Kelly Peters has been with Alter Asset Management for more than 20 years. Although she began working as a receptionist, she has been recently promoted to senior vice president. In an interview with Illinois Real Estate Journal, Peters shared her journey from the bottom to the top of AAM, what she enjoys most about commercial property management, and how she beat Stage 1 Uterine Cancer with the love and support of her family and friends.
Illinois Real Estate Journal: You’ve been in the office industry for more than 20 years, what was the driving force that kept you in it all this time?
Kelly Peters: Commercial property management is different everyday – it’s never boring. I really enjoy working with all the different owners and tenants. Each group has different goals for owning or occupying the building so it can be a challenge to meet their goals and expectations. I love the variety.
IREJ: Please tell me, starting with your first position within company as a receptionist, how you worked your way to the new position of senior vice president.
Peters: I started with AAM when I was in college – I needed a part-time job that worked with my class schedule. I started as a part-time receptionist/file clerk and eventually did this on a full-time basis. This was back before there was no email and voice mail, so I heard about all the issues going on at the properties, and worked with a great group of property supervisors that would answer questions I had and shared their knowledge with me.
I was then promoted to assistant property supervisor working with Cheryl Voltz, one of the senior property supervisor’s, and then with our Vice-President Linda Felthouse. Linda has been a wonderful mentor to me. She helped me learn the industry and has always been a strong advocate for me. I was promoted to property supervisor in 1999 and then to regional property manager in 2009. Over the last decade I have worked with properties in suburban Chicago as well as Georgia, Florida, Texas and Minnesota.
IREJ: You started from the ground up at Alter Asset, and just received an amazing promotion! With that in mind, how would you describe your work ethic?
Peters: I believe that you need to work hard and be consistent in your work and attitude. For me I started as a receptionist which is a very important job. You are the first point of contact your clients have with your company and it needs to be positive. We have all called a company and the person answering the phone has been rude and unhelpful – that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I have always tried to keep my ears open and align myself with good people who are happy to answer my questions and share their knowledge. I try to do the same for other co-workers and peers also.
I also never turn down an opportunity or say “that’s not my job” – you need to build collaborations to be successful. Whenever faced with a problem or new situation that I needed a supervisor to help with/make a decision, I go into that meeting with what I think we should do. Throwing up your hands and saying I don’t know what to do will not help the situation and makes you indecisive. I tell my team that if you make a decision, I will always back you as long as you can explain to me concrete reasons why you made that decision. It may not have been the decision I would have made, but I will back you.
IREJ: What do you enjoy most about the industry?
Peters: How technology has helped to improve communication and energy efficiency in our buildings. Looking back at the last 20+ years in the industry, building systems have changed so much. Your building can email you now when there is a problem.
IREJ: What do you find most challenging?
Peters: Maintaining relationships with our tenants in this time of email and text communication. It is very easy to rely on emails to communicate information but it loses that personal connection that you get when actually talking to someone. It is very easy to misread the tone of an email so you need to pick up the phone and talk about the situation – I find that many times what the person meant and what the email said can be very different.
IREJ: Please share a bit about how you beat cancer. As well as sharing your family’s and job role during that time with you.
Peters: I was diagnosed with Stage 1 Uterine Cancer while undergoing fertility treatments. My oldest son was 18 months at the time and we really wanted him to have a brother or sister. After consulting with a number of doctors, my husband and I made the decision that I would have a hysterectomy, which was the recommended treatment option. A total of five weeks passed between my initial diagnosis and when my surgery was scheduled. The morning of my surgery the hospital had to run a pregnancy test before proceeding and surprise- I was pregnant! We had to make the decision to either proceed with my cancer treatment, which meant terminating the pregnancy or to try to have the baby and then treat my cancer after I gave birth, with the very really possibility that the cancer would spread while I was pregnant.
All the doctors agreed that the cancer would not pass through the placenta so the baby would be fine, but being pregnant while having Uterine Cancer was very risky, and the chance of miscarriage very high. After much soul searching and talks with my husband, we agreed to proceed with the pregnancy. Later that year I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy, had the recommended hysterectomy and today, almost 8 years later, I am cancer free. I could not have gotten through this without the support from my family and everyone at Alter Asset Management. The Alter family and Sam Gould, the president of AAM, were so supportive and worked with me to accommodate all my doctor and treatment appointments.
IREJ: Having beat cancer, do you now have a different outlook on life?
Peters: I certainly don’t stress about the little things in life as much anymore. No matter what the problem or difficulty that comes up, you can work through it and come out on the other side. I don’t make things more complicated than they need to be and try to surround myself with people who are positive and supportive. I don’t have time for people who play games or try to bring you down.
IREJ: What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Peters: I spend as much time with my kids as I can. We enjoy visiting nature centers around the area when not running between soccer or swim lessons. I am also involved with the PTA at their elementary school and I am starting my 4th year as Treasurer.
IREJ: What role has your family played in your career? Have they supported you, etc.?
Peters: I am very fortunate to have a very supportive husband. Most of the time he takes on the brunt of things at home while I am traveling or while I worked on my MBA with two small children at home. My mother and her husband are also a huge help with the kids. Without my family’s support I would not have been able to accomplish all the things I have.