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TOP 3 Qualities of Successful Multi-Family Apartment Careers

Here at RENT SODA, we’ve been talking about success A LOT. From our recent article (Build on Your Strengths: Build Success by Jim Baumgartner) to our Profiling Your Way to MORE Success sales classes, to every day conversations with our clients (“We want our manager to be more successful,”), it seems everyone is talking about “SUCCESS.”

It begs the question:

Do You Have What it Takes To Be Successful in the Multi-family (Apartment) Industry?

or better yet:

How About – What DOES it Take To Be Successful in the Multi-Family (Apartment) Industry?

We have been pondering this over the last few weeks. We’ve decided to do a series of articles on individual SUCCESS in the Multi-Family Apartment Industry. We’ve started researching and interviewing successful people – you’ll want to read what they have to say – so check back weekly as we post those articles!

First, we looked for individuals who were successful in the following categories:

  1. Someone who has had multiple career advancements and now holds one of the top positions in their company. (i.e. someone who started at the bottom and worked their way up to VP, CEO/COO/CFO or founder of a company in the Multi-family industry.)
  2. Someone who started in property management and has made a successful transition into a vendor role.
  3. Someone who started in a vendor role and has made a successful transition into a property management/development company.
  4. Someone who started at the corporate-side of the multi-family apartment business and has successfully transition into an on-site (at the apartment community) position.
  5. Someone who started on-site (at the apartment community) and has successfully transitioned into a corporate position at their management company.

We asked our network for recommendations on those people that they feel were successful in the categories defined above, interviewed them and asked them how they became successful. We heard lots of GREAT stories, uncovered GREAT tips, and gained WONDERFUL insights into these successes – and we’ll share these stories with you over the next few weeks.

We found some commonalities in our first round of interviews – we’re going to share those with you to wet your appetite for success. We’re still in the process of finishing up our interviews, but believe these 3 qualities aren’t going to change:

TOP 3 Qualities of Successful Multi-Family Apartment Careers

  1. Successful individuals in ALL categories EMBRACED change. Sometimes they were thrust into the changes, sometimes they instigated the changes, sometimes they recommended the changes, and even at times, they were initially against the changes, but whatever the reason for the change, they EMBRACED it. ALL of our interviewees talked about change as the ONLY constant in their careers > and embracing changes was one of the keys to their success. NONE of our interviewees said, “I just wanted to go to work and do my job.”
  2. In fact a couple of them mentioned that complacency within any position is a red flag that you’re not doing the best job you could be doing > which could eventually lead to failure.

    Change can mean anything – change in market/economy, change in responsibilities, change in supervisor, change in ownership, change in technology, change in location, change in portfolio, change in team members. - you have to always be pushing that envelope, embracing change, and figuring out how it can benefit you, your property, your goals, and your apartment owners.

  3. Successful individuals in ALL categories said YES. They were problem solvers for their supervisors/companies/sites/etc – they said YES to challenges, they said YES to change, they said YES to responsibility, and ultimately, YES to success.
  4. We’re not talking about being a YES man/woman. We’re talking about a positive attitude of “Yes I can – I’ll find a way” rather than a negative attitude of “No, I can’t, NO that can’t be done.”

    Who would you rather work for? Who would you rather work with? A “YES I CAN” person or a “NO I CAN’T” person? People who are promoted aren’t known for saying, “NO, what you’re asking us to do can’t be done,” they are known for taking a seemingly impossible situation/challenge and saying “Yes, there’s got to be a way – it’ll be tough, but I’m sure I can figure it out.” If you can solve a seemingly unsolvable problem for your supervisor/your company/your industry – you will be noticed.

  5. Successful individuals in ALL categories were active communicators. All of our interviewees were articulate, well-spoken, individuals with an ability to clearly communicate their thought process. We noticed this in our interviews – it was easy to follow their stories, understand their frame of mind, and see the natural progression of their career successes. Have you ever talked to someone who is hard to understand? Jumps from topic to topic? Someone who doesn’t tie in all their points – perhaps their communications have no point? Perhaps they are long-winded? Our interviews could have been explaining the complexities of rocket fuel – but they would have found a way to make it easy to understand and pertinent to what we were talking about. HOWEVER, this is not the case with all individuals in life.
  6. Let’s not forget the word ACTIVE.

    We noticed that all our interviewees were active in communicating their goals to their teams, active in communicating their processes to their supervisors, active in communicating their needs on a project, active in communicating their career desires. The key word is ACTIVE. None of our interviewees were passive-aggressive and hoped they would be noticed for promotion. None of our interviewees hoped clients would pick up the phone and call them to buy a product. None of our success interviewees hoped a job would land in their lap. No one we spoke to was hoping someone else would tell them what to do/how to do it. Not a single one of our interviewees hoped to get the budget they needed in order to complete a goal/challenge that they had been given. They were all active at communicating their wants/needs/processes/responsibilities/etc – so that everyone knew where they stood, and how to help them get to their goals. This seems like common sense, but how many of us know someone who works hard and hopes that someone notices and gives them a raise/promotion/award? Do you know someone who doesn’t ask about the expectations of a job? How about a boss who expects that everyone can read their mind? How about someone who is given a challenge but doesn’t ask for the parameters of the challenge? We have all been that person, or know that passive person. Don’t be a passive communicator and hope your actions talk louder than words. Be an ACTIVE one! COMMUNICATE!

These are just the tip of the success iceberg.

Join us after Thanksgiving and read about the STORIES, heartaches, struggles, tips that these successful individuals have to share with RENT SODA.

Be ready to be moved to greater success.

