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Southern Management Corp. Trains for Success

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Responsible for more than 25,000 apartment homes across 74 communities as well as more than 1 million square feet of commercial space, Southern Management Corp. (SMC), of Vienna, Va., is the largest privately owned property management company in the mid-Atlantic region.

Established by CEO and Founder David Hillman in 1965, SMC also owns communities, office centers, hotels and conference centers throughout the Baltimore-Washington region. Included among these properties are the Hotel Arundel in Hanover and the Bear Creek Mountain Resort & Conference Center in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.

Southern Management may be a large organization with more than 1,600 team members, but despite its size the company strives to maintain a personal connection with its employees.

“[SMC] has been recognized by Washingtonian Magazine as one of the District of Columbia’s Great Places to Work in 2011, received the highest level award presented by the Maryland Performance Excellence Program in 2011, and was recognized by the Baltimore Sun as one of the Top Places to Work in 2012,” said Adenia Bradley, special projects coordinator for SMC.

“We won the Washington Post Top Workplaces [designation] in 2013,” she added.

SMC extends similar consideration to its tenants, using a series of Resident Satisfaction Assessment surveys to gather opinions, concerns and the overall perspective within its communities to ensure that residents enjoy the best possible living experience.

Working with Anne Arundel County this year, SMC managed to secure a new Sunday farmers market at the Residences at Arundel Preserve, improving residents’ quality of life by bringing fresh, locally-grown produce, meat and eggs virtually to their doorstep. The market launched on June 7 and will operate until Aug. 30, offering live music, giveaways, face painting and other activities.

Focused Training Program

Bradley is among SMC’s long-term employees, having joined the SMC team 15 years ago and worked her way through various divisions of the company, including leasing and recruiting.

“It’s our training that sets us apart from the competition by far,” Bradley said, citing the company’s unique educational career program offered through its associated Southern Management University.

The program’s goal-oriented training is designed to enhance individual job performance and elevates Southern Management as an industry leader in customer service.

“Our facilitators are all subject matter experts with more than 10 years of industry experience,” Bradley said. “We also have two separate manager trainee programs geared toward leadership within the organization.”

Every employee goes through an on-boarding process that includes three days of orientation classes, specialty classes designed for each specific job title and three additional days of customer care training before their first day on the job, she added.

The quality of that training was evident in March, when three Hotel at Arundel Preserve team members received awards at the Maryland Hotel & Lodging Association’s 26th annual Stars of the Industry awards luncheon in March. Receiving awards were April Callahan, Manager of the Year; Heather Komsa, Administrative Assistant of the Year; and Tanya White, Guest Service Employee of the Year.

Community Involvement

With less than a year of membership in the Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber (BWCC) under their belt, SMC officials are still getting their bearings and making the acquaintance of other members, but they are already well versed in the advantages that membership will bring them.

“Networking opportunities are among the most meaningful immediate benefits we’ve seen,” Bradley said, adding that Chamber programs also hold a lot of interest for her company. “I’m starting [my Chamber involvement] with the Women in Business Committee.”

Chamber membership will augment SMC’s community involvement, which already is quite extensive.

“We have several scholarship programs throughout the Maryland area,” Bradley explained. They include the Apartment and Office Building Association (AOBA) scholarship program at Prince George’s Community College (PGCC), which offers two years of paid tuition worth $6,000 and entitles the winner to apply for the Southern Management Scholarship for study at American University.

Likewise, the Hillman Entrepreneurs Program is tailored to the needs of transfer students who begin study at PGCC and complete a bachelor’s degree at University of Maryland, College Park. The four-year scholarship program is targeted to students with an interest in entrepreneurship and an enthusiasm for starting a business venture or leading a company.

New UM Project

SMC is preparing to add to its owned-property inventory with the construction of The Hotel at the University of Maryland. The $150 million project on the east side of the campus is the cornerstone of the university’s vision to encourage redevelopment of the existing downtown College Park business district along the Route 1 corridor.

“Even before it’s built, the hotel and conference center is providing a major stimulus to the development of College Park,” said University of Maryland President Wallace Loh. “Through his vision and commitment, David Hillman is rejuvenating an entire zip code.”

“The interior design is fresh and sophisticated, respecting the tradition of its surroundings while setting the right tone for a reimagined and enhanced downtown College Park,” Hillman added. “We look forward to opening to the community in December 2016.”

When complete, the new hotel will feature 297 guest rooms with executive level and premium suites, a rooftop banquet facility, 43,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, two full-service restaurants, two specialty restaurants and a coffee shop.

SMC is also looking to maintain the level of success it has achieved in the residential property management arena.

“Within the last two years there has been tremendous change in the housing market industry,” Bradley said, a time during which SMC managed to maintain the industry’s lowest vacancy rate.

“Our portfolio’s current vacancy rate is under 2%,” she noted. “We attribute our success to providing superior customer care through highly trained team members.”