Patrick Antrim, Founder and CEO of Multifamily Leadership, Producers of the Multifamily Leadership Innovation Summit, the Multifamily Women's Summit, and the Best Places to Work Multifamily® will bring you success strategies for Multifamily CEOs, executive leaders and aspiring leaders that want to drive high performance results for their portfolio.
Innovation has always been about people. We are changing the way products are introduced to the Apartment Industry. This show will bring you some of the most innovative minds in the Apartment Industry.
It’s Not About Bringing New Technology to the Game, Let’s Change the Game
Kerry Kirby, Founder and CEO of 365 Connect
The multifamily industry is changing, and it’s important to change with it. To do that, you should keep an eye on the way society is changing as a whole, the differences between generations, and the types of things people are already interested in. Technology is a huge portion of that. Multifamily needs to trend toward automation, streamlined online interactions, and no-contact exchanges of information. Think long-term and prepare ahead of time so you don’t fall behind.
(2:45) — Demographics is the most under-utilized tool in multifamily. Figure out who your renters are to determine larger trends. Are they moving out of the area, are employment numbers okay? If not, you might not want to build in that area, or might want to rethink your plans at least.
(6:00) – The banking industry has changed to be completely digital, with automatic online payments, money transfers over PayPal and Venmo and the like. Even money is becoming digital, with things like cryptocurrency. Consumers have spoken, and they’re saying they want to move transactions online.
(7:55) – Consider the auto industry. It’s a physical product, like apartments. You’re both selling units, and the goal is to get people to the office to make the sale. But just about no one likes the experience of shopping for a car; multifamily needs to make sure the shopping experience is a pleasant one and not something people dread. Tesla has already renovated the supply chain to go directly to the consumer. They recognize they’re selling (or will be selling) to younger generations that don’t like interaction.
(14:35) –365 Connect has accumulated a lot of data in its nearly two decades in business. There’s a disconnect between what’s happening with the customer and what property managers expect. The in-between, unexpected things are what matter here.
(17:39) – People figure that if something ain’t broke, we shouldn’t fix it. But innovation is crucial! Re-thinking the industry to come out ahead is going to be important as Gen Z becomes the most common renter.
(20:00) – Companies have this misconception that they have to shove as much information out all at once as possible. But guess what? People have pop-up blockers, and they find information overload unappealing. It can be enough to push them away. It’s better to be clean, precise, and transparent.
(22:00) — 365 Connect helps to figure out where there are gaps in communication. There are certain features that simply aren’t on the market that need to be built, but 365 is a huge help in the meantime.
(24:20) — Automation is going to be huge. Kirby thinks we’re going to get to the point that multifamily is completely self-service. There’s a huge turnover of on-site staff. Those folks can be repurposed to more critical roles, rather than giving them jobs that robots could handle. Having automation will also expedite leasing.
(27:40) – When you’re building software, you’re never really done with the project. At first, you’ll run into bugs you didn’t know you had. It’s better to try something and fail and adjust. You learn from your mistakes. After that, you make adjustments and send out updates to make things better. Kirby compares it to Elon Musk purposely making cheaper rockets because he knows he’s going to blow them up in tests.
(31:10) — Everything is technology-driven. If you don’t have the proper tools in place to bring a prospect in and quickly onboard th...
Investments at Different Stages of the Apartment Lifecycle
Featuring Tom SpahnVice President of Camber Creek
Real estate is a unique industry that faces unique challenges. When you seek out new technology, you should be careful about the investment. Tom Spahn talks about what to look for in the investments and commitments you make, how to know whether that product will be a good fit for your company long-term, and how to spot a truly great team.
(2:00) – A lot of companies are being fueled by the new technologies that are out there. There’s new technology for every step of the way, including plans for already-existing tenants, technology to deal with supply, management of energy contracts, pet screening, and much more.
(5:40) — Not all tech solutions are created equal. Additionally, not all technologies are perfect fits for each company.
(6:15) – It’s hard for small companies that don’t have the manpower to innovate. It’s hard for large companies because they’re set in their ways. It’s important to really consider what will work and what will be a good fit with that team.
