As the business environment in commercial real estate is changing, so is the mission and vision of AZCREW, the Valley group comprised of professional women in the industry.
Leadership development, education, networking and business development are but a few of the organization’s building blocks. Building a strong member base, embracing social media and branding are important as well.
Ericka LeMaster, senior vice president of Commercial Real Estate Finance at Alliance Bank of Arizona, been an active member for four years and is chair of the Programs Committee. AZCREW provides the platform, she says, “Where I can (with our very talented committee) exercise my passion for selecting educational tropics and arrange the high-quality luncheon speakers.
“Through being an active participant, I have had the pleasure to provide lending services to some of our members’ customers as well as refer new business to our title and legal membership base,” she adds. “Aside from new business opportunities I have made friendships that will survive my career in commercial real estate finance. AZCREW is driven by passionate professionals and I am proud to be a part of this organization.”
Since becoming involved with AZCREW, says Krystal Dill, marketing manager at Lincoln Property Company, she has experienced countless opportunities to grow professionally, make new connections and build great relationships.
“As a member of the (national) Crew Network, AZCREW is a wonderful resource for women in commercial real estate that offers access to local and national networks to cover every aspect of a transaction,” Dill says. “The organization encourages leadership and fosters success among its members. This is especially true of our committees where team members work together at a common mission to achieve specific goals.”
Upon membership, Dill signed on to the PR/Outreach Committee and was asked to serve as co-chair with Jackie Orcutt of Cushman & Wakefield. The committee is charged with overseeing community outreach, attracting new members, preparing quarterly newsletters and promoting AZCREW.
“Last year we were asked to plan the inaugural fundraiser event for scholarships to benefit the MRED program at Arizona State University,” Dill says. “We partnered with the AZCREW Special Events Committee to create a festive, elaborate and successful Black and White Affair. The event exceeded all expectations, enhanced brand awareness, built a partnership with ASU and benefitted terrific students.”
Programs offered by both the local and national organizations provide excellent education opportunities, says Cathy Teeter, acting market leader for Cushman & Wakefield of Arizona. AZCREW advocates a closing of the industry’s gender gap through quality leadership and respected professionalism. “AZCREW provides an invaluable resource and platform for not just women in the marketplace, but for the industry as a whole,” Teeter says.
“This organization improves the commercial real estate field by encouraging diversity and providing career development opportunities for dynamic women.
“Personally, I have found the networking system of AZCREW to be very important,” she says. “The monthly luncheons are informative and the subject matter is always timely. The social components, such as the annual charitable golf tournament and mixers, provide wonderful avenues to build relationships. The group encourages positive, professional relationships with all members of the real estate community.”
AZCREW is unique in that it brings people together from all sectors of the real estate industry. At any given luncheon, Teeter says, “you can sit at the table with your banker, attorney, broker or property manager.
“AZCREW has been very successful over the years, as demonstrated by the impressive number of females serving in leadership roles throughout the Metro Phoenix real estate market,” Teeter adds.
Little did she know years ago when Edythe Higgins of Wells Fargo encouraged her to join did Melinda Hinkson, business development, Sigma Contracting, that she would find AZCREW — and CREW — to be so fulfilling on so many levels.
“As a business owner and industry participant, I have benefitted not only from the networking but also the educational opportunities that CREW provides,” Hinkson says. “Even so, I am only in my infancy with the CREW Network, because there is much more opportunity and support through the national network that I have yet to avail myself of. There are annual conventions, leadership meetings, a deal database, professional development training, speaking, writing and leadership opportunities and awards programs, in which I have yet to participate.
“All of that provides me with many additional tools and opportunities for both personal and professional growth as I go forward within the CREW organization.”
Locally, Hinkson participates on the membership committee helping AZCREW grow its membership. She is also on the Golf Committee, which plans and runs the organization’s annual charity golf tournament, held at Gainey Ranch.
“AZCREW not only has provided me with the camaraderie of like-minded ambitious women, but has also afforded Sigma many opportunities to partner with other members on local building projects, and opened doors of opportunities with brokers, developers, and property management teams,” Hinkson says. “AZCREW has been a significant lifeline for both myself and my company throughout these trying economic times. Its support has transcended basic networking, and I knew I’d found a valuable resource when several of us that hiked the Havasupai continue to look forward additional outings, including an upcoming canoe trip. This is the group that will continue to challenge me to better myself and my relationships, whether personal or professional.”
In an industry where things are happening rapidly — changing ownerships, competition, social media and technology — no one can afford to sit back and be complacent, says Lisa Bentley, director of marketing, McCarthy Nordburg.
“You must know your market inside and out, be sharp and truly connected,” Bentley says. “That means constantly listening, reading and building relationships. The importance of AZCREW to me as a professional woman in commercial real estate is about knowledge, information and support being the crux of why I rejoined after many years. I received information about a couple of the programs and went as a non-member. I found them to be so interesting, as it relates to our interior architectural design business, either because a broker or client was speaking.
“The programs were informative and relative to our local economy and I ran into so many nice folks I had worked with previously, that was my ‘aha’ moment. The plus with AZCREW is that the women not only speak the mission, they live it.”
Val Marciano, partner, Jaburg | Wilk, says AZCREW is an organization that “continues to shape my career.”
“While my practice of real estate litigation for 30 years has provided its own exposure to fascinating and unforeseen experiences — it is true that life is better than fiction — my membership in AZCREW has brought a new facet to my professional life,” Marciano says. “The splendor of AZCREW is that it unites distinct professions in a symmetry that expands its members’ business while, at the same time, promotes personal growth. The term ‘networking’ has become a mundane term, leading one to glaze over with the thought of perfunctory ‘meet and greet’ sessions that do nothing more than take time from other more interesting prospects.
“AZCREW has found a way to allow its members to connect, become associates, and form professional friendships that enrich one’s professional life. It is the formation of those meaningful professional friendships and associations that transcend ordinary networking, leaving AZCREW in a league of its own.”