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Insignia's James O'Connor spells out future of management.

Luckily for James V. O'Connor, executive vice president/executive managing director of Insignia Residential Group, Curtis Sliwa preceded him as last month's keynote speaker at the lunch speaker series of the New York Chapter of the Institute of Real Estate Management.

O'Connor may have left his red beret back at the office, but it was the letters of the Guardian Angel founder's first name that inspired Mr. O'Connor's keynote address at the February IREM lunch. Using the letters C-U-R-T-I-S, Mr. O'Connor spoke candidly about the real estate management industry's cutthroat competition practices and the aggressive stance taken by the union, and he challenged the industry to attract more minorities.

'C' is for the cannibalism rampant in the real estate management industry, Mr. O'Connor began. He said that competition in the industry has become so cutthroat that many companies are taking over management of buildings for ridiculously reduced fees just to win business, noting that this restricts the ability of companies to pay managers what they deserve because it creates an artificially low fee structure. He urged the industry to police itself because it's the only way to maintain quality managers and attract new people.

'U', Mr. O'Connor continued, is for union. Local 32BJ, the union representing workers of commercial and residential buildings, has put its scandal-scarred past behind it, and the new leadership, according to Mr. O'Connor, is being aggressive against its employers. The union is rallying its membership by targeting certain situations around town, dropping its giant rats and an inflatable gorilla on the doorstep of buildings to protest the use of non-union labor -- even when the jobs are relatively small.

It's a sign of the times, said Mr. O'Connor, who heads a third-party management portfolio of 350 buildings, the largest in the metropolitan region.

'R' is or recruitment, continued Mr. O'Connor, immediately issuing a challenge to the audience of more than 100 of the city's elite certified property and asset managers of residential, commercial, retail and industrial property in the metropolitan area.

He noted that the industry needs to start growing its own. That means doing a better job of recruiting for the industry at local high schools and universities. Mr. O'Connor said that the industry needs to be more representative of our community and that more minorities are needed in the property management industry. He noted IREM's scholarship program for being a potentially effective vehicle in attracting more minorities into the industry.

Turning to 'T' for 'technology,' Mr. O'Connor said resident managers must become more technologically proficient. Insignia has launched a new service program in which it computerizes offices and trains resident managers in the effective use of technology.

Computers are a useful tool in terms of operating a building, inventory and work order control, communications with management and residents, and establishing a data base, Mr. O'Connor said. However, he noted, there is tremendous resistance from resident managers over concerns that they are going to be asked to do more work once they are computerized.

'I' is for IREM, Mr. O'Connor continued, pledging that Insignia will work more closely with the organization to shape courses in its education program directly aimed at property managers of condominiums and cooperative dwellings. He said that IREM is exactly what he looks for in property managers, noting the significance of CPM (Certified Property Manager) and ARM (Accredited Residential Manager) designations.

The final letter, 'S', Mr. O'Connor said, is for [Joe] 'Scholes,' noting his long-time relationship with the IREM President. He praised Mr. Scholes for rising through the ranks, to the CPM designation and IREM Greater New York Chapter President. Mr. Scholes returned the kind words, noting that Mr. O'Connor is one of the industry's truly remarkable success stories.
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Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 14, 2001
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