Not only is NAI Wisinski of West Michigan the largest independently owned commercial real estate firm in West Michigan, they also boast the highest number of female agents and property managers in West Michigan.
West Michigan Woman sat down with some NAI Wisinski of West Michigan team members to get their take on thriving in a male-dominated industry, how the makeup of their team sets them apart, lessons from 2020, and their advice for other women looking to enter similar fields.
Formed in the spring of 2011, NAI Wisinski of West Michigan came to be once NAI West Michigan merged with The Wisinski Group. NAI Wisinski of West Michigan is headquartered in Grand Rapids and maintains a second location in Kalamazoo. The company provides all facets of commercial real estate services, including brokerage and property management, throughout the entire West Michigan region.
Having more women on the team than other competitors in the area sets the firm apart in a variety of ways.
"Some women are more comfortable working with women and I have even had men that prefer to work with women," said Mary Anne Wisinski-Rosely, CCIM, SIOR, Partner, Office Specialist. Wisinski-Rosely, who has been with NAI Wisinski of West Michigan since 1995, specializes in the sale and leasing of office properties. She's among the 5% of commercial realtors to earn the prestigious CCIM designation that exemplify the real estate industry's highest professional and ethical standards. "I think we have a different way of working with clients. It also shows that we are much more diverse than other firms."
Hillary Taatjes Woznick, Office & Retail Specialist, says teamwork is integral to the firm's success.
"Commercial real estate is male dominated industry, however, more women are in the C-suite or are business owners, so having more women as real estate advisors is an advantage in the marketplace," said Taatjes Woznick, who earned her real estate license in 2009 and joined NAI's sales team specializing in office sales and leasing. She partners with her father, Doug Taatjes, who has over 35 year of commercial real estate experience in West Michigan. "We bring a new dimension to the real estate deals and that adds value to our teams and our clients."
Jodi Milks, CCIM, Vice President, Brokerage Services, believes there's an underlying understanding when working with women.
"We all know we are juggling responsibilities and have lots of balls in the air. We don't have to hide it from each other. However, we also expect the same from each other, as we expect from ourselves—a dedicated, honest work ethic," said Milks, who joined NAI Wisinski of West Michigan's Kalamazoo commercial real estate brokerage team in 2020. She brings over 15 years of experience to the firm and enjoys generating innovative solutions, creating value in all types of properties.
Like many professional women, Kara Schroer, CCIM, Commercial Real Estate Specialist, says finding healthy a work/life balance requires a team effort at home.
"I'm lucky to have married someone that understands what it means to be a 50/50 partner in marriage and family. Raising kids is a full-time job in and of itself!" said Schroer, who has been working in the commercial real estate industry since 2004. "Without my spouse and his selfless support, I know I would be limited in furthering the passion for my career. When they save it takes a village, they are not joking!"
Across industries and experiences, lessons from 2020 abound.
"2020 has really reminded me to respect everyone," said Abby Terpstra, Property Manager, who initially joined NAI Wisinski of West Michigan in 2004 as a receptionist. She went on to receive her real estate license and joined the property management team in 2009. "2020 has really heightened emotions and no one really had all the answers, so we needed to work together to navigate just about every issue that came up and needed a level of respect to do so!"
Alongside respect, staying positive, listening and connecting with others—during a time when it's been tough to do so—has been key.
"Communication is and has always been very important. No matter what the circumstances in the market, it is important to communicate with clients and keep encouraging them," Taatjes Woznick explained. "We have been through market changes before and we are prepared to do it again. We are blessed to be essential business and be out in the community showing property and helping businesses no matter what the circumstances."
For Schroer, 2020 has highlighted how things are never as bad as they seem.
"While 2020 has certainly presented unprecedented challenges for almost all industries, it also presented opportunity," she said. "It's important to stay nimble and keep at it, even when times seem challenging for the long haul."
When it comes to advice for other women looking to enter commercial real estate or another male-dominated field, the NAI Wisinski of West Michigan team has plenty of valuable insight to offer.
"Don't be shy and show that you are confident that your knowledge will be a benefit," said Diane Tomasunas, Property Manager. She stresses not taking anything for granted and enjoys that no two days are the same in her career. "It's ever changing, which makes it challenging and time flies when you are having fun!"
Similarly, Milks emphasizes the need for thick skin.
"Don't sweat the small stuff, and go after the opportunities in an area you believe will allow you to put your skills to the best use," Milks said. "It's no fun working in an environment where men and women are afraid to relax, for fear they will say or do something wrong. It's going to happen. When it does, you should not be afraid to say what you mean, deal with it, and move ahead in the right direction."
Wisinski-Rosely says to not be intimidated, even if you're in the minority.
"Be strong and you might just see that people will look to you for your opinion and thoughts, as they may be different than your male counterparts," Wisinski-Rosely said. "Sometimes, we may see a side of things that others do not and it can benefit you and the company as a whole."
Even as the market grows and changes, the diverse team at NAI Wisinski of West Michigan continues to enjoy the freedom, creativity, and challenges presented in serving their clients each day.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.
Photo courtesy of NAI Wisinski of West Michigan.