Community Begins at Home
There's been a lot of talk lately on industry blogs about creating a sense of community out on site. Some great ideas have been shared for events and customer service actions that make our residents feel a part of something bigger than just having a place to live.
But where does this start? We can plan events and offer services all day long, but I think community starts inside each of us. And speaking from the "Home Office", I think it starts with the executive team creating that same sense of community within the managment company itself.
We started as a "family business", so the concept of family has always been prevalent. I constantly work to create an atmosphere that honors each individual as I would my family and create that sense of community within our company. I believe in this way, my team is better equipped to "take it outside", as we say, and give from their own hearts as they do the same in their site communities.
I would be interested to hear from other Multifamily Executives on what they do to support and train their leaders in creating community.
So I don't think the answer to unsuccessful community building is to simply give it up, but rather understand where the breakdown is happening. Is the community establishing goals, are they tracking results, are they polling their residents to find out what they would enjoy? In almost 99% of cases, the answer is "no" to all of these questions.
In the end, I think it is interesting that we seem to agree on the potential power of a strong sense of community, we agree that it simply isn't happening at most communities, but I think we disagree on what the response should be.
Several years back, I had a friend in San Diego who lived in La Mirage. It may be one of the few apartments that everyone in town knows by name. This is partially because they are situated opposite the stadium, but mostly because of the way they built community. They had buses to the Del Mar Race Track, Nights at the Ballpark for the Padres, they organized Pool Parties, Fitness Clubs, Running Groups and Happy Hours. My friend couldn't stop talking about the place!
I was moving out of San Diego or I would have paid the extra money to live there as it had a built-in social life! That 15-minute conversation over Happy Hour drinks got me thinking and I have been working on applying that to the Multifamily Housing industry. The point I am trying to get across is that whether your attempts to build "community" are successful or not will be judged by your residents, not pats on the back for throwing a once a year pool party. If these do not turn into renewals and attracting new tenants, save the money, time and effort and get a free movie kiosk...