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The Time One VP Got a Promotion and Met Her Husband on the Same Day

A woman in a business suit walking up stairs

In our ninth installment of Profiles in Success, a series where NAA talks to successful apartment professionals to learn how they got to where they are, who inspired them and what their biggest challenge was, we visit with a Vice President of Asset Management.

Name: Lisa Gunderson
Company: Bristol Development Group
Current Title: Vice President of Asset Management. I oversee the third-party management of all Bristol investments for operational excellence of all Class A new developments.
Years in the Industry: 20

What was your first apartment job?

I was an Assistant Manager at an 893-unit community undergoing a $5 million rehab in Tampa, Fla.

Describe your job now. 

Wow. I am not sure we have enough time and space for that. It starts with the design of a project with special consideration about both how the resident will experience the spaces we create to the practical operation of the communities we develop to a small construction completion oversight role to ensure our standards are being met. I also handle the hiring of third-party management companies, the start of operations and ensuring a successful lease-up. I handle the management to financial expectations with a keen eye on continuous process improvement and I ensure we are optimizing both our residents’ and onsite teams’ experiences. Ultimately, managing the financial performance is the result of these things.

Who was your greatest influence in the industry (how did they influence you)?

I hesitate to name just one! The woman whom I owe the deepest gratitude is Beverly Copeland. She gave me my first opportunity in the business, saw the talent in me, knew that I was driven and showed me the bigger arena that I could be in if I followed a career in our business.

What was your biggest challenge?

I see the world in a different pace and dimension than others. To overcome that challenge, I sometimes have to remember to slow down and see things from different perspectives. When you learn how to draw, often turning the paper upside down will easily reveal where you have opportunities for improvement. This is true in life too.

What is your ultimate goal in the apartment industry?

To have some degree of ownership interest in what I do every day.

What has the apartment industry given you, personally and professionally? 

The short answer would be: Everything. I found a place to call home. It is a busy, crazy, sometimes maddening, sometimes exuberant place where I am accepted for my talents and utilized to my fullest potential to create great places for others to live.

What’s your favorite or funniest apartment industry story? 

You know how we all talk about writing a book, right? I think my favorite memory is the day I met the man who would become my husband. My first promotion to property manager was on my second day on the job when I took over for someone who departed after not fulfilling their responsibilities. The phone rings, the assistant manager answers it, hangs up and starts crying. I think something bad has happened and I calm her down. She is a single mother and has not been paid her commissions in three months (because of the aforementioned manager) and the payroll person had just called her to tell her that she was not going to get paid -- again. I had faxed (yes, faxed) in payroll but had not included the supplemental form that was needed to process commissions. I wanted to make it right. I called the corporate office and pleaded my case. I was new, it was second day, and my training consisted of taking the keys and figuring it out. I had not seen the supplemental form in the old documents – because it had not been filled out. I asked the payroll person to help me and to explain the situation. He explains that if I can get him the form in an hour he will make sure she is paid. He helped me, and I made it my business to help him. ? Now he is my husband and we are still a great team.

What’s one thing you or your company does that sets you apart?

Our company sees each project as a unique, standalone opportunity. We encourage input and a diversity of opinions and those are used to form a great community.

Success is best when shared. How do you or your company find ways to give back?

Locally, we are involved in many charities that support children, education and personal growth.

What volunteer roles do you currently hold?

I have a role in a fundraiser for the annual Making Strides against Breast Cancer event, which is part of the American Cancer Society. The event benefits women with breast cancer by providing funds for transportation, screening, support, prosthetics, etc. Additionally, they provide funding for research to find advanced treatments for breast cancer.

How has your experience as a volunteer helped in your career? 

I care passionately and personally about my volunteer work. The same holds true for my chosen profession. Both require effort, structure, discipline and a little luck. Volunteering reminds me that there are so many things we do that can make a positive impact beyond our work.

What do you like to do when you’re not working? 

You can find me on my bike (inside or out), at a concert or building complex Lego sets.

What did you want to be growing up?

Initially, I wanted to be a dancer on the old TV show “Solid Gold.” Over time, I developed a love of both business and art/design (a major/minor in college) and found a career where both are appreciated.

What do you want to be doing five years from now? 

The same thing, with personal money invested.

If you could talk to yourself 10/15/20 years ago, what would you say? 

You are not defined by what happens, but how you respond to it.

What’s your favorite quote? 

“I am still learning” from Michelangelo

What’s your favorite song/musician? 

This is a hard one; I move through favorites a lot. What plays the most in the car is a combination of Foo Fighters, Drake and Thievery Corporation.

What’s the biggest difference you see between our industry today and when you started?

Let’s take the way back machine to the DOS-based Rent Roll program and the 3.6.4 report. Technology is finally moving into our space. We still have a lot of opportunity and room to grow though.