(8:40) — Things are starting to focus more on tenant engagement and on flexibility. Virtual tours, access control, no-contact delivery – things that emphasize comfort and safety are really big right now. You should balance real estate fundamentals and new technologies.
(12:00) — In the past, real estate has lagged in the technology side. The pandemic sped up the willingness to change workflows and accept new technologies. Plus, more people are coming into the space who’ve grown up with technology all their lives.
(13:20) – Any change is always going to be hard. It takes work!
(14:30) – Think about sports teams. They don’t always focus entirely on the fan experience. Instead, they focus on acquisitions of new players and team members who will do well, and thus improve the fan experience. It’s an investment, not an expense.
(18:25) — Still, you have to be cautious when you invest. Your reputation will be staked on their success.
(19:20) — Almost all startups pivot at some point. That requires a good team that can pivot.
(21:30) – Avoid make-or-break companies and focus on companies with reasonable long-term plans. Analyze the downsides and weigh whether the company would survive market changes.
(23:30) – When building a team, focus on how people speak about their business. Seek transparency and honesty, especially about problems. You also need the team to be well-rounded – the founder can be great, but everyone else involved should be great too. Sometimes bringing people in from outside of the industry can be good.
(26:50) — Understand who your customer is and what they need. The best founders understand having to justify changes in approach and budget.
(28:10) — The industry is wide open! Spahn thinks data will become more important for driving decisions. Smart buildings are on the come-up. In the construction space, because costs are going up, that’ll change how things are built.
(31:30) – Opening the dialogue and having a running conversation is important. Maybe you run into a company when it’s too early in the planning stages, but they might later be a good fit. Bring operators into that conversation.
(33:00) – Right now, the larger players are dominating. They’re likely to acquire some of the smaller companies. But,
The State of Multifamily Tech
Multifamily has typically been a low-risk operating class, but multifamily operators are facing new challenges.
(2:00) – Innovation occurs not in a breakthrough moment, but in thousands of iterations. It happens with tons of failures over time.
(2:40) – Shadow Ventures is a venture capital firm that invests exclusively in seed-stage real estate technologies that the rest of the market hasn’t found yet. They had to figure out new ways to market to people, so they took a step back and considered the shifts in their business.
(4:50) – What they’d been excited about investing in before the pandemic changed, because life changed. Everyone was in their apartment day in and day out for months. That created a whole host of new things to solve for. That being said, there wasn’t as much uncertainty in multifamily as in other industries, because people will always need somewhere to live.
(6:50) – In the pandemic, most technologies were adopted mainly out of necessity. Other things already existed, but were seized upon in the shutdown, like Zoom. And there were already video chat options available – Zoom was just better. You can apply that logic to other startups.
(11:20) – Even if you invest in a technology that turns out to be second-most preferred in the market, that’s still a pretty good outcome. For instance, Coke and Pepsi are both successful. But if the potential solution you’re considering adopting is not going to improve your life or your company by “10x” then it isn’t worth the price and the challenge of switching over.
(14:20) – There are some biases around social proof – if other people like it, you assume you’ll like it.
(15:45) – Commercial real estate success correlates with macroeconomic trends.
(17:20) — If you aren’t getting returns at 20% or better, then you’ve lost money as an investor. If a technology can’t meet that rate and takes on a lot of risk, that needs to be evaluated and considered.
(19:30) – Multifamily has to worry about tings like rent delinquency due to loss of work in the pandemic, and urban flight thanks to more flexible work trends. Technology acts as a safe haven during uncertain periods, because it gives you leverage to curb inefficacies. It also lets you eliminate needless risk. And, of course, it lets you improve customer experience.
(24:50) – The hardest thing about adopting technology for real estate is that there are so many nuanced layers, because there are physical assets you have to integrate with. That might be why the industry has been so slow to adopt new tech. There are three layers: software, physical facilities, and human capital. If one of those layers is not incentivized to participate in what you’ve built, it creates problems with the other two.
(28:20) – At the end of the day, there’s a lot we don’t know. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your community.
(29:15) – Consider a hierarchy of needs. Start with the base layer, building resident health. After that is to ensure brand loyalty and drive renewal by improving resident experience. Next in the priority tier is leasing and demand automation. The last piece is data science for site selection.
