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Cindy Nasser knows what it takes to survive – and thrive – in the cyclical world of real estate. As Chief Operating Officer of PCV Murcor, a nationwide real estate valuations management company, or an AMC, located in Pomona, California, Nasser said her job description could be summed up in a simple phrase: making sure the wheels stay on the bus.
This fortitude did not come to Nasser overnight, however. After emancipating herself from the foster care system, she spent time working with Bank of America as a call center consultant, DirectTV as a management consultant, and held numerous positions within PCV Murcor. Her career trajectory allowed Nasser to experience the entirety of an organizations’ hierarchy and she has learned exactly what needs to be done to advance herself and those around her.
For the Women in Real Estate issue of Originate Report, we sat down with Nasser to discuss her career, thoughts on what can make or break an organization, and her role as a woman in a real estate leadership role.
When analyzing the roles she has held throughout her career thus far, Nasser said that the varied nature of her previous positions has allowed her to view situations holistically.
“The way that it helped me, was it taught me to focus on the right things,” Nasser said. “When you’re in a call center, everything is driven by data and finding the source of the problem and using data to help you resolve that problem. And that, to me, has been the biggest advantage that I’ve had in every role. And those positions taught me to ask the right questions. I’ve always been inclined to know more and learn more than just what was right in front of me, or what the role asked for. That’s just my naturally curious nature.”
In addition to asking the right questions, Nasser added that garnering in-depth knowledge of data analysis has proven to be an essential tool in her tool chest.
“I learned how to mine data and what to look for in it because every decision we made – and make today – is data-driven,” she said. “An appraisal, ironically, is exactly the same as the points I was analyzing then. It’s all data. There’s some subjectivity, and obviously, an appraiser has to understand the market, and they have their own personal experience which goes into the appraisal, but everything is data-driven. Especially now.”
When moving from the often-intense atmosphere of a call center to the equally fast-paced, yet more measured world of real estate, Nasser said she stayed abreast of ways to improve her performance in a new environment.
“I’ve learned that you want to make people feel very comfortable, assured, and you want to ask questions,” she said. “You have to know who your audience is, walk in prepared and comfortable, and ready to say, ‘I don’t know, teach me.’ Because you can’t walk in, not having the background, not knowing things, and think you’re just going to start telling everybody what to do. That approach isn’t going to work. You have to learn from the people in the room and no matter what position you’re in. Whether you’re the CEO, a manager, a team lead, whatever it is, if you don’t have the experience, but your team does, listen to them. That’s your greatest asset.”
The catalyst for Nasser’s approach, she said, stems from her experience growing up in the foster care system. When her last foster home shut down, Nasser recalled the conversation she had with a social worker to petition the state for emancipation or voluntary removal from the system.
“You have to convince a judge that you can take care of yourself, and must have a plan,” she recalled. “We set a court date. At that point, I was working three jobs and I had planned where I was going to live and what I was going to do – I was ready to support myself. I walked into court on October 11, 1991 and told my story. If anyone is going to screw up my life, let it be me.”
Looking back on her experiences in the foster care system, Nasser said that time in her life – despite the trepidation she felt venturing out on her own – has led to a sense of resilience today that extends into every facet of life.
“I tell people that the worst has already happened to me. I think that a lot of the fear that individuals have in certain situations, I don’t have that,” she said. “The people who know me best would describe me as a ‘force of nature’ because I’ve got nothing to lose at this point. With that said, I always want to serve, and I always want to do a great job. I want my staff to be proud of me; that’s what pushes me forward. I want them to feel like I always have their backs and I’m not going to let them fail.”
To drive and push forward every day, despite any obstacles, has become Nasser’s motto. Speaking to how this is accomplished, Nasser recalled one meeting where a potential negative – losing a client – was flipped upside down by hard work and determination.
“I could tell by this client’s tone that something was percolating. I scheduled a meeting with the head of sales and prepared a whole PowerPoint deck with data and information; they didn’t ask me for that, but that was the approach I took,” she said. “I walked into this ginormous conference room and introduced myself to the head of sales. As I was going through each page of the presentation, I could see her relaxing and becoming more comfortable. After the meeting, she told me that we were going to be fired beforehand, but the work I put in impressed her. That, honestly, is one of my biggest wins and the greatest feeling you can have.”
To continuously win these victories, Nasser said it is of the utmost importance to know the room before you enter.
“You have to know your customer,” she said. “There are some people who are very open to that approach, open to the idea of sharing knowledge and data, and others who don’t want to hear it. They don’t care. You have to alter your approach depending on the individual and analyze where a certain approach isn’t going to work. When a personality conflict arises, then you adjust and put someone else on that project – you have to adjust accordingly to make sure situations don’t combust.”
