Katie Francois, VP of Operations, celebrates 5 years with the company

Tell us how you got here. What did you study as an undergraduate?

I studied finance and minored in economics. I definitely could have gone on to be a stock trader or something. In school, I took a lot of classes about the global financial crisis and learned what went wrong with different financial products.

Where did your undergraduate studies take you?

I completed an internship where I sold primarily life insurance products at Northwestern Mutual. This was a sales-focused role and I was only allowed to offer life insurance products. It was challenging for me, but I did learn a lot of phone skills. The path for that entry-level role was to earn your series six and seven – which I did – and become a financial adviser.

And then what?

I switched within the Northwestern Mutual company into an admin position and helped financial reps and advisors prepare plans for their clients. I enjoyed the work but wanted to be closer to family.  When my sister-in-law sent me an opening at Practice Real Estate Group, I jumped! 

How did your previous role prepare you for Practice Real Estate Group?

Although it prepared me for my current role, I wish I had majored in accounting. I took a couple of accounting courses in school and I loved Excel. Back then, it seemed to be a subject that was challenging for a lot of business major students to understand but I enjoyed it. That little bit of knowledge that I had was really helpful when I first came on at Practice and began taking over the books. I’d never used QuickBooks before, but it’s a relatively intuitive software. So the little accounting knowledge that I had, did help. But really, being at a start-up is a lot of hands-on learning.

What were you doing when you first started?

I was largely taking over the categorization of transactions on the books. For any transactions that are bank accounts and our credit cards, I put them into groups and say we can spend this much on marketing or this much on legal fees, etc. We have financial reports we need to pull every month/quarterly basis. It’s just a matter of saying what goes where, and what makes sense. When I first got here, we had a third-party bookkeeper who had been doing accounting before I joined. So then I took over, brought it in-house, and started from scratch a little bit. I learned what kind of expenses a real estate business incurs and had to utilize any accounting knowledge to determine exactly what expenses should look like. I also took over-invoicing, which I loved.

You have been at Practice Real Estate Group for 5 years now. What has changed over that time frame? 

We have grown so much. When I started, we only had one QuickBooks account and now we manage probably seven for all the different real estate transitions and development entities. I’ve learned a lot in the past couple of years about construction accounting because we now have these different development entities. 

What is the most challenging part of your job?

I love everything about my job but one of the most challenging parts of working for a small company like this is, as it grows, we have to change and evolve. One of the most challenging things lately, within the last quarter, has been figuring out how to offer benefits to employees like health care and retirement plans and getting those systems set up. It’s working with Dave to determine, what we want to offer, who we offer it through, and how does that affect our day-to-day operations? Although it’s been challenging, these are good things that are happening. It feels time-worthy. So that we can attract really strong talent and continue to grow the company.  

In the next 1-2-3 years, what are you excited about? 

I get excited, mostly about growth within the company, and just seeing it expand while still helping any new agents or new ops team members. Looking to the future, I think we have so many cool products that we offer, not only services but products like demographic reports and we offer real estate clients, which I think are cool to see as we develop them further and change them and make them better.

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