The Girls Behind the Bookcases

Shortly after I started my property management firm, Home Rental Services, I became a single mom with two girls, ages 5 and 7.

I walled off a section of my office with these huge, 7-foot-tall bookcases. Behind the bookcases, there were two little desks, complete with calculators and pens and pencils. This is where Caitlin and Carrie could do their homework after school. Anytime they weren’t in school or in sports, they were there.

They literally grew up in my business … and they decided it wasn’t for them. They never wanted to own a business, period. One time, when Carrie was little, I asked her why she didn’t want to go into my line of work. Her response: “People are mean to you.”

Are You In or Out?

Over the past 25 years, my team and I have managed thousands of properties across the city. Meanwhile, my girls grew up and went to college.

When my oldest daughter, Caitlin, graduated from Kansas State University, she said, “Mom, I’ll come and help you for a while until I find a real job in hospitality.”

That was five years ago.

Caitlin is 27 now. Like her sister Carrie, she’s incredibly smart—she understands budgets, time management, and all of the technical parts of her job. Where I’ve really seen her maturing is on the people side, the type of judgment people in their 20s don’t always possess. She’s learning to delegate, she’s learning to supervise, she’s learning the value of systems and processes.

Recently, my husband and I were working on our estate plan, and I said to Caitlin, “OK, I need to know, are you in, or are you out? I have to put this plan together as if you’re getting this company or you’re not.”

She said she’s in.

A Whole New Class of Monsters

I was recently telling my business coach that I’ve faced all kinds of monsters in the last 25 years. We’ve experienced recessions. We’ve had major changes in tax laws that totally inverted property ownership from an investment standpoint. We have a great deal of international business at Home Rental Services, so when 9/11 happened, I nearly had to shut the doors.

Caitlin is going to face different monsters. I can’t even fathom what her challenges will be. However, I’m absolutely confident that she’ll find her own way to handle them successfully.

What I think she realizes is there are tradeoffs to owning a business. I have always worked long hours at Home Rental Services. That was my choice.

If you don’t own the business, somebody else decides how many hours you work. I’ve been in that situation before, and it doesn’t always go well. I managed a sales office for a huge real estate company. I was seven months pregnant with my second child when I was given a week’s notice—the week before Christmas, no less—that my office was going to be shuttered.

If Caitlin decides to start her own family, she won’t have to deal with that. If she wants to chaperone her kids’ field trip, nobody’s
going to dock her paycheck.

I think the Millennials will handle multiple home and work responsibilities better than we Baby Boomers did. We just worked, worked, worked and worked. This new generation understands the need to balance personal time and work.