If you know someone who you feel has been successful in our defined categories above, please send us an email and recommend them for an interview!

Don’t GET IT? RENT SODA! GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota MN

CEO/President

RENTSODA-small

Offering Apartment Marketing, Apartment Business & Operations Consulting & Apartment Industry Training

Web: RentSoda.com Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

Become a fan of RENTSODA on facebook.  Connect with RENTSODA on LinkedIn!

Follow RENTSODA on Twitter!

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Foursquare vs. Facebook Places – Which is Better for Marketing Your Apartment Community?

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m a Foursquare GEEK, and now, with the launch of Facebook Places, I am TOTALLY CONFUSED. There’s so much news out about Facebook Places – what will be the best tool for helping your outreach or marketing efforts at your apartment communities? Which application will help you stay connected to more apartment residents, attract more apartment prospects, give you more positive exposure?

Some background:

I use facebook as a place to connect with friends and collegues, keep up with the latest news about places/businesses I “like,” and connect with other like-minded individuals.

I use foursquare to find out about places near me, get tips based on my location, and I hate to admit it, but I secretly covet being “mayor” and earning badges.

If I am a typical user, how does this information help YOU market your apartment communities or connect with prospects and residents?

Let’s put them in the boxing  ring and see who wins:

  1. ROUND ONE: First thing I do when I go somewhere is to look on Foursquare to see which businesses near me have tips, read them, and see if I want to try something new, or stick with my tried and true favorites. Currently very easy to do on Foursquare. AND Foursquare has had A LOT more activity – resulting in lots of tips & deals with local businesses. Facebook Places – I have not found a way to leave a tip or find tips others have left. The only way to see what others think about a place is IF that business has connected their facebook PLACE to their facebook PAGE, and you can see the information and wall of a business’ facebook place/page. This is a big IF. And even IF a business has connected their facebook place to their facebook page, you’ll only see their wall. There’s not really a place that encourages users to leave other information for other users. WINNER: Foursquare
  2. ROUND TWO: When I am marketing an apartment community (or even a retail business), I look for tools where I have control over the content, easy way to communicate my brand and my message. With Foursquare Places, it is easy to claim my “place,” connect it to my community’s facebook page, and manipulate the content users see when they find me. Additionally, if someone leaves an potentially negative remark or comment on my page, in Facebook, I can delete it. With Foursquare, I can claim my business on Foursquare -but there is no way to customize it beyond providing the basic info. Additionally, user can leave whatever comments and tips they want, I have no control over their comments. WINNER: From a business/marketing perspective, Facebook Places is the CLEAR winner.
  3. ROUND THREE: Deals. Everyone loves a deal. How easy is it to find places with “specials” or “deals?” On Facebook Places, when you bring up the app, all the businesses around you will be listed. If there is a “special” or “deal,” there is a little cut-out square icon that resembles a coupon. It was somewhat easy to spot. On Foursquare, when you open the app, it locates all the businesses close to you, and if there are any “specials” or “deals,”  the word “SPECIAL” shows up. Its much easier to spot, and there is no question as to the purpose. So, for all practical purposes, this is almost a tie. HOWEVER, as I searched through local businesses that I know are running deals, I found more deals on Foursquare than I did on Facebook Places. WINNER: FOURSQUARE through a technicality. - This may change if Facebook Places can attract more businesses and “specials” and “deals.”
  4. Round Four: Activity & Users – who has more? According to a recent Business Insider article from October 29th, 2010, although Facebook Places has 7X more users, those users are not as active as the 4 million foursquare users. WINNER: Foursquare
  5. Round Five: The FUN factor. In foursquare, as stupid as it may sound, I enjoy being a “mayor” and receiving”badges” for checking in. One of my friends, a VP of a large company in Minnesota, recently emailed me to say, “I just became the MAYOR at a local joint. I am secretly quite proud!” Facebook places currently does not have an incentive to check-in except for the possibility of a deal or “special.” WINNER: Foursquare.

Foursquare wins 4 out of 5 rounds because it meets the wants of its users. That’s a page from the facebook business book – build an application for the end-users, and the business will come. Score one for the small guy!

As it is with social media, today’s giants can be tomorrow’s cold empty grave. It’ll be interesting to see what Foursquare and Facebook Places have in the way of updates and changes over the next few months! But its clear that things are FAR from over for Foursquare.

I should mention that even though the end-user experience is much better on Foursquare, the Facebook Places application is more business-friendly. AND Facebook has HUGE potential to reach its over 500 million users.

I am still TOTALLY confused. Who will win? Can they continue to co-exist?

Depending on what YOUR marketing needs, goals, or objectives are, you may want to use one or both of these as part of your marketing approach/outreach efforts for your apartment community. If you are using Foursquare or Facebook Places to help market or as an outreach tool for your apartment community, please leave me a comment and share with everyone how you view one or both, or how you are using them!

Below is a comparison Matrix of Location Based Social Networks produced by Mark Fidelman on Flickr.com.



Don’t GET IT? RENT SODA! GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota MN

CEO/President

RENTSODA-small

Offering Apartment Marketing, Apartment Business & Operations Consulting & Apartment Industry Training

Web: RentSoda.com Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

Become a fan of RENTSODA on facebook.  Connect with RENTSODA on LinkedIn!

Follow RENTSODA on Twitter!

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MOBILIZE Your Apartment Website For Smartphones, iPhones, Blackberries!

Smart phones, iPhones, Blackberries are everywhere. They keep us connected to our world – through the phone, internet, text messaging, etc.

I am addicted to mine. Not JUST addicted to it, but I LOVE it.

