March 2024

People Power

Culture, connections, and the not-so-subtle art of translating good intentions into meaningful and sustainable professional currency.

Building and maintaining a team of connected and committed professionals isn’t easy, especially when your business model is built on an org chart capable of managing a large portfolio of shopping centers across a broad geographic region.

NewMark Merrill’s defining ideal has always been leading from the heart. It’s the headline for a cultural and operational blueprint that puts people first. Leading from the heart is about listening. About connecting. We believe that it helps us elevate retail centers, creating spaces and places that feel welcoming and reflect the true spirit of community.

As important as that is, our cultural North Star is only as good as how well we integrate it into everything we do. Not just living by it but making sure that it is felt and personified in everyone within the extended network of professionals who work on, in, or around our centers.

How do we make that happen? What are the tools, tactics, techniques, and touchpoints needed to hire and retain a team where connectivity and personal engagement are strengths? How does this approach translate from NewMark Merrill executive level down to those on the ground making sure centers run smoothly?

Aiming Hire 

Building a culture starts before Day 1: during the interview process. Hiring the right people who are a good cultural fit is a critically important piece of the team-building process—and it’s not always easy to stick to. It’s tough to turn down a qualified candidate who checks the resume boxes and looks good on paper. But if you don’t emphasize those personal and professional traits that are consistent with your culture in the hiring process, you are making it impossible for that culture to take root in any meaningful way.

Hit the Bricks 

Clear and consistent communication is a critical prerequisite for relationship building and staying connected with your team—even (and perhaps especially) if that team is dispersed across a wide geographic area, managing multiple centers, and dealing with daily tasks that might feel very disconnected from NewMark Merrill’s executive offices. This is why how you stay connected is just as important as how often. An email is fine, but a phone call can be better. And when possible, face time is best of all. Our team regularly visits each of the centers and meets with the on-site management team. In turn, that team makes a point to walk their center daily, talking to tenants and getting a firsthand feel for the experience of customers as they move through the center.

Every Monday, the entire NewMark Merrill team in every region participates in a company-wide Zoom meet-up. Each week, one team member presents “5 Interesting Things” about themselves, and wow are we interesting! Pictured here is Lisette Ferguson, Accounts Receivable Supervisor. Lisette was a Soul Train dancer for six seasons and continues to lend her passion and joy for dance to our group events and team fitness endeavors.

Empower Your Team 

Strong culture sustains itself from the inside—it’s participatory and self-directed, not the result of top-down mandates and forced compliance. If you hire the right people, stand behind your cultural principles, and then empower those team members to be bold, brave, and creative when it comes to presenting big ideas and inspiration, great things can happen. The best leadership cultivates new leaders, and employees who know that they are supported and empowered consistently make the biggest contributions.

Join us in congratulating Caylie Bontz, Leasing Associate, a great example of just one of our team members being bold and achieving big. Recently Caylie was elected Vice President of the Board of Directors of the  Association of Corporate Real Estate Executives of Southern California (ACRE So Cal).

Walk the Walk 

Don’t just talk about it—be about it. Live your principles and make sure they don’t just exist in a binder on the shelf in HR but are infused into everything you do and how you do it. Culture manifests in how you talk to your team, how they talk to clients and professional partners, and how you back up cultural aspirations with follow-through. Don’t just say you appreciate family, give an employee extra leeway when dealing with a family crisis. Don’t just say you value customers and community, find meaningful ways to improve the customer experience and give back to the area.

Culture isn’t just a slogan or a tagline. It’s a foundational idea that defines not just our workplace and our professional relationships, but everything about our work, from the places we develop and manage to the way we operate. While it may not be easy, doing the work to make that culture stick is one of the best investments you can make.

Senior team members Darren Bovard and Brad Pearl piqued the interest of two high school students by sharing insights into a career in shopping center leasing during an Anaheim Innovative Mentoring Experience (AIME) event held at our shopping center, Anaheim Town Square. Departments, including leasing, construction, operations, marketing, and accounting, met with students to interest them in the retail real estate business.

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