AppWork had the privilege of sitting with Moshe Crane, Director of Marketing and Leasing at Sage Ventures, LLC. Moshe Crane hosts a podcast, The Curious Wire, self-described as a curious journey for folks in the multifamily industry wanting to elevate their careers and challenge the status quo.
AppWork: Please elaborate on the significance of cultivating a curious mindset in the workplace, particularly in the role of a property manager.
Crane: Our industry has a mindset of this is how we've always done it. In contrast, being curious will help you unlock and uncover many opportunities.
Someone once suggested increasing the marketing budget for a specific property because occupancy was down. I demonstrated that we were getting significant numbers of leases in the past three months. The real problem was too many resident move-outs. Retention was the issue, not marketing.
It's critical to be curious about why things work, how things work, and what can improve each process. You've got to be curious when you have a pain point with hiring, staffing, or managing packaging. See if there's a way to eliminate this problem, and where would that solution lead? Since property management has so many parts being curious is beneficial because there are endless areas to improve.
AppWork: What are the benefits of creating a more supportive work environment, and how might that contribute to increased productivity and employee satisfaction?
Crane: Good self-esteem leads to better performance, while toxic environments hinder it. Properties with positive cultures have better performance rates. Other properties use them for training and support. Typically, you borrow team members from those properties to fill in at other properties. The impact of culture and environment on performance can be seen in the data and customer service, as residents prefer a consistent and comfortable team.
A good leader builds a team. When you have a bad team member, it's the manager's job to fix, correct, or remove that person. When that doesn't happen, it sabotages the performance of everybody and creates an environment that people don't enjoy.
AppWork: What expert advice would you offer to property managers to optimize their performance and achieve more success?
- Be Hungry, do and learn more, and think like an owner. When property managers understand what the highest return on investment is, they can know which metrics to measure and which areas to improve.
- Be Humble, take accountability for what you do, give others credit, and be likable. People want to work with people who are enjoyable to work with.
- Be Smart, use emotional intelligence to be aware of how you impact others, and be a leader. Owners want to promote and develop people who understand priorities, are proactive, likable, and have great leadership skills.
Going back to question number two about the benefits of having a great environment, having great leadership skills will help your team stand out in terms of a positive environment and good culture.
There are a lot of ways in which management companies can improve the efficiency of their operations.
AppWork: How might technology be leveraged to create a more people-centric culture?
Crane: When a property management company focuses on people and recognizes that they are the most important piece of success at both a site-level and corporate level, that is what it means to be people-centric.
Companies can use technology to focus on and develop people. They can use it for hiring, tracking, and measuring performance. Technology helps them hire the right people and develop them.
Another great example of using technology to create a more people-centric culture is a company called Snappy. Employers often send employees branded gifts they don't want or need. Snappy created software that allows employers to set a gift budget, and then employees can select a gift of their choice within that budget. Snappy offers a great example of how to use technology to enhance your company's culture.
AppWork: As a seasoned professional, what key factors distinguish successful multifamily properties from those that struggle? What specific strategies do you recommend to ensure optimal performance and success?
Crane: There are a lot of variables, depending on different markets and external factors. I believe that, in general, successful multifamily properties have great leadership and great culture.
It starts with leadership. Where you have high-quality team members and leadership, you have lower turnover rates and better customer service. Ultimately, the best properties are the most efficient.
The best metric for measuring efficiency is your occupancy rate. Each company has to set their own rate. Ultimately, you're trying to achieve the highest return on the investment. This goal requires thinking like an owner.
When you maintain a certain level of occupancy, then you shouldn't have more than a 35% turnover rate. You'll reduce your turn costs, vacancy loss, and concessions. Efficiency lowers your expenses.
When you have fewer turns, you'll improve your focus and be more efficient in your operations. Sometimes a property has other variables, like age and location, that affect the bottom line. However, despite these variables, maintaining a higher occupancy and doing a great job with retention will always be beneficial.
Obviously, you have to be good with collections as well.
So this is my recipe for performing well at a property:
- Start with a great culture.
- Add great leadership.
- Fold in a great team.
- Add clear objectives of what you're trying to accomplish with regard to occupancy, vacancy loss, concessions, retentions, turn expenses, and collections.
AppWork: Based on your interactions with industry professionals, what would you identify as the most pressing challenge facing the multifamily sector presently? Do you have any recommendations for addressing it?
Crane: I would say that staffing is the number one issue that people face. I think there are a lot of parts that go into fixing this.
The first part is hiring. I think some of the problems and the pain with staffing comes from poor hiring. You have to be able to identify ideal team players.
How do you figure out who is a team player? Identify somebody that will fit with your company and within your environment. Look for somebody who wants to grow and someone who the company will want to invest in to help grow.
The second part is where to find the talent and how to hire the right people.
The third part is great leadership for training and developing talent, so that talent will stick around and advance to the next steps. If you have a good system for recruiting talent and developing that talent internally by promoting people from within, that should solve your staffing issue.
A second big challenge facing the multifamily industry (one that they might not be aware of) is everybody's focus on expenses. I think it comes back to operational efficiency. There are a lot of ways in which management companies can improve the efficiency of their operations.
Again, it goes back to being curious. It goes back to figuring out where and with what to improve the efficiency of the operations. Inefficiencies are a pain point. Some companies don't even realize they have inefficiencies. This lack of awareness results in not being able to start solving them. Being curious about what can make your operations smoother, more efficient, faster, and better will be a game changer in the marketplace.
Also, based on what kind of property it is and which market it resides in, collections are another big challenge facing the industry. While it's not a problem for everybody, it is a problem for some properties.
I don't have a clear solution for the collections issue. The collections challenge includes a few different parts:
- Correct screening criteria to identify and prevent fraud.
- A good system for collections.
- A consistent message during the leasing process in phone calls and emails.
- Examining the types of residents that contribute to poor collecting and delinquency.
- Finding out what you can do to prevent and mitigate those attributes.
I believe that the collections issue does not get a lot of attention. However, a significant amount of properties can make a lot of money by improving their collections process.