Welcome to the Pretty Powerful Podcast with Angela Gennari
May 10, 2022

Episode 10: Allison Bittel

Allison Bittel has been a trailblazer her entire career. From choosing to pursue a career in the male-dominated commercial real estate industry to launching The Women's Collective, she has been a powerful voice for diversity and inclusion in the work place. Angela asks Allison about her journey in real estate, tips for negotiation and why mentorship is so important.

Allison Bittel has been a trailblazer her entire career. From choosing to pursue a career in the male-dominated commercial real estate industry to launching The Women's Collective, she has been a powerful voice for diversity and inclusion in the work place. Angela asks Allison about her journey in real estate, tips for negotiation and why mentorship is so important.


Pretty Powerful Podcast with Angela Gennari: Episode 10 Allision Bittel

Welcome to the pretty powerful podcast where powerful women are interviewed every week to share real inspiring stories and incredible insight to help women or anyone break the barriers, be a part of innovation, shatter the glass ceiling and dominate to the top of their sport industry or life's mission. Join us as we celebrate exceptional women and step into our power. And now here's your host. Angela Gennari.

Angela Gennari: Thank you for joining us today. My name is Angela Gennari and this is the Pretty Powerful podcast, and I am sitting here with Ms. Allison Bittel and I am super excited because she is bringing a wealth of knowledge and I'm very happy about what we're going to be discussing today. So, welcome Allison.

Allision Bittel: Thank you for having me.

Angela Gennari: So, I'm going to tell you a little bit about Allison so that everybody is aware of who we're speaking with today. So, Allison Batel is an Atlanta native and has been in the commercial real estate industry for 21 years. She is a senior vice president and principal with Colliers Atlanta. Throughout her career, she has developed a passion for mentoring and supporting other career women. In 2020, she founded the women's collective a 5 0 1 C3 C6 bringing together C-suite and executive level women leaders for an exclusive experience. In just two short years, and during a pandemic, Allison has grown the organization to 130 members and raised sponsorship money for 2022 programming supporting the pillars of workplace education and mentorship. She has been married to her husband, Phil for 21 years and they have two teenage sons. Welcome, Allison.

Allision Bittel: Thanks again for having me. It's great to be here.

Angela Gennari: Tell me you are in commercial real estate, which is a very male-dominated industry. Am I correct?

Allision Bittel: You're very correct.

Angela Gennari: And how did you get your start there and what prompted you to want to go into that industry in particular?

Allision Bittel: So, I'm actually, as you mentioned, I'm an Atlanta native and my dad was in commercial real estate development and his older brother was in general contracting. So, when I graduated from college, I said, I'm going to get as far away from real estate as I can I grew up in it and ultimately, I wound up back in Atlanta in 2001 and started my career in real estate. And I will tell you it's an amazing industry. And I really was pleased to be able to, after working in some other industries to get into this industry, it's been a 21-year amazing journey.

Angela Gennari: Wow. Oh, well, that's wonderful I appreciate that. So, I can imagine that going into commercial real estate and dealing with a lot of his wit builders and male commercial real estate agents you must have had quite a bit of competition out there. Did anyone step up to mentor you during this time? Did you find that you had a lot of guidance or were you really kind of off on your own to figure it out?

Allision Bittel: So, I'll kind of answer that in two ways. I was fortunate to join a team when I started at my first company in 2001. So, I did have some good mentorship internally, but what I found challenging is that there were not very many women in my business. And so, as I became a young mom and began to sort of manage the daily ins and outs of juggling the three-ring circus, I used to call it.

Angela Gennari: Right.

Allision Bittel: It became really hard because there weren't women that I could call on. And so, I feel like what we did is there were several women that were peers of mine and we all worked together and built sort of peer mentorship.

Angela Gennari: Okay.

Allision Bittel: Because many of us stayed in the business. What tended to happen is women that who were older than me in commercial real estate had either chosen not to have families or not to get married or they may have only had one child because the demands are so great.

Angela Gennari: Right.

Allision Bittel: And so, my generation of women, we were the first generation that came back to work with one or multiple children. And so, I was able to really develop my sort of group of peer mentors so, I sort of had, I had both but no formal program.

