As president of Park Property Management, Gerd Wengler oversees one of the largest residential and industrial-property-management firms in Toronto. Since Wengler assumed leadership of the company in 2000, Park Property has expanded from its Scarborough, Ontario-based location to become a dominant force in downtown Toronto’s vibrant and highly competitive apartment marketplace.
Thanks to Wengler’s leadership, Park Property has acquired 1,500 units within 10 buildings and 1.5 million square feet of industrial space. Also, Wengler’s company constructed a new 100-unit apartment building last year, and a second one of 212 units is set to open in 2014. Advantage caught up with Wengler to talk about Park Property’s ongoing prospects and his own thoughts about success.
Advantage: How did your career lead you to Park Property Management?
Gerd Wengler: I’m originally from Germany, where I was a mining engineer. I came to Canada 25 years ago and eventually concentrated on business and property acquisitions in the mining and cement industry. This experience proved to be ideal when I came to Park Property Management in 2000.
How would you define your leadership style?
I prefer to lead through consensus. Our management team consists of two vice presidents, one of which is the CFO. We frequently confer together on major decisions. I believe in an open-door policy—that is, both staff and management are encouraged to make suggestions or voice their opinions regarding policies and operations.
In a nutshell, why has Park Property realized such impressive growth during your tenure?
It comes down to this simple premise: we are committed to providing quality accommodations for our residents within a safe and comfortable environment. Everything is directed toward this goal.
What is it about Park Property that sets it apart from your competition?
Our customer-service focus enables us to remain very competitive in the Toronto market and beyond. We make sure that when a service call comes in from a resident, it is attended to as soon as possible—usually within 24 hours. This includes everything from replacing lightbulbs to fixing heating systems or windows that don’t close properly.
At the same time, because most of our apartments were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s, they feature quality construction … and are more spacious than more recent apartment offerings. Everything, from the carpeting to lighting and window treatments, reflects a higher standard for our apartments. Furthermore, we maintain this quality through a preventive maintenance program, which ensures that systems such as plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning continue to operate effectively, thereby avoiding unexpected breakdowns as much as possible.
How do you maintain Park Property Management’s commitment to customer service?
We foster a corporate culture where everyone—from superintendents to cleaning staff—is dedicated to customer satisfaction. For instance, we are one of the few management companies in Toronto that has a “Super School,” where maintenance staff members are taught skills for their job while also learning how to respond to customer needs.
This means that, in addition to learning how to do everything from plumbing to home repairs, our superintendent staff can effectively interact with tenants. In essence, these professionals are our frontline company representatives, and, as such, they need to have positive working relationships with our tenants. We currently employ more than 300 people, and each and every one demonstrates this same dedication to customer satisfaction. The result is a very low apartment vacancy rate—it is under two percent for us—as tenants stay longer because they are pleased with their living situations.
What are your interests outside of the office?
I’m a private pilot, and a few years ago my wife and I became involved with Hope Air. Volunteer pilots serving this charity fly sick individuals living in remote regions of Canada, many of them children, to hospitals in major urban centres like Toronto for medical treatment. I’m very proud to be part of this effort, which offers a very important, meaningful service. If not for Hope Air, there would be many Canadians who would not get the healthcare they need.
What is next for Park Property Management?
The current recession means that more individuals and families are interested in renting, rather than owning a home. Consequently, we need to acquire more properties to accommodate the high demand for our apartments. At the same time, we are always seeking new ways to maintain our high level of customer service and continue providing secure and welcome apartment homes for our tenants.