And I LOVE it even more, when my favorite sites have applications for my mobile device OR they have “mobilized” their websites for mobile devices. Not only do I LOVE those people who have mobile apps or mobilized websites, I am ANNOYED when someone doesn’t have a mobile app or mobilized website!

It used to be that you had to have a website. THAT is SO 1999. TODAY, you have to have a mobilized website!

Surprising, in the apartment industry, so few of our websites are mobilized. And when it comes right down to it, it’s due to pricing, leaving only the big guys able to afford to mobilize their websites. SAD!

RENT SODA’s blog is now “mobilized” thanks to a FREE application that took only 3 minutes of set-up time. In my attempt to mobilize my blog, I found it amazingly simple and FREE to mobilize it! Here’s the service I currently use:

http://mippin.com

Instructions are simple:

1.) Sign-up for an account

2.) Use the “MIPPIN MOBILIZER” – enter in your website URL or feed URL.

3.) Choose your lay-out

I was up and running in 3 minutes, with a few minor glitches:

  • I found that my blog title and my blog article titles were running OVER each other. – I emailed customer service, and they fixed it within 24 hours. (WOW – and this is free!)

Other things you should know about mippin:

  1. This service hosts the mobilized version of your website on their servers – which means mobile traffic is redirected to a URL that they host. (i.e. your traffic is leaving your site)
  2. They do support advertising on the mobilized version of your site through ADMOB – you keep 100% of the revenues. I have not tried this as I do not want ads on my blog, mobilized or non-mobilized. :-)
  3. Even if a website is not on the mippin server, if you goto mippin.com, and use them as a browser for any website that has an rss feed option, it will try to mobilize that website for your viewing pleasure.

I mobilized my blog (http://blog.rentsoda.com ) – I’m curious to see someone mobilize their apartment’s website and give us feedback on that process, and how it looks, so please leave a comment if you have used this to mobilize your apartment website.

Do you know of other services that are able to mobilize websites FREE or at a low cost? Please leave a comment and share with everyone!

Don’t GET IT? MOBILIZE IT! RENT SODA! GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota MN

CEO/President

RENTSODA-small

Business, Operations & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

Become a fan of RENTSODA on facebook.  Connect with RENTSODA on LinkedIn!

Follow RENTSODA on Twitter!

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Leasing Agent Compensation?…First a word about VACANCY!

As a consultant to the apartment industry, I am asked a LOT, “What’s fair leasing agent compensation? Is their a leasing commission structure you would recommend?”

There is no easy or short answer to this question, so let’s take a round about way of discuss it, and then my next article will zoom RIGHT into what I recommend.

I find it a little backwards when people want to know what OTHER properties or OTHER management companies are doing when it comes to leasing agent compensation. I never say it out loud, but I’m always thinking, “What’s it worth to YOU?” (as owner/manager) AND, “What’s it worth to THEM?” (your leasing agent/leasing specialist)  What do I mean by that?

FIRST, let’s first talk about the REAL problem – VACANCY.

I don’t have a vacancy problem!

Well, then, you shouldn’t worry about leasing agent compensation then!

OK, OK. Let’s talk about vacancy…

TO make it easy, let’s say we’re talking about ABC Apartments. They have 100 units. Their average rents are $1000.00/unit.

Prior to the rental market taking a downward turn, ABC Apartments has been running along great, apartments never took very long to lease, and they had been at 97% occupancy for many years.

Fast forward to today, they are at 88% physical occupancy, which means they are at 12% vacancy. All of the sudden, they are struggling with just staying ahead of the renewals and turnover. Increasing the occupancy in the midst of the resident turnover looks very daunting.

Let’s do the math.

At 97% occupancy, the vacancy loss is:

(Average Rents) x (# of Vacant Units)

$1000.00 x 3 vacant units = $3000.00 of vacancy loss monthly. This is what they are used to operating at. Annually (x12), this amounts to $36,000.00 of annual vacancy loss.

TODAY, at 88% occupancy, the vacancy loss is:

$1000.00 x 12 vacant units = $12,000.00 of vacancy loss monthly. Annually (x12), this amounts to $144,000.00.

The different in vacancy loss monthly is $9000.00! ($12,000 – $3000) And annually, the difference is $108,000.00! ($144,000 – $36,000)

How much does the $108,000.00 mean to the site? The Owner/Investors? The manager? Now that we have things in perspective, it brings up a WHOLE bunch of other questions, like:

  1. Do you have the right staff in place? If your maintenance guy is doing showings – you may have a problem.
  2. Do you have a plan in place for resident retention? If you have vacancy problems, you HAVE to have a plan in place to close the back door to your vacancy problem.
  3. Is your staff properly trained? Not just in customer service, but in closing on leases?
  4. Is your staff properly motivated and positioned to succeed? (This question leads into the real TOPIC: What’s a fair Leasing Agent compensation package?

Do you have other questions? Other considerations? Leave me a comment in the COMMENTS section!

My next blog article, will discuss different leasing compensation programs, and how to pick what works best for you, your site, and your staff.

Don’t GET IT? RENT SODA! GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota MN

CEO/President

RENTSODA-small

Business, Operations & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

Become a fan of RENTSODA on facebook.  Connect with RENTSODA on LinkedIn!

Follow RENTSODA on Twitter!

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TOP 10 TIPS to Get the MOST Out of CRAIGSLIST Apartment Ads

Craigslist, when smartly used as part of your marketing/advertising campaign, can become one of your apartment community’s top traffic generators. If it’s not, you’re not getting the most out of your Craigslist ads.