Angela Gennari: Right, I understand. And you've done some pretty big deals. I was looking at your resume and some of the things that you've done, and actually, I found this on the Callier site. They're very proud of you. You've done some pretty significant deals in Atlanta so congratulations on that.

Allision Bittel: Thank you.

Angela Gennari: Was that, tell me about that process of finding these big deals and you know, getting them to trust you to really be able to handle the whole thing, start to finish.

Allision Bittel: Sure, yeah. Well, it took a long time to sort of building the skillset and I spent a lot of time really perfecting early in my career, the transaction side of the business, really becoming intimately knowledgeable on how to negotiate leases and to be a truly what I call a trusted advisor. And the other thing that I think helped me be successful in commercial real estate is the trust factor.

Angela Gennari: Yeah.

Allision Bittel: Really taking the time to get to know my clients and building those relationships, and with that trust comes long-term relationships, which I've been fortunate to have many of those.

Angela Gennari: Absolutely.

Allision Bittel: Yeah.

Angela Gennari: So, you touched on negotiation so this is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world. I love a good negotiation. So, tell me what strategies would you give to people about how to be a good negotiator?

Allision Bittel: So, you know, it's funny when I first came into the business, having so few women, I was worried about getting a reputation right, of being a woman. I won't say the word that many people probably know I'm thinking right now. But you know, but also not backing down and being shrewd in what I believe in. And so, I really, I think when I give people advice on the negotiation, there's always a middle ground. And I think you go in with absolutely everything you want, but you know that there are some giveaways.

Angela Gennari: Yeah.

Allision Bittel: So, I think there's always got to be some things that you're willing to give on and know what's important. And I think that is what's important with your clients is really helping guide them on items, you know, we might get into a lease negotiation and have maybe 10 outstanding items that we've got to deal with. And what I'll say is let's talk about the ones that are most important to you. And let me advise you on, you might think this it's important, but actually, when you negotiate leases, you're negotiating a lot of hypotheticals. Well, if this happens, we need this protection.

Angela Gennari: Right.

Allision Bittel: So, really kind of helping walk them through the importance of where to fight and where to sort of giving.

Angela Gennari: Right.

Allision Bittel: So, that's probably my best advice.

Angela Gennari: Awesome. I love it. Yeah. I love to negotiate. And I say the same thing, you know, you can both come out a winner in a negotiation.

Allision Bittel: Right.

Angela Gennari: You know, some things are going to matter more to other people. You can't have everything, you know, choose your battle, you know?

Allision Bittel: Exactly.

Angela Gennari: And so, one of my, one of the sayings that I say all the time is this is not the hill you want to die on.

Allision Bittel: Right.

Angela Gennari: You know, is it that important to you that this is the hill you want to die on? And if it's not let it go, let that be part of the negotiation because maybe that is important to somebody else.

Allision Bittel: That's right.

Angela Gennari: So, yes, I fully agree with you that it's important to take into consideration what is important on both sides and find that middle ground because you know, everybody thinks negotiation comes down to price and terms, and that's not always the case. Right. Sometimes it could be the amount of time it takes to close. And the amount of, you know, the terms of the lease in terms of how long it is and the upgrades and any little concessions that could be meaningful to somebody that may not cost you a lot in terms of time or money. So awesome.

Allision Bittel: One of my partners that I worked with for many years, who's a mentor of mine said to me very early on, always be thinking about how your dealer's going to get in the ditch.

Angela Gennari: Oh.

Allision Bittel: As you're negotiating, even if things are going really well, always be thinking about how what could go wrong and be working through those possibilities so you're prepared.

Angela Gennari: Absolutely. All right, so then you've spent a career, a great successful career in commercial real estate, and then you decided to take a little pivot and go into starting something called the women's collective. So, tell me about your motivation behind that and what prompted you to do that at that time?

Allision Bittel: Sure. So, about 10 years ago, I'm a board member at the Atlanta commercial board of realtors and we're actually the largest commercial board in the country.

Angela Gennari: Oh wow.

Allision Bittel: One of my former partners who was a managing partner at my previous firm was very passionate around diversity and inclusion in our industry. And so, there was a big diversity initiative about 10 years ago. We were a little before our time with kind of what's happened in the last couple of years. So, we started this diversity committee and really put a lot of energy in creating a diversity mentorship program.

