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Straw, Sticks or Bricks...What Is Your House Made Of?

Straw, Sticks or Bricks...What Is Your House Made Of?
When the big bad wolf, better known as online reviews, comes knocking at your door, how solid is your community’s reputation? Think back to the children’s bedtime story, The Three Little Pigs. Each pig decided to leave home and seek their fortunes. Before leaving, their mother told them, “Whatever you do, do it the best that you can because that is the way to get along in the world.” The first pig decided to build its house of straw, because it was the easiest, leaving him more time to play. Is your community built of straw? Are you doing just enough to get by? Residents living at a straw community may feel as though all they are to you is an apartment number and a monthly check. Walking into your office, they may be second in priority to prospects, a ringing telephone, or even a conversation among co-workers. Straw communities are defenseless to the big bad wolf because cutting corners and indifferent service are surefire triggers for negative reviews. The second pig built its house of sticks. While stronger than the straw, this material had its own shortcomings. The second pig chose sticks because he could fashion a sturdy structure quickly and still have the rest of the day to play. Stick communities have great intentions when it comes to their residents however, consistency and longevity are often challenges. By not providing a stellar level of service day in and day out, the big bad wolf has no problem lurking outside your do......
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Left Brain vs. Right Brain Renewals

I’m sure you all have heard of the left vs. right brain approach when it comes to decision making.  Have you ever wondered which hemisphere your resident uses when it comes to renewing?  Many factors go into this determination and most important could simply rest on what type of thinker your resident is. Left-brain decision makers tend to be logical, analytical and objective in their thought process.  These are the people who weigh the pros and cons and look at the outcome from a variety of angles.  Then there are those who are more intuitive, subjective and emotional about deciding to renew.  Left-brainers ask themselves, “Is it worth it?” and right-brainers also question “Is it worth it?”; only this common question comes from two totally different perspectives.  The lefties dissect their living experience while the righties look at the overall year as a whole.   Okay, so is it worth it?  According to the 2012 SatisFacts Insite Index, residents 120 days out from lease expiration rated their overall satisfaction a 3.99 out of a 5.00, and only 32% said they were “very likely” to renew their lease.  An even bigger question – the value received for the rent asked was scored a 3.64 out of a possible 5.00.  Value, plus a high level of satisfaction, equals to more residents being “very likely” to renew.  So once again, is it worth it?   Determining whether or not a resident considers your community to be a worthy option begins with how you frame your renewal invita......
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103 Days On A Roller Coaster? Try Property Management!

There’s an American named Richard Rodriguez who is currently on day 87 of a 103 day marathon attempt to set a new world record for roller coaster riding.  He is riding The Big One at Britain’s Pleasure Beach Amusement Park for 10 consecutive hours each day in all weather conditions.  The Big One reaches speeds of up to 85 mph and is complete with twists, turns, dips and flips.  Why would someone be crazy enough to attempt such a feat?


Well, those of us in Property Management might as well hop on the train because we are well equipped to take on such a challenge.  Let’s see, a ten hour workday…check.  Any and all weather conditions…check.  Twists, turns, dips and flips…check.  A normal day in our industry is nothing short of a roller coaster; and we manage to get up every morning and ride again and again.


What makes our ride even more challenging is that we are unable to see the track ahead.  All we know is to be prepared for anything.  And that is what being successful in this industry is all about.  Expect the unexpected…be proactive rather than reactive.  And above all, do it with a smile on your face – at all times.


While I applaud Mr. Rodriguez and wish him well in his attempt, I must say that he has nothing on us.  Here’s to all of my industry brothers and sisters – I hope you are enjoying the ride as much as I am!

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Don't Forget The "In-Betweens"

I once knew a resident named Mrs. Marshall*.  She was the type of resident we all should be so lucky to have.  Mrs. Marshall acknowledged every birthday of everyone working in the office, attended all of our resident events, and was simply a joy to have in the community.  Not to mention, she also made us the most amazing rum-soaked walnuts at Christmastime.   I also remember Mrs. Kensington*.  She was the one who always sent letters to our corporate office criticizing our performance, deliberately took up two parking spaces for her car and failed to pick up after her precious Shih Tzu.  In addition, she rarely paid her rent on time and always expected and demanded that her late fees be waived.   Why is it that we always remember the extremes?  You know…either the really pleasant or the really not so pleasant residents?  Ask any property management professional to recall their most favorite and most difficult residents and they will answer without hesitation.  Harder to recall in most instances, are those that are only seen at move-in and move out.  They are the residents who usually put their rent checks in the drop box or pay online.  They also request service in a one minute phone call or a short and sweet email.  These are the residents I like to refer to as the “In-Betweens”.   The In-Betweens make up the bulk of our resident base, yet are seldom seen as the value-added commodities they are.  These residents, if......
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'Tis the Season to Lock Your Backdoor

Your current residents remember the special treatment they received when they first walked in your front door.  They were greeted with a smile, from a standing position, and referred to by name.  They were offered refreshments, given a personal tour, along with your undivided attention.  Over the years, some of that begins to fade.     Retaining your residents is always an important piece of a community’s success and probably most crucial during the holiday season.  Move-outs occurring during the months of November through January tend to remain vacant longer due to the drop in traffic around this time.  With so much focus placed on getting new residents in the front door, who at your community is watching the back door?   This is a great time for an all-out retention blitz!  Here are some ideas you can build on to remind your residents that your community is the only place for them:   November – “A Month of Thanks” ·      Send thank you cards to every resident.  Have the entire team sign each card.  If you are at a larger community, this may be quite a task however think of the impact it will have on your residents when they realize you took the time to do so. ·      Host a thank you brunch.  Invite your residents to join you and the entire team for a continental breakfast.  Be sure to remind your team to mingle with the residents and not huddle together in the corner of the room.  December –......
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4 Steps to Creating a Learning Culture