Here are the TOP 10 Things You Need to Know to Maximize Your Craigslist Ads for your Apartment Community:

  1. Generally, web traffic is highest during the week, especially during working hours of 8:00AM – 5:00PM. For the apartment industry on Craigslist, the highest traffic day is actually on SUNDAY. According to Yield Technologies, their RENTSENTINEL product, a web-based application that manages posting content for rental properties, they have noticed that Sunday’s see much less posting activity for apartments than any other day of the week. Couple that with higher traffic, and your posting efforts will get the biggest audience with less competition! (SUNDAYS have the HIGHEST average views/ad than any other day for our apartment industry!) This is true of every portfolio class, geographic location or market segment.
  2. Although Craigslist is “free,” there are TONS of different services available that can help you manage your content, produce “snazzier” looking ads, track traffic, provide analytics, and MORE – OH MY! Some more common ones include RENTSENTINEL and POSTLETS. Depending on your needs and preferences, these may work for you, are pretty affordable, and provide lots of extra’s to help you maximize your craigslist ads. There are TONS of other services available – if you know of some additional ones, leave a link in the COMMENTS section of this blog post and share with everyone! OR Leave a comment about your experience with the services listed here.
  3. PICTURES PICTURES PICTURES! – And not just any old snapshot – make sure to have good lighting, take pictures of clean, rent ready or model units – try to make an positive impression that gets your target market to pick up the phone and call you! Don’t turn them off with the wrong picture.
  4. Many people ask me, “what generates more traffic? The traditional organic craigslist ads or the jazzed up ones with hyperlinks, pictures, formatting, etc?” The answer is that they BOTH work. The key to a successful craigslist campaign is VARIETY. Switch it up between your traditional craigslist ads and fancier ones.
  5. Speaking of VARIETY, switch up your posts! Make sure you have an ad targeted specifically to attract your 1 bedroom renters, or your pet lovers, or one to attract roommates, or one to highlight the fact that you are near a bus route, etc! Be sure to keep within fair housing rules, but there is nothing that says you can’t switch up your ads and highlight specific features. Variety is the spice of life, and so it is with apartments on craigslist!
  6. Speaking of PETS, whether your building is pet-friendly or does NOT allow pets, there IS a specific market for THAT! Make sure to have a specific ad targeted towards your pet lovers (for those apartment communities that accept pets) or ones that specifically state that you do NOT allow pets. Believe it or not, there are those people who look specifically for pet-free buildings, due to allergies, conditions, fear, etc. If you are targeting pet-owners, be sure to use the Craigslist “Meow” and “Woof” options to state you are pet friendly, in addition to including this information in your title/content.
  7. And since we are drilling down on specific life style choices, a choice that is becoming increasingly popular in apartment searches is “smoke free apartment.” There are new organizations promoting living smoke-free popping up everyday. Here in Minnesota, one that is making quite a splash is LIVESMOKEFREE. Make sure to include those words for the craigslist search engines (as well as all other search engines) to pick up!
  8. While we are on the topic of search engines, make sure to include search engine friendly terms in your ad! If you are near a bus-line, post that. If you are near shopping/retail, make sure to mention the shopping or retail center name. If you are in a highly sought-after school district, name the school district or even better, name the schools. If you are nears parks, name the parks. People search for apartments based on their lifestyle choices, and if those choices are based upon transportation, schools, shopping, food, retail, etc – YOU will get picked up in their search, and your competition might get buried in the masses….
  9. Another question I get asked constantly – “how often should I post?” From my perspective, it’s not a matter of “how often,” but more importantly, CONSISTENCY. According to Eric Broughton of Yield Company’s RentSentinel product, ”the most important global trend is for communities to post their available units on a consistent basis, don’t take a day off from posting an available unit, your competitors aren’t.  Equally important is respecting the craigslist community and not posting multiple ads in a short period of time.  Never post more than 1 ad in the same hour, and never post for the same unit type more than once in 24 hours.  Our analytics show that following these simple rules will provide far greater results than someone that spams a region with multiple ads over and over again.”
  10. And lastly, and MOST importantly, be a good Craigslist Citizen. Common sense folks! Pay attention to things such as knowing the Craigslist Terms of Use, posting only available Units/Unit Types, not over-posting (never more than 1 ad per hour and 8 total ads in a day – this is for LARGE sites – many of you may not have larger enough sites, where posting every other day is more than enough), and posting to only one category and region at a time.  As an industry we can all be more effective and increase our traffic if we use the craigslist environment for which it was intended which is bringing renters and landlords together in an open marketplace. Let’s not ruin the “free” part of craigslist, by over-doing it. In some regions, and some industries, craigslist DOES impose fees. (See Craigslist FactSheet.)

Please leave comments on any tips I might have missed, leave comments about other craigslist applications or services, and your experiences with these services!

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not affiliated with Yield Technologies or Postlets. Yield Technologies has provided me with information for this blog post. THANK YOU! (Roboblaster, another posting service also provided information for this blog, however, at the time of publication, they have folded.)

Don’t GET IT? RENT SODA! GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota MN

CEO/President

RENTSODA-small

Business, Operations & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

Become a fan of RENTSODA on facebook.  Connect with RENTSODA on LinkedIn!

Follow RENTSODA on Twitter!

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Good Customer Service is Dead! Where is the LOVE?

You read it right -GOOD Customer Service is DEAD. Where is the LOVE?

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpYeekQkAdc

(Video: Black Eyed Peas – Where is the Love?)

This is actually good news – If you are one of the few apartment communities that consistently provides good customer service, you are WAY ahead of the game. Even if you THINK you’re doing a great job, this article will be an EYE OPENER. Read on! (This blog-post was inspired by a recent blog post and discussion initiated my Brent Williams – read his original article here.