Angela Gennari: Okay.

Allision Bittel: And so, we built this program out and I've worked on it for over 10 years and it was around women and people of color who the real estate business is very, very familial and everyone knows everyone. And so, if you don't grow up in the real estate, you might not really even understand how to get into the business. And so, we felt like there was this lack of diversity because people didn't have exposure to our business. So, we built this diversity mentorship program and I spent 10 years developing it every year we would have greater than 50 candidates for 12 spots.

Angela Gennari: Wow.

Allision Bittel: So, we spent a lot of time building a curriculum around that. And I really got passionate around this, this is where I can have an impact this is where I can give back to the community. So, in 2020, when I joined the Bundu firm, they were super supportive around helping me do it for women in general. I really said I've done a lot in my own industry, but now I want to take it bigger. I want to take it to the city of Atlanta and I want to connect with other senior women and I want to bring them together, and I want to figure out how we collectively, I E the women's collective can influence change for women coming behind us.

Angela Gennari: That's awesome. And, you know, before the podcast started, we were talking about how, you know, for a long time, when women had reached a certain status, their first inclination was not necessary to pull up the women behind them because they had worked so hard to get there. They knew that their time in an executive level position, they had worked really hard to get there, and they felt like they needed to protect their spot, right? And so, I feel like there was a bit of territorial nature, I guess, to that, because there were so few women at the executive level, and now we're starting to see a major shift. And that has been a huge blessing for women to be able to say, look, this is not a competition we all can be successful. So, tell me how women's collective really kind of fosters that environment.

Allision Bittel: Sure. So, you're exactly right. I think for years it was, you know, sort of clawing to the top.

Angela Gennari: Right.

Allision Bittel: Now it doesn't have to be that way anymore, which is so great. So, we really have three pillars that we're focused on at the women's collective.

Angela Gennari: Okay.

Allision Bittel: Mentorship is pillar number one, and we have just launched a program called leaders on the rise. And we have a mentorship program through the women's collective. We have 15 women who are between six and 12 years out of school. So, we really wanted to get women that were in that first sort of decade of business that were starting their families and were starting to hit that place in life where maybe they need to pull back, or maybe they need to just get out of the workforce so that we feel like that's really a good time to get to the women that might need mentorship.

Angela Gennari: Right.

Allision Bittel: The second thing we're doing is a lot around education. So, we do programs during the year. We just had a panel in February for the Exodus of women from the workplace, and we had four amazing panel members over 50 women came to our breakfast and we talked about some of the trends and things that we're seeing and what are organizations we had folks from Coca-Cola and the weather channel and other large firms talk a little bit about what they're doing.

Angela Gennari: Yeah.

Allision Bittel: Companywide and how are they supporting women? And then the third thing is just the workplace. Really just, how do we, as women learn to use our voice and to step up a lot of times we're quote-unquote, the only is we might be the only woman in the C-suite? I know you talked a little bit about being the only in meetings.

Angela Gennari: Right.

Allision Bittel: And sometimes it's intimidating, so we've got to find the strength and the courage to stand up and ask the card, questions and advocate for women in our organizations.

Angela Gennari: Absolutely. So, you mentioned the Exodus of women from the workplace. Let's talk about that a little bit because that's really fascinating to me because, you know, I know that at a certain stage of life, a lot of women will choose to leave the workplace temporarily or permanently. And you know, to raise children, to be at home, to find another avenue, why do you think that is? What is causing this Exodus in the workplace?

Allision Bittel: So, I think there's a couple of things. One thing that we talked about with this panel was the fact that women, and I mentioned it a few minutes ago, this first 10 years out of school, and how women really do lose their confidence. And I think that's when they start exiting the workplace, I think they get to a point where they say it, and a lot of companies won't offer you a throttle back option. They won't say.

Angela Gennari: Right.

Allision Bittel: You can go part-time. And this is one of the things we talked about at the panel was it's important for companies to offer people maybe you want to go part-time for a few years.

Angela Gennari: Right.

Allision Bittel: And it's not just for women. It needs to be for the men too.

Angela Gennari: I agree.

Allision Bittel: Right? It needs men. Men are probably afraid to ask for something part-time.

Angela Gennari: Right.

