Growth Opportunities: The Iceberg Report

Right now in the United States, there are about 22 million single family rental homes and multi-family rental properties that have up to four units. Out of these, 14.3 million, or 65 percent, are self-managed by the investor or landlord. This offers a vast opportunity to the 32,000 small or mid-sized property management companies.

There are a lot of social and economic factors that keep rentals in high demand. Over the next five years, about 8 million single family rentals will come into the professional management market. The opportunity is clear, and to take advantage of these opportunities, it’s important and necessary to establish trust between property managers and landlords and investors. This is one of the divides that’s keeping property managers from growing and acquiring new business. To effectively win all the new business that’s available in local management markets, property management companies need to demonstrate their value and give landlords and investors who have been managing on their own a reason to trust that their properties are better off with professional management.

Tony LeBlanc and the Need to Establish Balance

Any problem in an organization can be traced to the top. If the leadership is off balance, the team will never reach its potential. The CEO’s mood or the director’s attitude affects the team. Tony LeBlanc is a successful property management entrepreneur, and he made the choice to balance himself and his team to achieve better results. The business is growing and thriving because of his efforts. He spoke to Alex about the need to balance personal and professional goals, and why it matters to property management executives.

Tony is from New Brunswick, Canada. He owns and operates a property management company, Ground Floor Property Management, with three locations, and he’s been in business for eight years. He was born into the field; as a child he lived in a building where his mother was the resident property manager. Tony worked in the technology field after college and began investing in real estate. Then, he got back to property management and built a company that went from 0 units to 1,000 units in two years.

Advice for Fast Growth: Call Everyone

This type of fast growth came from calling everyone he knew. Tony called all the Realtor friends he worked with previously and used his relationships and connections to quickly establish himself. There was a snowball effect from picking up the phone and letting people know he was in business. Property management is a people business and a relationship business. It’s hard to earn new business sitting in the office. Go out and meet every Realtor in town and anyone associated with the rental business. Connect and create relationships to increase the amount of business you’re doing.

Fourandhalf note: We were at the recent Inman Connect San Francisco 2017 – Real Estate Conference, where high-powered real estate agents meet to stay ahead of the industry. Of the real estate agents we spoke to, the majority of them did not have a relationship with any of the property management companies in their community. It is important for property management owners to be aggressive in conveying their value propositions to people like real estate agents, where there is a great opportunity for a mutual partnership.

Sponsor for Today’s Podcast – NARPM

Balance and Confidence – Define Your Property Management Purpose

What does it mean when Tony says the property management industry is off balance? When you study this industry, you see a lot of the same trends. It’s chaotic and stressful and busy. There’s a lot of negativity associated with the work, and that negativity often comes from the property managers themselves. There is a lot going on at once in a property manager’s day. Everyone knows it’s stressful. But, if you’re in a position of weakness – either you’re having issues at home, or your health isn’t where you want it to be, or you’re not connected to yourself spiritually – you won’t be clear about where your business is going, and the stress and the chaos that comes with an average day will be magnified.

You need a purpose to what you’re doing, and if you don’t have that purpose, the daily grind is going to be much harder to endure.

Every day that you come into the office, you need to know where you’re going and why you’re doing what you do. Not only do you need to know that – your staff and your team need to know that as well. Everybody needs to be aligned with what all this is for.

Tony has a two-year roadmap that he shared with his team and a list of goals and opportunities that he wants to achieve. But, the statistic that resonated with them more than anything else is this:

Last year, Tony’s team housed almost 2,000 families.

That’s the purpose that will balance and motivate a team; knowing that 2,000 families have relied on them. Well-balanced and empathetic property managers will understand that people are counting on them to take care of their homes, their futures, their safety, and the place that their children grow up. You cannot take the reallife part of this job for granted. Property management includes a lot of pushing paper and conducting move-in inspections and taking calls, but the purpose is to provide an exceptional experience for everyone you come across. You’re protecting an owner’s investment and helping tenants feel comfortable in their homes.

Building a Trust Bridge Between Tenants and Owners

This may remind you of the podcast conversation with Lisa Wise, who advised leading with empathy. A lot of property management entrepreneurs think of tenants as a necessary evil. They mentally set up an adversarial relationship with these pesky entities who are only good for paying rent. If you change your thinking, you change the way you provide property management, and you change the experience for everyone who works with you.

Property management shouldn’t be a tenant-versus-owner dichotomy. Your business cannot be all about the owner, because if you cannot keep good tenants in place, it doesn’t matter how many new owners you start working with. You won’t have tenants to fill their properties. Taking care of tenants is just as important as taking care of owners.   

