By Tina Irgang
At 33, Heidi Burkhart already has more than a decade of experience in the real-estate industry. With her company, Dane Professional Consulting Group, she has successfully facilitated numerous rehabilitation projects in affordable-housing apartment buildings, including low-income housing and shelters. Here, Burkhart shares how she motivates herself to make a difference in her life, at work, and in the community.
New York real estate is probably one of the most stressful and competitive environments out there. What made you want to venture into that industry?
Burkhart: I ventured into real estate because of my finance background. I have a finance and marketing major from when I graduated from the University of Toledo. And when I got here, I moved through pharmaceutical sales, but found out quickly that wasn’t my passion. I resigned in a three- to four-month timeframe. I fell into brokerage really quickly from there on out. Brokerage definitely has the stereotypes of being hard-edged and fast-paced, but being a new broker, and being only 21 at the time, I came in and really fell in love with it and with affordable housing. … I really appreciated how much it built a community. And more on an inspirational, individual level, when we work on those deals and they get renovated and rehabbed, it’s great to see those complexes have a new sense of community, of pride and of life.
Running a business is stressful in any industry. How do you keep the balance in your life?
Burkhart: I don’t really see what we do as stress. We laugh a lot here in the office. I applaud when we make mistakes because that’s how you learn. Obviously I don’t want them to be big mistakes, but it’s the only way you know you’re taking risks. I also work out a lot. I’m a big fitness buff. If I didn’t work out for a week, I probably would be a huge B-I-T-C-H, but I do. I stay extremely active.
What gets you up in the morning?
Burkhart: The simple answer is, I choose happiness. It’s probably the easiest way. Our mission is to give, and through giving you really do find happiness. And in order to give, you need to love. Something happened about three years ago in my life that really threw me off track, so now I always say that I want to love vulnerably for the rest of my life.
What do you consider the best decision you’ve ever made?
Burkhart: The best decision I’ve made is the office crew that I have here that keeps on growing. … I’m really proud of where they’re going to and where they’re leading. I think just the choice of the people we’ve had come through our doors as our team expands is the best I’ve made. It’s just having the most amazing team and getting our corporate culture to the way we have it here.
If you hadn’t gone into real estate, what do you think you’d be doing with your life?
Burkhart: I don’t usually look back at all. I definitely would still be following the same mission in terms of wanting to be there for my community. I always liked the music industry, so I probably would have wanted to [support] artists that had that kind of same heart and a great, inspirational message. I probably would have been a producer because I love music so much. And who’s to say I’m not going to do it yet — I’m only 33 years old. I’m excited for the future and what it holds. … I love music; it definitely drives my soul. I think it was Arianna Huffington who said something like, “Music allows me to get to places I can’t express.” And it does. It makes you feel more than what you could ever put into words.
About The Human Element:
The Human Element is a regular, web-exclusive column that aims to get to know the leaders behind great companies. Rather than talking about business models and growth strategies, CEOs open up about what motivates and guides them in their professional and personal lives. To be considered for The Human Element, email firstname.lastname@example.org.