For many adults, our perception of attending training is based on our high school and college experiences.  If you were the kind of student who loved going to classes for the simple pleasure of learning, attending a corporate training class is probably a positive experience.  On the other hand, if you struggled in school and had a hard time remaining focused, you may expect much of the same as an adult learner and avoid training altogether.  The challenge for training professionals in our industry is this: how do we create a culture where learning is expected, encouraged and rewarded?Years ago, I began working for a company without an established training department.  My initial goals were to put in place a foundation for learning, establish consistency in what was being trained, and map out a direction for the future growth of the department.  I was able to create a proposal based on 1-, 3-, and 5-year projections.  On paper, the programs were stellar and encompassed all of the varied positions, community types, and individual budgets.  But before the first educational brick could be laid, we had to address one important question: How do we get employees who have never had to incorporate a learning schedule into their work routines excited about learning?Creating a culture within your company where employees look forward to attending classes, where they actively participate in those classes, and above all, retain and implement what was learned is not has difficult as you might think.  When I set out......
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The Random Object Project

What marketing masterpiece can you create around a pencil? How about a door key? That's the basis behind the Random Object Project. In an effort to spark some creative thinking, choose one of the objects listed below and create a contest, activity, referral campaign, etc. for your community. Check out this idea to get you started:


Random Object: Deck of Playing Cards


Project: Outreach Gifts for Local Businesses


Concept: Put the card deck in a goodie bag with some colorful confetti. Attach curling ribbon and a tag that reads "Our Goal is a FULL HOUSE!" along with your community's information.



Here are some random objects - CHOOSE ONE & GET STARTED!

  • Puzzle Piece
  • Light Bulb
  • Water Bottle
  • Band-aid
  • Racecar
  • Pillows
  • Frog
  • Crayons
  • Whistle
  • Chocolate
  • Matches
  • Marbles
  • Telephone

Can you think of other random objects for your marketing projects?

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There's No Place Like Home

During my Unconventional Marketing webinar, I was asked to post a blog about my Round Robin Open House event.  It's a simple and fun idea which gets your team and the residents involved while highlight what makes your community special and memorable.   Years ago, I was asked to troubleshoot a 30-year old community that had recently been added to our portfolio.  This community had struggled for some time under the previous management company and the owner was understandably anxious to see immediate results.   This community was challenged not only from the previously ineffective management, it had an occupancy issue due to 19 recent evictions.  The existing residents were distrustful of us coming in and felt we would be just as incapable as the prior management.  We were also dealing with a reputation problem as the community directly across the street had a history of criminal activity and our community was grouped in by association.  Even changing the name of the community had very little impact.    I created an event called the Round Robin Open House where we selected 4 vacant apartment homes to showcase.  Each apartment home was decorated in a different theme (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Wizard of Oz, Goldfinger, and It’s a Wonderful Life).  The theme for the open house was “A New Take on an Old Classic”.  In addition to the decorations, each apartment home had a monitor with the movie playing and snacks/drinks tied into the theme.  There was also an associate dressed in costume ......
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Know The Bear!

In my first blog, I detailed my experience with a Leasing Associate who shocked me in a good way with a simple act of extraordinary service.  In fact, my interraction with her shed a new light on what we could do to service residents better at our own communities."Customer Astonishment" by Darby Checketts has been one of my go-to books for all things customer oriented.  In the book, Checketts details 10 secrets to world-class customer care which can be applied to any industry.  My personal favorite is #5...Know the Bear.  We all have a bear chasing us, nipping at our heels, ready to pounce any second and take a lease from us or even a long-term resident.Here are the 10 secrets as outlined in Customer Astonishment:#1: Be Customer Champions! Know what your team stands for and communicate it through words and actions. Champion your core purpose in direct response to what your customers want and need the most.#2: Get Connected. Know the interdependencies represented by your own Chain of Customers. Make communication linkage a top priority that demonstrates the importance of all of your customers, internal and external.#3: Get It Together. Quickly resolve internal conflicts so they do not become apparent and weaken the customer's confidence in your team. Achieve crystal clear agreement on team priorities and individual responsibilities.#4: Know Your Customers. Listen to them. Observe them. Make a commitment to NO SURPRISES, except on their birthdays. What you promise is what they get and more.#5: Know the Bear. There is a bear out there, behind you. Faster is......
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Your Residents Don’t Deserve Customer Service

Early in my Property Management career, I attended a class to learn how to achieve a perfect score on a mystery shop. The concept was easy enough, do all of the things listed on the form correctly and get a perfect score. It sounded great in theory but putting it into practice in the real world was another story. Not long after the class a mystery shopper called my community and I was the lucky duck who answered the phone. The call was straightforward; a 2-bedroom needed within 30 days and the caller’s price range was right in line with our rents. During the call, it occurred to me that this could be the mystery shop I was told would take place shortly after the training. It was then that I sat up a little straighter in my seat, put an even bigger smile on my face and proceeded to rack up every point possible. The subsequent tour was even better and although I rocked the presentation and wowed the “prospect” with my vast knowledge of the community, I wasn’t the least bit deterred when she refused to lease. Her reason at the time was “wanting to look at a few other places”; textbook excuse for a mystery shop, right? I attempted to close on her once more, feigned disappointment and promised to follow up. I made sure to send her a nicely written thank you card and called her twice to ensure I didn’t miss any points for follow-up. A......
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