I was working for Charles E. Smith Companies (CES), a former real estate legend in the DC area, in their health club division.  I was always looking for ways to improve/streamline services, decrease expenses and improve revenue for the company….and I was good with people. 

One of my former health club bosses (who got a job with CES property management), lured me away as the property management division was looking for a “people” person with attention to detail and the ability to find and implement solutions to issues when they arose….and he thought I was the perfect candidate.  That was early 1997 – less than a year after The Telecommunications Act of 1996 went into effect.  

My main job at the time was to help roll out and manage the initial wave of telecom marketing agreements CES property management was signing.    From there, I began to negotiate telecom agreement deal points and work with in house counsel to understand what should and should not be in an agreement as well as what to look out for. 

Once I felt I had a good handle on the Telecom agreements, I began to expand into other services like laundry rooms, soda and snack vending and even payphones.  Wow!  Payphone revenue really shows how old I am!  No regional VP, manager, or property manager ever said, “No, I want to keep negotiating these types of deals!”.  They were happy to get it off their plate.  Once I had approval to work on a particular service, I leveraged our portfolio to get better and better deals. 

As time went by, I continued to add more and more services under my belt:  ATMs, Towing, Utility Billing, Maintenance Supplies, Paint and Carpet.  I even handled apartment renovations and negotiated pricing for the products that were part of the renovation!  Now, it did help that my last name was Smith and I worked for Charles E Smith Companies.  I guess many providers thought I was related…I never told them I was, but very few ever asked.

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