Allision Bittel: But I think in today's times, men and women are both in a lot of cases, dual working families. So, what if your wife is trying to get her master's degree? Or what if your wife is got a big job that she's been promoted into, maybe you need to throttle back as the man to support your wife and her role, and you need to do the carpool for a while, or you need, so it's becoming okay now. And I think that's where we can support women.

Angela Gennari: Right.

Allision Bittel: Is companies need to allow the part-time or the reduced work hours for both men and women... because I think...

Angela Gennari: ...Time.

Allision Bittel: Right. Because I think that's a big part of why women are leaving is they just get, you get to a point where you say, what's my priority.

Angela Gennari: Right.

Allision Bittel: And you got to take care of your family, that's always going to be your priority. And so how do you do both and the workplace sometimes is what is the give?

Angela Gennari: Well, and sometimes, you know, if a woman chooses not to have children, maybe it's, she's trying to get an advanced degree. And, you know, she doesn't have the luxury of just, you know, like when I got out of college, I really wanted to go to law school, but I couldn't afford it. And, once I started working, I wanted to go back to law school, but it was so hard to find that time, I couldn't work full time, but I also couldn't find the energy, the space, the time to be able to work full time and go to law school. And so, I never ended up going to law school, but it's one of my regrets that I never did. But it's those cases, you know, where if, if I had an employer who said, look, let's do flex time, you know, because again, back then flex time, wasn't really as common as it is now, since the pandemic flex time has become probably first and foremost, what people are looking for in their job.

But at that time, you were expected to be in the office nine to five, you know, plus, you know, nine to five-plus, you know, whether that meant you're working till seven, that day or events or networking events or functions or whatever it is. And so, you know, having flexibility I think would encourage women to stay in the workplace more because you're right. I mean, when you're, when you have small children at home and you're having to do, you know, whether it's carpool or tutoring or helping with homework or activities, it's overwhelming. So, whether you are the mother or the father, it definitely, it does have a huge impact and, you know, your time becomes condensed. And so having flexibility, I think, would help tremendously with that. I tell my employees and, you know, management, I need 40 hours of work from you. If you can get 40 hours of work done in 20 hours. So, be it, I just need 40 hours of work.

Allision Bittel: That's right.

Angela Gennari: Because to me, production is more important than time. I don't want to be a timekeeper, but I need, I need a certain output. So, if you're highly efficient with your time, fantastic. But you know, that's kind of how I look at a salary to employees. So.

Allision Bittel: Well, one of the things we talked about was if you lose women in that first 10 years if you don't give them that flexibility and you don't figure out a way to mentor and sponsor and keep them in the workforce, you lose them forever.

Angela Gennari: Right.

Allision Bittel: Because if women's out of the workforce for 10 years, it's very hard to reenter when your kids are older. And I mean, I have two teenagers and I'm as busy as I've ever been. And I've got one that drives, but it's still just, it's the reality of life. Right?

Angela Gennari: Absolutely.

Allision Bittel: And so, I think that's why the mentorship and everything are so important in that first 10 years is to make sure that we're giving them the support they need helping with the confidence building, helping them aspire and allowing them the opportunity to grow and still be able to do the... one of the women was talking about somebody on her team's training for an iron man.

Angela Gennari: Wow.

Allision Bittel: A man, on her team and has chosen to do more part-time work right now because he's training. So, it's again, we have to take away this image of that, the reduced work schedule as a mommy track or a woman track, it's an everyone tracks.

Angela Gennari: It really is.

Allision Bittel: We all can do it.

Angela Gennari: And it's important for life balance. Let's be honest because you know, we don't want to get to that point where we start enjoying our lives once we're retired, right? Like we want to live our lives now while I have the energy and the time.

Allision Bittel: Exactly.

Angela Gennari: You just need the time to be able to fit it in. And so, you know, when you devote too much time to work, you can definitely have an imbalance and then it affects every other part of your life. You know, whether it's stress family, you know, travel, you know, enjoy life now while we have it to live. So, okay. So, great. So, tell me a little bit more about what inspires you,

Allision Bittel: What inspires me. Wow. That's a great question. You know, I think that I'm inspired by the ability to have an influence. The ability to help other women. I think if I had had something like the women's collective, you know, leadership or leaders on the rise program when I was in my twenties or in my early thirties, it would've been great. And I think, what we have to remember is that everybody's been through some type of challenge. So, you're not alone. I think sometimes you can feel very alone when you're juggling a lot. And so, I think that's probably something super important to remember.

