We had the good fortune of connecting with Kerrie Ozarski and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kerrie, what do you attribute your success to?
The commercial property management industry is complex due to the daily challenges presented on all levels. It can be the simplest of tasks such as collecting rent from a slow paying tenant or responding, handling day to day operational challenges, working with the client and leasing team to best strategize a deal or reacting to an emergency in a calm and composed manner. To manage properties at the highest level, it takes organization, multi-tasking and a strong sense of prioritization, which I believe I have as well as my entire team at Reef Real Estate Services. We work together very closely on a daily basis to keep all “in the loop” on all issues at each property. Our accounting team supports the managers in all levels with exceptional detail and care. Especially during these times, it is important we remain compassionate yet firm in our management because at the end of the day we work for the client (property owner) and this is their investment so it must be profitable. Of course no one could anticipate the crushing blow to the entire real estate market from the COVID-19 closures, but we take each day as an opportunity to tackle the tenant lease restructurings and creative maneuvering to move businesses outdoors so they can survive. Many of our tenants are mom and pop businesses that are forced to close yet do not have the means to pay rent. Some did not qualify for governmental assistance and others have exhausted their PPP funds. As property managers we do our best to remain positive and help our clients and tenants in any way we can. Most times it is a very thankless job and takes thick skin, but everyone on our team does a fantastic job. I believe this is what makes our team successful at Reef Real Estate Services.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I graduated with an Accounting degree from the University of San Diego. I was recruited my junior year to commit to Price Waterhouse as I was eager to start my accounting career upon graduation. However, I quickly learned the audit life was not for me and I ventured into real estate accounting at Fairfield Residential, then Westfield. I began as a property accountant at Horton Plaza working for the dream team (Sherry Jones, Joe Madden, Roger Brazil, Terry Migliaccio, Margaret Stephens and Rebecca Wiltshire) They all played such an important part of my growth and have remained close friends throughout the years. I pressured upper management at Westfield regularly to promote me to Assistant General Manager, which I secured in 2000 at Westfield UTC. That was quite the learning experience, which launched me to be move up to the Assistant General Manager at Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose, California. I was a part of the final phase of the major renovation and was able to work under Sarah Vasquez, who also played a huge role in shaping me to be the manager I am today. I was consistently learning about central plant operations, parking garage flow and overall indoor mall operations. I moved around with the company quite a bit, but I credit Westfield for making me grow as a person, remain flexible, master the art of spreadsheets and financial analysis as well as become a tough manager.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I was born and raised in San Diego and I think it has so much to offer! First and foremost our beaches and bays are spectacular so I would start with a bike ride around Pacific Beach. I would also definitely venture to Coronado island to enjoy the restaurants and sites such as the Hotel Del Coronado (newly renovated), Leroy’s, Peohe’s and Il Fornaio. A classic day in San Diego is a morning walk along the Pacific Beach, possibly a quick surf session, grabbing coffee at the successful local Better Buzz Coffee, followed by the must have fish tacos at Oscar’s. Afternoons can be spent shopping in La Jolla along Prospect Street and taking a walk down to La Jolla Cove and Windansea to check the surf. One of my favorite evening activities with our kids is to ride our bikes around the bay and grab dinner at The Poke Chop in Pacific Beach. We also like to visit The Lot in downtown La Jolla or Liberty Station. Liberty Station has an indoor food court, which offers many different types of food and a fun atmosphere to grab a cocktail with friends while kids can play safely outdoors.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My first mentor in this business was my father, Bob Lichter. My Dad has always been my number one mentor not only in real estate but in life. He used to bring me to his meetings with tenants at his shopping centers back in the early 80s when I was not even 10 years old. I watched him be kind and generous to his tenants, yet wickedly smart when it came to the finances. He was conservative in his approach to developing and owning real estate since his ultimate goal was to hold the assets. My Dad ran a successful real estate company in San Diego (John Burnham & Co) for many years. I was able to watch him lead various employees on to successful careers, many of whom I work with in the business today. I often accompanied him to the office when I was younger and I vividly recall his employees’ faces lighting up when he walked into the building. He always made it a point to laugh with them daily and bring a sense of energy into the room. It showed me you could be a boss but never above your team because without them you cannot be successful. He would organize outings for the company and fun adventures usually accompanied by a crazy costume or theme. His compassion and generosity to all has made him successful in all parts of life, which has shaped the person I have become. I credit his firm parenting, strength and support as well as my mother’s constant love and comfort for my success. I also could not have done it without my loving brother, Kris Lichter for his steady encouragement and positivity the past eight years and my sister-in-law, Briana who always jumps in to help out our accounting team with her financial insight. Of course, I also could never have ventured out on my own without the constant support of my husband Marc, who I love very much!
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