Not everyone’s childhood dream job leads to a 34-year career in property management. MariAnne Torres has built a successful career holding every type of role in the industry, leading to founding her own company, Pillar Property Management, six years ago. Pillar supports HOA boards and manages both single-family properties and multi-family associations across New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
We sat down with the founder to learn more.
How did you first get started in the industry, and what prompted the leap to start your own business?
I find that every time I tell the story, it seems a bit unusual. When I was about ten years old, I would sit at my mom’s desk wearing fake glasses and creating documents to move people in and out of their homes. Without knowing that property management was an actual career, I played with my stuffed animals and dolls as if they were residents living in communities. Flash forward to 1989, I took a part-time job as a leasing consultant and realized that this is what I was meant to do. Since then, I have held every administrative job in the industry, including roles as a Leasing Manager, Property Manager, System Manager, Regional Trainer, Director, and now as the Founder of my own company.
I decided to take the leap and start my own business when I realized that I had enough experience to run the show on my own and felt very comfortable with the business operations, having had to wear many hats in my previous roles. Running my own company has been the best job I've ever had.
Tell us more about Pillar today. How has the business grown over the years?
I first started with the intention to focus solely on residential rentals since that had been the majority of my career. I had some experience with association management and knew that I wanted to expand further into that business down the line, but didn't have any formal education in it initially. As luck would have it, I found association clients even before getting the designations that I have now, and found my footing on the spot. Pillar still services a mix of residential rentals and associations, but we are actively growing our associations business.
I’ve been able to find new business in two relatively organic ways. I joined the Community Associations Institute Keystone chapter and have made great connections with vendors that have strong relationships with boards and communities. I also started advertising on the neighborhood discussion and advertisement flyers in local mom-and-pop and grocery stores, near where I thought self-managing board members might reside. That form of advertisement costs very little and has had a huge payoff for me.
How has your role changed now that you manage not only properties and associations, but your own business as well?
I have always been extremely organized and have experience creating organizational systems from scratch for companies to follow. My organizational abilities have allowed me to be very efficient and find new freedom and flexibility in having my own company. As a small business owner, I have also been able to tap into a niche market of smaller communities that larger management companies typically shy away from. The personal relationships that I build and maintain with smaller communities give new meaning to my job.
What are you looking for in a successful team member?
In running my own business and building a team from scratch, I’ve been able to choose team members that are motivated self-starters. It makes a world of difference to work with people that take initiative, don’t wait to be told to do something, and make decisions when challenges arise.
What role does technology play for you and your business, and what are some of the biggest pain points that it has helped solve for you?
Technology helps solve all efficiency-related pain points for us. For our residential rentals business, which was our bread-and-butter at the beginning, software was crucial for us to be able to compete with the larger management companies. I felt that there wasn’t any way we could do business without digital capabilities.
For our association clients, maintaining a digital paper trail and sharing documents with groups at scale through software is crucial. Board members and homeowners need the convenience and protection that robust document storage and sharing provides.
Now, for a few one word answers:
Would you rather give up email or your phone for a day? Email.
What is your superpower? Being hyper organized.
Name one thing you never leave home without. My phone.
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