FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Noreen Music
December 1, 2020
When I returned to Calgary in 1999, one of the first ‘get involved’ in the community was joining BOMA, which led to being part of the Building of the Year Awards program on the judging panel I had the pleasure of leading for nine years. One of the positions on that panel I simply called ‘the twins,’ Noreen Music and Laura Newcombe – because I had trouble telling them apart. Long a part of the Calgary commercial real estate community, they’ve been delightful colleagues and a lot of fun to know. But how do you interview just one of them? This week, the first of two, Noreen Music.
Noreen Music, the former Noreen Spier, was born and raised in SW Calgary. Dad, a structural engineer, Mom, a nurse, three older sisters, and an identical twin. The family was close, school and church focused – fairly typical suburban life, graduated from Central Memorial without being a standout; average academically “I got by,” head cheerleader “I was a party person.” Clearly, the bubbly person I’ve come to know started out that way. Post-secondary took Noreen to the Wildrose College of Natural Healing – and then her first job brought her into the commercial real estate industry – an administrative assistant position at SMI in 1990 where her “figure it out” approach set the foundation for her future path. Assistant Property Manager at Pioneer Property Management, Olympia & York [the job sharing with twin Laura began there], then to Brookfield when they acquired O&Y, then Sr. Property Mgr. at Gulf Canada Square – and then over to GWL Realty Advisors. When it was time to ‘both return to full-time work,’ Noreen moved over to a Sr. Property Management role at Oxford, and Laura stayed on with GWL.
Along that path, Noreen married Mark Music, had two children, two maternity leaves, and was faced with the classic juggle of life, work, parenting, daycare, and the challenge of having children spending their days with strangers. Laura was lamenting the same situation ~ and the job-sharing idea was hatched; the plan was to job share 50/50 and look after each other’s children. When she pitched the idea to her then boss Margaret Dreher at O&Y, the well-researched and enthusiastically presented plan did not get traction. When it was clear the twins were determined to job share and pitching to other employers was imminent, Margaret relented, with a comment, “only because it’s you – I trained you,” and that trust would appear to have been well placed. The industry, and BOMA, and those of us who worked with them frequently reached out for help, advice, and collaboration, as I did by saying, “call the twins.” I often got confused but was never disappointed.
All went well at Oxford from 2010-2018, until “I was asked to leave.” Reluctant to get into the details of that re-organization, Noreen describes what followed as “though the dark” and “transformation.”
“I needed time away and took a six-month break. I loved what I had been doing, and I was extremely good at it my job. I needed to review what I was good at, how I imagined my life – work, home, family – missing the work and the industry. It was more like 18 months, during which time I established Organize My Space and regained my equilibrium.”
“So far this pandemic has been a blur … lots of time for writing, helping our growing client base with decluttering and reorganizing at a time where we all have cause to pause – setting up how we organize our lives, our homes, and our business for success.”
Any chance you are coming back into the property management or asset management field is a question she deflects. She is focused on building Organize My Space into a thriving, sustainable enterprise – but she also admits proudly that she has retained/parked her real estate license (residential, commercial, and property management) for reactivation when a compelling opportunity takes her in new directions. Meanwhile, she’s working and blogging.
Why are you successful? “Grit, determination. Working harder than anyone else in the room. I’ve always felt – and been rewarded by, the notion that if you are willing to put in the work, you get there.”
What has held you back? “Self-doubt. Fear comes up sometimes – but not often.”
How do you see your business – organizing / remodelling – going forward over the next quarter?
… things have been trending up, notwithstanding COVID. The trend of organizing is more than a Marie Kondo phenomenon. It’s a movement toward a simplified life and the freedom that provides – particularly for anyone who is stressed and overwhelmed: these days, that could include anyone and everyone.
And over the next five years?
… flourishing, I expect! Being better organized is not just for young professionals – it’s for the older generation too – as people appreciate that the right tools and an organizer are an essential partner in their lifestyle.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators, and suppliers?
… for me, the top priority is quality, good service, and outcomes. I don’t want to pay too much or to pay too little. I like to watch how they treat people, how they approach and value quality, costs, and relationships.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Noreen Music, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you over your competitors?
… my expertise, knowledge, integrity, trust – my personality. I’ve learned there is a reason people enjoy being around me – and I’m a role model. You get back what you send out. I’m solid.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… I would say I’m very communicative – I care about people and, when I’ve led a team, I found the more you do, and the more you rise in an organization, the more you need to be a servant of those who supports you, as much if not more than being a servant of those above you. I believe the best way to lead a team is through a strategic planning process in which they are engaged in …
… I absolutely have it – now more than ever!
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… my children – doesn’t everyone? I’m concerned about the social media noise – so much that is good gets mingled with and drowned out by ‘not so good’ social media …
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… getting that first job at SMI got me on this path. I answered an ad in the newspaper – who knew? About 12 years ago, I took a Personal Best course – and I came away with a clearer sense of myself that was key to my success in the industry. Together with some women from my church (and Oxford supported/sponsored) a four-year-long project; we raised money for and established an orphanage in Guatemala. That was huge. My family, my extended family, have been an enormous support for me and this COVID time – and writing one of my blog posts, My Year In The Valley, was transformative for me personally and professionally.
… golf, golf with my husband, working with my daughter, spending time at our place at Rosewood Resort near Sundre, and doing a breakfast interview at Red’s in Inglewood with Mark Kolke
What do you read?
… books AND devices; business articles, mindset stuff, Podcasts
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