Thrive or Survive – How to Create a Career You Love


How did you get into property management?  Was it through a job ad or out of necessity? Is it your calling?  Be honest…. if not, why not?

I became a real estate investor as part of my retirement plan. I eventually ended up in property management as a professional (people kept telling me I was good at it).  I loved everything about it, and still do.

What are you good at?  What are your gifts?  What do people say about you?  Understanding your gifts will bring the joy back and help you determine where you should focus your energy and skills.

Do people tell you that you have a warm smile and they feel comfortable around you?  That you are efficient and organized. That you always know how to solve problems.  That you are calm under pressure and never get your feathers ruffled. If you don’t know, ask those close to you to share three adjectives to describe you. Think back to childhood what did you love to do? Gifts are something you are born with and may not even see as a gift.  It is something that comes naturally to you. As a kid I loved to organize things, my room, the house, the kitchen cabinets. I liked detail and order. Perfect skills for property management. Our skills and what makes us happy are evident from childhood and don’t change as adults.

What you are is where you have been. What you’ll be is what you do now.  Buddha

Does this sound familiar?

Business Owner says:

  • How do I motivate employees?
  • How do I get employees to step up and take on more responsibility?
  • I’m so stuck in the day-to-day logistics I can’t grow my business.
  • I have property owners that are draining me…they do nothing but complain.
  • I feel like I am a marketing company, HR manager, mediator, a whipping post, and I am not making any money.
  • I have no time to focus on the future I am always putting out fires.


Employee says:

  • I have too much work and can’t keep up.
  • I present ideas to management, but they ignore them. They don’t care.
  • My manager doesn’t trust me and resists giving me more responsibility. So why did they hire me if they are only going to micromanage me?
  • When things go wrong my manager throws me under the bus and blames me.
  • I’m tired of owners and tenants abusing me. I don’t get paid enough to put up with this. No matter what I do it isn’t appreciated.
  • I don’t even have a job description.


Where you focus is where you will go. If you only focus on the negative that is what you get and all you see.  We need positive reinforcement.  If your employee has a majority of areas to improve upon then they are in the wrong position.  They should be excelling at what they do. A rewarding career isn’t an accident it is intentional, mindful, planned, and worked. It is a CHOICE.

If you are brave enough to say “goodbye” life will reward you with a new “hello”.  Paulo Coehlo

So, what do we say “goodbye” to?

  • Clients that don’t fit with the company. Ask your employees who should be fired and why.
  • Your current business model – consider price increases or roll out new services. Shake things up.
  • “I’m too busy.” Simplify the way you do business – time block, auto responders on voicemail and email. Use a template system, standard forms, and processes. Take advantage of technology to automate repetitive tasks to free up staff time. Create a plug and play company.
  • Staff complaints. If staff have complaints, they need to offer ideas to solve the problem.
  • Control – trust employees to perform. Test performance by calling in sick.
  • Blame game – take responsibility – how are you going to fix it?
  • Trying to please everyone. Not everyone is a match.  Learn to say No/Goodbye so you can say Yes/Hello to what is important.
  • Unrealistic expectations – set boundaries and expectations with clients such as, office is closed weekends, business hours are 9-5, M-F, return phone calls the next business day not at 11:00pm.
  • Being Reactive – putting out fires. Be proactive with maintenance, daily pow-wow meetings with staff, one-to-one meetings with staff, and anticipate questions and needs from clients.
  • Fear – get educated, seek clarity by asking yourself “What do you want?” Ask for help. You don’t have to have all the answers!

Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got. Janice Joplin

Creating a rewarding career begins with living your values, doing what you love, and using your gifts to make an impact. How do we know when we are valued for what we do?

  • We are compensated fairly.
  • We are acknowledged for the work we do.
  • We actively contribute to the vision/goal of the company.
  • We feel heard and supported.
  • We feel a sense of pride about who we are and what we do.