In today’s market, the BEST way to control vacancy is to close that back door – meaning KEEP your current residents! Don’t let them leave! We all know it costs us a WHOLE lot less to keep a current resident than it is to turn an apartment and find a new resident! The few prospects that ARE in the market for a new apartments – they KNOW they are a WANTED commodity, SO they are shopping for the best deal. Our current residents? They want a good deal too – however, more than wanting a good deal – they want to feel good about choosing to spend their money with YOU.

GOOD Customer Service is Dead! Where is the LOVE?

So why is this good news? Good customer service can be IMPROVED. It’s not like a location or an expensive amenity.

YOU have the power the improve this! 

Not only do you have CONTROL over this, based on some recent experiences (See Brent Williams blog about his renewal experience here), it wouldn’t take much these days to stand out from everyone else.

I LOVE shoe shopping. My favorite place to shop for shoes? Nordstrom’s shoe department. They tend to have pretty good customer service overall - but NOT all customer service is created equal. I have found that when my regular salesman, (let’s call him Adam) helps me, I will leave the store with at least 3 pairs of shoes. And when it’s someone else – most times I leave empty handed. Why? Everyone is extremely helpful and cheerful – its Nordstrom’s after all! But when Adam helps me, he makes me feel like the ONLY person who SHOULD be wearing THOSE shoes, should be ME. (“Darling! Those shoes were MADE for you!” or my favorite, “I won’t be able to look at those shoes on someone else’s feet the same way EVER again. And I have 6 pairs left back there!” It’s partly how he treats me when I am trying on shoes, but in the course of getting to know me, he has gotten to KNOW ME. He knows what my style is (knows the labels that typically appeal to me), he’s gotten to know what my preferences are (LOVE PINK, RED, GOLD), he knows my foot size. AND he tells me when something is NOT right. (“Friends don’t let friends wear THOSE out.”) I’ve learned from my shoe experience and have singled out a GREAT sales person in each department or store that I frequent. I don’t put up with bad customer service, and believe me. BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE happens to GOOD PEOPLE – ALOT more frequently than we care to admit – especially when it comes to our own communities!

Learn from Nordstrom’s – in a time when EVERY other store is having a sale EVERY WEEK, they seldom have sales. I pay full price every time I shop there – but I feel GOOD doing it.

THAT’s what your current residents want from you – make them feel GOOD about spending their money with YOU. SHOW THEM THE LOVE.

As I mentioned previously, BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE happens to GOOD PEOPLE. I have noticed that in this economic time, it is EXTREMELY hard to find good customer service. Many times, when I am out and about, shopping, dining, etc. Mediocre or bad service is so common – in fact it IS the norm. Customer service people are talking to each other, ignoring customers, acting as if somehow, the presence of a customer waiting for service actually is a nuisance! At some restaurants, especially during non-peak hours, the service is downright poor. Why is this?

A recent discussion at my local apartment association, MHA (Minnesota Multi-Housing Association) zoned in on the fact – it’s NOT that we (as customer service providers) don’t KNOW what GOOD customer service is. Bad news & bad attitudes are everywhere. It’s a depressed market. WE feel it, we are stressed, we are strapped on time, our budgets have been cut, our payroll hours have been limited, pay freezes. YOU name it, we’ve all experienced more bad news than most of us have ever experienced or care to remember. We’re not the ONLY ones this is happening to! Our residents, prospects, clients are experiencing this TOO. 

Back to resident retention and good customer service at your community. The one place where your resident spends the majority of their time is at HOME – at YOUR apartment community. The biggest check they write EVERY month is a rent check to YOUR community. The ONE place where we don’t want to feel the everyday pressures of a bad economy, depressed market, bad news is at HOME. Your community is HOME for every one of your residents. It’s not enough to say “good morning,” or “how are you?” when your resident comes home in the evening. Get to KNOW them! Have a genuine interest in your residents. You should know who are the frequent fitness buffs, which ones are early starters, which ones have pets, etc! Talk to your residents, engage in positive interactions with your residents, get their input. Get to KNOW them! Even if YOUR community has 500 or more residents, it is nowhere near the kind of traffic Nordstrom’s gets on a weekend. Learn from the best and forget the rest!

SHOW YOUR RESIDENTS THE LOVE.

If the only conversations you are having with your residents is when they sign their lease, when they are late on rent, and when they renew, SOMETHING IS WRONG. Where is the LOVE there? If you’re only dealing with “customer service issues” (i.e. complaints) instead of receiving letters or thanks and praise from your residents, the customer service at your community is lacking. There are hundreds of ways to have positive interactions through-out the course of a resident’s lease term. Create THOSE opportunities, and make it a part of EVERYONE’s responsibility on site.

SHOW YOUR RESIDENTS THE LOVE.

Don’t GET IT? RENT SODA! GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota MN

CEO

RENTSODA-small

Business, Operations & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com   Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

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Lack of Motivation? Leasing Stalled? How to Change Your Tune

All this talk about a depression, soft market and price drops. OH MY! Not to mention pay freezes, working twice as hard for half as much traffic, it’s not a wonder that there is a lack of motivation out there. How do we change this and re-invigorate our teams, win leases, and enjoy our jobs once again? The apartment industry is an awesome industry – how do we stop singing the blues and bring that skip back into our step?

If you talk to my friends, business partners and co-workers, they will tell you I am a HAPPY person, always with a smile, a laugh, sunshine in my eyes, and a skip in my step. How do I keep the skip in my step, even in the midst of all this bad news?

It’s as simple as changing your tune – literally.

