An interview with Kris Boyce, Greenwin

Greenwin CEO Kris Boyce proves a little caring goes a long way
Monday, January 4, 2016
By Erin Ruddy

Kris Boyce is known for many things, among them is her ability to put together a competent and hard-working team. Perhaps it’s her eye for talent. Or, maybe it’s the way she takes promising young individuals under her wing, fostering their growth and exposing them to all facets of this evolving, competitive industry. Perhaps it’s that she truly cares.

As the CEO of Greenwin since 2012, Boyce oversees a combined staff of 500-plus employees. The head office is a bright, newly refurbished warehouse space located in Toronto’s north end. “These are the real people that make it happen,” she says, pointing out the accountants and marketing coordinators, the leasing agents and the IT staff that fulfill the daily duties of one of Canada’s largest property management firms. “They run the place, not me.”

After graduating high school in the 1980s, Boyce attended Seneca College’s law enforcement program with her sights set on becoming a police officer. “I wasn’t accepted,” she says, frankly. “So like most young, unemployed people I took an entry level job. As luck would have it, the position was with a property management firm in downtown Toronto. That’s where I was taught the street smarts required to be on the front lines of the real estate industry.  The rest is history. Today I have the honour of the being the CEO for one of the largest privately owned third party management companies in the country.”

An honour indeed, but it’s certainly not a role made for just anyone. The roots of Greenwin stretch back to 1944 when Greenwin Construction Company was first founded by Lipa Green and Arthur Weinstock. Back then the company focused on single-family dwellings, but by the mid-50s had expanded into the multi-residential arena, constructing everything from condominiums and apartments to those much-needed affordable housing units. Today, with its Hospital Consulting Division, its development arm Verdiroc, and the 20,000-plus residential units it owns and manages throughout central Canada, Greewin is a force of change in the urban development sector.

“One of the things I admire so much about this company is its adaptability,” Boyce says. “Our employees are educated and motivated to remain current. We understand that we must keep up with new technology so that we’re not left behind. We are collaborative and open to thinking outside of the box when it comes to marketing, leasing, IT, rental payments, maintenance request tracking, and community connectors.  I believe just managing the bricks and mortar is not enough anymore. Every landlord must build communities.”

Of course, with communities comes a need for effective communication—a practice Boyce says her team excels at. “We are a high dialogue group. Our social media platforms enable our employees, clients and residents to seek the answers they are looking for.  We have that family feeling with our residents and employees that starts with our ownership group.”

What’s old is new

Greenwin’s apartment portfolio is one of Canada’s largest (currently it owns/manages 20,000 units throughout central Canada), but like so many rental buildings today, the vast majority of them are now aging, resulting in the need for costly renovations and retrofits. And, it’s more than just those 1960s and 70s aesthetics that need updating—with “green” and sustainability being top of mind with both investors and consumers, energy-efficiency is a driving force of change.

“We are rolling out many new sub metering programs and lighting retrofits this year, which shows our commitment to the earth,” Boyce says. “As building owners, each and every day we can make a difference by reducing our impact on the environment.  I encourage each owner to complete their lighting retrofits, their toilet retrofits, window replacements, and sub metering. Pace yourself but make it happen for your investments…and for your grandchildren.”

Great curb appeal is something Boyce and her team know a thing or two about, as well, having just won the FRPO MAC award for that category. A joint win with Greenwin’s property management client Hanard Investments Limited, the award-winning 15 and 25 Canyon Avenue tower renewal project was designed by David Binder Architect and is a true testament to the positive results of a creative client-manager collaboration.

“Achieving great curb appeal is just like dating,” quips Boyce. “It is your first impression of how the rest of the date is going to go. For all of those mystery shoppers in our real estate markets, the journey begins with…can I find you? Can I find you on the internet? Are the directions clear? Do you answer the phone or online request? Does your asset have a welcome home feeling? Can I find a spot to park when I arrive at your property? Is anyone around to greet me? How did I find the path to and from the start of the tour? I could go on and on, so to answer your question, yes…curb appeal is very important.”

Making positive change

Winning the MAC award in December was a great way to end off 2015—but another great honour awarded to Kris Boyce herself was one she’ll undoubtedly savour forever. On November 26th, the National Post announced the WXN Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award winners in which Boyce had been selected under the Scotiabank Corporate Executives category.

“To me, it is an honour and a privilege to stand shoulder to shoulder with Canada’s most remarkable, visionary female role models,” she said at the time. “I am proud to join this network of women who are shattering ceilings in every corner of our great country.”

Peer recognition and support

WXN is an organization dedicated to the advancement and recognition of women in management, executive and board roles—something Boyce advocates and has shown a commitment to since becoming CEO at Greenwin. In the last few years under her leadership, the number of women in Greenwin’s executive ranks has increased by 50 per cent. Boyce has also been instrumental in establishing the company’s work culture, fostering an environment in which professionalism and respect are paramount to the dynamic, regardless of gender or ethnicity. She has been a driving force behind the company’s strategic direction and growth platforms, always staying true to her values and leadership prowess while helping position Greenwin as an industry “Employer of Choice.”

But now with 2015 and all its highs (and a few lows) behind it, where does Boyce see the opportunities for Greenwin as we head into 2016?

“To steal a phrase from information technology lingo, we are going to “disrupt” Greenwin and revisit our best practises…and innovate,” she says. “Being trailblazers since 1944, challenges are just opportunities to our group. The tough part is being everywhere and in-the-know. But the greatest gift to give yourself in an executive role is to surround yourself with smart people and let them do their jobs.  They will always make you and your company look good.”

Reflecting on the job itself, on the aspects of her work that fulfill her and matter most, Boyce says, “Seeing changes in the communities we manage, building teams of Greenwin Ambassadors who truly care about the health and well-being of the residents. You just can’t top that.”

Erin Ruddy is the editor of Canadian Apartment Magazine.

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