Invisibles: Finding Meaning in Commercial Real Estate Accounting (2nd in a Series)

Many employees at GRS Group read and enjoyed the book Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self Promotion by David Zweig.  The book is about workers in various industries who do important jobs that impact our everyday lives, such as a designer of airport signage, but gain little, if any, public attention for their efforts. However, these professionals are not in their jobs for the limelight. Instead, they are working for the greater success of their “team,” or organization.

Invisibles In some ways GRS Group itself is an “invisible” company in the commercial real estate world. Though the firm’s due diligence and title services are relied on by dozens of companies to help get deals done, one rarely hears about GRS Group’s involvement in these transactions. Additionally, within the firm itself, there are several individuals who get very little industry recognition despite the fact that they make business happen.

This article is the second in a four-part series that addresses Invisibles and “pulls the curtain back”—highlighting some of these integral people in our own company. For this installment, we are focusing on Toni Robinson and Terri Terry, both bookkeepers in GRS Group’s accounting department. To some, it may not sound like the most exciting job in the world, but both of them play important roles at the firm and are driven by the fact that they are working for the better of an overall team.

How did you get involved in commercial real estate leading up to your position at GRS Group?

Toni Robinson:  I worked for a residential mortgage broker prior to my employ at GRS Group. That position ended when my employer passed away in 2010. I was referred to Andy Brownstein (GRS Group’s general counsel and chief financial officer) by a mutual friend.  At that time, Andy was doing all of the accounting for GRS Group and hired me as a part-time employee. I started working two days a week until coming on full-time in October 2013. The workload has grown along with the company and we now have two additional people on our accounting team.

Terri Terry: About two and a half years after Toni started, she and Andy needed another person to help with the workload and I was the person they selected to fill that role. I don’t mean it to sound negative, but I didn’t necessarily choose the industry! I happened upon it.

Now that you’re involved in the business, what makes you passionate about it and keeps you with the firm other than getting a paycheck, of course?

Robinson:  I love the challenge it has brought to me… As you know, title insurance is a highly regulated industry. We have several audits and reports due each, year in addition to regular accounting reports. I am working against the clock a lot of the time, but that is how I function best. I love the culture of our company…There is a flow between work and home. I think the general attitude of our leadership is that of “Flow” and you can really feel it. I also love the flexibility that GRS Group offers.   I work from the office three days a week and one day a week I get to work from home.  It makes life more organic and less compartmentalized. I love the people… We are a serious bunch but we also like to have fun, which is evident on our SocialCast network. You would not think a company that is so spread out would have such a tight-knit feeling. It is quite an accomplishment and our leaders deserve a lot of credit for that.

Terry: For me, staying with the company isn’t necessarily about the services we provide. One of the things that keeps me here is the amount of trust within our organization. As a company–so many people are spread across the country, many of us working from home–in order for that format to be successful, you have to have trust and we have it. I used to be in the Richmond office and moved to Seattle and Andy Brownstein let me keep my job so I now work from home too.  That is amazing to me.  Andy is also one of the reasons I want to stay here.  He’s one of the best people I have ever worked for.  He offers his assistance; he gives you every tool you need to do your job and lets you do it. The work environment that he creates is not a stressful one; it’s a very supportive one and that’s worth a whole lot.  Money is always important to people (and it’s very important to me too because I do want to feel I’m getting paid a fair wage for my contribution), but there are a lot of non-monetary things that this company provides and I value those things.  Lastly, everybody here helps everybody out. I don’t feel like people define themselves within the parameters of their job descriptions; we all just get the job done.

Is there anything about the company, or what you do for it specifically, that makes you particularly excited about the future?

Robinson: I have to echo Terri in saying how much trust we have in our leadership. We have some exciting things that we’re doing with GRS | Centaur. I like to get behind things like that and learn about them. It’s very interesting. I’m sure that I have opportunities to grow at GRS Group. And I will probably always do something in accounting. I don’t think I could all of a sudden jump into sales and have a whole different career going on. Accounting fits my personality. I am definitely a service-oriented person who likes to support good leadership and salespeople and that is what we have here at GRS Group.

Terry: As the company grows, the demands on the accounting, HR and admin parts of the company are going to grow and change too and I’m excited about getting to be a part of that. I have the regular accounting, etc. responsibilities, but I look at my role as also a service provider to every other person in this company that is bringing in the income. That’s my role. Do whatever I can do to make life easier for those people that are providing our service. I don’t provide the service. I provide the service to my fellow employees, and as the company grows, I know those opportunities will grow and change, move and mold, and that’s the kind of stuff that excites me about the future.

 

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