When asked directly, Sousa demurs, claiming, “I don’t know how interesting I really am. I love being home with my family and cuddling with my kids. I’ve done some cool stuff before, but frankly I’m also doing some cool stuff now. Life is interesting, and I try to live it fully.”
Sousa does more than try—he succeeds. We at AppWork got to delve into his intriguing history to learn how others (including ourselves!) can emulate his success.
Learn Every Aspect of the Business
Sousa started as a leasing consultant for AvalonBay Communities for the same reason many started in multifamily: he wanted to save money on rent.
He quickly differentiated himself by saying “yes” to opportunities when others said “no.” His determination to learn everything about the business and his ambition propelled him from athlete and journalist to leasing consultant to broadcaster and actor to executive.
He claims, “I’m not quite sure how I arrived in this role.” But follows up by revealing the secret to his success: “All I know is that I love the work. I love people. I love our industry. I am now in a role where I can share that love on a larger platform—and for that, I am thankful.”
All I know is that I love the work. I love people. I love our industry. I am now in a role where I can share that love on a larger platform—and for that, I am thankful.
His genuine love for others, positive attitude, humility, and gratitude played a large part in his ascent to the executive level. He has enhanced his inborn charisma through hard work and constant learning.
When asked about his current role, he says, “In a nutshell, I am the company’s lead Brand Ambassador. I work on special projects internally, providing decades of know-how to my team. Also, I am a lightning rod of attention for my company, attracting the top clients and recruits from across the country.”
Treating Employees Like Residents
Want to succeed in property management? Sousa says, “It all starts with the resident experience. Providing the best experience for residents is the prime focus. Work backwards from there.”
It all starts with the resident experience. Providing the best experience for residents is the prime focus. Work backwards from there.
Part of this philosophy includes treating employees like you treat residents. That means listening to your employees, reassessing your leadership approach regularly, and pivoting if necessary. According to Sousa, an executive’s success depends on listening to and learning from the people around him.
He also underscores the importance of paying people competitive salaries. Many people in multifamily claim, “Our people are our greatest assets,” but then underpay them. Sousa understands that the multifamily industry operates within a box, and everyone is trying to figure out how to function within that box as best as possible.
However, he also believes that sometimes people should break out of the box. When asked about his role as an “agent of change” he notes, “The goal of a disruptor isn’t to cause chaos. It’s to encourage people to think.” He challenges the status quo, sparking conversations on overlooked topics, and pushes for dialogue about the all-too-human aspects of the profession.
The goal of a disruptor isn’t to cause chaos. It’s to encourage people to think.
Part of his disruption includes bringing his family into his social media writing for RPM Living. While conventional wisdom says to keep your personal life separate from your business life, he believes that having a family and caring about them drives people to succeed in their careers. He highlights this correlation by including his family and personal life in his LinkedIn posts.
The Role of Technology in Multifamily
Even when discussing technology in property management, Sousa takes a human-centric approach, saying, “Technology, when used appropriately, can enhance the human experience. If we embrace it strategically, we can improve the employee, resident, and prospect experience.”
He sees centralization, automation, and AI as game changers for the future of property management. As always for Sousa, everything comes back to helping people.
Technology, when used appropriately, can enhance the human experience. If we embrace it strategically, we can improve the employee, resident, and prospect experience.
Emerging trends like centralization and automation address the chronic talent shortage within the industry. PropTech provides the infrastructure to support these trends.
Sousa acknowledges that multifamily’s reluctance to embrace new technologies holds it back. In his vision of the world, technology itself will help overcome this resistance. Artificial intelligence, another emerging trend, can start handling the nitty-gritty details of daily tasks, reducing the learning curve by simplifying workflows.
Eat Feedback for Breakfast
People within the industry know Sousa’s dedication to improving perpetually himself and his team. He thrives on feedback and promotes self-awareness. The ability to take feedback (positive or negative) and learn from missed opportunities is essential to growing professionally.
He says, “Ask a lot of questions, first of yourself. Ask yourself the hardest questions. If you do that often and genuinely to self-improve, your team will be inspired and willing to let you challenge them. In doing this, you’ll cultivate a culture of continuous improvement amongst your team.”
Staying positive and people-centric doesn’t come easily to everyone. What advice does Sousa give for staying excited about work? He says, “Scroll LinkedIn daily to find thought leaders who inspire you. Follow them. Learn from them.”
One of those thought leaders is Sousa himself. He writes daily posts for LinkedIn to encourage others. This aspect of his job is when his training as a journalist comes in handy. He comments, "A writing background allows me to quickly, succinctly, and directly express my viewpoints to an internal or external audience."
His background as a speaker and in broadcasting also helps him connect with audiences and convey critical points in his presentation or message. He adds, "Never in a million years would I have thought my prior life as a journalist would intersect with my career in real estate. I’m learning new things daily."
His ability to connect and build relationships is the cornerstone of his brand-building. He comments, "Tell captivating stories. If you do that, people will follow and be interested. When they show interest in your stories, show interest in them. Don’t ever take engagement for granted."
Tell captivating stories. If you do that, people will follow and be interested. When they show interest in your stories, show interest in them. Don’t ever take engagement for granted.
Aim High and Then Aim Higher
When asked about his plans and projects for the next year, Sousa responds, “In 2024, we’re going to the moon.” It might sound impossible, but with his energy, positive outlook, self-awareness, hunger for knowledge, and ability to listen to others, Sousa makes the impossible feel within reach.