Angela Gennari: Yeah. I say that challenges are the commonality.

Allision Bittel: Right.

Angela Gennari: Not everybody has a chance to be incredibly successful in their lives, but we've all overcome challenges.

Allision Bittel: Sure.

Angela Gennari: So, speaking of that, tell me some challenges that you've had in growing your business and whether it's, you know, the women's collective or commercial real estate or whatever you know, led to you to where you are today.

Allision Bittel: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think some of the things, you know, being in a very male-dominated business early on, I wasn't taken seriously, you know, I would make calls and they would, people on the other end of the line would ask, well, what broker are you calling on behalf of? I would say, I'm the broker. I was in my mid-twenties and female, and there just weren't a lot of us. And so, you know, I think that was probably one big obstacle. I think not having formal mentorship programs was definitely an obstacle for me. And then I think the third thing that I really struggled with was being a working mom. I chose… my husband traveled when my kids were little and it was a lot.

Angela Gennari: Yeah.

Allision Bittel: I mean, I was, you know, I was driving an hour and a half, one way to, and from work to get them to daycare and downtown to the office and then to reverse in the afternoons and fighting traffic. And it was a choice I was making, but at that point in life, it felt like a moment to moment. Right? Like you couldn't see the forest for the trees. So, definitely, you know, challenges on those fronts for sure.

Angela Gennari: Yeah, absolutely. So, tell me I know that as women, we tend to give our power away and you know, we say, oh, it's because my spouse did this. My family did this, you know, these doors were open because of this. And while all of that is very true and we don't get to where we are alone. Tell me a time that you've given your power away and then another time that you've stepped into your power and what was the difference in the time.

Allision Bittel: So, that's a really great question because it sorts of folds into sort of my journey over the last three years. So, I spent 18 years at my last employer, and because of the years that I was there, I was raising my children. I said it was okay to take more of a transaction role. I was a little more behind the scenes allowing the men to be more forefront with the clients, and I was good at the transaction again. I think this gets back to the confidence issue of like; I was confident in the transaction side I knew I could manage that.

Angela Gennari: Right.

Allision Bittel: So, I didn't force myself to step outside of transactions, and so I think I allowed the power to be given away because I made the choice to put myself in that position. And I think what was interesting is at the end of 2019, I sort of came to a place in my career where I said, I need to be the one on the front lines. I need to be the one out there more. And it took me through about a six-month journey where I wound up actually changing companies. And there was a lot that went into it, but I basically decided that I needed to get uncomfortable to grow myself.

Angela Gennari: Yeah.

Allision Bittel: And that was really a part of it. So, I felt like I took the power back when I made that change, I was in a very comfortable role. I had a great team. I had everything that like people aspire to get.

Angela Gennari: Absolutely.

Allision Bittel: But something was missing and it was that power piece. And so, it was a big, bold move to change after 18 years, but it has created an opportunity for me to really grow. And I have really, I feel like I've really taken the power back by making that change.

Angela Gennari: Absolutely.

Allision Bittel: So.

Angela Gennari: And I love that you talk about confidence, right? The up and down of confidence, how can, you know, somebody who's young coming into their career, how do they maintain that confidence level? And is it possible to maintain that confidence when you're going through the trials of your career? Like how do you maintain that level of, I deserve to be here? My voice deserves to be heard, you know, I want to step into my power and how do you do that younger? Because I know that, you know, later in life, it's easier.

Allision Bittel: Sure.

Angela Gennari: But how do you do that as a young woman?

Allision Bittel: Well, I think that's the key, the key to that is to have a good mentor.

Angela Gennari: Yeah.

Allision Bittel: I mean, I think people need to understand the difference between mentorship and sponsorship. Right?

Angela Gennari: Okay.

Allision Bittel: Like you need a mentor, you need a... and you may need, I had one friend say, you need a board of directors.

Angela Gennari: Okay.

