We sat down with Portfolio Manager Chris Lopez to talk about why he believes credentials are so important and how he encourages his employees to pursue them.
Chris Lopez is a Portfolio Manager for Round Hill Pacific in Denver, where he manages 13 properties. During his 17 years in the property management industry, he has earned several NAAEI credentials for onsite employees: NALP, CAM, CAPS, and CAMT. In 2018 he was recognized by the Apartment Association of Metro Denver for being the first person in Colorado to earn and maintain four NAAEI credentials and was featured in Apartment Trends magazine for achieving the “Credential Superfecta.” Chris was recently selected as a Culturally Diverse Leader for the 2020 NAA Leadership Lyceum program.
Let’s start with what led you to pursue a career in property management.
“In 2003 a friend of mine was a property manager, and I was looking for a career change. I thought the transition from advertising sales into apartment leasing and management would be a good next step. My friend said I would do well in this industry, and so far his prediction has been true.”
You started pursuing your credentials pretty soon after that. Why did you think they were important to earn?
“One of the reasons I wanted to earn my industry credentials is because I never attended college, and I saw this as an educational opportunity. I found it beneficial in two ways. First, I learned valuable skills that I use in my day-to-day job duties and second, I have set myself apart from other industry professionals. I was fortunate that my employers, Simpson Property Group and Round Hill Pacific, saw the value of industry education and were willing to pay for my credentials.”
How have credentials helped you perform in your current and previous roles?
“Credentials help clearly define the role and give you the information you need to be successful in it. It’s also helpful as you progress through the role to be able to refer back to the course information as a refresher or to answer questions that come up on the job.”
How do you think credentials help property management professionals excel in their careers?
“Well, I’ve always believed and passed along to my employees that credentials can set you apart from other candidates for hiring and promotions. They show not only that you know more, but that you’ve taken the time to sit down and go through it, earn it, and maintain it. They show employee dedication to learning all that they can learn within the industry. I know I look more closely at candidates who have taken the extra step to earn a credential because it shows that they value their career.”
Since you’re not in maintenance specifically, why did you feel you should earn your CAMT credential?
“I wanted to put myself in the shoes of a maintenance tech and learn more about their day-to-day job duties. CAMT helped me relate better to my maintenance techs and understand the communication they have with residents.”
How do you and your company support credentials for your employees?
“When someone is hired, we go over all the educational opportunities the company offers, including reimbursement for credentials as well as for the continuing education credits needed to renew and the renewal cost itself. We also set aside office time for credential training, so they can get it done on the clock.
I personally strongly recommend credentials to all my employees. There’s an assistant manager here, who I’ve directly supervised for about five years. And in those five years, she’s completed four of her credentials on Visto. It took me from 2005 to 2018 to earn all four; but based on my example, she’s earned hers in five years.
And recently I pushed for my two leasing consultants to get their NALP credentials on Visto. Normally the employee pays for the course and gets reimbursed afterwards. But we made an exception to take advantage of a special offer and get them started right away.”
You earned your credentials in person. Why do you choose Visto for your employees?
“I like the online option of Visto, the ability to take it when you have the time to do it. We’ve set aside two hours each week for each person to work on the course undistracted. With that schedule, it should take them less than a month total to complete the course.”
Can you tell me about any challenges that your credential training has helped you solve?
“I’ll give you an example of something that came up recently at one of the communities I manage. One of the residents left a dog unattended in the hallway, and another resident came through the hallway with her dog off-leash. The off-leash dog bit the unattended dog, resulting in around $2,000 worth of vet bills. The residents attempted to work it out themselves, but communication broke down and they came to us looking for a resolution.
In situations like this, I think education helps you take your personal feelings out of the equation, while still showing compassion and understanding for each resident. You can’t take sides; you have to rely on policy while maintaining strong customer service. That takes the kind of education and problem-solving skills you get from earning credentials.”