Have you ever noticed when you walk into a fitness facility, there’s upbeat booty-shaking music piped through the gym? Or visit a spa, and they have relaxing music with wind chimes or the sound of water? Different retailers like Gap, Express, The Limited all have specific soundtracks they play in their retail stores. At Nordstrom’s, depending on the department you are standing in, there is different music – all eliciting a different mood.

(Picture provided by William Hamon on Flickr through Creative Commons license.)

Music is one of those things that can instantly put YOU in a different mood. If you’re in a bad mood – why not change your tune and get into a GOOD mood? Feeling a little slow? Put on some finger-snapping upbeat music and see how long you stay groggy. Feeling like nothing is going your way? Listen to something that lifts you UP. Change your tune, change your mindset, and see where it takes you!

Here are a couple of my favorite mood enhancing tracks:

If I just need to get moving in the morning, Gigi D’Agostino’s La Passion gets me going! (actually, anything Techno can do that to you!)

Disney’s Hakuna Matata always makes me laugh.

Hawaiian Iz’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow is uplifting…

If I need to add some attitude to my day, I listen to Michael Jackson’s Beat It.

If I have a LONG project, OR if I’m coming into a tough meeting and need some motivation, I listen to Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger.

When dealing with tough situations or dramatic people, I listen to Craig David’s I’m Walking Away. (I DO come back to address the problem, but it’s nice to know you can walk away – at least for a little bit!)

I listen to these songs while I’m getting ready for my day, in the car, where ever I can, or whenever I need a quick change in tune.

We normally associate mood-alteration with drugs – why not music?

I recently wrote an article about setting intentions. In conjunction with setting your intentions for a successful day, a successful week, and a successful career. Music is one of those small adjustments you can make to GET you in the right positive frame of mind to GET THERE. You can read my article on setting intentions here.

What do you listen to that changes you mood and sets the tone for a productive day?

Don’t get it? RENT SODA. GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota MN

CEO

RENTSODA-small

Business, Operations & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com   Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

Become a fan of RENTSODA on facebook.  Connect with RENTSODA on LinkedIn!

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Apartment Jobs: From Resume to Job Offer: How to get the CALL!

I LOVE American Idol. At the audition stage in the game, when the judges are trying to find the best talent in each city, in 10 seonds or less, they can tell whether someone MIGHT have what it takes to “Be The NEXT American Idol.”

In some ways, American Idol is very similar to the resume-interview-callback-job offer process. The end result is the same: Every company is looking for their NEXT rockstar. Are you IT?

(Picture provided by nickel.media on Flickr through creative commons license.)

Not feeling so much like a rockstar? For every apartment jobs listing I post, I receive somewhere between 100- 250 resumes. How do you stand out in the sea of paper, shine at your interview, get called back for a 2nd interview and land that job?

YOUR Resume = The Audition

Receiving over 100 resumes is not fun. I’ve got it down, much like the American Idol judges, in 10 seconds or less, I determine if the candidate is ”qualified” enough to get to the next stage. How do you stand out in 10 seconds or less?

Less is more. Don’t send in a 3 page resume. I’ll never read the entire thing in 10 seconds. With over 100 resumes, my job is to screen candidates OUT. Don’t risk getting screened out too soon by providing me all that information – and much of it being irrelevant to the job I have to offer. Shorten it up. Focus on the relevant points, and shorten up the rest. Oh, and follow directions folks! If the job posting asks for references, give me references. If it asks for your salary range, provide that. If it asks you to enter your entire resume into an online system – do THAT and do it well. If you can’t follow instructions, I might assume you can’t follow instructions…

The Phone Screen = The 1st Round

Out of 100+ resumes, I’ll narrow it down it about 20-30 candidates.  The phone screen is used to help me get some basic information about you, and narrow the scope down to 5-10 good candidates. AGAIN, to screen you out! AND, at least for me, and most of the hiring managers I know, its SOLE purpose is to determine if you’re at least SANE enough, positive/upbeat, courteous. VERY basic stuff, but you’d be surprised as to how many people blow off the phone screen, as if it weren’t important. Just because a secretary, assisstant or HR intern is conducting the phone interview doesn’t mean their opinion doesn’t count. Maybe its going to be your new boss! Whatever the case, be on your best behavior. My first and last question of my phone screeners usually is: How did the candidate treat you? If you are mean, rude, late, eat while you’re on the phone, ask inappropriate questions or say inappropriate things, this information IS passed along to the hiring manager. And if the decision maker is me, treating my assistant like poop is a sure way of letting me know you will probably treat the community’s residents like poop. Just as American Idol has CRAZY people who audition, you’d be surprised how many “qualified” people (on paper) are actually as crazy as some of these auditions! Be sane, positive, courteous, and you’ll cruise to the next phase.

THE Interview = Round 2

CONGRATULATIONS! You made it to the interviewing stage! Now what? This is the time to sing your heart out. Show them what you are made of. Prior to the interview, research the company, and if available, your hiring manager. So much information is available on the internet these days. LinkedIn is AWESOME! Use the information, and use some of the same words from their website, their mission statement, maybe the LINKEDIN profile, as you are talking about yourself & your work. KNOW your strengths & weaknesses, and be honest about them! Employers like honesty, and they like to see a candidate that knows what they bring to the table, as well as where they can use training and support. If your interviewer is talkative, let them talk! If they ask short questions, ask them to elaborate. The longer your interview is, the bigger impression you are making, and the more opportunity you are giving yourself to make a bigger impression! Ask relevant, thought-provoking questions that pertain to the job and the company. Your questions will tell your interviewer what kind of thinker you are. If you don’t ask any good questions, they’ll assume you don’t think much…

The Call-Back = Round 3

So, you WOWED them. Not only were you qualified, you proved to be sane, courteous, on-time, AND TALENTED. There’s a connection, and this is when the BIG guns are called in. Some companies will call you back for a “2nd interview. Sometimes it is with a the boss’s boss (department head) or sometimes it is with a key subordinate. Whatever the case, you need to impress these people. These people are the advisors to the decision maker. If the hiring manage is on the fence about you, the advisor can swing their decision. Again, be kind, courteous, positive. Find a way to connect with these guys. They don’t have their guard up as much as the hiring manager or the phone screener. However, this is not the time to ask inappropriate questions. Any and ALL information WILL be passed back to the hiring manager! Use some of what you learned in the first interview to ask relevant questions and get to know the team more.