(33:30) – People are starting to question their gut instincts.
(35:20) – Rethink the way you do things. For instance, leases are all 12 months long. Why? Consider whether things should be altered, and who would benefit if they were. It’s the entrepreneur’s job to think about that.
Create an Experience Residents Never Want to Leave
Reimagining the Multifamily Consumer Experience
Daryl Smith, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Kettler.
Right now, Daryl Smith is working to create a fully-integrated omni-channel marketing platform, while also growing the name for his multifamily development plan.
(2:10) – Kettler is reimagining the multifamily resident experience, namely figuring out how to best use the digital tools available. Smith is trying to eliminate friction as best as possible.
(3:30) — What does reimagining really mean? Multifamily has been lagging, compared to other industries. Sit down and be bold and think about how to enhance the consumer experience for tomorrow. That includes both improving the digital experience and giving consumers more choice. Offer them both online and in-person sales experiences, so they can choose what they prefer.
(7:45) – Be bold. For Kettler, they make decisions to figure out what tools best help enable leasing configuration and digital tools. Of course, those things come with price tags, and you have to take your budget into account.
(9:50) — Keep your brand connected to your multifamily resident through personalization. Even if consumers prefer digital contact, they still want to be able to get in contact with a human if needed.
(12:00) – What is “omnichannel?” The basis is to reduce consumer friction when multifamily residents engage with touchpoints. Kettler uses curated ads showing what the property can offer. They basically use a chatbox as a leasing agent. You have to reimagine what you can do and who you can be in the digital space.
(15:00) – Kettler’s platform experience has two levels: the enterprise, which goes over basic tools and solutions the owner would need to use the assets; and the discipline, including marketing.
(17:10) — Figure out what partners can solve for what and how you can create a frictionless multifamily resident experience.
(20:20) – Be careful about your decision-making. Figure out who can best fulfill what you’re trying to achieve. Create a picture of what you already have and what you’re missing. Interview your on-site teams to figure that out.
(23:00) — People don’t engage with platforms in the same way. That’s why you have to have choices available. One good example of tour technologies – people want different options, like in-person, live-virtual, pre-taped virtual, and so on.
(25:40) – Of course you have to address consumers’ needs, but make sure you’re still protecting your reputation and your brand.
(27:10) – Chatbots are conversational AI tools. Implementation of that into your strategy is what extends your availability to 24/7, which today is crucial. Consumers want immediate answers. Time is intrinsically linked to engagement.
(30:00) – Any partner you choose should also be bold and innovative. The product should be challenging itself to grow along with the consumers. Consumer data is attainable – you don’t have to guess what people want, just look at the data!
(34:40) — The goal is to create an experience that consumers never want to leave. But is that really attainable? Digital tools will help. Plus people are trending way from home ownership. People like having managed care, with maintenance and amenities available.
(40:00) — Some multifamily companies are bringing services to them to make things all-encompas...
COVID Driven Risk Management featuring Rachael Kish
Rachel Kish has been busy through the pandemic. She says she’s working on growing her team while focusing on acquisitions for Asset Living, all on top of dealing with things like evictions. Kish joined the Shelton Residential team in 2017, and Asset Living acquired that company in 2020.
“The joining of those two families has been a huge success for everybody,” said Kish. “Watching two different worlds collide and watching all of the success that comes out of that has been really fun to be a part of.”
Kish says she’s proud of how Multifamily has responded to the pandemic. Companies made adjustments and tested new ideas extremely rapidly, and were largely successful.
“I think the pandemic emboldened us to take risks and actions that we just – we wouldn’t have tip-toed around prior to that. And I think moving forward, as we come to a post-pandemic era, we can continue with that same boldness.”
Kish says it’s important to analyze the priorities for each client and see where there’s overlap so you can work efficiently.
“I feel like the most success comes in hiring great teams. Just this morning, I was texting with my managers, and I just thanked them, saying, ‘I couldn’t do what I do without you and the way that you pour into your people on-site.’ When you can find the right leaders, the execs at each of those sites, you can grow properties, you can grow portfolios. For me, that’s the biggest challenge and the great reward, also.”
