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Shelby Smith has many busy days at Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate where she serves as Property Manager. From monitoring building operations to vendor negotiations and being a tenant liaison, property management requires a lot of organization and attention to detail.

Along with her colleague Mike Arnold, Shelby maintains the day-to-day operations of the firm’s property management portfolio, which currently includes more than 20 commercial properties.

We recently sat down with Shelby to discuss the ins and outs of property management, what she enjoys about her position, and the tools she uses to stay on top of her game. 


How did you get involved with Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate?

Commercial real estate and property management were things I discovered after I was done with school.

After growing up in the Madison area, I went to Athens State University where I pursued a degree in Human Resources Management. It was around my senior year when I decided it wasn’t something I wanted to do long term. So, I started looking at other career paths.

I already knew Eric St. John who is a broker at Crunkleton. When I saw the company had an opening for an Office Manager, I was quick to apply. Once I began the job, I learned how much I enjoyed the industry and I decided I wanted to grow in it. Commercial real estate interested me.

During my time as Office Manager, I was able to work closely with the Property Manager on contacting vendors, taking service orders, and reviewing leases. It was during that period that I knew I wanted to become a property manager, and I worked the next year toward becoming one. I was eventually promoted and it has been a rewarding experience.

What about the commercial real estate industry interested you?

Before joining the team, I knew about the company from its involvement with revitalizing downtown Huntsville. I wanted to be part of growing the city, which is what initially attracted me to the position.

Being in the Office Manager role was wonderful because it gave me insight into all sides of the industry. I was able to work with the brokers, leasing administration, marketing, and property management. Obviously, I enjoyed property management enough to make it my focus.

What is property management?

Simply put, property management is the overall physical and financial management of a commercial property. There’s a lot that goes into it from making sure tenants are taken care of to addressing maintenance issues to building a budget, but for sake of simplicity that’s how I would describe it.

At Crunkleton, we focus mainly on retail and office properties. Our goal is to represent the owner of the commercial building or center in the best way possible, while helping them achieve any goals they have for its future.

Of course, there’s a major part of the job that’s all about problem-solving. Maintenance issues can arise at any time, especially at large commercial properties with multiple tenants. We are always on call to make sure that any day-to-day or emergency issues are dealt with swiftly in the most cost-effective manner.

Why would someone need a property manager?

That’s a great question, and the answer is that many property owners just don’t have the time to manage the many intricacies of a development or building. It takes a lot of attention to detail, patience, and quick action to make sure a property is running at peak performance.

Another thing to consider is vendors—how will you go about securing the best rates for contractors, plumbers, maintenance? Property owners must spend wisely for their property to be a lucrative investment.

We have a wide portfolio of vendors that we work with at Crunkleton for the many properties we currently manage. We’ve done the legwork of searching for the best vendors and rates in the Huntsville/Madison market. We continue to build those relationships daily. I think we value a hands-on approach here and we want our clients to know we are available to them and their tenants 24/7.

What is your favorite part of property management?

I enjoy working with people, getting to know them, and helping them solve problems. It’s very rewarding to know you brought solutions to the table that made life easier and happier for owners/tenants.  I think being a people-person has made the job much richer for me.

Every day I learn something new, and that keeps the job from being monotonous. There’s no typical day and I end up tackling something different at every property.

What’s the greatest challenge you face on the job?

Anyone who enters the field of property management will have to handle several tasks simultaneously and skillfully prioritize requests. My list of daily tasks is ever changing and each day is very busy. Making sure that you treat each tenant’s request as top priority while deciding what issue you need to tackle first can be a challenge.

How do you stay on top of your game?

There are lots of things you can do to improve your skills in property management. Currently, I am working on my Certified Property Manager designation (CPM). It’s a two-year process that requires a lot of study and I’ve been working on it for the past year. Wesley Crunkleton has had his CPM since he began working in commercial real estate and he has been guiding me through the steps.

I also occasionally attend meetings with a professional group called the Building Owners and Managers Association(BOMA). It’s an organization that offers continuing education, research, and advocacy for those involved with managing commercial properties.

Other than that, I have to stay on top of industry trends and tools to make sure properties are getting the best bang for their buck. For instance, making sure HVAC systems are most up to date so buildings can become more energy-efficient, thus saving money. It’s a lot of paying attention to what’s out there and available.

What are your professional goals?

Other than growing Crunkleton’s property management portfolio, I’d like to focus on earning my CPM and continuing to grow my knowledge in the industry.

What would you say to someone who is considering a career in property management?

Be ready for anything. You will need to be able to keep calm in tough situations that require immediate action. Also, work on your organizational skills. Being able to organize multiple tasks at once is a must. Lastly, you need to enjoy working closely with people. Practice communication skills and become comfortable discussing tougher topics. Owners and tenants will rely heavily on you, and it’s important that you are there when it’s needed most.

Shelby and her daughter Kennedy. (Credit: Valerie Callan Photography)

What do you enjoy doing outside of the office? 

I love interior decorating, floral arranging, and photography. But, to be honest, many of those things are on hold for the moment because I recently became a mother to my sweet daughter, Kennedy. She and my husband Bryant are huge blessings in my life and I enjoy every second with them. We also have an adorable black lab, Maggie.

 If you have questions for Shelby about property management, you can reach her at or by calling 256-536-8809.

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