Allision Bittel: You need two or three or four or five or women mentors and, a man or two in there as well. But that you can go to and say, here's what I'm struggling with because now that we're older and we have the advice where we can give that's what we should be doing. And then I think you also need a sponsor in your organization. I think we talked a lot about the importance of asking to attend meetings. Maybe you don't say anything in the meeting, but ask to attend that meeting. And then people say, oh, I know Angela. She was in that meeting. She's very sharp. You, start to get noticed more, but you need a sponsor, somebody senior that brings you to those meetings.

Angela Gennari: Yeah.

Allision Bittel: And you might sit at the end of the table and not say two words, but people take notice of you. So, I think it's, twofold, the mentorship and the sponsorship.

Angela Gennari: Oh, I agree.

Allision Bittel: It's important.

Angela Gennari: I agree. I love that. Yeah. I agree that having somebody who steps up with us, you know, kind of brings us into those opportunities as equally as important as somebody who guides us along the way.

Allision Bittel: Right.

Angela Gennari: You know, I've been fortunate to have great mentors in my life. But there are times when the opportunities were not presenting themselves. I had to open those doors myself. I had to create the opportunity, you know, and that takes a level of kind of confidence, gut-check moments where you're like, okay, here I go. I'm going to create this opportunity, and I might follow my face and I might look silly, but if I don't, it's never going to happen. Right. And so that confidence, I think, as a young woman comes from creating enough of those opportunities for yourself and stepping into those roles were and I don't know if you've ever felt this or not, where you get imposter syndrome, you know, where you're in the room, and you're like, do I belong here? Have you ever experienced something like that?

Allision Bittel: Absolutely. I mean, I think especially if you're in a room full of way more senior people than you are, you definitely feel that way, and you have to, again, to your point, confidence comes with experience.

Angela Gennari: Yes.

Allision Bittel: So, that's, again, why I think women, our age is so able to help the younger women because we can say to them don't feel that way. I've been there. I know what it feels like, and you don't need to feel that way you deserve to be there.

Angela Gennari: Yeah, absolutely. And I think people need to get over the idea that failing at something is fatal. Right? So.

Allision Bittel: Exactly.

Angela Gennari: There's that quote that says, failure is not fatal and success is not final. Right? So, if you understand that success is short-lived, you don't know how long you're going to be at the top of your game, but in the meantime, if you also fail, that's okay too. You know, enjoy the moment when you have it. If you do fail, learn from it, get up and start all over again.

Allision Bittel: I think failure makes us stronger.

Angela Gennari: It does.

Allision Bittel: Yeah. And so, I think that you, people are certainly afraid of failure, but I think, I mean, when I left my last company and started at Collier's, I mean, it was scary and I was in my mid-forties and I'm making this big job change, and it's been the most wonderful experience, but I had to force myself into you have to lean into the fear.

Angela Gennari: Yes, absolutely.

Allision Bittel: And I think that if you live your life worried about failing, you won't grow

Angela Gennari: And you'll never step up. You'll never, you'll never attempt anything. Right? Because if all you can think about is what if I fail? You're never going to take that first step. You're never going to get, you know, into that state of mind where you say, regardless of what happens, I'm all in, and it's hard to succeed if you don't take that step. Right.

Allision Bittel: Well, and one of the things they say about women and I've talked about this in other forums is that women won't apply for a role even if it's in a company they're already in, they won't apply for another role. If they don't have 80% of the skills.

Angela Gennari: Wow.

Allision Bittel: Men apply with 30 or 40%.

Angela Gennari: Wow.

Allision Bittel: So, there's this whole idea of you don't have to check every box just because you don't have all of those skills doesn't mean you can't do the job.

Angela Gennari: Absolutely.

Allision Bittel: And if you surround yourself with the right people, you're going to learn and that's how you're going to grow.

Angela Gennari: Right.

Allision Bittel: If you never apply for anything else.

Angela Gennari: Yeah.

Allision Bittel: You're never going to move.

Angela Gennari: Right.

Allision Bittel: So, it's the whole idea of, yes, you may not have all those skills, but why not try it? If it doesn't work out, then it wasn't meant to be, but at least, you know, that you went and tried it.

