Success in commercial real estate can be defined in many ways: satisfied tenants, a big portfolio, low staff turnover. High Rise Facilities talks to Joe Greenblatt, president of San Diego-based Sunrise Management and 2013 IREM president-elect, to learn more about what it takes to thrive.

Q: How did you get started in commercial real estate?

A: I started in the industry in the early 1980s. I was on the acquisitions side of the business, working for a national syndicator, analyzing and negotiating to purchase apartment investments. When tax laws changed in 1986 and did away with tax credit syndications that were the core of the investment industry, I moved with some colleagues into property management for a small portfolio in the Midwest. I worked on some historic rehab and renovation projects until I moved to San Diego and joined Sunrise Management in 1989. I initially worked as a property manager; in 1999, with my business partner, I bought the company, and we’ve owned Sunrise since then.

Q: What are some of your biggest accomplishments?

A: My engagement with IREM. I’m a CPM, and Sunrise is an IREM Accredited Management Organization. We have five CPMs on a staff made up of 13 regional property managers. And we’ve grown our portfolio from a couple thousand units to roughly 11,000 units today. We now manage properties throughout California, Nevada, and Arizona. Through the years, we’ve managed many types of properties, from turn-of-the-century high-rises to new construction.

We managed the tallest residential tower in San Diego: the 40-story Vantage Point, which featured 679 units. The property was completed in 2009, with residential over street-level retail, along with subterranean parking. We rented up a portion of the property in 2009 and 2010 prior to its bulk sale to Equity Residential.

Q: What do you enjoy most in your role as president at Sunrise?

A: Without a doubt, it’s the outstanding people and the relationships I have. I’m blessed with a marvelous team of very talented people. Yes, do we do real estate management – every single day, do we do it intensively – but it’s all about the people and the relationships.

Q: In your decades of experience, how have you seen the industry change?

A: The lines between what used to be property management and asset management have become blurred. Real estate managers are asked to do so much more today than they were 10 years ago. Yet, if you look at most properties, the budgeting for staffing hasn’t changed. Literally, managers are being asked to do much more for less.

In the industry, we also communicate much differently than we used to with the advent of social media and Web 2.0, and the emergence of reputation management as a key management function.

From a facilities standpoint, the high-rise properties and systems we’re managing and working with are much more sophisticated. From providing domestic water to window cleaning to fire protection to doing business in a post-9/11 world … everything from parking to rubbish to recycling is just much more complex. Then you layer green construction and operating practices; the expectations of our tenants have only risen.

Q: What advice do you have for property management professionals based on lessons you’ve learned?

A: Recognize that the people around you can typically do much more than you might permit them to. To me, this is really a change management issue. In most organizations, there are people who could do so much more if they were allowed. Encouraging education is critical to enabling people to learn and do new things. Create environments in which employees can lift up the level of service, engage in new activities, and find new and improved ways to do what we do. And, to some extent, that means we have to get out of the way.

Q: What does the future hold for the industry?

A: We have to not only enable our organizations and our people to grow and change, but we have to come to the understanding that what we’re changing to is very temporary, because it’s going to need to change again. “Being present” means we know that tomorrow isn’t going to be like today.

Leah Grout-Garris

Leah Garris An award winning editor, Leah spent over eight years in senior editorial positions at both BUILDINGS magazine and ARCHI-TECH magazine. Her work has been incorporated into training and educational programs around the country. She is a graduate of University of Iowa. She is Editor at Large for High Rise Facilities.