Make sure you're supporting each other because we are seeing that simple acts really do help build resilient communities." — Colleen Krempulec
Apartment buildings are empty shells. It's the people who call them home that bring life and personality to any community.
When a pandemic keeps everyone separate, how can you instill resilience into the community you've worked hard to build?
On this episode of Sync or Swim, we discuss how to create resilient communities with Colleen Krempulec. Colleen serves as VP, Brand Marketing & Corporate Social Responsibility at Hazelview Properties.
Here's what we talked about:
- What putting residents first really means
- Which digital tools for landlords and renters are here to stay
- What it takes to build a resilient community during the pandemic and afterward
Mitch Fanning [0:00:42.1]
Welcome back to Sync or Swim. I'm Mitch Fanning with Rentsync, and joining me today is Colleen Krempulec, VP of Brand Marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility at Hazelview Properties formally Timbercreek Communities, a property management company in Canada with a reputation for putting its residents first. Colleen, how are you doing today?
Colleen Krempulec [0:01:03.4]
I did, Mitch, thanks for having me.
Mitch Fanning [0:01:05.2]
Well, I'm glad you're joining us today. Why don't you do that intro some justice by maybe expanding on it and telling us a little bit more about yourself and how you got started in the industry...
Colleen Krempulec [0:01:17.6]
How did I get started in the industry? Well, I actually cut my teeth in consumer packaged goods, not real estate, spending a number of years on both the agency side of the business and the client side of the business, working on a range of Tier 1 brands across sectors, including packaged foods, health beauty, pharmaceuticals, consumer electronics name it, but after more than a decade of pushing consumer goods, I was ready to just try something entirely different, and I went looking for opportunities that would hopefully allow me to apply some of my branding and experience... My branding experience elsewhere, timber Creek at the time was looking to add their first senior level marketing team member, and they took a leap of faith on me given I had no prior real estate or asset management experience, and I'm so glad that they did. I'm now going on nine years at Hazelview, formerly Timbercreek, and have recently transitioned into my current role as Vice President of Brand Marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility.
Mitch Fanning [0:02:26.1]
Again, I told you before I hit record that I tend to go off script, and one of the things I noticed when I was doing some research is you've got a ton of volunteer experience under your belt, and you're kind of known for this... I'd call it this, someone who thinks that social justice is important, and when looking at Hazelview and kind of the way you guys put your residents first, I happen to notice that there's a bit of an alignment there between your values and have values. Is that just a coincidence? Or how did that play out?
Colleen Krempulec [0:03:04.6]
No, it's not a coincidence. And it's probably one of the main reasons. I've been here at Hazel view for now almost a decade. The core values that live within this organization are absolutely aligned with my core values about doing what's right and helping support the communities that we operate in, that has long been a part of who we are and what we do. Having recently transitioned into the position of corporate social responsibility, which is a new position, if you will, for Hazel view, is really our organization's effort to put more resources and focus around that social work that we're committed to doing for years. You could go into any department or any community that we operate in and see that social work is alive and well, but we're really trying to formalize that and make sure that it's strategically embedded in our organization, and so that's a big part of my new mandate, and as you mentioned, I do have a personal passion for social justice and supporting folks in need, so my new position is really well-suited to my personal interests...
Mitch Fanning [0:04:29.4]
Well, you can definitely see it. When you go to the website, you can see it just on the branding, to even the moving stories, and I know that you guys just rebranded in November, and we did the pre-call, I promised I wasn't gonna ask you the question why you guys re-branded, but one of the things I do wanna ask is, when did you first decide to re-brand... Kind of walk me through that, maybe that first set of conversations when you decided to re-brand and maybe just if there was a time where if there was a person who maybe came up with the actual name, Hazelview?
Colleen Krempulec [0:05:06.1]
In 2020, we had some structural changes within the organization, and that's what really triggered the decision for us to re-brand from timber Creek communities to Hazel view properties, coming up with the name. It was no small or simple feet, it was a team effort, team members from across the organization spent tons of time discussing, debating and brainstorming, we partnered with lacked Inc who led us in these efforts, and they really helped us craft a new brand identity that we all felt strongly about, and one that we felt was really aligned to our DNA and our core values and vision through the rebranding, we did a lot of soul searching and talking about what was it that we wanted a new brand identity to put out into the world organizationally we've always believed that we look for value potential, perhaps that others have missed, and we take that approach to both human investment as well as obviously real estate investment, and we really focus on that value and that value come to life in many different ways, so we just we spent a lot of time discussing what was important to us as an organization, and what it was we did day in and day out, and we wanted to make sure that that was reflected in the new brand identity, people, as with any company, you will ask Why is your name this or that people will say, why Hazelview?
