Debbie Willis shares insight into career success By Nicole Hehl
accounts payable position at P.B. Bell, where she has been since. For someone inclined to boredom, the variety of the multifamily housing industry continues to intrigue Willis Debbie Willis, CPM, is the president and designated more than three and a half broker of property service of decades later. P.B. Bell. (Photo courtesy P.B. Bell) “Our business is so interesting,” Willis says. “I think it’s s a child, Debbie Willis had what really got my attention a clear, practical career goal and was a big catalyst in keeping me here to work in an executive level in this industry and in this company.” position. According to Willis, every day is differ“I liked details. I liked ent. With the company growing, the real solving problems. I liked the written word estate market changing, and the diverse and communication," Willis recalls. “So products and clients, she never gets stuck back then it was like, ‘I’m going to be an in a rut. executive secretary.’” Willis also is excited for those just startShe pursued that ambition well beyond ing a career to discover the possibilities of her childhood goal to her role as president the multifamily housing industry, includand designated broker of property services ing property management, accounting, at Scottsdale’s P.B. Bell, whose mission is to finance, human resources, maintenance, make lives and places better by developing, marketing and legal. improving and managing multifamily “I just think it’s a real great industry housing communities. for young people starting off to kind of Willis transplanted to Arizona in the see what aspect they’d like to get involved early 1980s looking for career opportuni- in,” she says. “You’re dealing with clients, ties, which were limited in her hometown employees, and customers. You’re managof Rapid City, South Dakota. When secre- ing multi-million-dollar assets. You can go tarial work didn’t challenge her, she used off in so many different directions and find a placement agency to land a temporary your niche.”
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To find the career success that Willis has achieved, she advises to be flexible and patient. “You’re going to have positions that may not be exactly what you wanted but may be part of the growth,” she explains. “Have patience and really be passionate about what you’re doing. If you put in that effort, it’s going to turn into something bigger and better.” For Willis, that patience and flexibility was born during her three years in accounts payable. The laborious process of typing and manually entering 2,000 checks per month pushed her to make herself accessible to other areas of the business. “I get bored easily,” she admits. “I’d get done with what I had to do and search out other things to occupy my time. I kept learning more and more about the business and other people’s positions.” Her flexibility to take on more and the drive to learn got her noticed, and she was promoted to property supervisor over a portfolio of communities. As the company grew, she continued taking on responsibilities and was promoted to vice president, senior vice president and finally president of its property services department. “I’ve been fortunate that my tenacity, hard work, attention to detail, passions— all of those buzz words—worked for me,” she says of her climb up the ladder.