"If it's not fun, then why do it?" That philosophy, credited to Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, has been a guiding principle for Melissa Levesque Smith, who spent summer vacations from college as a tour guide at the ice cream factory. It's working for her: In March 2006, she was promoted to senior vice president of internal operations at Fogelman Management Group. Smith, who has a bachelor's in business and economics from Randolph-Macon College, says being happy at work–where people spend most of their waking hours–is the key to success. Q: What appealed to you about this job?
A: The chance to create more synergy between departments in the corporate office and to help facilitate efficiencies in both our home office and on-site operations. As more functions of our core business go to the Web and [other] technologies, we need to be reevaluating all processes–whether they are "broken" or not–to keep moving forward. The challenge of constantly raising the bar and reaping the rewards is very appealing.
Q: What do you see as a significant challenge for the multifamily industry?
A: From an operations standpoint, we need to get our on-site teams out of the concessions mindset and back into revenue growth. As interest rates continue to increase and condo conversions take place, many of our markets are changing back to a landlords' market versus a renters' market, and we need to position our teams to be focused and excited about capitalizing on these opportunities.
Q: What was your first job in the multifamily industry?
A: Fresh out of school, I was hired as a temp to cover a leasing office for two days while the company had their annual meeting. I not only leased an apartment but, with the help of a housekeeper, picked out a vacant [unit], had the prospect sign a blank lease, and moved him in. ... I loved every minute of it and haven't looked back.
Q: What would you change if you could?
A: The stereotype that our industry lacks professionalism and is composed of mom-and-pop organizations and people–it's just not accurate. I would also love for our industry to [take] advantage of technology improvements–we are always lagging behind similar industries such as hospitality and single-family real estate.
Q: What do you enjoy about working in the multifamily industry?
A: Variety, variety, variety. In what other industry can you act as a financial manager, counselor, construction manager, event planner, paralegal, and human resource manager all in the course of one day?