Angela Gennari: Absolutely. And the biggest mistake I've made as a business owner is hiring someone for their skillset because the ones that I've hired for their skillset have turned out to be a disaster typically. And the ones that I've hired, because I just saw something in their character that I knew that they would do well. Those are the ones who have been the biggest success, you know, hire for character, not skillset sometimes. And I mean, there's obviously not everything, you know, medical, you know, healthcare, you want them to have a certain level of skills, but in a lot of cases for management for me, management comes down to, is it a good culture fit? Does this person have the drive and the tenacity that I'm looking for in somebody who's going to be, you know, have some grit and do the job, or is this somebody who is going to rest on their laurels, that they are overqualified for a position. The worst thing you can do is hire somebody overqualified who then thinks of your job as almost, you know, too easy, and it doesn't require anything of them. You know, you want somebody to have a little bit less qualifications than you're looking for and fight hard to get there because that grit and that tenacity really make all the difference in their leadership qualities.

Allision Bittel: And I think that's the key to a good leader, right? A good leader recognizes that that person doesn't have all the skills. You said exactly what I was thinking and what I've talked about with other folks you've got, that's how you identify a great leader. They build their team and those individuals fly out of the nest and go and do great things.

Angela Gennari: Absolutely.

Allision Bittel: That's how you, in my mind, that's how you, the mark of a good leader.

Angela Gennari: Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you. Yeah. So, what advice would you give to 18-year-old you?

Allision Bittel: Oh gosh. You know, I think I would give the advice of, and this is a lesson learned for me knowing the difference between being a team player and becoming the doer on your team. I don't know if you've ever been in situations where you're always the one volunteering, and you become the doer, but you're afraid if you don't say yes to stuff that they're going to think you're not a team player. And so, for me, I think I learned along the way that I had to set boundaries around and I've talked with other young women about this always be a team player your part of a team. Sure. But pick and choose the things so that you don't become always the doer, and stuff's always getting put in your lap

Angela Gennari: And you can get overwhelmed.

Allision Bittel: You can, right.

Angela Gennari: Yeah. There was a time period in my career where I felt, you know, I had a young child at home and then I was also, we were, building a company and so I felt the need to do everything. So, there was a, probably three-year time period where I was room mom, PTA. I was volunteering for all these different committees. I was on the board of directors of an association in our industry. I was attending every trade show. I was everywhere all the time and I got burned out so quickly. And then I took a full year off of all like you couldn't ask me to sell brownies at an event. No way. I was not volunteering for anything.

Allision Bittel: Sure.

Angela Gennari: Because it's burnout, you know, it's a burnout process. And so, I think that you're right. It's, important to balance that, you know, to be the doer, to be the team player. But also understand that you know, your own self-care has to come into that.

Allision Bittel: Sure. And I think as, as working women that were, that we put ourselves last. Right? Always.

Angela Gennari: All the time.

Allision Bittel: Always. So.

Angela Gennari: All the time. So, what do you wish more people knew?

Allision Bittel: You know, I think I wish more young women knew that they're not alone. I talked about this a few minutes ago, but I think to know that there are people out there that have been through this so seek out women to talk to, if you're struggling or you're in a place of loss of confidence or loss of aspiration, you're not alone.

Angela Gennari: Yeah.

Allision Bittel: People have been through it before and that's where advice really can be meaningful, I think.

Angela Gennari: Absolutely. So, what has been the most surprising part of the women's collective to you?

Allision Bittel: Gosh, I would say the response from the women in Atlanta.

Angela Gennari: Really?

Allision Bittel: Yeah. I mean, of course, we launched on February 27th, 2020.

Angela Gennari: Wow. Great timing, right?

Allision Bittel: Great timing. And then, you know, the next week was international women's day, and our mutual friend Lynn Smith had me on headline news. I went on my first national news broadcast and then seven days later, the world shut down.

Angela Gennari: Wow.

Allision Bittel: And I just remember, I spent, you know, I spent six or eight months. I had to learn about 5 A 1 C 6 s I had to learn about how to put all of that together.

Angela Gennari: Yes.

