Spring Retreat a Success!

Professional Development Retreat Recap

From the evening of May 4th through the afternoon of May 5th,  a group of 39 CREW Detroit Members gathered at the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth for a day and a half professional development retreat, focused on  peer networking and learning from leaders in the industry.  Based on the observations of participants and the Professional Development (PD) Committee, the Retreat was an overwhelming success and as enjoyable as it was professionally valuable to all who participated.

The Retreat opened with a networking mixer where wine and beer were served, followed by dinner and round table discussions lead by CREW Advisory Board members and CREW past presidents.  In order to encourage conversations on subjects related to the Retreat objectives, members of the PD Committee provided discussion topics ranging from strategies to deal with gender bias to advice on climbing the corporate ladder.  CREW Advisory Board Members and CREW Past Presidents in attendance for the Thursday night dinner included: Joan Cleland, President, Acquest Development, Inc.; Rachele Downs, National Director, Acquisition and Development- Dandelion; Jumana Judeh, Principal, Judeh & Associates Realtors; Mary Kramer, Publisher of Crain Communications, Inc. (retired); Marilyn Nix, Principal, Marilyn P. Nix & Associates, LLC and Janice Purcell, Principal, Purcell Interiors, LLC.    Dinner was followed by a fun-filled scavenger hunt style networking game and more bonding, which for some attendees who took advantage of the Inn’s discounted room rates for the Retreat, lasted into the wee hours of the morning.

Retreat participants did not go hungry or uninformed the next day of the Retreat, which included a robust breakfast, a healthy lunch and two 1.5 hour presentations by industry leaders and renowned speakers, Coty Fournier, President of Coty Fournier, Inc. and Elaine Simpson, Owner of Occupancy Solutions LLC.

Ms. Fournier, a former CREW chapter president, is a commercial development and construction executive and entrepreneur, with  extensive operational experience on all sides of the owner-developer equation.  Fournier’s presentation, entitled “Powerful Women on the Professional Fast Track: 5 Beliefs and Behaviors that Drive Opportunity, Promotion, More Money and a Fly-By Past the Man (or Woman) Sitting Next to You” was, in my opinion and according to many other Retreat participants exceptionally inspiration and informative.  “The meek shall inherit nothing” Fournier declared…many times in her empowering talk.  Fournier, who has consistently doubled her salary nearly every year over her 25 year career in the construction industry, encouraged CREW members to aim high, to articulate professional expectations clearly and to refuse to be intimidated, cowed or belittled by anyone in our professions which, to this day, remains male dominated, especially in her field of construction management.   Fournier encouraged the audience to look at things in a different way and discard the focus on putting the needs of the team above our own.  Instead, she rallied for separating from the mediocrity of the herd and rising above (like Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls).  “You’ve got to become a little bit famous” advised Fournier.

Elaine Simpson was our lunch speaker.  Ms. Simpson is an operations, leasing and marketing consultant and training specialist with over 30 years of experience in the multi-family industry.  Simpson’s presentation entitled “Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling of Real Estate; Successful Negotiation Solutions to Help You Close Your Deal in Style” was also extremely professional and informative.  Simpson offered very practical and specific advice on negotiation skills and kept the audience engaged with a variety of participatory exercises.  “Although people often think of board rooms, suits and million dollar deals when they hear the word ‘negotiation’,” posited Simpson, “the truth is that we negotiate all the time”.    Simpson did not shy from pointing out the objective differences between women and men in negotiations and communications in general and discussing the very subjective ways these differences can be perceived.  Simpson’s focus was on practical skill sets to “close with confidence”, whether in negotiating a real estate deal or for one’s own promotion.

The PD Committee was pleased to award four scholarships for the retreat to:  Jody Germain, Michigan Blue Book Construction Network; Susan Palazzola, Spalding DeDecker Associates, Inc.;  Eileen McCarthy, McCarthy & Smith Inc. and Jennifer Thomas, CBRE, Inc.    The scholarship recipients provided the following feedback regarding their experiences at the Retreat:

  • Thoroughly enjoyed the 2017 Spring Retreat educational session offered by CREW Detroit, Professional Development Committee.  The event was well organized and extremely informative.  I found both speakers Coty Fournier and Eileen Simpson inspirational and knowledgeable.  The information they presented will assist me in preparing how I approach senior executives when asking for a change from one position to another or when seeking a salary increase.  A big emphasis was placed on understanding your strengths and how to use them to your benefit.  It was a great two day event.  I look forward to attending next year’s retreat!   – Jodi Germain
  • We have to possess more than just the “basic qualities” that everyone else has.  Coty (Fournier) enabled me to see my individuality and my inspiration.  She opened my eyes to improvement; improvement in my professional and personal life.  Finally Coty helped me to realize the need to consistently demonstrate an assertive behavior.  That behavior is really a statement of my own self-worth.  The bottom line, if you want to drive opportunity, get that promotion, put more money in your pocket and fly past the person sitting next to you, you need to become the MVP.”  – Susan E. Palazzola 
  • I attended the Spring Professional Development Retreat and really enjoyed it.  The retreat was a great experience and opportunity to get to know other CREW members in the Chapter and attend great events.  For me, the Thursday evening Round Table sessions were a huge value that was added to the Program.  It was great to be provided the opportunity to speak to our Past Presidents in this setting.  The discussions that were had at the tables were great, which provided a great take away from the evening.  – Jennifer Thomas 
  • In addition to the thought provoking speakers, much was gained by the opportunity to learn from the guest speakers at the Thursday evening round table discussions.  As an organization grounded in the mission to advance women, it is imperative that we continue to provide access to our members to women who have paved the way and can provide valuable insights and advice on how to navigate ones career in today’s world.  The overnight aspect of the retreat was invaluable to furthering the relationships that are the cornerstone of CREW Detroit’s success as an organization.  Men in business have long figured out that social interaction leads to strong business relationships often times forged on the golf course or in a favorite watering hole.  Women are no different.  – Eileen McCarthy

Survey results taken from participants of the Retreat were overwhelmingly positive.  Participants unanimously wrote that the sessions presented at the Retreat will probably assist them in their career development, that the presenters were appropriately knowledgeable and professional and that the location and timing for the Retreat were favorable.  “Fantastic retreat all around” wrote one participant surveyed, “Great mix of CREW members, very strong content and excellent food”.

“Remarkable Speakers, A Beautiful Venue and Meaningful Bonding With Peers Made for an Inspiring 1.5 Day Retreat at the Inn at St. Johns in Plymouth” – By Jordan Glassco

The PD Committee was also pleased to award a scholarship to attend the 2017 CREW Spring Leadership Summit in Toronto (June 22 – 23) to Betsy Wagner, Director and VP of Hobbs & Black Architects, through a random drawing.

Special thanks goes to Beth Vance, Committee Chair of our PD Committee, as well as to Lisa Drouillard, Co-Chair.  All PD Committee Members worked together on planning this event with enthusiasm and great cooperation under Beth’s leadership.


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