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Greg Spink – FirstKey Homes 

Leading with resilience and legal brilliance  

Greg Spink played varsity soccer in high school and club soccer in college. That is pretty normal for an athletic American male who grew up in a sports-loving family. But Spink’s upbringing was anything but normal.   

Spink was born with a rare immune system disorder called chronic granulomatous disease that made even the most benign bacterial infections potentially life-threatening—doctors told his parents not to expect him to live past 20 years of age.  

Greg Spink | VP, Associate General Counsel | FirstKey Homes 

Greg Spink | VP, Associate General Counsel | FirstKey Homes

“I exceeded those expectations and then some,” Spink says.  

Now that he is essentially cured after a bone marrow transplant in 2019—his older sister was his donor—Spink wants to use his platform as associate general counsel to bring awareness to disabilities and bring more opportunities for disabled professionals.  

“Conversations and initiatives around diversity, equity and inclusion are usually about race, gender or sexual orientation. However, having a disability is not usually included in the discussion. It is my passion to change that,” Spink says. 

As the vice president and associate general counsel for FirstKey Homes, a privately owned single-family rental home property management company that operates in 19 states with over 50,000 homes, Spink champions diversity and inclusion in the workplace while ensuring the company remains compliant with changing regulations in its business. 

Increasing opportunities 

Spink says that the underlying aim of any DEI program is to foster a sense of belonging for his team members. Not only is treating people as equals ethically the right thing to do, but it is also the law of the land—think of the Fair Housing Act in the real estate industry.  

At FirstKey Homes, Spink plays a key role on the company’s DEI Council, and he says a big focus is trying to fight the stigma that disability is a weakness.  

Greg Spink | VP, Associate General Counsel | FirstKey Homes 

“It’s actually the opposite. Achieving anything while being disabled shows strength because of the challenges we face just completing daily life activities and doing basic things,” Spink explains. “Being disabled makes you stronger and more resilient.” 

Disability comes in many forms, which is part of the reason why disability awareness is something that gets lost in a company’s approach to DEI. There are open and obvious disabilities, like someone who uses a wheelchair or wears a prosthetic. But other disabilities, like the one Spink suffered from, are hidden from view—and thus harder for people to understand or acknowledge.  

“Only a few people know what I’ve been through. This is my public disclosure, and I hope people who read this feel compelled to share their stories of triumph, too,” Spink says.  

When the DEI Council was going through its plans for 2024, Spink made sure that disability awareness was a big part of them. One of Spink’s professional and personal passions is getting everyone involved and giving employees—called Keypers—the confidence and courage to be open about their challenges.  

Keeping track 

While DEI is something Spink focuses a lot of time and energy on, there are a lot of legal matters occupying much of his time each day. With FirstKey operating in about half of the U.S. states, Spink keeps tabs on evolving rules and regulations, especially concerning privacy, data protection and landlord-tenant relations.  

Greg Spink | VP, Associate General Counsel | FirstKey Homes 

To stay on top of things, Spink uses a system by LexisNexis called State Net, which provides him a report each day that helps Spink and his team monitor legislative changes in each state. He also relies on the many eviction law firms he uses to alert FirstKey of changes in eviction laws.  

“I also take advantage of Google Alerts and Law360 for resources,” he says. “And I do a lot of reading to keep up with everything and consider myself a lifelong learner.” 

With this much data at FirstKey’s disposal, cybersecurity is paramount, and Spink is a part of the cybersecurity committee that helped launch the company’s Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan in 2019. That plan activates a team—including Spink, IT personnel and people from communications and operations—if a breach occurs. Spink says, thankfully, that has never happened at FirstKey. 

Annual exercises led by a third party help keep the cybersecurity committee and other stakeholders up-to-date on threats and possible breaches—and how to defend against them.  

“We do a lot of employee training because no matter our security infrastructure, we’re only as strong as our weakest link,” he says, which he learned from FirstKey’s Chief Information Security Officer.  

Something else Spink is proud of is the texting platform he helped develop that allows FirstKey residents to stay connected to the organization, whether about leasing their dream home or maintenance requests. It took a lot of time to build the program and the technology, and it was a big undertaking overall because of the parameters set by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. 

“Our customers wanted it, and our employees wanted it, so we made it happen,” Spink recalls.  

The career he wanted 

In sixth grade PE class, Spink’s teacher assigned an essay about career plans, and after thinking long and hard about what he wanted to be when he grew up, Spink spoke with his dad.  

“He told me I was good at writing and helping people solve their problems, so I should consider being a lawyer,” Spink remembers. “While most of my classmates wanted to be professional athletes, I wrote about becoming a lawyer when I was 12.” 

Greg Spink | VP, Associate General Counsel | FirstKey Homes 

Spink earned a degree in political science from North Carolina State University and a JD from the Charlotte School of Law. After 11 years in private practice, he moved in-house and joined FirstKey Homes in 2019 as senior corporate counsel, where he was promoted to head of compliance in April 2020, then to his current position in August 2021.  

Spink says his disability left him with a chip on his shoulder during his younger years, and while it pushed him to succeed in college and law school, there was always lingering self-doubt about whether he could do it. 

“I’ve used my experience to my advantage because all the legal challenges I’ve faced and the hard times at work don’t give me stress because my disability provides me a perspective on life that others might not have,” Spink explains. “I am always cool, calm and collected at work because of everything that has happened in my life.” 

View this feature in the Vanguard Spring I 2024 Edition here.

Published on: March 14, 2024

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