#15: Mylène Forest talks about community involvement and property management

Real Talk with CHIA #15: Mylène Forest was born into a family in #real estate, did everything not to work in the same field and life brought her back to it to achieve great things. Vice-President Real Estate Management of the Brivia Group, President Corporation of Quebec Real Estate Owners - CORPIQ, President CREW Montreal, Mylène came to the studio with me to share her passion and her keys to success with the audience of Real Talk with CHIA.

This episode aired July 18, 2022 and is rebroadcasting on YouTube, here is its transcript:

Chia [00:00:05] Hello. I hope you are having a great summer. I'm Chia, your Happy Broker and your host. Real Talk with CHIA is a show that demystifies the different professionals, the different professions in the vast family of real estate and also to provide the tools for investors. Today, I have the great pleasure of welcoming Mylène Forêt, who is a very very very committed woman. You will know why. Not only does she wear the vice-president's hat of the Brivia group, a major real estate developer and promoter known in Montreal, and now in Vancouver too, but she is also very, very involved in different associations.

Chia [00:01:00] Welcome Mylène!

Mylène [00:01:04] Thank you very much for this invitation.

Chia [00:01:06] It gives me great pleasure to have such a committed and inspiring woman like you at the show. It is truly an honor for me. Thanks.

Mylène [00:01:16] It's a pleasure.

Chia [00:01:17] So I already know in advance that we won’t have enough time to discuss all the subjects. So today I would like you to share your personal journey with us. And also, what led you to participate so actively in different associations? Basically, that's it for those who listen to us but who don't know much about real estate yet? Can you name a few important associations in Montreal whose vocation is real estate?

Mylène [00:01:53] Yes, of course. I'm going to start with CORPIQ, the Quebec’s Real Estate Owners Corporation which has existed since 1980, and serves approximately 25,000 members. And of course, I can tell you about it because I have been involved in the board of directors for more than 20 years.

Chia [00:02:12] Over 20 years, wow!

Mylène [00:02:14] Yes, absolutely. I have played various roles including the presidency from 2011 to 2017 and I am back to this position again.

Chia [00:02:24] Wow, okay.

Mylène [00:02:25] Of course after CORPIQ, there is another association, there is the IDU, the urban development institute which is very, very important in Montreal and for uh, for our field. There's in Boma too... Uh without forgetting maybe Crew M too, Crew M it's women in real estate, which specializes in women, women in commercial real estate, so uh...

Chia [00:02:49] Exactly, of which I'm a member, that's how we met.

Mylène [00:02:51] Yes, through which we had the chance to meet and through which I also often have the chance to meet several women, is also very inspiring.

Chia [00:03:00] Yes, absolutely.

Mylène [00:03:01] So yes, I am also very involved.

Chia [00:03:05] Yes, that's it. We will also not forget the wings of the construction.

Mylène [00:03:07] It's true, yes sorry.

Chia [00:03:11] It's true, there are really a lot of women in real estate and construction. But it's true that sometimes there are crossovers. And besides, there is Emmanuelle who recently launched a new initiative called Together for construction. Yes, I can't wait to see all the initiatives of this new platform. So you have so many varied experiences and earlier we had the chance to chat a little bit before the interview. You were born into a family in real estate, you left real estate and now you're back.

Mylène [00:03:49] Yes, in fact, indeed, I come from a family where real estate was at the center of our lives. I was as tall as the table when we were already talking about tenants and leases and all that was (inaudible). I also, over time, continued my studies. I have an identical twin sister, Nathalie, who is also in real estate that many know and still confuse us. Who is, who was heading to uh, was following in the footsteps of the family, so i tried, did everything to avoid real estate. Which brought me to study science.

Chia [00:04:28] Alright.