The Job Offer = THIS is THE NEXT American IDOL!

CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve made it to the job offer table. THIS is where you can ask more pertinent questions (and not before!) with regards to salary, benefits, scheduling, etc. They’ve made the decision that they want YOU. If you have committments (i.e. I play softball in the summer and need to leave work early on Wednesdays during June – August), this is a good time to mention it, but leave room to move-on. If what they are offering isn’t what you need, request to come in with a list of questions. (Face to face meetings are recommended over email or phone.) Gauge their response when negotiating in person, and be ready to present your counter offer, or negotiate other terms. (In this market, unless you are applying for a top level position, negotiations are not recommended.) Smile, be thankful, let them know how exited you are – even while negotiating!

Whatever stage of the process you are in, wo matter what, always thank them for the call/interview/2nd interview/job offer, and reiterate how exiting it was for you to go through the process with them. If you decline an offer, always do it graciously, and thank them for the opportunity. You never know where your NEXT opportunity will be or who your next interviewer will be! Apartment Jobs – the good ones, the ones that fit your needs, are good to find. Keep those doors open!

Other tips? Leave me a comment!

Don’t get it? RENT SODA. GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota MN

CEO

RENTSODA-small

Business & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com   Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

Become a fan of RENTSODA on facebook.  Connect with RENTSODA on LinkedIn!

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What Kind of Job are YOU Looking For? Anything Less Than the Best is a Felony!

Apartment Jobs: Phone screens & job interviews have 1 purpose: to screen candidates OUT. Yes, you read it right. It’s to screen YOU out. Of course your interviewer is trying to find the perfect candidate for their job opening, but with hundreds of resumes per job listing, the #1 priority of a recruiter/interviewer is to screen candidates OUT so that what’s left is 2-3 great candidates. 

If their goal is to screen candidates out, what is your goal when interviewing? How do you GET IN? 

I have spent the last several weeks helping a couple of clients find the PERFECT candidate for their job listings. In the past 10 years, I have conducted hundreds of interviews – hired LOTS of great folks (and a handful of not so great…but that’s another article) I have refined my interviewing techniques, and know EXACTLY what to look for in a candidate, what are the red flags (the CRAZY-loo’s), what to ask, how to drill down to the truth (and how to use those questions/answers as a future training tool), etc. Believe me when I say this: YOUR interviewer has perfected these skills too. So again, the question is, how do YOU land the perfect job for YOU? 

In this job market, when looking for apartment jobs, you might be unemployed, you might be in between jobs, you might be looking for a change. Whatever the case, the MOST IMPORTANT part of this equation is YOU: 

What are YOU looking for in a job? 

 STOP, COLLABORATE, and LISTEN! Do you GET IT yet? The most important part of this equation IS you. What are you looking for in a job? (Oh, and yes, this is a Vanilla Ice reference.)  

Instead of trying to fit into someone else’s job description, why not KNOW what YOU want, what you NEED, and find THAT job? Turn the job hunt upside down and start with the person who matters the most – YOU. My most meaningful and lasting placements are those where both parties are getting exactly what they want. 

To help YOU better determine what kind of company & apartment job YOU are looking for, ask yourself: 