Allision Bittel: And then I had to go figure out who was going to invite and how, what kind of programs because there was so much effort, you know, six or eight months of, you know, hard work to get ready to launch. We had such a successful launch and then we hit the pandemic. And so, I spent a lot of the pandemic working on building my behind-the-scenes. I had been blown and going and hadn't really had a chance to step back. So, in a way, the pandemic was a blessing because it allowed me a chance to step back a little bit and allowed us to grow. So, now, as I said, we're 130 members, but I've been very pleasantly surprised with the women that we've been able to include and who have joined in, and who are passionate about the mission that we have.

Angela Gennari: Yeah. And I call the pandemic as bad as it was in many, many ways. I also say that it was a blessing of time.

Allision Bittel: Sure.

Angela Gennari: Because, you know, I did the same thing, you know, for me, my business had shut down for several months because we do large events, and obviously when that's banned by law.

Allision Bittel: Right.

Angela Gennari: You're not doing a lot of it. And so, but it allowed me to step back and do some coaching. And so, I learned that I had a passion for helping other entrepreneurs succeed and it was really a blessing in my life. And had I not taken a breather, I probably wouldn't have known that for decades because I just, I go a hundred miles an hour all the time.

Allision Bittel: Sure.

Angela Gennari: And we don't slow down very often, do we?

Allision Bittel: No, I think, I always tell people I was going about 90 miles an hour before the pandemic.

Angela Gennari: Sure.

Allision Bittel: Now I'm going about 120. I feel like I just can't up. It's a good problem to have. Right?

Angela Gennari: It's a great problem to have.

Allision Bittel: Plus. And it's a good problem to have, but yes, there are days when I wonder how I'm going to get it all done.

Angela Gennari: Yes. I understand. Well, delegation is what I've learned.

Allision Bittel: This is true.

Angela Gennari: Well, congratulations on all the success of the women's collective. I think that's amazing. And I hope that you guys continue to grow is your membership outside of Georgia as well?

Allision Bittel: Right now, we're just focused on Atlanta.

Angela Gennari: Okay.

Allision Bittel: We hope at some point to take it to a national platform, but I really want to get it right in Atlanta first.

Angela Gennari: Absolutely.

Allision Bittel: And that's sort of what I learned with my experience with the Atlanta commercial board and building out that mentorship program. We need time to sort of figure out a flow of events and what, as I said, we're doing three kinds larger events each year, and then we're doing some offshoot, what we call leadership and sips programs then we'll do a summer series where that'll have maybe 10 to 15 women.

Angela Gennari: Okay.

Allision Bittel: And those will be more intimate settings where we can do some more networking and because again, it's about connecting the women. It's about them building their own network. And then it's about sort of growing outside of the network and how do we influence the change? So, at some point, hopefully, we'll be outside of Atlanta.

Angela Gennari: Oh you, I have no doubt you definitely will. So, congratulations on all the success.

Allision Bittel: Well, thank you.

Angela Gennari: And I really appreciate all of your time and being here today.

Allision Bittel: It was great to meet you. Thanks for having me.

Angela Gennari: All right.

Thank you for joining our guests on the pretty powerful podcast and we hope you've gained new insight and learned from exceptional women. Remember to subscribe or check out this and all episodes on pretty powerful podcast.com visit us next time and until then step into your own power.

Allison BittelProfile Photo

Allison Bittel

Founder and President of The Women's Collective

An Atlanta native, Allison Bittel is Senior Vice President and Principal in the Colliers Atlanta office, where she specializes in representing office tenants, supporting them in the development of real estate strategies to maximize their real estate and accelerate the success of their business objectives. With more than 20 years in commercial real estate, Allison has become a champion for mentorship and diversity through her work in the industry. Having served for more than a decade for the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors Diversity Mentorship Program, Allison has been been a critical driver of change for women and people of color in her industry.

Fueled by a passion for mentorship and paving a smooth path for women in the workplace, Allison launched The Women’s Collective, a 501c6, in early 2020. The organization’s mission is to bring together C-suite and executive-level women leaders in Atlanta for an exclusive experience. Focused on its purpose, to promote and enhance women leaders, The Women’s Collective concentrates on three key areas: Workplace, Education and Mentorship. Under the leadership of Allison, The Women's Collective has grown to 130 members, launched a mentorship program and raised significant sponsorship dollars to support programming for its members.

Outside of her real estate career and oversight of The Women's Collective, Allison has been married for 21 years to her husband, Phil, and they have two active teenage boys.