Mylène [00:04:28] Then by chance and uh life made it so that I came back there in my twenties. But as I was saying, I often say even if I was studying science at the University of Sherbrooke, I was very involved, perhaps on the other side of the coin because already, at that time, I was president of the Association of residents of the University of Sherbrooke and in return also sometimes, when there were issues in a building between Montreal and Sherbrooke, on the South Shore, I’d work on them on Fridays, and I was barely 20 years old, so it was like I said a natural way to go back to real estate. By coincidence, my spouse, the father of my children, was already very interested in real estate. So together, we got involve and I launched my professional career just like that, managing buildings, making acquisitions and all that. And here we are.

Chia [00:05:29] Alright. So real estate has almost no more secrets for you.

Mylène [00:05:33] Well less than, less than there were 30 years ago I would say. And through this journey, what is also interesting is that of course, at the start, especially in multi-residential, but I followed the cycles and I went back to the family business (inaudible) Forêt-Morency which in 2005, was, redirected a lot towards co-ownership. So, in 2005, it was Cogir who acquired this, our company and I continued with them for a few years. Three years as Vice-President at Cogir for the co-ownership management division, Forêt-Morency. Then, the journey made me fall for other things. I had some mandates either for RPA and then for sales. So I see it as a great experience.

Chia [00:06:27] Yes, that's it. Lots of projects.

Mylène [00:06:29] Very diversified and I think that’s what gives a lot of meaning today in the position I occupy at Brivia and...

Chia [00:06:40] All in all, and maybe that's not enough, it's definitely where you come from. And there are experiences that have you, that have shaped you to who you are today. And actually, my next question, I think I already have my answer, it's what is your motivation to get so involved with the associations to the point of presiding over two of importance? 'Cause it still takes a lot commitment, a lot of time, a lot of energy. So besides the fact that you know how to do it well for a very very long time, what is this passion?

Mylène [00:07:21] In fact, I think passion already, when you like the subject, when you like what you fact, um then, we are not afraid to work and we are curious and we want to learn. I think it is often that. It is certain that at the start, when they had contacted me about twenty years ago to get involved in an association like CORPIQ, maybe the first reaction for many, was to say but why are you putting in the energy? Why do you give so much in an association like this? It's volunteering. But the fact is, the returns are amazing. These are extraordinary encounters. It is complementary because there is no one who is perfect and we cannot know everything so to rub shoulders with people who have lived the same situations but who have different experiences or backgrounds so they tell us lead to seeing things differently and finding solutions. And over the years I've never regretted the investment. On the contrary, it takes you somewhere else. It develops us professionally

but also really personally. And one of the very good examples I can have is my

involvement with (inaudible). Yes, I myself, I started to get involved with (inaudible) in 2010. But at the start, I was very, maybe low profile, if we can say so. I was going like many of the members to a few companies, but already at the first meeting, at the first dinner, I was with Timbercreek at that time and was managing Quebec’s portfolio. And I have stakes on a building to redo the corridors and revamp it all, reposition a building and all that. And it so happens that I am sitting next to an extraordinary young woman who is an architect, a designer and Lydia not to mention not name it and that I enjoyed the collaboration so much too, because that's how I did encounters that helped me when I could be confident with people in a very self-help closed. So we're here to help. Same thing. I have a legal stake in commercial premises in that time. I was sitting with the president (inaudible) at the time, and she told me I can help. And there you go, it's settled. Then, you, it allows you to move forward, it allows you to have great achievements.

Chia [00:09:58] Absolutely.

Mylène [00:09:59] And in the end, who gets the benefit of all this? It's you, in fact, it's us. Because the return people say she is efficient but no, she is well surrounded.

Chia [00:10:11] Perfect! So thank you, thank you, thank you. Because precisely one of the reasons why that I invite you to our platform? It's really to assert this commitment. Why do young professionals have to invest more in networking and in the various associations in their mission who matches their aspirations?

