Rest assured that if you have an occasion to meet Austin Riggs, it will be at the right time and the right place. He seems to have a knack for that. It’s our privilege to share a little bit about Austin who is among the pioneer cohort of Gelbgroup Academy. Here’s a snippet of our conversation (edited for length and clarity).
How did you get started in the real estate industry?
So, I actually kind of fell into it. I’ve been in the IT industry for 20 years. I’ve been in property management now for eight. Quality Management was a client of my IT business. Unexpectedly, their IT lead who oversaw Yardi fell ill and left the company. I stepped in, out of necessity. Today, I’m on the board of directors and a decision maker for IT infrastructure and Yardi.
What do you want people to know about Quality Management Group?
The company was established in 1982. We recently rebranded and developed our new mission, purpose, and value statements that will carry us for the next 40 years. Personally, I would encapsulate the mission and values of the company in one word: empowerment.
If we empower our employees with the tools and resources they need, everything else will fall into place, as it should. So essentially, if you start with care and compassion for the happiness of your employees, your company will ultimately lead itself to where it needs to go.
In your daily role, what drives you? Where do you draw inspiration to achieve your goals in your role?
We do quite a bit of affordable and now permanent supportive housing and so being able to house someone who is otherwise unhoused or maybe not appropriately housed is an awesome thing. Technology, especially supporting technology, can get rather monotonous. I’ve had my share of ebbs and flows over the years.
Right before COVID, my mindset shifted.
While we were upgrading property technology at a permanent supportive housing site, one of the residents said, “I really appreciate what you guys are doing because without a home and the technology you put in, I would have not been able to get a job. I wouldn’t have been able to reconnect with my kid.”
We don’t have to help them with any services or anything like that. But we’ve taken an active stance in providing as much as we can. We take computers that we pulled out of service from the company and put them at sites for learning and training centers.
When that resident said, “I can’t believe what I’ve been able to accomplish because of the simple things you guys have done for us,” that reignited me. We directly impacted someone else’s ability to survive and be a part of society. Now I have a purpose in life. I’m not here just to run IT. I’m not here just to be part of property management. I’m actually positively affecting change and other people’s lives. And it may be small. It may be miniscule, in the grand scheme of everything else on this planet. But, when that man walked up to me and said those things–that was the coolest thing that’s ever happened.
Do you have any career advice for someone trying to break into the industry?
Apply to be a leasing consultant and work your way into the company. Potentially, within a year, you could be an assistant community manager. It’s not really about understanding specific software. We hire people who are used to MRI. It’s about the fundamental understanding of moving in a resident and receiving rent.
From there, observe and take advantage of opportunities that are presented to you. My advice is to pay attention to your surroundings and understand how to better yourself. A lot of people get stuck in a rut and they’re laser focused on a little task and not see the big picture. Step back and just observe other things going on around you. I think more opportunities would open for people. That’s how my career has been.
Some fun facts about Austin Riggs:
Austin works in Rancho Cucamonga, which “was one of the world’s largest wine producers on the West Coast of the United States that no one ever talks about. People often wonder why our city logo has grapes. The region was like Napa Valley, but we don’t do that here anymore.”
On business leaders, Austin says “Mark Cuban is someone I really admire because he doesn’t approach things the standard way. He takes ridiculously aggressive risks because he trusts his gut in how to move forward. Intuition is pretty big for me.”