By Rhonda Bodfield –
Teamwork Takes Her to the Top
Teamwork didn’t come naturally to Barbi Reuter – but it’s now absolutely a hallmark of her leadership style and a significant part of her longtime success in the commercial real estate industry.
Reuter, who became president of Cushman & Wakefield | PICOR on Jan. 1 with the support of her 11 partners, grew up in a single-parent home that left her with a fear of poverty, steely independence and a fierce determination to make good in the world.
In many ways, the model worked: She started as a receptionist at PICOR at its inception in 1985 as she worked her way through college. In a stunning trajectory, she was a partner by the time she was 26 years old.
But her appreciation of teamwork began to shift when she went back to college to finish her bachelor’s degree in business management and encountered group study. This was new for the student who always relied on her own grit and brains to land at the top of her class. Trust someone else for my grade? Really?
“It took some adjusting and a bit of a leap of faith, but it really helped me learn the value of working with others to create something bigger and better than you could on your own,” Reuter said.
So it’s perhaps interesting that in addition to running the independent commercial real estate brokerage and management company, Reuter is otherwise best known for her prowess in connecting – both in her groundbreaking work in social media in commercial real estate space, as well as in strengthening opportunities for women in the industry.
Reuter, routinely named among the most influential industry professionals online by blogger Duke Long, is well-known for her online presence, from blog posts to social media. It’s a key skill for a company undergoing a generational shift as its founders transition to the next round of successors.
Long active in the local chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women, Reuter is finishing up a two-year term on the national board of CREW Network, designed to influence industry success by advancing the achievements of women.
“Opportunity-wise, I’ve never felt like I’ve been discriminated against, but I also know I’ve been the only woman in way too many rooms,” Reuter said.
Like many other industries in corporate America, commercial real estate struggles with pay equity for women, as well as a gap in who serves in senior leadership roles. Pay equity takes many forms: After Reuter took reduced hours during the slow times of the recession to spend more time with her children, it took her eight years to get back to her pre-recession income.
“It’s important to consider the root causes of why that is – and then figure out how best to foster growth and opportunity for women. And certainly the discussion isn’t just with women: There are many men who are leaders in this work who absolutely understand the results are better when you have a diverse team.”
At the same time, although building opportunities for women remains a strong passion, Reuter was open to feedback from mentors who noted her community and industry involvement had become somewhat gender-centric. “I’m intentionally now broadening that engagement and bringing my voice to other organizations,” said Reuter, who recently joined the Tucson Metro Chamber Board, as well as the YMCA Metropolitan Board.
Reuter, who served in property management for her first 20 years with the firm before shifting to a leadership role, has four key lessons she shares about what she’s learned in those years.
“There is power in authenticity – knowing and embracing your strengths brings opportunity, success and peace of mind,” she said. She noted there is power in listening, while knowledge of finance is a differentiator that can lead to career advancement.
Finally, she said, “Fear of failure is a limiter, so at all costs, avoid self-talk that holds you back. Taking risks and innovating can propel opportunity.”
Reuter acknowledges that property management is not the future career most kids daydream about – and indeed, she never intended to spend her entire career at one company. But the woman who drives a vehicle with the vanity plate “PICOR” said she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s home to me. This business is all about solutions – it’s relationship driven and it’s about adding value, literally and figuratively. And as a leader, it’s about making a difference and being connected to community. As leaders, we are motivated every day by the responsibility we have to the families who depend on the success of this company. It’s what keeps us going.”