Mylène [00:10:40] As I said. Without wanting to repeat myself, I think that we need others to move forward. You have to surround yourself with people who are stronger, because you can't be stars at all levels. So I think it's a great way to acquire knowledge, to find the right network. And to receive advice as human as

personal as professional because I think success. But yes. When we succeed, we climb the ladder. Then all that, then when you grow in life, you become better. That’s all. It's not just professional, that's life. I also had the chance to do some mentoring. Yes, and it's such a nice experience. What about mentors and mentees? I learned as much as my mentee. I hope that she learned something.

Chia [00:11:39] We'll wait for her to like this episode.

Mylène [00:11:42] We developed a very good relationship. And it's really like I say in life there’s always has an elevator return. You invest, it comes back. You don't even know which way it's gonna happen and that's the beauty. Often, when we give, we must not give to expect a return. At otherwise, let it go and I think it's natural.

Chia [00:12:04] That's why I love the interview today, because the two of us have really this spirit of giving back and then always always being curious to learn and to give, to contribute. Then I think you necessarily practice gratitude. A lot, a lot. That transpires enormously.

Mylène [00:12:28] Yes, and sometimes doing things differently. Don't do them all like... Not everything is written in life.

Chia [00:12:34] No, no, absolutely. Well this is the adventure? Yes, very well. And then I would like now that we may be talking more about your profession, which is property management. Where do youyou're very well known among, uh, actually, I think everyone crosses paths with you, meets you, collaborates with you know today under the hat with your more than 20 years of management experience real estate. So you shared with us that you started while you were studying in Sherbrooke to manage the housing stock. And what was the first job? And then, for the young person who wants start today in this beautiful profession, where does he or she have to start?

Mylène [00:13:29] In fact, is there a miracle recipe that we should start there, depending of our surroundings from which we start. The first thing is to want to learn to be curious, to not not be afraid to work. In real estate management, forget it, it's not 9 to 5. No, not at all. And you have to love management first. Of course, as we often said, it is not only that managing mortar and brick is really managing humans, it is managing environments, environments of life. So there are different aspects. It's sure that if we go into the l..., in real estate management traditional rental, well there is all this management of buildings. But there's tenant management though we go to the condominium also it's another type of management versus if someone goes to the commercial management, there is a way, there is always people, of course, because there is a relationship customer. But it's a business relationship then, but in real estate management, you have to have, You have to first jam... i think i had this very, very developed little customer service fiber today, because real estate has evolved so much and there is this aspect. But there is also the management aspect. Because our big 2022's challenge may not necessarily be vacation rates, but it's really the operation in self, uh manage inflation, manage opex and operations, make it an interesting formula because everything is increasing and everyone knows it, eh, I'm not teaching you anything today.

Chia [00:15:14] It's true. I am particularly curious about because when we talk about property management like like what did you mention, there are different different under departments that I call that we have to manage. There are buildings, there are human relationships, there are sub-contractors, etc., and then there is also lease management, of course. There, in relational management, seen that rental has evolved a lot, a lot over the last ten years, it has progressed so much rapidly. Do you think this relational management with tenants is becoming easier? I want say the tools that seem available to us today. Does it make it easier to build that relationship or that complicates the relationship with tenants between landlords and tenants?

Mylène [00:16:21] Yeah, uh just to go back to the beginning of the question, uh I always said that a manager, by definition, is a generalist. So indeed, he must have accounting notions of engineering legal notions... and indeed, this notion, this part of the tenant relationship, is it more difficult? She's faster anyway. All is acc...like the pace of life today, everything has accelerated. Indeed, the tenants, because of all the tools that are available to them, are initially much more informed than they were 20 years ago. And the rhythm is there. I think the new tools available to us today made it easier, easier our work. But human contact because there is a way of writing also in our text messages or in our e-mails, or in exchanges. At this level too, I think it takes a lot of tact. As words have been replaced by writing, so I think this is an area where you always have to be very attentive.

Chia [00:17:35] Yes, we are talking so you just talked about responsiveness. (Inaudible) that today there is a unwritten expectation of tenants who are interested in an apartment immediately, immediately. He the manager must already respond to his request.

