December 27, 2022 |
Updated January 3, 2023
Meet Ronda Puryear, CAM, CPM, 2023 National Apartment Association Chair of the Board
Early on, Ronda Puryear knew she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps. This is where her passion for real estate and business comes from. It is also what motivated her to become the rental housing industry leader she is today.
Her father was a real estate developer and entrepreneur—one factor in Puryear’s decision to attend the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech.
“I was intrigued with his real estate developments. I loved the business of real estate, I loved what he did to help our community, and I was interested in becoming part of it,” says Puryear. They would have conversations about building businesses and landing real estate deals as well as politics; she followed her love of politics, running for local office for four consecutive terms. “I knew that I wanted to do something enterprising. I did not have a specific business industry in mind. I wanted to be involved in the business, development and people side of an organization. I wanted to be part of making decisions and changing things for the good.”
Puryear, President of Charlottesville, Va.-based Management Services Corporation (MSC), is now in that position to make decisions and change things for the better. She was installed as the 2023 National Apartment Association (NAA) Chair of the Board in Norfolk, Va., in November 2022.
“Her peers recognized [her] outstanding qualities… and recognized the hard work and success she has brought to NAA for the past 12-some years,” says MSC Vice-Chairman Rick Jones, who has worked with Puryear for more than 30 years. “She is the right person today because she is a unifier, a listener, an encourager and a person who speaks directly from her heart. She is a leader who members cannot help but trust, like and follow.”
After college, she joined IBM in sales, which she compared to the political arena. “Both are similar: You work with people, you listen to concerns, you are in a position to accomplish and improve things.”
After her family relocated, Puryear ran into a college friend who worked in property management. “I wasn’t familiar with the property management field at the time,” but she went in for an inter-view and connected with the people right away. She quickly found out that the industry was a place where she could make a difference and do something different every day. “I was hooked from the start.… I found that I could build a company in an industry where I never got bored and there was a different hurdle to conquer each day. It was challenging yet it was very rewarding to know that I was working in the housing industry where I could make a positive impact on people’s lives, and I felt that’s what we were doing. We’re helping people find a place to live, and it’s a rewarding career in multifamily.”
A rewarding career that spans 30 years in the industry, which includes many years volunteering at all levels of local, state and national rental housing industry associations. “I was fortunate to have found a company that supported local associations,” says Puryear, who eventually ran for a volunteer leadership position to be involved in the local community. “I ran for office to be engaged in the community, to give back. I like engaging with people. I like being part of the community. That’s something that excites me, and I feel that volunteering in your industry association is akin to helping your community and helping your industry.” Part of the push toward professional growth and association involvement stems from three people at her company: Doug Caton, Rick Jones and Lee Wood, each of whom had a strength in certain areas. “I learned different skills from each of them, and they gave me plenty of opportunities to grow,” she says.
Mentors along the way in the industry also include fellow women who have served as Chair of the NAA Board: Alex Jackiw and Cindy Clare, both instrumental in recognizing the need for more women and diversity in industry leadership roles. “You’re provided opportunities, but it’s up to you to take those opportunities and turn them into success.”
This value is one Puryear has instilled in both her daughters. Her daughters have followed in their mother’s footsteps, becoming successful businesswomen in Southern California and Virginia. They both also graduated from the Pamplin College of Business, which is where Puryear and her husband met.
Puryear also served on the Virginia Tech Property Management Residential Advisory Board for 15 years, and she served as Chair in 2020-22.
“The icing on the cake,” according to Puryear, are her two granddaughters, Mary Kate and Ellie. “Life changed when they arrived in the Spring of 2020 and will never be the same again,” she says.
Changing the Multifamily Landscape
Puryear will be the fourth woman to Chair NAA’s Board of Directors. There are now two women on the Executive Committee: Puryear and Jeannette Cox, Executive Vice President with Oddo Development, who was also installed in November as NAA’s Secretary.
While diversity, equity and inclusion have come a long way in recent years, including the rise of women in leadership positions at associations and in the industry, Puryear says it’s about opportunity. “Take the opportunity, speak out, get involved, show initiative, seize the moment, and if you do these, it doesn’t matter your gender, orientation, color, race or religion, if there’s a space for you to move into leadership, we are all here to help you find your path.”
Challenges occurred along the way, but Puryear never saw being a woman as one of them. She credits her father for this mentality. She remembers hearing that she could be anything she wanted, whether it was President of the United States or President of a company. “I never thought of myself as being the underdog. Maybe I was, and I was never self-aware enough to realize it, or I wouldn’t accept the possibility. Regardless, I didn’t think of myself that way.”
Puryear takes the adage of leading by example to another level, using her industry experience and interpersonal skills to establish and meet goals as well as create successful and positive atmospheres for her co-workers.
“My leadership style is one of strong communication and collaboration. I strive to build a team of confident leaders. Collaboration, communication and self-awareness are cornerstones of a true leader,” says Puryear.
Immediate Past Chair of NAA’s Board Don Brunner, President & CEO of BRG Realty Group, says this about Puryear’s leadership style: “Ronda has the keen ability to listen to everyone’s opinions before forming her own. She can work toward the betterment of the organization with each of those opinions. She will listen, understand everybody's thoughts and formulate a process or steps from that. She’s always willing to listen and she searches out and seeks out opinions of multiple people to get each side of an issue.”
“Ronda’s ascent to Chair of NAA’s Board began at the local level, first on the Board of the Blue Ridge Apartment Council and then the Board of the Virginia Apartment Management Association (VAMA),” says Jones. “She helped lead the effort to consolidate the many state-wide apartment councils under one umbrella organization: VAMA. Her efforts have helped make VAMA one of the strongest state apartment associations within NAA.”
Puryear was VAMA President for two terms, and she was awarded the Gloria D. Jacobs Member of the Year Award for Outstanding Leadership.
As Puryear takes the reins of her new position as Chair of the Board, she wants to remain focused on government affairs and the legislative agenda. She says the Board was focused on listening sessions with Affiliates across the country to determine advocacy efforts, and an enhanced legislative agenda was top of mind.
“It is also important to me to cultivate future leadership that reflects our members and their needs; that starts at the grassroots level. We must identify individuals from a diverse pool that are excited, that are energized about our industry. This begins at the state and local levels in preparation for work at the national level [of the association].”
Another focus for Puryear is technology, specifically at NAA, resulting in a seamless member and user digital experience. “It’s important to [members], and it’s important to me that we improve and meet member needs and expectations,” she says.
Integral in the Board’s strategic plan is the idea of “audience first.”
Puryear says, “We must have avenues of communication so that our members and partners have clear channels for providing input. We strive to establish the best possible communication channels so that we can make decisions that reflect the best interest of our members.”
Michael Miller is Managing Editor at NAA.