CA Search Advisors is excited to launch a five-part profile series highlighting women in real estate. Each month through September, we will feature an amazing woman in the commercial real estate field exploring her professional journey, inspiration, and advice to students and young professionals looking to build a career in the industry.
We are thrilled to highlight Ann Atkinson, Founder and CEO, Care Property Investors, LLC; as our first profile. Based in Phoenix, Arizona, Ann started the firm in December 2018. The privately held company acquires, owns, and operates mission-critical healthcare real estate in primary and secondary growth markets throughout the United States. The investment strategy focuses on income producing medical office buildings aligned with top health systems, hospitals, academic medical centers, and physician groups.
Ann has been in commercial real estate for 16 years. Along with her respective teams, Ann has closed an impressive 179 separately negotiated transactions totaling $5.9 billion in gross proceeds. Most recently, Ann was Senior Vice President – Acquisitions at Healthcare Trust of America, Inc (NYSE: HTA), where she led acquisitions and dispositions on behalf of the publicly-traded REIT. Prior to joining HTA, Ann spent two years as the Real Estate Investment Specialist for JDM Partners, LLC where her concentration included: real estate investment acquisitions, dispositions, asset management, leasing, and development.
If you have had the opportunity to meet Ann, then you know she has a fantastic presence and welcoming smile. She is smart, thoughtful, well-spoken, positive and one gets the sense that she is a thorough analyst and tough negotiator. While we concluded the interview using Care Property Investors’ company values statement as sound advice for students that want to pursue a career in real estate, these five values frame the entire interview and truly reflect the principles that have guided Ann’s career. They are:
- Treasure Relationships Over Transactions
- Cultivate Grit
- Catalyze Joy and Passion
- Embody the Golden Rule
- Focus on Our Strengths
Perseverance, hard work, discipline, as well as building and nurturing trusted relationships are key to accomplishing your goals. Ann definitely embodies finding your passion and pursuing it with determination.
Ann graduated from the Barrett Honors College and the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University with a degree in Finance. Initially, she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and become an investment advisor. After a summer internship with Grubb & Ellis, Ann was “all in” on commercial real estate as she puts it, more specifically healthcare real estate. Her brokerage team at Grubb & Ellis forayed into healthcare real estate almost 15 years ago after recognizing an opportunity due to a lack of investment brokers dedicated to the sector at that time.
That internship at Grubb & Ellis also reveals Ann’s exceptional self-discipline, which she channeled in order to make incredibly boring all-day data entry interesting. Ann turned data entry into a competition. How many records could she update in an hour or a week? Ann pushed herself to get faster while remaining accurate. She stresses the importance of “optimizing your mental state,” whether you are completing a simple task, like data entry, or in the middle of closing a complex real estate deal.
Upon graduation, Ann returned to Grubb & Ellis BRE Commercial, working with her team to close approximately 4 million square feet of office and medical investment property sales. She was the top-producing Associate Broker in the Phoenix office’s history and was named Rookie of the Year.
Ann’s self-discipline, competitive spirit, and ability to optimize her state of mind are obviously what fuels her ability to compete in triathlons. She has done a few in Arizona and she signed up to compete in the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon. The event starts with a 1.5-mile swim from Alcatraz Island where swimmers face 55-degree water and strong currents, is followed by an 18-mile bike ride, then an 8-mile run through the hills of the San Francisco Peninsula. As an added motivation to participate in this challenging triathlon, Ann is raising money for autism research. At the time of our interview, the race was scheduled for June 2020; however, it has since been postponed due to Coronavirus concerns. Ann has stuck with her training and plans to race the distance by herself in Phoenix on race day. She will complete the Escape from Alcatraz race in San Francisco when it is rescheduled.
In addition to raising money for great causes, when Ann was asked about her inspiration, she noted many sources, but emphasized the importance of people. Her husband, Andrew, and their 2-year-old daughter, Adalyn are at the top of her list. Ann has had the opportunity to be part of some exceptional teams and values her relationships with the people she has worked with over the years. She has been fortunate to learn from the successes and failures of many incredible professionals along the way.
This discussion about the importance of relationships prompted Ann to reflect fondly on her six years with HTA. Ann is immensely proud of what she and the team accomplished during that time. Her favorite real estate deal was the REIT’s 2017 acquisition of the Duke Realty medical office building portfolio for approximately $2.3 billion total consideration – arguably the highest quality large medical office building portfolio to trade in history. Initial tranches closed inside of 30 days and the majority of portfolio closed in less than 60 days. Closing the landmark acquisition in such a tight timeframe required “a village.” Ann complimented HTA’s decisive leadership and recalled how the entire company worked together to ensure the acquisition and subsequent integration over to HTA’s platform was a success. She describes the transaction as, “the thrill of a career.”
The 2018 photo of Ann and HTA’s executive team ringing the closing bell for the New York Stock Exchange sits proudly on the office shelf behind her during this interview. It symbolizes the importance of team, the value of relationships, and what people can accomplish together.
The conversation shifts to talent and the most important skill to be cultivated in students seeking a career in commercial real estate. Ann quickly responds, “Critical thinking!” There are no cookie-cutter deals or economies. A successful real estate professional must be able to map out what needs to be done to get from origination to a successful closing, as well as problem solve when issues arise in the process. Students should take advantage of internships that offer hands-on learning and they need to feel comfortable asking questions. Ann’s internship at Grubb & Ellis is a great example of how an internship experience can influence the direction of your career.
Other advice to students or anyone in the early stages of a career in commercial real estate? Voraciously consume information about the whole industry and key drivers impacting performance. And of course, if you want to understand healthcare real estate, then you better understand healthcare. We live in a time where there is an unlimited variety of information. Find trusted sources and dive in. For young professionals interested in healthcare real estate, consider starting with Modern Healthcare Magazine, Becker’s Healthcare, or Senator Bill Frist’s podcast titled A Second Opinion.
As the Coronavirus pandemic continued to unfold after our initial interview, we followed up with Ann to get her perspective on how real estate professionals survive and thrive through abrupt changes in the market. Having recently read Bob Iger’s The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Ann referred to six of the key principles he identified as necessary for true leadership: optimism, courage, focus, decisiveness, curiosity, and fairness. It is no surprise that Iger was recently named as a member of California’s task force on job recovery.
Optimism and courage are especially vital as we face an uncertain post-Covid-19 future. Yet, challenges often drive creativity, opportunity, and growth if you have the grit and self-discipline to stay focused and keep moving forward. Ann summarized it perfectly with an inspiring and incredibly relevant quote from her friend and mentor, Mark Buckley: “Life is too short to shrink back in fear. I hope you will face your challenges with faith and courage!”
CA Search Advisors, LLC is a national executive search firm, focused on the real estate industry. Our managing principals, Katie Becker and Amy Bauer, have a deep inside knowledge and extensive long-standing relationships as a result of working directly in the industries they serve. You can rest assured that you are in good care and in the hands of a firm you can trust. Let us bring the best talent to you!