Mylène [00:17:55] Otherwise he will call the neighbour. I will be the first. You don't answer we pass on to the next... But indeed, but it's sure that there's not just that, I think it's the offer today who is also different, who and who makes us stand out. It's so important to know who is, who no... to do market research, to know who our customers are, which customers we are going to target. Because if you don't target the right clientele from the start, you work for nothing. We work in a vacuum, we do on the spot.

Chia [00:18:27] This is becoming more and more nested. So yes.

Mylène [00:18:31] But, that's it, to come back to your second part, the part of your question, what do I might suggest to someone who wants to get started? Well that's what I think it's to work with her heart, don't be afraid of...

Chia [00:18:42] Absolutely.

Mylène [00:18:43] ...to roll up her sleeves and then to take her place. What I say, and I say it again often, because often people don't dare to do things differently and to bring, and perhaps develop new services, to be creative.

Chia [00:18:59] Yes, O.K. Great! In addition to creativity, creativity and availability and this desire to serve customers. Do you think that the sense of organization is also important? Because I see that the property manager can touch on so many different things. Is Must be an overly organized person?

Mylène [00:19:23] It must be an organized person. It must above all is a person who knows surround yourself, because you can't do it alone. It takes a person who will be well supported. Like I was with a head-back-accounting team, uh legal references because it's certain when you start, but maybe you're not always in a big organization, but maybe be that I come back. That is the importance, perhaps of being part of certain associations, because a association like CORPIQ, it is there to help owners who may have smaller calibers, i.e. it is not a question of the number of gates, but when we start, it is a very, very interesting resource.

Chia [00:20:05] Yes, absolutely. And during your career, so over the past twenty years, have you do you see more women or more men in this profession?

Mylène [00:20:19] I think we already know the answer. It was first and foremost mostly a world of men in management and above all...

Chia [00:20:30] For real? O.K. I'm surprised!

Mylène [00:20:32] Not in real estate brokerage but in real estate management.

Chia [00:20:34] Yes, well that's it.

Mylène [00:20:35] Yes, yes. It's It's mostly men. OK, we saw it and I think it's for

that which (inaudible) has its raison d'être today. Uh, it's real estate, women in commercial real estate, especially in commercial real estate. I have had the pleasure over the past ten to fifteen years, often to be even almost annually on the tables of the panels for the conferences at the forum real estate or, and all that, uh, a lot of times we were mostly male, and I was and I was alone. But he there are others. Today we have beautiful, beautiful, on the other hand we have beautiful successes and women extraordinary who have taken their place and who are omnipresent there. But there.

Chia [00:21:23] Yes, I would have thought that women have so much tse there, like a natural tool in management, in coordination and in and there would be more women who would take a marked interest in the management.

Mylène [00:21:41] Yes, yes. Curiously, curiously, I would tell you that I am thinking of maybe levels may be lower.

Chia [00:21:49] Oh okay, okay.

Mylène [00:21:50] I think there is in this distinction. We are in the process of…

Chia [00:21:54] OK.

Mylène [00:21:54] Of achieving equity...

Chia [00:21:56] Superior.

Mylène [00:21:57] We are working on it.

Chia [00:21:57] We have some. We have a spokesperson and a leader like that to guide us. Thanks. So uh, to wrap up our interview today, what are the three best pieces of advice you that you want to share?

 Mylène [00:22:20] I would say that you have to enjoy what you do and continue in that environment or elsewhere. I think that first you have to work with your heart. As I said, you have to like people. Especially because, as it really is today, very, very much about emotions, community, living environment, the commune, to create the feeling of life and to know how to surround oneself. I repeat myself but here it is.

Chia [00:22:49] Great! Yes, it's true, it's the key to success.

Mylène [00:22:52] Yes, that's my way of seeing things.

Chia [00:22:55] It's amazing. Thank you so much for sharing.

Mylène [00:22:58] Pleasure. Thank you for the invite.

Chia [00:23:01] Thank you.

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