When thinking about this sense of flexibility, Nasser said one element she keeps in mind is her position as a woman in real estate. In some situations, she added, if a man walks into a meeting, there are some who will automatically listen regardless of his competence. As a woman, she said, it can be difficult to command the same level of respect and attention.
“As a professional, but as a woman specifically, you have to know what you’re talking about and be able to speak the lingo to grab attention,” she said. “I think one of the things I’ve encountered that can be very dismaying is knowing that there are going to be some rooms you walk into where people are going to be dismissive. I can read a room. And I know when the attention is not there; I take note of that, and I go back to follow up individually to gather additional information. With that said, though, men and women do have much in common, and it’s a matter of finding what that is. It is challenging at times, though.”
As a woman in leadership, Nasser said she wishes that more young women would enter the real estate field, adding that PCV Murcor has always been committed to fostering diverse voices and creating an equitable environment for its employees.
“We [at PCV Murcor] have many women and people from marginalized groups in leadership roles. In the industry as a whole, I’ve seen more women entering senior and leadership roles as well,” she said. “I think companies are focusing on not just female talent but broadening the definition of what a diverse workplace looks like.”
This diversity, she added, extends past the real estate profession and gender dynamics.
“I think one element that needs to change across the board is getting more young people into the industry,” she said. “Younger generations are not as uncomfortable or apprehensive about having a woman in a leadership role. There’s a lot of work to be done – especially in the appraisal industry – but making strides in that direction cannot be overlooked.”
In addition to swinging the pendulum in a more equitable direction, Nasser reiterated her conviction that being the COO of PCV Murcor can be boiled down to ensuring that the wheels stay on the bus.
“I have to make sure that everything is running, and that operationally, our customers are all at the same level of service,” she said. “My daily focuses, among many other things, of course, is making sure that no matter what, we can pivot and adapt. There are things that come up all the time, whether it’s client processes, technology changes, or legislative changes. If we’re nimble enough and can make those changes at the drop of a dime, our clients benefit – and we benefit.”
This pivoting, Nasser said, is one reason PCV Murcor has been able to grow for so long. This year, she added, the company is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
“That is an important milestone,” she said. “There are some groups that don’t make it past the first ten years. We’re also the only black-owned appraisal management company. Diversity is really big for us, and like I’ve said, we have a lot of women in leadership positions; we embrace that. Not only from a gender perspective but also making sure that we have different beliefs and a wide array of opinions here in our office. We also give back to the communities we serve, which I think is huge.”
Giving back, to Nasser, is everything. Outside of the work that PCV Murcor does with local nonprofits, she has worked with CASA of Los Angeles. The group, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate, seeks to reduce and reverse the effects of child abuse and neglect. Nine times out of ten, Nasser said, a judge will take the recommendation of a CASA over the opinion of a social worker, which in her eyes makes the organization so critical.
“I’ve always known, and it’s always been a goal of mine, to give back, and specifically give back to the foster care community because of my experience there,” she said.
When thinking about the seeds of this desire to give back – which stem from a place of loss – Nasser said she felt it was her duty to use those situations as a source of strength.
“My philosophy in life, in part, comes from the fact that I lost my mom when I was 11 years old. My mother and father were already divorced when she died, and it was never in my dad’s plan to have kids. There were a lot of things going on in my house, and that’s why I ultimately ended up leaving. When you lose your mom that young, it just does things to your life, and I believe that everything happens for a reason. You can never think, ‘why did this happen to me?’ You have to use that and move forward.”
Nasser described one case she worked on as a CASA that involved a ten-year-old boy. He was neglected at home, and his mother, who was severely ill, lived in Texas. Nasser traveled with the boy to say goodbye to his mother – after asking the court if she could accompany him on the journey – only to learn that the boy’s mother had died before the duo was scheduled to leave.
“It was four o’clock in the morning, and I sat him down and told him the news. I asked him ‘do you still want to go?’ And he said yes. There were thunderstorms and monsoons, and flights were delayed, and it took us 14 hours to get there. I’ll never forget how the mortuary went above and beyond to give this boy the goodbye he was looking for. That moment gave him closure. Later on, I ended up adopting him.”
Nasser said she shares this story – and her own story – to show others that any obstacle thrown your way can be overcome. Looking past the immediate future to a post-COVID-19 economy, Nasser said she hopes to see the continued growth of PCV Murcor, adding that she has been “incredibly proud” of the group’s ability to adapt to the once-in-a-century pandemic.
PCV Murcor provides appraisal management services to lenders, investment firms, community banks, servicers, and anyone who needs a real estate valuation. If you would like to learn more about the PCV’s offerings, visit https://www.pcvmurcor.com.