It’s not just her business savvy that helped Sharon Harper succeed.
“Having a sense of humor is great for everyday life and it definitely helps in business as well,” says the chairman, CEO and co-founder of Plaza Companies. “It helps with connectivity with others, it helps lighten a tense situation, plus it’s just a lot of fun to laugh and have opportunities for other people to enjoy a topic.”
Harper’s forward-thinking commitment has helped make Plaza Companies one of the premier real estate firms in Arizona and has earned her and company respect throughout the industry and across the country. That success helped earn Harper AZRE magazine’s first Icon Award, which will be presented to commercial real estate innovator at this year’s Most Influential Women in Arizona celebration, which will be held August 25, 2022, at Chateau Luxe in Phoenix.
AZRE talked with Harper about what helped make her an industry icon.
AZRE: How did you become so successful in a very male-dominated industry?
Sharon Harper: The qualities that really helped me move forward were qualities of accountability, getting the job done, being well prepared, and being there to make things happen. I had to prove to the others in the room that we could get something done. When I was able to show we could get things done, that elevated the level of respect that others in the room had for my abilities, and that continued to grow.
AZRE: Others in your industry describe you as a “servant leader.” What does that mean to you?
SH: Being a servant leader is the epitome of strong leadership. We need to be sure that our community is being successful if our businesses are successful. It’s very important. Business leadership isn’t just about bricks and mortar and individual success. It’s about raising everyone up, creating a better environment. Companies do better, communities do better, and that makes all the difference. I think that is the epitome of great leadership.
AZRE: What gives you the most pride?
SH: I’m so proud of many of the accomplishments I’ve had all these years. I’ll name a couple because I think they stand out. SkySong, an amazing partnership between the City of Scottsdale, Arizona State University and Plaza Companies. That’s important because it’s a public university and private entities coming together to create something that they couldn’t do on their own. Another example is Park Central and the City of Phoenix, Creighton University, Holualoa Companies and Plaza Companies coming together to turn that area around. These are transformational projects.
I would also say that some of the political leadership that I’ve provided has given me a great deal of pride — chairing Gov. Doug Ducey’s campaign for governor, chairing Prop 123, which brought more money into public education than anything in history. I’m really proud of those because all of these projects have impact on the community.
AZRE: What advice would you give to a young woman that wants to become the next Sharon Harper?
SH: I would say first of all, you can never, ever lose sight of what your goals are. Never lose sight of your integrity. Never lose sight of what is important. And every time there’s a failure, consider that the next step of moving forward. You have to be prepared, you have to work hard, you have to connect. You have to care more about the community than just an individual project, but in so doing, you meet the right people. You meet all kinds of opportunities, and you have that opportunity then to choose what you want to do and then don’t give up. Stay the course.
AZRE: What does it mean to you that you’ve been named a woman icon by your peers?
SH: I’m inspired by this award, and that inspiration will find itself in what I do tomorrow, in what I do next week and next year because I want to keep growing our opportunities, growing our state, growing our company, and really taking everything to a new level.
AZRE: What’s your outlook for the industry?
SH: We are so fortunate to live in Arizona, where people want to come to live, to be educated, to work, to grow their businesses, and to enjoy life. We have a very diverse economy, which distinguishes us from how it was in other recessions, but we also have to be very careful. There are ups and downs in the market.
We need to be cautious, but my outlook is very positive. We have all of the right components for the future — good leadership, good diversity of the economy, amazing educational institutions. Don’t forget it’s the pipeline of workforce that attracts these companies. So we need to continue strengthening our K-12 education and our families so that everyone has a shot at opportunities. That’s what Arizona is. That’s why I think we have a great future.
Honoring Sharon Harper and Most Influential Women
Sharon Harper and the Most Influential Women in Commercial Real Estate for 2022 will be honored at an awards ceremony on Thursday, August 25, 2022, at Chateau Luxe in Phoenix. Meet this year’s Most Influential Women in Commercial Real Estate here.
Learn more: azbigmedia.com