For a while, Kish was working on ways to try to be open, rather than figure out ways to work through closure. The response was focused on keeping people safe and keeping the virus from spreading. Now, Kish thinks people should shift the focus to making sure things stay open in a safe way.
“We have to be very nimble in the way that we create policy in that environment. Really, it’s just, how do we be open, how do we do it really well, make people feel safe and also create the community that our people really desire,” said Kish.
Kish says face-to-face interaction doesn’t have to be prioritized in the same way it is now. For instance, self-guided and virtual tours have been extremely successful. However, that’s not to say face-to-face interaction is no longer important.
“Moving forward, we should continue to engage the technology to the degree that we have and look for new ways to utilize that platform. I also think we need to reevaluate how we deploy resources. In the COVID environment, we all had money set aside for social activities and then social activities got nixed. So how can we take that funding and re-deploy it so that we can still create community or be open on some level and just repurpose that money?”
At one property, Asset Living used the money it saved by not having community events to hire someone to oversee the fitness center, making sure it’s regularly sanitized, and that people wear their masks. At another property, the site had an on-site housekeeper; she was repurposed to focus on amenities, and the property brought in another third-party company to take on her old role.
Kish says there are some ways she thinks people’s decision-making and habits may forever be changed. For instance, she thinks people will always keep hand sanitizer in their cars. However, when it comes to residents, people still want the same things for the most part. Properties still have to deliver on those expectations. Communication and even over-communication encouraging people that they should get out and be active, but they need to do so safely has also been important. Choosing the right staff can help with that messaging.
Winning with Company Culture featuring Jamin Harkness
Patrick Antrim, CEO and Founder of Multifamily Leadership, prompts Jamin Harkness to talk about what he went through transitioning his business to remote work and building a winning company culture. Harkness is the Executive Vice President of The Management Group (TMG), a company that’s ranked three times on the Best Places to Work Multifamily® list.
“It was a very uncertain time for our team. We decided to close our offices,” said Harkness.
He says the teams have now started communicating weekly using Microsoft Teams, and he hopes to have the offices open again by sometime in April.
Harkness worked for the same family-owned company for 20 years.
“This family is very persistent and consistent in one thing: they set up meetings. They have a legal meeting every Monday, a maintenance meeting every Friday, and they just are clockwork with it. Even on vacations. They taught me consistency.”
Harkness says he took that model to The Management Group. They have three meetings a week: one for leasing and assistant manager teams, one for maintenance teams, and one for all of the corporate department heads and managers. He says people enjoy that consistent communication and the ability to meet people from other teams that they might not interact with otherwise.
That decision to ditch the office in the first place came from meetings between leaders within the Multifamily business. They discussed things like how to run the offices, how to respond if someone doesn’t pay their rent, what will they do about service requests that will keep the maintenance people safe? Those discussions are still going on monthly.
“Unspoken expectations are the breeding ground for resentment,” Harkness says.
They send out weekly questions to help keep everyone on the same page and activity reports. That form would ask simple questions, like how the respondent is feeling that day, and communicate what the organization is expecting that day. They don’t want to micromanage every minute of every day, but they want to express what the goals are. That form can be submitted at the end of the day to keep track of how well those goals are being met.
For instance, they’ll ask the maintenance staff how many work orders they’re getting and whether they have sufficient PPE. They’ll ask the leasing team what its occupancy is and how many renewals they have coming up. If the managers don’t have the numbers, they’re asked to go find them. At the end of the week, everyone reports on those answers, creating a friendly competition and a better understanding of how the company is functioning.
TMG committed to two goals before the pandemic.
“We could have easily shelved those initiatives,” said Harkness. “But we decided to lean into them.”
The first goal was to create a women’s leadership group within the company.
“I needed to create a space for the females. I didn’t want to be in their meetings but I wanted to be their number one hype guy, I wanted to help set it up, support it, fund it. I wanted to bring in some of our industry leaders that I know – and some that I don’t know – and ask them to come share their advice. How can they connect? How can this group hold our company accountable?”
Harkness says that’s been a tremendous success so far. The second goal was a D.E.N.I. Initiative.
Harkness says the company will occasionally shut down for a day to go on a trip or at- tend something together and discuss. This year, with the pandemic, the staff watched a documentary about a Georgia congressman and ...