Christina Urquhart, CEO & Founder of Charm City Concierge—now Simpli shares her responses to the GlobeSt.com contribution questions:
What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle as a woman in your particular role? How have you overcome those obstacles?
Not many women are leaders in commercial real estate or technology, two fields that are merging and continue to be dominated by men. I’ve worked hard to overcome challenges in both of these area–creating opportunities for myself and for new female leaders while bringing wellness, experiences, and balance into workplaces across the US. I’ve developed an all-female workplace where women are empowered to lead and evolve the company–resulting in exponential growth, innovation, and partnerships with some of the top real estate firms in the world.
Commercial real estate has historically been a challenging industry for women. Little by little that is changing, but where would you say commercial real estate needs to improve for women?
My career in commercial real estate spans 25 years. My Company has evolved as the workplace has evolved from a concierge services firm to a fully-integrated workplace experience company. As a woman it has been challenging; when I started my company, concierge services weren’t prevalent in commercial real estate and today workplace experience is a new and evolving industry without a playbook. Having been on the forefront of a “services” movement and now an “experience” movement, I have done it all, but not alone. Many of my mentors in the industry have been men. Yes, real estate is a predominately male industry; however, I have never felt at a disadvantage. I love to innovate, educate and be a thought leader in a growing movement. If there comes a time when I am no longer able to influence change, pivot to the changing needs of the workplace or it just isn’t exciting, then it’s time for me to move on … but until then, I wouldn’t change a thing.
How can women better position themselves for success both in general and in your specific area of focus?
Surround yourself with innovative people and partners. Social distancing aside, the commercial real estate industry is at a crucial juncture with big data, artificial intelligence, and new connection tools having an impact on the future of real estate. Embrace these innovations and the people who are developing them to be at the forefront of exciting growth in the industry.
For example, with my company, Simpli, we couldn’t find a tenant experience app we loved so we partnered with innovators and launched our own technology platform. And we continue to bring on the most innovative partners who enable us to bring the best in workplace experiences to our clients. Look for the gaps and fill them.
What is the best piece of advice you have received that has helped you succeed in your industry? Also, do you have any advice specific for the next generation?
The best piece of advice I received that has helped me be successful in my company, industry, career and personal life came from my first client. He was a wonderful leader who taught me to be present and listen, appreciative and grateful, to be curious and to always innovate, to persevere and to be of service to your employees and clients equally. He influenced me in many ways and inspired my mantra to #WorkHappy and #LiveJoyfully.
My advice: Prioritize mindfulness, gratefulness, and balance in your career. Be intentional, genuine and joyful about your work. Weave this into how you show up, communicate, lead, manage, service and deliver. This mindset will encourage you to be authentic in the workplace – and ultimately allow you to identify a holistic workplace culture that supports your growth as a person and professional.
Covid-19 is testing the mettle of every leader in the CRE community right now. What, in particular, can women bring to the table as the industry continues to grapple with this crisis?
The challenges facing the commercial real estate industry in 2020 are unprecedented. However, in every crisis, there is an opportunity. My focus is leading my team to come out as a stronger firm on the other side of this global pandemic. Let’s find solutions and programs that make work happy—evolving the workplace (even when it’s virtual) to be socially-activated and a place where employees are connected and engaged and health and wellbeing are prioritized.
Would you advise your daughter to begin a career in CRE? Why or why not? If the answer is yes, what would you advise her to do to get a foothold in the industry? How does this advice differ from what you may have received when you were starting out?
We are continuing to see our industry, especially industry organizations like CREW, empower women in the workforce. I would advise young women to focus on finding a place where you feel empowered. Look for a firm that has women at the helm, and a workplace that focuses on #WellBeing within its internal culture.