a good time to not just reflect on where you’ve been, but also to create a vision for the future for where you are going. During the firm’s 70th year, the partners set new goals for the company, including growing the multifamily business. We are positioned very well to capitalize on some of the story that is still to be written in the real estate environment.