President's Pen, Spring 2024

Posted By: Berry Craven the ApartMentor,

Opportunity is the word that first comes to mind when I think of The Triangle Apartment Association. As a young 20-year-old man I was looking for an opportunity to afford my next meal. I had no idea about the true possibilities that would be in my future just by entering this industry. At that time, I did not know there was an “Apartment Industry”.

I recall the day I walked onsite to inquire about a job like it was yesterday. It was early fall in Carrboro NC and like most other places in NC that time of year, the leaves were falling like crazy. I strolled in through the office doors of The Villages of Chapel Hill at 1000 Smith Level Rd and it being a huge office, I did not see anyone immediately. I heard coming from my left “May I help you?”  I looked left and saw Cody, the assistant manager, in a smaller recessed office space.  I answered Cody by asking if he had any open maintenance positions. Immediately from even deeper in the same office Cody was working from I heard a confident, loud and almost mocking voice say, “Heck yes sign his butt up” (I softened two of those words from the way they were exactly phrased). I realized instantly this was somewhere I could fit right in.

As I was called back into the manager's office where the voice had come from, I see a woman Ms. Cindy Boone, who is happy about what she is doing but also covered up to her arm pits in paperwork. Through our conversation, I learned she was having what was then called a MCE or monthly community evaluation the next day and was a bit overwhelmed at all she was trying to accomplish. One of the items she mentioned was all the leaves in her swimming pool and her maintenance guys having way too much to do to get to that item. I told her I had never worked on a pool but felt I could clean the leaves out and if someone wanted to show me what was needed, I would do my best. This was a few years before HR approval was a thing and Cindy was incredibly happy to immediately put me to work. I spent about two hours cleaning that pool and as they say “The rest is history” as I was on the payroll two weeks later. And the only thing I earned from those two hours of skimming leaves was 23 years of opportunity. It was the best free labor I have ever given in terms of what I received in return!

As many of you know, I am a very loyal person. I am loyal to my company as I have been with Ginkgo (even though there have been a couple name changes) for my entire 23 plus year career. I am loyal to my industry as once I entered, you could never get rid of me. I am loyal to my association and believe my current position as TAA President speaks that better than the words I type.   With all of that said my loyalties are directly related to the opportunities that have been afforded to me throughout my career. If my company had not recognized my hard work and promoted me for it and given me the raises I felt I had earned, I may have found loyalty with another company. If I had not seen the possibilities this industry was offering me, I might have gone back into building houses. If I had not seen value in the time I spent at TAA I would have found somewhere else to spend my time.


I am proud of the fact that those opportunities were earned through my hard work. I have always felt the success of my teams and my employees gave me the most pride in what I do and were a sign of my hard work. Becoming President has harnessed a level of pride for myself, my company, and my association that I didn’t realize was achievable! This is where hard work and opportunity meet. I have always been a hard worker and not afraid to do whatever it takes to get the job done. At the same time, I have seen many people in this industry, and other industries, work extremely hard but do not seem to earn or be afforded the same opportunities. And that is where I feel it is my responsibility to help others learn how to access the unlimited opportunities that can be earned through getting and staying involved in TAA.


The first step for me was getting active. I attended some classes and started to see how educational opportunities could help me grow. Julie Chu Zhang was my manager and is a past president of TAA and was the person who first encouraged me to get involved. Through just being in the building, I learned about opportunities I had no idea existed. I found out there was a certification for maintenance folks called the CAMT – Certified Apartment Maintenance Technician. Julie suggested I apply for a scholarship for this course.  I did just that and earned the scholarship through TAA’s Education Foundation (now Copper Circle Education Foundation).

I had been in the industry for 13 years at this point and felt I would not gain much from this course. I still laugh when I think back about how wrong I was!  The CAMT helped me see things from a much larger viewpoint. What owners and investors are looking for. How to train your employees and employers at the same time. How to diagnose parts as opposed to just changing the part and seeing if it repaired the problem. It was one of the best courses I have ever attended, and I still share things I learned in CAMT with my employees today. My next course was the Leadership of Excellence course (now the Leadership Lyceum), and this really took my career to the next level. This course gets you outside of your comfort zone and helped me understand, as good as I thought I was at speaking in front of others, I had a long way to go to be the person and speaker I am today! And today I still know I have a LONG way still to go.

During this journey I realized I wanted to get more involved but was not sure how. Julie said to attend some different committee meetings and see if one of them interested me. I always enjoyed meeting new people and helping others feel comfortable in new environments, so I thought the Membership Committee might be for me. I was right and really enjoyed the people with whom I was interacting. During my time on Membership one of the Co-Chairs moved out of the area and now that seat was void. I watched the remaining chair doing the best she could but knew she needed help. A call to action went out for anyone willing to step up and be Co-chair. I had no clue what that meant but I was happy to answer that call.

During my early years in this industry, I stayed with people from my company when I attended association events like Tradeshow. Getting involved and becoming Co-chair of Membership allowed me a different view. I was now seeing all the diverse types of trades and people that support this industry besides just us onsite folks. I was listening to discussions that showed me how passionate people are at supporting and furthering our industry. I was learning how our interests aligned and that we had a voice with our local, state, and national government through our association. I was hooked and wanted to do more. TAA gave me the opportunity.


I next attended an AANC Lobby days, at Julie’s request, and once again had low expectations. Politics has never been something that interested me. When I realized the politicians on the other side of our vote are just like you and me it changed my perspective. To know the people that decide our fate have only the information they learned or have been told by others to make the decisions they make, quite frankly scared me. The truth is if you are not having your voice heard by our government officials, somebody else's voice is being heard. TAA allowed me the opportunity to have my voice heard.

I then got involved through NAA and joined their CAMT oversight committee (Now CAMT advisory group). This was my first step into truly giving back to the service side of our industry where my true passions lie. Through this committee I work to ensure the CAMT stays current and fair across all platforms and performs to design by increasing the quality of service technicians in our industry. TAA allowed me the opportunity to help improve our industry.

Opportunity is a two-way street. There are many people that walk past opportunities all day long. Some people do this because they are unsure or scared of the change an opportunity may bring. Others walk past them because they are blind to seeing them even though they are right in front of their eyes. On the other hand, there are some people who seem to earn all the opportunities. The latter are people more like me. I am more afraid of missing an opportunity than I am of the change it may create. I am terrified of staying in my comfort zone because I want it to continue to grow. I know there are opportunities for everyone out there because I see some people earning them. If it exists, I want to find the opportunity. I do not wait for opportunities I look for them. If I cannot find them, I keep looking and create opportunities along the way.

Many of you reading this have friends, co-workers, relatives, neighbors who are already in this industry. How many of them are active in their association? Do they need help finding the building? How many of you are active in your association? Do you need help figuring out how to best engage or re-engage?

How many of us will keep walking past these opportunities?

Through my 45 years in life and 23 years in this industry I have not found any one place that is the epicenter of opportunity like TAA. I may have needed help to finding the building, but once I was there, I was always treated like family. The simple equation to success is getting active and staying involved with TAA and success will follow.

TAA equals opportunity and we are here to help you make the most of your career and your impact on this industry. The time you spend supporting TAA will gain you more than you know. Not just from a professional level but on a personal level. I am a better employee, father, brother, husband, son, friend, and overall person than I was before I started enjoying these opportunities.  The growth I have experienced through my time at TAA is something I hope you get to experience as well. Please come enjoy an opportunity with me and TAA soon!

Berry Craven,
TAA 2024 President