This is part of the trust bridge that the property management industry needs. Policies and systems are critical, but empathy is absolutely necessary. There are a lot of different ways to say no. You can say no and still be helpful. If something doesn’t work between you and a tenant, leave them with an out and be sure to end the relationship on a positive note. If you live in a small community, word spreads fast through other tenants and property managers. Leading with empathy will build you a better business.

Routines and Rituals: How to Start Balancing Personal and Professional Goals

Personal lives always bleed into office lives, and balancing the two takes some work. At home, Tony has a protocol in place, which starts with waking up at 5:00 in the morning and taking care of himself and his personal priorities. He works out, drinks a smoothie, and takes the time to write appreciative notes to his children and his girlfriend. Then, he meditates and journals and reviews study material that’s relevant to his business and his professional goals. All of this is done in what he calls his morning power hour. His day is moving on a positive note before his children are even awake.

At the office, the day begins with a morning huddle with his staff. Everyone gets together to review the previous day. This puts everyone on the same page and ensures the whole team is aware of any new notices, new maintenance emergencies, and new applications. Then, each team member has the opportunity to define their number one priority for the day. It might be collecting rent or making deposits. The leasing agent might have a good lead. Everyone is calibrated and ready to start the day.  

Jim Kwik, a renowned mental coach, talks about the need for routine, and how a healthy brain needs one ingrained. Most people don’t have this, and it sounds intimidating when you hear about the discipline that someone like Tony possesses. Don’t be intimidated – just be willing to start somewhere.   

Pick one or two things that are weakest for you and where you get the most value. Start there, and if you can build a routine with just those one or two things, they will become intuitive and instinctual, and part of your everyday life. Then, you can start incorporating more things into the routine and it will be manageable. So, if you’re thinking your health is where you’re weakest and you value being able to live a longer, healthier life – make a visit to the gym a part of that morning routine. If you can’t get a whole workout in, give yourself the opportunity to sweat hard for 10 minutes. This is a matter of taking an assessment of yourself and being real. Find that weakness and start with something simple.

Healthy Leader/Healthy Staff: Centering Your Team

Tony admits that sometimes his own routine is a bit over the top, and a little aggressive for most people. He doesn’t expect his team to be just like him, but he does tone it down a bit and offer tips and advice that everyone can apply to their lives. Office discussions will include fitness and nutrition and relationships. Many people have kids, and he recognizes the importance of having real conversations. There’s nothing superficial about the growth and balance that he wants to achieve. Tony is willing to ask deep questions, and he creates an environment where his team feels safe answering those questions.  

The team huddle sets the tone for the day and centers everyone. From that, other things are put into place to protect that sense of balance and healthy behavior.  

For example, the office hours are 8:30 to 4:30, but the doors don’t open to the public until 9:30. That gives the staff an hour to catch up and prepare. On Friday afternoons, the office closes at 1:00 for training sessions or catching up and preparing for the week ahead. Focusing and planning for the next week is a big component of the business. Those Friday afternoons are critical because everyone can decompress and wrap up from the week.  

Using Gamification in the Pursuit of Balance and Success

Gamification can help with motivation and accountability. Something as simple as awarding yourself points for the things you accomplish can provide a way to track your progress and feel good about what you accomplish. Tony calls his morning routine the Core Four. There are four major areas he’s touching, and he wants to do two things in each of those areas. So, he can earn up to four points per day. His goal is to reach those 28 points per week. Every Sunday night, he reviews his week and determines what happened if he didn’t reach that goal and what he has to do to correct the course for the following week.

The same thing applies to his professional routine, which he calls the Key Four. Every Sunday night or Monday morning, he plans four major tasks that he needs to accomplish that week. Maybe his 90-day goal is to increase revenue by a certain amount. He breaks out his benchmarks and his targets and he establishes those four tasks every week that will get him closer to that revenue goal. Making it a game is a tactic that’s fun and simple and accountable.

Consulting, Coaching, and Personal Development

It’s easy to dismiss personal development and coaching as schemes designed to separate successful people from their money. However, the right coach or the right book or the right community of like-minded people can change your life and alter your path. For Tony, it was realizing his software job was setting his life off balance after he read The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma. That is when he became more interested in personal development.

This is a world where it’s hard to figure things out on your own. Having a community or a coach who can challenge you to think differently and expect more from yourself makes an enormous difference in your balance and your ability to achieve success. Most people out there, professional athletes included, need a coach. You need someone to push you through these things.

As a property manager, do yourself a favor and give yourself a break. You need to bestow permission upon yourself to live a great and balanced life. Property management doesn’t always feel like one of the best industries out there, but it is. Property managers are doing work that matters. It’s becoming more mainstream, and to get to the next level, property managers need to be professionals. Be accountable with yourself and others, and find your balance.

If you have any questions about what Tony and Alex have talked about today, please contact Fourandhalf.