CoreNet Young Leaders Lunch With A Leader: Louise Matthews
Designed to connect the CoreNet NYC Young Leader Community with real estate professionals at the top of their game, the most recent installment of CoreNet NYC’s Lunch with a Leader series connected members with Louise Matthews, the Global Vice President of Real Estate at Bacardi Martini Inc. to discuss the importance of networking and how a simple connection can help steer an entire career down a successful path.
After obtaining her Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering at Bucknell University and continuing her education at New York University’s Real Estate Institute, Louise began her real estate career in the consulting division of Edward S. Gordon Company (now CBRE). She moved from CBRE to become a Principal of the Praedium Group (real estate advisory) and then transitioned to corporate real estate at Colgate, where she became Director of Global Real Estate. Her role at Colgate included the asset management of their global portfolio, including the disposition of six million square feet of development rights in Jersey City.
She later became the Vice President of Global Real Estate and Facilities for Avon Products, Inc. where she made it her goal to lead the company’s sustainability efforts and strive for LEED certification (or its international equivalent) on all of Avon’s properties, When she entered this position in 2004, only 35 spaces in all of Manhattan were LEED certified and sustainability certification in emerging markets was a new concept.
While LEED certification for offices was relatively straightforward, there were many challenges incorporating the LEED standards into the design and construction of the company’s manufacturing and distribution facilities, especially since many contractors, during this time, had never built to these standards before. Her persistence paid off and sustainability became a hallmark of the company. Avon at the time was growing by double-digits in the emerging markets, and new facilities were being constructed in Brazil, Colombia, Romania, Latvia and Lithuania to name a few.
Throughout her career, Louise has always stressed the importance of networking. “Network, network, network,” she said to the Young Leader community. “Always pick up the phone. Always have that conversation. Even if it is not what you think you want, give everyone the opportunity and hear them out. If nothing else, you will become more educated about various positions, the culture of other companies, pay scales, and corporate org. structures, for example. Go to seminars (now Zoom calls), conferences, make connections.”
In 2014, Louise started at Bacardi as the Vice President of Global Real Estate, largely as the result of networking. Drawn in by their unique real estate portfolio, including brand homes, and buildings designed by world famous architects such Mies van der Rohe, iconic brands and company culture, Louise has spent the last six years focusing on creating unique office spaces -locations that reflect the global brands but also embody the local art and culture. There are large communal spaces in each office that typically include a bar for training and education, but these also function as spaces for employees to interact and collaborate. She also continues to focus of sustainability and wellness (many of the new locations are WELL certified), which has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Louise reminded the Young Leaders community that with every role, there will be aspects you will love, but there will also be aspects you will find difficult and challenging. While one of Louise’s favorite aspects of her job is being able to travel across the globe, learn new cultures and help create inspiring office spaces, it can be tricky balancing cost, flexibility, and the changing brand images with the goal of developing a timeless design. You need to work with your internal and external partners as a team, whether it’s finding the right location, the right space or the right image for a conference room wall. Louise stresses that at times it can be hard to find solutions but you need to be persistent to be successful. “If you don’t have the answer, use your network to find someone who does”.
She also noted that it’s important to work with a company that has similar values to your own. Believing in the product and believing in the company mission can truly make all the difference when it comes to creating an effective and rewarding work environment--and it helps you stay motivated in the face of challenges.
Louise reminded the Young Leader community that while knowing what is important to oneself is crucial when moving forward in your career, it is also important to remember what is important to the company you are working for and the team you are working with. These key principles and knowledge will not only help with the planning and execution of daily tasks in the most effective manner, but it will also help create a strong foundation that can be relied upon networking and working to gain new business and connections.
Closing out her discussion with the Young Leader community, Louise Matthews advised those looking to continue their career in the real estate industry to continue to network and build connections, because as the industry becomes more technology- and data-driven, it is still built on relationships, and devoting time to building these connections is an investment in your career and in making change happen. You never know what opportunities are out there.