When we feel what we do matters then we matter. Change your mindset about what you do.

Here is an example to illustrate the point.  Receptionist A answers the phone, takes messages, directs calls, and greets people. Receptionist B sees themself as an “Ambassador” the most important job in the company. They are the first point of contact anyone has with the company. They set the tone for how clients are greeted and communicated with over the phone or through email. Receptionist B anticipates the needs of colleagues and their supervisor by offering to take on tasks outside of the job description.

Who would you like to hire? The receptionist that arrives on time, does the job exactly as outlined in the job description but nothing more and is out of the office at 5:00pm sharp or the receptionist that has a mindset of contributing to the company at a higher level and is there to support clients within and outside the company.  The only difference between the two is the mindset. Be the change you want to see.

In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.  Coco Chanel

How do we be different?

  • Live by your values and share your gifts. This makes you unique.
  • Have a clear vision for what you want. Eliminate what doesn’t fit.
  • Have reasonable and actionable goals.
  • Listen to your clients and employees. They just might have ideas for new products or services.
  • Give people responsibility and get out of the way. Success is a team sport.
  • Communicate clearly and often your vision, expectations, goals, your appreciation, and gratitude. Again, Again and Again.
  • Be a servant leader – change your mindset and focus. You don’t need to have all the answers. Ask how you can be of support. Then Listen.
  • Don’t settle. Live a full life not a 70% life. It is a Choice. How do you want to show up at work, in your community, in your family?

Live your future success NOW like you expected it all along.  Tami Havens

It is Monday. What is one change you are going to make to create a rewarding career?

Get more sleep, exercise, say thank you, put auto responder on email and voicemail, simplify your systems, increase your fees, fire a client, communicate your vision with staff, change the tone of your voice when answering the phone, smile at people when they come into the office, list all the wonderful things your current position provides. And do it again the next day.

It is a year from now?  What does your business look like? What does your career in property management look like?  How is it different from today?

The bad actors are gone, more services are offered, staff is working together as a team, you made a profit, you delegated all operations to staff, and you are focused on future company goals, or you are in a new position created by you to fill a need (maintenance coordinator, business development manager, client success manager, property manager, etc.). You are contributing. You feel appreciated and valued.

Don’t wait for success. You can have it today. Is it easy? Yes, and No.

Yes, it is easy.  It is a choice you make.  Then you execute it daily. You are the CEO of your life and if you don’t like something then change it.  No, it isn’t easy.  I won’t lie. Challenges will appear but when you can clearly answer the question, “What do I want?” then the challenges aren’t insurmountable.

You have gifts that make you unique and must be shared. A career you love is possible. The first week of owning my company I had owners screaming at me daily, I had misbehaving tenants, an employee who was lying left, right and center, and I had to go to court for an eviction.  I was asking myself “OMG what have I done, what have I purchased?”  Within three months, no screaming owners, or misbehaving tenants, the lying employee was fired, and I never had another eviction in thirteen years. My owners and tenants were appreciative and wonderful clients to serve.  My business was in an amazing place and I felt blessed daily to be doing what I was doing.

It can be done because I did it.  I know you can do it, too.  Start with making one change, then the next, then the next. Make a choice to have a success mindset and focus where you want to go. Distractions will happen and that is ok just get back on track.  Progress is what counts. A rewarding career that you love does take work, but it should be relatively easy and flow if you are using your gifts, aka, what comes naturally to you. If it feels too hard, I hope some of the strategies in this article will provide a starting point to creating a career you love. You can do it!


Kathleen Richards, MPM®, CPC®, MS in Management, was Broker/Owner of a successful management company with CRMC®. She knows firsthand the highs and lows of being a business owner. She is a nationally recognized coach, speaker, instructor, author, and thought leader for the last 30 years focusing on business, leadership, and specifically the field of property management. She owns PM Made Easy – customizable products to streamline operations and founded The Property Management Coach. She can be reached at 800-475-3084.