CA Search Advisors’ Women in Real Estate interviews continue with July focusing on the move management aspect of the industry. This is the third profile in the five-part series that features amazing women in the commercial real estate field exploring each one’s professional journey, inspiration and advice to students and young professionals looking to build a career in the industry.
Kimberly McMahon, COO, WayForth, Inc., is the embodiment of energy, passion, commitment and purpose. She hopes that her story will inspire others and, as we talk, two core beliefs filter into all aspects of our conversation. Success is about good hard work, focus and determination and, if you are serving your client with good intentions, good things happen!
Kim has been in the move management industry since 2003 when she started Let’s Organize out of her home. Allison Pihl, her business partner, joined in 2005 when she established Let’s Move, a company that helped seniors clean out, pack up and stage their homes when moving into a retirement community. Let’s Move had Kim and Allison coordinating all aspects of moving for their clients, which included contracting with moving companies and auctioneers. By 2018, the company had expanded throughout Maryland and Delaware, as well as into Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia. Let’s Move was featured as move management experts in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washingtonian and The Baltimore Sun. WayForth’s founders, Craig Shealy and Pete Shrock, took notice.
In 2019, WayForth acquired Let’s Move. Kim and Allison loved their business and wanted to see it grow as well as maintain control but taking on investors did not allow them to do that. The WayForth acquisition of Let’s Move was a terrific fit because it facilitated the company’s expansion into a larger geographic area, gave their current team more opportunity for career growth as part of a larger organization, plus provided a more integrated service platform with auction services, a moving company and storage space. In addition, both women received equity in and leadership positions at WayForth; Kim remains as COO.
Started in 2016, WayForth is now the largest full-service provider of total home transition solutions. The company focuses on every aspect from clean out, staging and auction services to moving and storage. As Kim will tell you, “Moving is the third most stressful thing a person can go through after divorce and the death of a loved one.” In many cases, a home is a person’s largest asset. It is also the asset that comes with a great deal of emotional attachment. WayForth’s goal is to help take that stress away from people whether it is a family relocating due to a job, seniors moving into a retirement community, or family members dealing with the estate of a loved one.
Kim always had a passion for business. She graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in Business Administration. While a career in move management would be in her future, her immediate path was telecommunications. With fantastic mentors encouraging her along the way, Kim quickly rose through the ranks at AT&T and Lucent in strategic sales roles. She had a bright sales future ahead of her and was on the fast-track.
Kim also had a young family. She made the difficult decision to take a step back from her lucrative sales career to raise that family. She wanted to maintain a career but in a field that enabled her to help others. Let’s Organize was born out of Kim’s desire to balance raising her children with a business career doing meaningful work. Jump ahead 17 years and Kim is especially proud of the fact that WayForth continues to provide a safe, supportive and purposeful opportunity for women to re-enter the workforce.
Kim continues to learn, grow and challenge herself. When starting Let’s Move, she became an Accredited Staging Professional and a Certified Aging in Place Specialist as examples. This pursuit of continuous education and growth has been imbedded into WayForth, as one of Kim’s major goals is to help her employees be the best versions of themselves.
Through WayForth University, employees have a consistent platform that teaches best practices across the company. It also allows them to offer training programs created by other companies and associations, such as the National Association of Senior Move Managers, to employees. These best practices have covered everything from customer service to enhancing safety protocols due to COVID-19. “If we are not constantly getting better, we are no longer good,” says Kim.
Kim is incredibly pleased with how the company has handled COVID-19. The entire company has banded together to keep employees and clients safe. Many employees work in full PPE, which is not easy. Employees are subject to regular temperature checks and are constantly receiving updated education and information about safety. Kim and the team at WayForth know that with good safety protocols and diligence, their employees and clients will stay healthy. Many of these practices will remain in place going forward regardless of COVID-19’s status.
What makes Kim successful? In addition to her work ethic, passion for business and drive to do good, it is her appreciation for those who have helped her become successful. “It is the people around you that make you!” Kim will tell you that she is truly fortunate to have the support of some incredible people. “Exceptional people had faith in me,” from the mentors who coached and encouraged Kim to the employees who trust and follow her.
The conversation shifts to the most important concepts that should be impressed upon students seeking a career in business. Kim quickly provides some guiding principles:
- Good hard work conquers all!
- Work hard because people are always watching.
- A good work ethic and commitment are a must!
- Listen to your clients and work with them to solve their problems. Provide help.
Kim also believes schools should offer more education and place a greater emphasis on entrepreneurship. Kim’s advice for up-and-coming entrepreneurs, “Go for it! Again, with good hard work and good intentions, good things happen. Fear is what holds us back but face your fears; be uncomfortable. We learn from being uncomfortable. If you are not uncomfortable, you are not growing.”
Many people are feeling some fear about their businesses thanks to the rollercoaster year that is 2020. We asked Kim to provide her perspective on the important values for success in 2020 and beyond:
- A Positive Attitude.
- Exceeding Client Expectations.
- Commitment and Compassion.
- Thought Leadership – What more?
- Executional Excellence – Plan; you cannot just show up!
- Personal Accountability – Climb above, have a can-do attitude and do not blame others.
“Change is opportunity in disguise,” says Kim. “Stay calm. Stay positive. Stay strong.”
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