Sarah Oglesby-Battle didn’t plan on a career in property management, or even in real estate. But today, she wouldn’t change careers for anything. As president of the residential division at Beztak Properties, an award-winning development, construction, investment, and management company headquartered in Michigan, Oglesby-Battle helps navigate toward the future while remaining true to the principles that have guided the company for more than half a century.
Oglesby-Battle actually began leasing apartments while she was still in college. “I liked watching HGTV and flipping through Architectural Digest. It was all about the pretty pictures,” she says with a chuckle. “Real estate sounded exciting, but I was a novice. Working with luxury apartments seemed like a great way to try and dip my toe in the water.” While attending Arizona State University, Oglesby-Battle stopped by a luxury community under construction and, completely inexperienced, talked her way into a job. “Confidence speaks volumes in this business,” she remarks.
And Oglesby-Battle is proud of having built her career from the ground up. “I hope that it illustrates to current and future associates that there are avenues of growth within the industry and within the company,” she says. In fact, those avenues of growth are what have appealed to Oglesby-Battle throughout her twenty-two years in the real estate business.
“There are so many different paths for development, and so many different opportunities to pursue your interests,” she offers. You don’t have to be interested in real estate itself to pursue a career in the industry, Oglesby-Battle explains, because full service organizations have many different facets, from construction and development to marketing, human resources, and accounting. “The industry can take you a variety of ways and provide an exciting career path. It’s important to me that we’re promoting from within when appropriate before recruiting externally. As a business practice, we reduce turnover by offering advancement.”
Oglesby-Battle’s talent took her to Beztak in 2011, directly following the last recession. “It was a time when multiple owners and operators were losing assets,” she recalls. But that wasn’t the case for Beztak. “We’re known for holding real estate long-term,” Oglesby-Battle says of the organization. Over the years, Beztak has developed a wide-ranging portfolio, including retail and commercial properties as well as senior living and residential communities, condominiums, and single-family homes. Oglesby-Battle’s division also operates an extremely successful third-party residential management arm, with a portfolio of more than one hundred properties across the country.
But just because the company is highly stable, it doesn’t mean it’s stagnant, Oglesby-Battle points out. “We’ve created a really dynamic environment,” she says. “We have a pretty close to perfect balance of steadiness and an unprecedented growth rate. That allows us to take our core values and practices and apply them to a constantly growing footprint.”
According to Oglesby-Battle, the company was managing twelve thousand units just four years ago. Now, they’re preparing to pass thirty thousand. “It’s really rewarding to see that kind of growth because it means that team members across the company have embraced Beztak practices and created success for our clients in new markets,” Oglesby-Battle says. But throughout that growth, she says, “Our general guiding principles haven’t changed. There’s still a core value to provide excellent service by hiring the people that are passionate about serving residents.
In the Name of Great Service
Everyone at Beztak, especially those on the frontlines, understands the company’s vision and feels empowered to provide great service, Sarah Oglesby-Battle says. “I remember one community experiencing a large fire. Our people stood on top of a dumpster to direct traffic and help the Red Cross direct residents,” she says. “It could have been a terrible event, but the feedback we got was positive—and the response from the residents was so strong that the site actually gained occupancy.”
“What we’ve added to that is technology,” Oglesby-Battle continues. “Today, our residents don’t want to have to come into a leasing office. They want to be able to do everything from the palm of their hand. So, we’ve had to adapt and learn to provide that forum, and I think we do a really good job of it.”
Technology is also at the center of Beztak’s urban properties, Oglesby-Battle says. “Upscale urban properties tend to draw a discerning clientele with global exposure,” she notes. “They’ve seen the latest design trends, and they know what they want in terms of features and convenience, a lot of which is provided through various technologies.”
To accommodate those preferences, Beztak strives to provide an array of technology-driven amenities and innovative features. These include the company’s SMART apartment homes, which tenants are able to control through their mobile phones. Those homes also come with 24/7 access to deliveries, including packages with perishable items that need refrigerated.
While it can be a challenge at times to bring a robust offering of amenities to urban settings with limited space, Beztak isn’t backing away from that challenge.
“Our CEO, Sam Beznos, has a really adept understanding of how technology shapes a lot of the features that we advertise heavily. So he understands what’s going on more so than most,” Oglesby-Battle says. “He blends the long-standing approach of the organization—timeless design in A+ locations—with the conveniences that today’s renters demand.”
Oglesby-Battle sees Beztak’s blend of technology, strong core business practices, and growth as a perfect recipe for success. “We have the ability to deliver financial results coast to coast through the systems we utilize and we can also offer talented individuals, including the tech savvy millennial workforce, boundless growth opportunities that take a performer from their first position after college through to retirement. It’s a dynamic match, and this is just the beginning.”