Executive Women in Business: Betty Friant

Business Woman Smiling At Desk

Recently, Betty Friant, CCIM and Senior Vice President with Kay Properties was interviewed by the Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Journal as one of its featured Executive Women in Business. Below is a summary of their interview with Betty.

Name: Betty Friant
Title: Senior Vice President
Company/firm: Kay Properties & Investments
Years with company/firm: 5 Years
Years in field: 29 Years
Real estate organizations / affiliations: CCIM, FINRA licenses Series 22 and 63.

Tell us how and when you began your career in the profession you are in?

Well, I’ve always had an interest in business. Both of my parents were entrepreneurs and owned restaurants and other small businesses in our little hometown of Winchester, Virginia. I have two sisters, one older and one younger, and we always were motivated to work. Whenever we wanted money, we didn’t just get an allowance, we went to work in the restaurant. So, I grew up working and grew up surrounded by a business environment. Ever since I can remember, the world of business has been a fascination to me. Then I became attracted to real estate because I just thought how fascinating it would be to own multiple homes or rental properties. Then the idea of being able to help people build equity struck me as a great career direction. So, I started to pursue a career of selling real estate. But then I thought, my gosh, commercial real estate would be so much more interesting than residential real estate because it’s all about business. So, I moved my career toward commercial real estate sales.

What was your greatest professional accomplishment in 2021?

I think the greatest professional accomplishment this year has been managing people’s expectations in what really has been one of the best real estate cycles in my history. I’ve been in real estate since 1979, so I’ve seen the market soar and the market crash, but this is the busiest time I can think of. So, managing clients’ expectations on what they can purchase in this kind of a market is really important. I mean, if you are selling at the peak of the market, and you’re going to do a 1031 exchange, you’re also going to be buying at the peak of the market. So reminding people that there are no guarantees in real estate, and reminding them that real estate is not a static investment – like putting money in an FDIC insured bank account. There are risks involved with any real estate transaction, and yes, there can be rewards. But, trying to remind people about where we are in the market cycle while at the same time helping them find the best properties at reasonable prices is really all about managing expectations.

What was your most notable project, deal or transaction in 2021?

If I had to identify one specific deal, it would be my recent involvement with advising an entire family on several large DST investments. What happened was they owned like $30 million to $40 million worth of real estate and decided they didn’t want to be landlords anymore. So, they divested themselves of their real estate properties and wanted to turn them into DST investments. The entire Kay Properties team and I helped educate them on how to turn their portfolio into DSTs which would allow them to diversify into many different asset classes, tenants, geography, and even different companies. Together, these different DSTs would allow them to have a portfolio that would be generating monthly income for them without having to participate in active management. They can now go off and do some of the things that they love to do. Now, I’ll touch base with them occasionally to see how everything’s going for them, and they’ll start sharing with me about where they are in the world or what they’re doing or how excited they are about some aspect of their life. It’s gratifying to know I helped them create the opportunity to have more leisure time to really enjoy life when they didn’t before.

Who has been the strongest influence on your career?

In my most recent career, I would have to give all the kudos to Dwight Kay, the founder of Kay Properties. What he does with our company and how he nurtures and builds and grows people within the company is so impressive. For sure he’s done that with me as well. Now, I’ve been successful in commercial real estate, but Dwight pushed me in ways that I didn’t think I was ready to do. Speaking to large crowds of people and always pushing myself and everybody at Kay Properties to reach just a little bit further than we’re comfortable with, and making everyone a little better every day. Most definitely, Dwight Kay has been the biggest influence in my current career.

What unique qualities and/or personality traits do you think makes you so successful in your profession?

Everybody approaches their profession so differently, but for me, my focus has always been emphasizing education. Sometimes I feel like people will just want me to tell them what to do. And I say, “No, I’m not going to do that. I want you to know that when you see a form coming through and it asks you a question, I want you to understand what that’s all about. I don’t want you to just sign it and move on.”

So I think the thing that makes me unique is my emphasis on educating my clients and really making my clients learn. An if they learn and then they decide the DST investment route is not for them, that’s fine. We’re okay with that. But I think the fact that I take such care to make sure my clients really understand what they’re doing and make sure they have access to every form information relating to DST 1031s that is available for them and know that our team is there for them whenever they need us, I think is very special and very different. I just really care for my clients and want to teach them all I can.

Do you feel being a woman is an advantage, disadvantage, or no advantage in today’s business world, and why?

Yes, I think it’s an advantage for me to be a woman. I say that mainly because the commercial real estate industry in an industry where there are not a lot of women in this industry – at any level, let alone a senior vide president level. I feel it is an advantage because people aren’t so threatened perhaps when a woman approaches them, and they understand that my entire goal is to educate them not sell them. I’m not intimidating or threatening, and when they realize that I really know my stuff and recognize that I really know what I’m talking about, and they recognize my CCIM designation (which by the way is very important to me because it demonstrates my commitment to my own continuing education) they become more receptive to my presentation. They recognize that I can maybe help them by providing some good advice or even teach them important questions they should ask their own CPAs and attorneys and financial counselors. Then I become a trusted advisor or a trusted resource without being a threat or overpowering or pushy.

What inspiring word of advice would you give to a young woman about to go into the field of commercial real estate or your allied field?

I would say to find somebody else who’s in real estate and talk to them; ask them questions. I guarantee almost any real estate professional would love to provide advice to a young person just starting out. Because if you like the real estate business – I mean new home sales, commercial real estate or whatever else it might be – reaching out and talking to someone in the industry can be incredibly rewarding for both parties. I will guarantee you that almost any commercial real estate professional will give you time, take you to coffee, and help you decide what direction might be a good one for you to pursue. This is especially true for anybody who is looking to start a new career. They should take advantage of the people who have been there before, because as I said, we’re all willing to share what we’ve done and it might resonate with that person, and just might help them get a really good step forward toward starting a new career.

What outside activities do you enjoy during you free time?

I just love to walk in the woods because I live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world – the Northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The Shenandoah River is not far from where I am, and I love being down there by the river. I also recently learned to play “Pickleball” and am so hooked. It’s so much fun! But more than anything, I love to get together with friends and family because that’s the most important thing in the world to me.