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30 Best Leaders to Watch 2022

Turkia Awada Mullin, APIS CEO and Founder: “We are the catalyst for successful development and the hub that drives projects forward to completion. We have experience managing all aspects of complex real estate projects.”

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Commercial real estate development involves transforming a vision into an impactful reality. Development is a continuously evolving and dynamic process. It requires skill and attention to many variables-some occurring beyond our control. We must remain nimble and have the foresight to mitigate unanticipated events that can impact the development’s timing, scope, and quality. The development process is intricate. Real estate development requires collaboration with various government and private sector stakeholders. Engineers, attorneys, architects, environmental consultants, site planners, lenders, subcontractors, title companies, and general contractors are often involved. In a timely and coordinated effort, championing a project and leading contractors and consultants with varying backgrounds requires resourcefulness, flexibility, and excellent problem-solving skills. 

APIS is a Veteran and women-owned small business championing all aspects of commercial real estate development on behalf of the owner. APIS ensures informed and timely decision-making. Projects begin with visioning, which includes defining the highest and best use for a site. Then, we build the development team, work up the site’s due diligence, anticipate development issues, and secure the entitlement and incentives for the site. 

In conversation with Turkia Awada Mullin, CEO and Founder of APIS

Q. What was the motivation behind starting APIS LLC?

I have worked in the public and private sectors and the legal field during my professional career. During my tenure in the public sector, I served as Chief Development Officer. In that capacity, I recognized a need existed for real estate investors. These investors needed someone to champion their real estate projects to completion. To fill that need, I created a development team that would focus on investors interested in investing in our region. We championed their project development at all levels of government. Our team worked with investors to develop both privately-owned and government-owned properties. Consequently, our team was recognized by Site Selection Magazine as one of the country’s top ten economic development teams. After leaving the public sector, I established APIS LLC to leverage my public and private sector background to serve as an unbiased owner’s representative for complex real estate projects. Currently, I serve as owner’s representative on multi-faceted complex real estate developments in Michigan.

Q. Could you tell us a bit about your leadership style?

I have been fortunate to be mentored by outstanding leaders beginning with my military service. I believe leadership starts with team building. Transparency, trust, respect, and good listening skills are essential components of leadership. I view my role as a resource and guide to my team. Taking into consideration the varied perspectives of owners and team members results in positive outcomes and allows us to accomplish our goals collectively. I ensure team members have what they need to make timely decisions with the best available information. Just as important is ensuring that the appropriate disciplines/stakeholders are represented in the decision-making process.

Q. Could you tell us about the challenges that APIS LLC has had to tackle so far? How pivotal is the role of a CEO in guiding a company through difficult times? 

Early in my professional career, I loved working as a lawyer in a law firm. Then I read the book “Who Moved My Cheese.” It inspired me to establish my law firm. My practice quickly grew. I experienced the stress of overseeing files, managing projects, employees, and overhead. The change in my role to “leader” taught me as the CEO the importance of remaining nimble, reducing overhead, and involving valuable resources and disciplines based on specific projects. My early experience as CEO of the law firm instilled in my awareness of guidelines that brought success. I follow those same guidelines today as CEO of APIS.

Q. If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting, what would it be?

Four Guiding Principles: 1. love what you do 2. Keep a positive attitude (there is a solution for every problem) 3. “People will forget what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel” (quote from Maya Angelou) 4. Maintain a work-life balance.

Q. What do you think is the most memorable moment in your career?

I overcame a professional challenge that presented overwhelming hurdles. With tenacity, I persevered and eventually won the victory. A negative became a positive. It was a pivotal moment in my career, providing a lifelong lesson.

Q. What are the top three skills needed to be a successful leader?

Team Building, Listening, Communication

Q. What other CEOs do you look up to? Why?

  1. Mary Barra, GM CEO, embodies leadership traits. I am humbled by influential leaders, particularly successful working mothers. As a single working mother, I respect Barra; besides being an accomplished CEO, she’s also a working mother.
  2. Elon Musk, Tesla CEO I am impressed that Musk wants to make the world better. I admire his entrepreneurial spirit. He’s not afraid to take risks. He’s bold and innovative.

Q. How do you market your services?

We don’t actively market our services. Word-of-mouth referrals are the best marketing technique. Our clients share with others the unbiased, trusted, and competent real estate services provided by APIS. This results in new clients interested in the same positive results for their real estate projects.

Q. What does the future hold for your company and its customers? Are exciting things on the way?

In June 2021, I accepted a Chief of Staff Position with The Ciena Group. (The Ciena Group specializes in skilled nursing and has over 10,000 employees) The caliber of professionals I have interacted with is of the highest quality. At times, learning an entirely new “highly regulated” industry has been overwhelming. It’s an incredible opportunity for me. Also, Apis is currently leading an ambitious $235+ million mixed-use development project in Midtown Detroit, Michigan.

“When you view life from the point of gratitude, you will make better decisions and appreciate every aspect of your life.”