Vancouver business gets high rankings from Portland Business Journal
From its origins in 1985 and now 35 years later, TMG Family of Companies has always had a plan.
Take care of the needs of tenants and clients by hiring the best people and focusing on the strengths of those people, not the weaknesses.
And even when there is no plan for such a thing as a pandemic, don’t freeze. Make a plan, execute it, and ensure the tenants that TMG would remain open, ready to serve.
This vision came from the top, from the owner, the founder, and the president of the TMG Property Management Services NW, Carmen Villarma.
The Portland Business Journal recently listed TMG as the top-ranked minority-owned business in the Portland-Vancouver area in terms of number of employees. TMG was listed as No. 5 on the list for women-owned businesses.
“Being recognized for that is very positive,” said Villarma, a native Alaskan and member of the Tlingit and Haida Tribes.
“When you’re a woman and a minority, there are a lot of challenges that go along with that,” she said, adding that she is encouraged to see the number of other businesses in the rankings.
TMG checks both boxes, if you will.
Today, the TMG family of companies, which also includes Association Management Services NW, manages thousands of units throughout Washington and Oregon.
“It’s a good example to other women, and to other minorities, that you can be successful,” Villarma said. “It’s not without a lot of hard work and overcoming challenges, but the opportunities are always there.”
A lot has changed since 1985, though.
“We’ve been around a long time,” Villarma said.
Then, with a laugh: “I was young, but I’m not telling you what my age is.”
She had her real estate license and it just so happened her earliest clients were focused on buying property for investment, to use as rentals, for example. Those clients wondered if there was a company in the area that could manage those investments.
Villarma seized the opportunity.
A woman and a minority opening a business in real estate back in the 80s was not the norm.
These days, Villarma said, there is a lot of talk about young people, especially young women, finding mentors in the business field. Nobody talked about that back in 1985.
Still, Villarma had one.
The late Len LeDoux, a real estate giant of his own, was there for Villarma.
“I felt very fortunate. There were not a lot of mentors available who would help you from the financial aspects of your business, to hiring, to real estate practices,” Villarma said.
“The art of doing the right thing in business. He was very about that.”
Today, Villarma is, as well. A key to success is finding value in doing the right thing at the right time.
Villarma never forgot that advice nor took it for granted that she had a mentor long before mentoring was a thing.
It is Villarma who is the mentor now.
“Real estate is my game. Being able to help women buy a building for their business or lease a building, or getting a small business loan,” she said. “It’s hard.”
Villarma wants to use any influence she has with her 35 years in business to help connect others to the right people. Women can get emotional support from their friends and colleagues, too, but Villarma is more about the business side of things.
“What women need is access to financing, access to connections to people,” she said. “It’s those kinds of things that I think mentors like myself can help provide.”
Women also need a reminder to help each other out, she said.
“Men have always had a networking kind of thing. It wasn’t inherent in women. We had to find our own place in the business networking scenario,” she said. “We forget the reason we got here is maybe somebody helped us.”
She understands that it is difficult sometimes to just pick up the phone. She is busy. Everyone is busy. But take the time to reach out to another woman in business and just ask how it is going.
“Let’s not forget that going forward as we are more successful,” Villarma said.
TMG and AMS headquarters are located at 7710 NE Vancouver Mall Drive in a facility Villarma had built in 1992. (The companies also have offices in Portland.)
“Back then, I think women had a more difficult time getting financing,” Villarma said.
“I had to work for that much more than I think maybe the challenges today,” she added. “It’s always difficult in the lending atmosphere. Back then it was even more so.”
Today, there are more than 160 employees at TMG. Of the nine-member executive leadership team, seven are women. Villarma estimates that 75 percent of her employees are women.
“With property management, our job is to help people where they live. We are involved with something near and dear to them, their homes,” Villarma said. “They rent from us or they own a condo and are in an association we manage.”
She said a benefit for women working in those positions is they are relatable, empathetic. They also are detail oriented. That is not to say men cannot do the job. TMG has men in those positions, too.
She said she hires the best people for the job.
And of those employees, the goal is to find their strengths.
“It’s hard to fix somebody’s weaknesses,” Villarma said. “We all have inherent weaknesses. So we try to say, ‘This is this person’s strengths. Let’s do everything we can to play to their strengths.’ Give them responsibilities that play to their strengths so they really are successful. We all have to manage the weakness part. That’s life. So if you can play to people’s strengths … just makes life easier. You get some good wins. It builds your confidence.”
Property management during a pandemic could have led to doubts. After all, some clients could not pay rent. And many of them had no idea there were other options.
TMG reached out to the organizations that were distributing assistance from the government, asking them about the process. TMG worked with those groups, then communicated with its tenants with flyers and emails, explaining all the details that were involved, making sure folks understood there was help available. As Villarma noted, there are thousands of tenants and homeowners who rely on TMG’s services.
“We set up a core group … kind of our essential worker group,” she said. “We had our command post here. We didn’t work from home. We did everything we could so people knew that we were here.”
If something went wrong at a property, TMG had someone there with a solution.
Coming up with that plan made things easier for her employees, as well, Villarma said.
“When people have a plan and a direction and they know somebody is at the helm working it, people can say … ‘take a breath and now I can do my job.’ I think that made the biggest difference ever,” Villarma said.
A plan. A direction. Carmen Villarma has led the way at TMG for 35 years now.