Colleen Krempulec [0:06:43.9]
The answer isn't probably apparent or obvious to anybody, but for us, we spent a lot of time talking about organic nature and trees and things that we identified with, and the Hazeltree is one is apparently, I guess the Tree of Wisdom and learning. It represents creativity and inspiration, it symbolizes wealth and health and happiness, so our team immediately connected to that, and then we often talk about the fact that now our job is to have an outlook and a perspective on things and to examine and scrutinize opportunities for potential, so the hazel in the view, when put together, we felt was just kind of a nice word mash-up that reflected who we were really well...
Mitch Fanning [0:07:37.2]
Yeah, and obviously, we went through a similar process at Rentsync. We were formally LWS. Now we're Rentsync and there's obviously a lot that goes into it, but to kinda simplify it, what we were... We kinda no longer did, we kind of grew up essentially, and so it was time to evolve and change, so during our prep call, you mentioned when we were talking about the subject, you mentioned that the resident is your brand, and I thought that was really interesting and it kind of resonated with me. Could you maybe elaborate a little bit more on that?
Colleen Krempulec [0:08:14.8]
Yeah sure. We're in property management, and residents and people and employees are really at the heart of what we do as a team, we're really proud of the buildings that we own and the buildings that we manage, but at the end of the day, those buildings are empty shells, if it weren't for the people who live there and for the people who call those buildings their homes, residents and neighbors, or the life and personality really of any community, and at Hazelview Properties, we wanna recognize that, and I really wanted our brand work to reflect that. So when residents and employees see us or interact with us, they interact with our brand, my vision was that they would see themselves reflected back, they wouldn't see a corporate, like a faceless corporation or just a logo, what they're seeing is themselves reflected back authentically and honestly. So our marketing work is really trying to take a people-centric approach, as cliche as that may sound, like what you hear so far.
Mitch Fanning [0:09:34.9]
Sure, well, again, I think you've done a part of the job in the execution of that vision, switching gears, obviously, we couldn't get out of this conversation without talking about COVID, obviously, COVID has affected a lot of businesses and people as well. Now, in addition to the rent Relief Program that Hazelview has put out to, it was later in the year or mid in the year, when it was the peak of what was going on.
Colleen Krempulec [0:10:07.3]
How has... I guess two-part question. How has Hazelview and your mind helped its residents in addition to that navigate through the difficult time, but I think more importantly. What are you personally most proud of? I mean, that's a tough one. From the very early days of the pandemic, our team organized and rallied pretty quickly to not only figure out new ways of working and protocols to make sure that residents felt safe in their homes, there were a series of actions we put forth to help residents and community members, we immediately launched a rent Support Program, which was out there to help residents who were struggling to make their rent payment, and then subsequent to that, as you just mentioned, we launched what we call the Hazelview cares Rent Relief Program to help further support residents with a rent credit, which was valued at up to one month of their current rent, ultimately looking to really help residents support themselves and their families, we launched a fundraising and matching program that benefited a number of organizations supporting communities, kids help phone Canadian women's foundation, daily bread, Food Bank Canadian Mental Health Association. There are a series of actions have put out over the course of the last year, but I have to say the one initiative that I'm probably most proud of, which is kind of a small but mighty program in one or two of our buildings in particular, where we felt there was an acute need to help address food insecurity, and a couple of team members took it upon themselves to go out and purchase fresh food boxes, so knowing that food banks across the country, we're being overwhelmed with demand, we wanted to make sure that residents in need of food for themselves and their family, we're not only accessing food banks, but getting access to high quality fresh food, which we know food banks struggle to deliver on that need, and so we had team members picking up dozens and dozens of boxes of fresh food every single week knocking and dropping at the doorsteps of residents in need, and for me, I call it a small but mighty program because it's not a program that went coast to post, it was pretty acute one specific community. But that is the one I was most proud of.
Mitch Fanning [0:12:50.4]
That's great, I appreciate you sharing that. I guess as you were talking, maybe a follow-on question is, and this could be internal in terms of how you and your team have worked or how internally has view as kind of operated since pandemic, but are there any positives that you can speak of or things that the company will continue to do as a result of having to kind of just switch gears and do things differently.
Colleen Krempulec [0:13:15.4]
Absolutely, it was a tough here, and it continues to be tough, we haven't seen the end of this, but we talk a lot with their team members about what have we done differently and what might we keep on doing. And for me, it goes back to just kind of old school checking in on your neighbors and your community members picking up the phone, placing a call, checking in to make sure people have what they need, checking in to make sure they're not alone or isolated. This is the time that really made us all realize the importance of reaching out to community members and as property managers, we manage and operate buildings that people live in, and by extension of that, we... We are neighbors to these residents, and I think that is a practice that will take with us into the future pandemic or no pandemic, knock on the door, check in on your neighbors, make sure you're supporting each other, because we are seeing through those simple acts that it really does help build and build resilient communities.
