Michele Wheeler, Jackson-Shaw
The following interview is a condensed excerpt from our Legends of Commercial Real Estate podcast series. You may listen to the full interview here.
What inspired you to pursue a career in commercial real estate?
My mother was a real estate broker, but I worked for a city manager in college in the economic development department at school. When I got out of college, I came to Dallas and the city manager I worked for in Nacogdoches had started running Rosewood Property Company. So it was people and perseverance. My background was marketing and management. I went back to graduate school for accounting. So that’s how I got here. I said, yeah, I’ll go do whatever, and they asked if I’d go back to school at night and work full time and sit for the CPA exam. I said yeah – just give me a shot and I will show you that it will be a good hire. So that is how I started. My family was here, so it was what I knew and at the time I was broke and coming out of school. I was going to move back in with mom and dad and get my feet under me, start working and then spring off.
Do you have a philosophy on leadership or any specific tenets that guide your leadership style?
It’s transparency and no surprises. If there are problems coming up or we know of something, get it out in the open, let’s talk about it, let’s figure it out, let’s be good fiduciaries. You know, not every transaction is going to work based on an ARGUS runner or a proforma. It’s the hardest lesson I learned growing up going into businesses. When you have a problem, drag it out on the table. Tell everybody about it and start cleaning up. If we are in the ditch, let’s all figure out how to get out of the ditch.
Are you a good delegator?
I’m not the best, but I’m getting much better at it now. Getting out of the way was step 1 and not reverting back to ‘what are you doing?’ It doesn’t mean you abandon them. You still try to put your best team on the field every day to try to create opportunities for everyone. The first step was recognizing that you have talent and letting those people grow.
What is your favorite strategy for motivating an employee?
I’m a big believer in servant leadership. I’m also a big proponent of trust, which means anybody in that room needs to be able to challenge anybody else in that room to come up with the best ideas. I am not going to have the best ideas every time, but I encourage people to challenge and have debate and really be constructive about it. I’m also a big believer in transparency and being a good fiduciary. We’re only as good as our partners and our lenders and our relationships are, so you’ve got to constantly overcommunicate.
What does a great day at work look like for you?
The relationship side of the business is what I enjoy the most but taking those relationships and creating something that doesn’t exist is highly invigorating. It is more fun for me now to see other people getting to create those things, and me helping them create, but it took a long time to get out of execution mode or visioning mode and going to the next step and helping others. Now I get to work in a wide variety of things, which I really enjoy.