Five Things I Wish I Knew Starting Out in Industrial Real Estate

December 16, 2021 | By: Natalie Tyler-Martin, MBA, RPA

As I reflect on my career in commercial real estate, there have been a few critical take a ways to my success. Our roles as asset and property managers are to maintain our buildings to be solid long-term assets and keep our tenants in them… as happy as possible! Our customers are a building’s lifeblood and having the customer service mindset is essential to success. Here are five lessons that have helped me in my career: 

Relationships matter.

Building solid customer and vendor relationships are critical. Starting them early in your career will allow these relationships to grow and blossom into supportive life links for the needs of your tenants, teams, clients, and vendors. The relationships we build grow beyond our understanding and can surprise us at the most unexpected moments. Focusing on your customer relationships will help keep them in your building for the long-term and add to the long-term value of the asset. 

Spend quality time with your maintenance engineers.

Our Maintenance Engineers are the backbone of our buildings’ operations. Hang out in the pump room, climb up to the roof, walk the mile to the other end of the building and back again. Ask questions, learn family member names, and check-in with them. Building a solid foundation with your maintenance engineers will help enormously during the storms and random times. And it’s always great to be able to celebrate the wins together. 

It’s not just a box.

Our buildings are much more than they appear, it is amazing to see what happens and is produced within them. As owners and managers of industrial facilities, we have to understand our customer’s operations to make sure the box works for their needs while maintaining the building’s value. Building up that box, and helping the organization inside of them grow, is an investment that will compound in value the longer it goes. Some of our greatest challenges come as a result of our customer’s evolving businesses and operations. Working to solve our tenant’s needs is one of the best parts of watching and fostering its growth.  

Always be prepared.

I’m a Girl Scout through and through, and this motto has served me well from being a Daisy Girl Scout to leading a troop at Florida A&M University and beyond. You never know what kind of emergency may happen so keep a pair of boots or flats, hard hat and safety vest in your car, or be ready to attend a last-minute meeting with your stakeholders in the boardroom.   

It means, creating systems and processes that help you answer the call at any time, whether it’s for a flood, emergency tenant request or last-minute accounting meeting. Find a system that works for you to keep and track, critical vendor and tenant information, building information and budget & variance documents. You never know when you are going to need it, but you would rather have it and not need it vs. need it and not have it. Being ready to jump into any situation to help your company, team and tenant solve the problem always leads to success. 

Be flexible and don’t take it personal.

When solving a tenant’s issue, you may meet them on their worst day. You might even take flak from them as you offer support and solutions. But don’t let it get to you, have thick skin and a big heart. Be flexible and creative in solving tenant concerns, even under pressure. Being attentive to a disruption in a customer’s operations always makes a difference in how they respond to you in the moment and in future events.  

Sometimes it helps to step outside of the contract and just solve the problem. Wondering “who’s responsible for what” can lead to delays when time is of the essence. Tenants remember what you do for them and how you treat them. Being flexible doesn’t just mean bending over backwards for tenants, it means being prepared for whatever can and will happen.  

Customer service is the backbone of what we do, but focusing on relationships, supporting your maintenance engineers, thinking outside of the box, and being prepared and flexible will always help you succeed.  


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