Kimberly Smith is CCHP and broker of AvenueWest Global Franchise LLC, launched in 2009. In 2006, she launched CorporateHousingbyOwner.com (CHBO), the first-of-its-kind online portal connecting furnished rentals and the traveling public. In 1999, Smith became the managing broker of AvenueWest Corporate Housing Inc., a company that provides real estate property management of furnished residential properties, offering corporate housing services to upscale executive travelers in need of a monthly lodging solution. Smith is an accomplished entrepreneur and published author.
AAPL asked Smith about making an impact in a male-dominated industry.
AAPL: Do you have daily practices that lend to your strengths?
Kimberly Smith: I have a mantra that I work with to mentally prepare for speaking or high-pressure meetings: grace, wisdom and humility. If I approach each situation with grace, I believe I can set the foundation for success. Wisdom reminds me that I have what I need to make a positive contribution to the situation. Humility reminds me to make sure success is not just for me but can be balanced for all involved.
AAPL: What characteristics are necessary for women to be in such a male dominated industry?
KS: “Authenticity,” I believe, is the key element for success. The tough part is first taking the time to establish and learn who you really are. This will give you the strength to be your true self and it is through this understand that you gain a voice and can be heard. When you walk into a room and say, “This is who I am, and this is what I can contribute to the success of everyone,” then you have the power to achieve more.
AAPL: What motivates you to get out of bed and face your industry on a daily basis?
KS: I could live to be 100 or I could die tomorrow; what I choose to do is live for today. I am passionate about the contributions that I can make and there is no need to waste a day. In 1961, a plane crashed and the entire senior US Figure Skating Team died. My father was the next junior skater left alive. He chose to continue to skate and went to Canada to train where he met my mother who was also a skater. Throughout my life, I have been confronted with “what if life ends tomorrow,” so it is easy for me to get out of bed each day.
AAPL: What do you think women, as a whole, bring to the finance industry?
KS: Women bring a much higher level of strategy to the finance industry. By instinct, I believe we are caregivers and work hard to balance both achievement as well as long term survival. When approaching a financial situation, I believe we offer a unique perspective that can strengthen not just financial success, but also a sustainable and residual success for the future.
AAPL: Now that you have been in the industry for a while, what would you tell your younger self about going into this sector of finance?
KS: Have fun and rock it. Consistently, the business communities I work with tell me I consistently add value to the project at hand. Learn how to add value and have fun doing it.
AAPL: What advice would you give other woman searching for their industry voice?
KS: I work a lot with entrepreneurs and I always recommend them building their recommendations on Linkedin. We will all have off days. The next time you do, remind yourself to read the recommendations and remind yourself that you are that person. To find a voice, take the time to understand the industry, find a way to add value and consistently work to add value to others. The key to having a voice is knowing that others are listening, and this is gained through respect that is earned.
AAPL: What characteristics are necessary for a woman to have to be a good leader?
KS: Practice and learning. Good to great leaders don’t happen by accident, and you don’t have to start from scratch. There are amazing resources out there. I would start with ‘The Charisma Myth’ by Olivia Fox Carbane.
AAPL: Do you define yourself as an industry disrupter? If so, how and why?
KS: Yes, you bet. Why: The industry needs to evolve, needs to improve. I believe if we don’t evolve we will go extinct – something like the taxi cab.
AAPL: Have you witnessed change in the gender gap since you started in the industry?
KS: Yes, there is slow steady change but nothing earth-shattering. We need to continue the discussion and make an effort to invite those to the table who are under-represented, not just on gender but those with different perspectives and ideas who come from different backgrounds.
AAPL: How can companies improve their own responsibility to their stakeholders and community?
KS: Small, consistent efforts develop into larger impacts. All journeys are started with one foot in front of the other. Start by reviewing pay gaps and understanding why they exist within your company. Next, don’t throw money at the problem; find out what motivates all your employees and develop a strategy that allows all genders to achieve more. This will also build employee loyalty which will develop customer satisfaction that will lead to residual and sustainable success.
AAPL: Do you see or think there is a difference between male and female views of corporate responsibility?
KS: Yes. Generally, women want to fix everything, and men want to put their names on something. From a philanthropy perspective, the more focused approach of males actually has proven to have a bigger impact on the need. I believe in sustainable philanthropy where companies can make an impact but also build the core of their own organization. This can be done only when the company knows why they are doing something, and not just giving money to look good.
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