For the Institute of Real Estate Management, establishing professional partnerships with Eastern European countries has been a thoroughly beneficial endeavor. In doing so, IREM can develop new markets for its education, publications and programs while its Eastern European partners can benefit from the free market knowledge of the Institute's nearly 11,000 CPM[R] membership.

John N. Gallagher, CPM, IREM's 1996 president, explains, "Property management is a major issue in Eastern European countries today. They have to establish standards for property management. They will eventually be establishing their own designation and we hope that it will be the CPM designation."

Since the Communist nations have disappeared, these Eastern European countries have huge numbers of properties which need to be managed. These countries are focusing on getting properties into condition in order to provide better housing in which to live, better offices in which to work and better retail in which to shop.

Before it could "go global," IREM needed to make sure that its partnerships were a mutually good fit.

As Gallagher notes, "For this kind of international partnership to work, you need to find a partner with credibility in the marketplace and expertise with the current real estate economy. When you combine those with our (IREM's) expertise, you have a viable partnership."

It is also essential, the IREM president notes, to establish agreed-upon goals before entering into such a partnership. He explains, "When we negotiated the agreement with the Hungarian Association of Real Estate Managers, our goal was not to go in and establish property management standards and industry structure ourselves, but rather to teach them how to do it for themselves."

For any goal to be achieved in these kinds of international partnerships, both partners must contribute. For example, last year, IREM taught 1,500 people in Eastern Europe using simultaneous translation. The Institute provided the property management and educational expertise while the Eastern European countries contributed their experience in this special kind of course delivery.

Organizations considering such long-term partnerships need to understand that in doing so, they are making an investment in their future which translates to a long-range rather than short-term perspective.

"The payoff is huge but it doesn't happen overnight," Gallagher says. "You must be prepared to deal with the short-term expectations of your members who are most likely looking at such an endeavor in terms of 'How can my company capitalize on this?' The fact is, if the designation becomes recognized worldwide, they will receive more credibility in those European countries which, in turn, will help them get the business.

"We also feel another significant benefit of such international partnerships is the standardization of property management practices worldwide," Gallagher stresses. "This better enables companies to do business in Eastern European countries because they can be confident that the basis for doing property management will be the same, whether it be in Hungary or in West Virginia."

The success of such an international partnership requires much time and persistence. The time frame for implementing these alliances varies from country to country depending on whether the country has any sort of industry structure in place. For example, Poland already had an industry structure for property management in place and looked to IREM for its educational expertise, while Russia had no structure in place at all and required IREM's assistance in establishing property management standards as well as providing targeted education. Generally speaking, however, an association is looking at between 2 to 3 years to set up such an alliance.