Mitch Fanning [0:14:29.9]
I like that because as much as the pandemic has accelerated innovation, the fact... Just the going back to basics and checking in with your neighbor, as simple as that is, and what that concept means, 'cause it's not just literally, but sometimes it just means going back to the basics and going back to more... Maybe a simple life is, people forget as much as we've adopted new technologies and new ways of doing things, sometimes we have to also merge that with the basics in life, so... I really like that the concept that you brought up, now switching gears, and as we come to a close and get to do my favorite part of the conversation, which is the quick fire round, there's a couple of things that I wanna end with this morning, and again, sometimes I just throw these kind of things in last minute, but this morning, rentals, TCA, they put up the rental market predictions report, and the one thing that really stood out to me was is the fact that the pandemic has really ushered in the adoption of digital tools for renters and landlords and operators in order to stay competitive, which I believe personally that it's here to stay...
Mitch Fanning [0:15:47.8]
I guess my question to you is, would you agree with that statement? And what are your thoughts on that? I would
Colleen Krempulec [0:15:54.5]
100% agree with that statement, although the back-to-basics approach is something we should never toss out like yesterday's newspaper, that technology is here to stay and we have to adopt and residents, prospective residents, folks searching for a new apartment to call home, folks living in an apartment today are demanding solutions, and if we don't adopt, we will soon be a relic, we know that even in the last year, we've quickly had to adapt to virtual tours, for example, so the need to replace in-person tours is something we had to solve for almost overnight, so we are quickly moving to a situation where we have 3D virtual virtual tours, we have apartments that need to be staged and Jon to renters, but we can't get stages in and we can't purchase furniture. So what do we do? We need to virtually stage and you know what, it looks pretty darn good. And that quick switch alone in the last year has allowed us to up with the demand from residents to even search for an apartment in the virtual world.
Mitch Fanning [0:17:11.3]
No, absolutely, and yeah, I've noticed that too. The staging via digital means, so it's very cool... So, alright, so as we come to a close here, we're gonna transition into the quick fire round, so calling the way this works is, I'll also a question and you'll have 60 seconds or less to answer... Colleen, are you ready?
Colleen Krempulec [0:17:33.5]
Oh boy, I'm not sure. Alright.
Mitch Fanning [0:17:37.1]
Alright, question one. Who should I have on this podcast?
Colleen Krempulec [0:17:41.4]
Who should you have on this podcast... Well, of course, I'm gonna recommend another colleague of mine, not Hazelview Properties, I'm gonna suggest you have been seen on her, she is our Head of People & Culture. I've spent a lot of time on just now speaking about our organization in our culture, and I think she would have a lot to offer on the importance of building a strong culture within an organization.
Mitch Fanning [0:18:09.3]
Very cool. Alright, well, I'll make a note of that. Question two, what's one thing you wish your phone could do
Colleen Krempulec [0:18:17.1]
That's easy, I wish my phone would find itself...
Mitch Fanning [0:18:22.4]
That's actually a new one. I haven't heard that one yet. Okay, question three. What have you changed your mind about lately?
Colleen Krempulec [0:18:29.6]
I changed my mind about lately, probably travel. If you'd asked me a couple of years ago, if I could travel anywhere, where would it be... I would pick somewhere far away, exotic that I'd never been before, and because of covid, I've spent so much time this past year just researching where can I go within the boundaries of Canada, and low and behold, there are endless places within this great country of ours to visit and experience different cultures. And probably one of the first things I'm gonna do once I board a plane is check out some of the far-flung corners of our own country.
Mitch Fanning [0:19:09.8]
Yeah, so it's actually... I've actually done the opposite. I've seen a lot of Canada, and I would tend to agree, there's some really cool places to go in Canada, right in our own backyard. Alright, question four. What or who inspires? You know.
Colleen Krempulec [0:19:25.6]
Regular... Everyday folks inspire me, I was reading the Globe and Mail the other day, and they post a piece, maybe daily, maybe weekly, I'm not sure that is reader submissions and just everyday folks write in some beautifully written pieces just about their lives and livelihoods, and those are my favorite articles in the paper. They're the first thing I read almost every day. And not only am I inspired by people's lives, I'm inspired by people who can write, so I'm a self-proclaimed bookworm, and so that's also something that inspires me...
Mitch Fanning [0:20:10.4]
That's great, I appreciate that answer. Last question is, where can people find more about you or Hazelview Properties on the internet?
Colleen Krempulec [0:20:18.2]
Hazelview properties; you can check us out at his view properties dot com or on our LinkedIn page, and then you can also find me on LinkedIn Colleen Krempulec.
Mitch Fanning [0:20:28.9]
Alright, perfect. We'll put that in the show notes. Well, that's it for another episode. Colleen, thank you so much for doing this, I really appreciate you taking the time. And until next time, keep swimming.