Part 1 of Award-Winning GMs: The Path to Running a Successful Office Building

Chicago, IL | April 27, 2021

Award-Winning GMs: The Path to Running a Successful Office Building

While the route to becoming a general manager can seem like a straight line, there are often detours for those who become successful at running large office buildings. So how do you become the general manager in the Chicago commercial real estate market? At MBRE, we manage some of the coolest office buildings in Chicago, and we’re fortunate to have four award-winning general managers among our ranks. We interviewed these bright individuals, attempting to discover what twists and turns led them to their roles.

Below, you’ll find the combined wisdom of 181 West Madison General Manager Krystal Kurinsky, 1 North LaSalle General Manager Courtney Hamm, former Richard J. Daley Center General Manager Andre Wiggins—who is now MBRE’s Vice President of Asset Management—and 1 North Dearborn General Manager Michael Graham. All four of these talented general managers have won the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago’s “Gold Circle Award” in the “Property Management Professional of the Year” category and have decades of experience in the industry. Additionally, we spoke to Managing Director of Asset Management Suzanne HendrickTo read all of our interviews with these superb asset management pros, click here.

Starting my career as a property accountant helped me advance my career when I became an assistant general manager. - Andre Wiggins“At the beginning of my career, I went on a last-minute interview for a tenant services coordinator job in the suburbs after moving to Chicago and luckily got the job,” said Krystal Kurinsky. “Then I switched gears and moved on to being a leasing assistant. While I eventually realized I like management better, my experience as a leasing assistant provided valuable insights that helped me perform my job better when I later moved on to an associate manager role.”

In the middle of his property management career, Michael Graham transitioned into facility management. His reasoning: “For me, they were a hard group to understand. I thought becoming one of them for a bit would help me understand the inner workings of that world, and that was very successful.”

“Starting my career as a property accountant helped me advance my career when I became an assistant general manager,” said Andre Wiggins. “I had all the necessary financial tools to assist me in my operational role. It’s a lot harder to learn about that stuff after you’re in an AGM or GM role.”

Executive Vice President Suzanne Hendrick also started in accounting before taking a detour into leasing and finally settling on property management. As MBRE’s director of asset management, she sees a broad picture of what it takes to become general manager.

“We have a diverse talent pool. You don’t have to have this set path of, for example, taking a specific major in college—some real estate positions don’t necessarily require a college degree,” Suzanne said. “Commercial real estate is really a great industry to start at an entry-level position, and then grow from there. A curious mindset, paying attention to detail, customer service—these attributes lead toward a successful career.”

Courtney Hamm finds the frenetic nature of being a general manager rewarding. Decades of experience in commercial real estate has given her a feel for the nuanced problems that can arise, even the ones outside of her specific role as a general manager.

“I often say, ‘I’m not an attorney, I just play one on TV,’ or ‘I’m not an engineer, I just play one on TV,’” Courtney jokes. “When you like what you do, there’s something in the back of your head that makes you go that extra mile and pick up all these extra aspects surrounding the job. And when that allows you to help your actual engineer or your actual attorney figure out a potential issue and fix it before it blows up, that’s great. That’s the most rewarding part: when you can tie something up nicely with a little red bow. I call it geeking out.”

This piece is part of our series, "Award-Winning GMs: The Path to Running a Successful Office Building." Click the links below to view the other articles:

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