  1. Is career advancement important to me? If it is, you will want to look for a company that offers & believes in career advancement. These will typically be your medium to large companies – as they have those positions available. A smaller company may not have as many opportunities. – But don’t rule small companies out for advancement. Sometimes, in order for the small companies to find get great candidates for their top positions, they invest the most in the current employees. Questions to ask if career advancement is important to you: What is the typical career path for a <insert job title here – i.e. Leasing Agent, Community Manager, etc.> at your company? What kind of training and support do you offer to someone who would like to advance? Pay close attention to these answers, as you will be able to determine if a company truly DOES want to advance their employees, or just goes through the motions.
  2. Does having a life outside of work, a priority for you? (I know some of you are laughing, but this IS a question you should honestly answer.) Many times career advancement (Look at question #1 above) will not work with having a life. Many companies I know that have career advancement opportunities also have the best people working for them. Competition is STIFF for career advancement, and in order to get ahead, you’ll have to put in extra time and effort to stand apart from the crowd. Factor this into your decision. Questions to ask if time is important to you: What is the typical work schedule? What are my expected hours? How many after-hours meetings should can I expect?
  3. Is meaningful work important to you? For instance, do you need to work for a “greater good?” Are you feeling the need to “give back?” If you do, its time you looked into working for non-profit organizations in the area. I see this happen many times after someone has put int 10-15 years of service in the industry – and they want something more meaningful. There are TONS of great non-profits in the industry that could use your expertise. Just because a company is non-profit doesn’t mean that you have to work for free! In addition, some for-profit companies understand this need, and offer ways for their employees to participate in non-profits. If you are interviewing with a for-profit company, but you want opportunities to give back, Questions to ask if ”giving back” is important to you:  Do you currently partner with any non-profit organizations? Are their opportunities to volunteer, and if so, what are they? Questions to ask if you are interviewing with a non-profit organization: What is your mission? What communities/groups do you serve? How do you best serve those communities/groups? What makes your non-profit stand out from others? If you are looking for more meaning in your life, make sure that the non-profit you decide to work for has a mission/value system that you can believe in and support. There’s no meaning, if it doesn’t MEAN anything to YOU.
  4. Do you need training/support because the position you are applying for is a little bit of a reach for you? Be honest with yourself, and ask the questions of your potential new employer, to see if they have the right support system for you to succeed. Be honest with your new employer. Let them know what you bring to the table that is valuable, but then ask these questions if proper training/support is important in order for you to succeed: What will the first 90 days look like? What is the training program for new employees? How often will I meet with my trainer/mentor/supervisor? If you are reaching for a job that you feel you CAN potentially do with the right training and support – be honest and let them know this, and FIND OUT if they DO have the training/support you need to be successful!
  5. Is “having discretion” to make decisions and work independently important to you? Ask yourself this question, and look deep to find the answers. Most people want a boss that will “leave them alone and let them do their job,” but when they do encounter THAT boss, they don’t know how to perform their duties without more direction. OR, they are unwilling to take on the responsibilities or consequences of being the decision maker. Sometimes I hear people tell me they want they want training & support (#4 above) but in the next breathe, they “don’t want to be micro-managed.” To an interviewer like me, this is a schizophrenic employee, and one that will be EXTREMELY hard to manage/train/support. On the one hand they want training/support, but on the other hand, they don’t want someone to tell them how to do their job. Questions to ask if being able to work independently is important to you: What kinds of decisions am I expected to make on a daily/weekly basis? What kinds of responsibilities and consequences do those decision-making powers come with?
  6. What are you good at? What do you enjoy? What do you dislike? We all want to be able to do a good job. YOU should know what are your strengths & weaknesses. And be honest. Find a position that capitalizes on your strengths, and has support for your weaknesses. For instance, if you are great with people, but not so great with numbers, you need to find out how much of your time will be spent managing relationships, and how much of your time is expected with financial responsibilities. If the splits is 80% people-oriented, with 20% financial analysis with the help of a bookkeeper, than GREAT. BUT, if those numbers were reversed, be honest.

The best place to start in a new job hunt is to start with the ONE thing you KNOW best: YOURSELF. Be honest with yourself on what kind of job you are looking for. Target THOSE jobs, and watch how the offers roll in! 

In the words of Vanilla Ice: “Anything less than the best is a felony.” 

Do you agree? Disagree? Are there questions you want to add? Leave a comment! 

Don’t get it? RENT SODA. GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota MN

CEO

RENTSODA-small

Business & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com   Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

Become a fan of RENTSODA on facebook.  Connect with RENTSODA on LinkedIn!

Follow RENTSODA on Twitter!

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Apartment Marketing: Get READY, Get SHARP – Call your ILS Account Rep!

1/12 of the year is over, and the clock is ticking. Have you made progress towards your occupancy goals, or have you started the year off already behind? Your PRIME leasing season is coming – are you ready? Whatever the case, the best way to maximize your upcoming leasing opener is to call your Internet Listing Service (ILS) account rep TODAY.

Why?

#1: ILS’s for the apartment industry are your BIGGEST source of traffic.

#2. Because you are UNDERUTILIZING all that they offer.

It’s time to Get READY, Get SHARP, CALL! Work smarter and pull ahead of your competition. Your ILS partner can help.

(Picture provided by ShellyS on Flickr through creative commons license.)

ILS technologies change all the time. In the apartment industry, we complain all the time, and the few people who actually listen to us and DO something about it is our ILS’s. The technology changes constantly, there are new marketing/advertising packages out there, new reporting capabilities. Want to know what is working and what isn’t working? The one person who would know, AND willing to share with you their vast sea of knowledge is your ILS representative. The advice, training, and information your Internet Listing Service representative can bring you could amount to HOURS of research, hundreds of calls, and a TON of reading. Your rep can shave HOURS out of that process and share with you the information YOU need. And the price can’t be beat – it’s usually part of doing business.

Here is a list of things to discuss with your ILS representative so that you can better utilize their technology:

  1. Where are you ranked in search engines in my target market/demographic? Your ILS should (at the very least) be on the first page of google.
  2. What target demographics/target markets work best with your service? Not every ILS is the best in every market or every demographic. Your rep should know what their sweet spot is, and most times, they are honest enough to tell you. Some ILS’s that work awesome in Minneapolis, may not work so well in Houston. KNOW which ones know YOUR market & demographics.
  3. How much traffic should I expect from a listing? Ask for averages in your market, or for your type of demographic. This should be a baseline you can use to analyze if your internet listing is working or needs tweaking.
  4. What search terms come up for my type of property/market? What search terms are over-used? Your representative should be able to tell you what search terms are working, not working.
  5. On average, what techniques will boost the traffic? What techniques will lend to keeping a prospect on my add longer? Your representative can normally tell you what drives traffic, what keeps prospects engaged. On some ILS’s, it could be the number of pictures. On other ILS’s, it could be the presence of a video. Whatever the case, make sure you are asking about it in terms of YOUR market/YOUR demographics.
  6. Do you have someone available to take pictures or video? What is that cost? So many times, apartment communities decide to try a new ILS, and the pictures they use are AWFUL. If you’re going to pay for a listing, spend some time to get the pics/video/details right! Some ILS’s may offer to take the pics for you, or can recommend someone in your area at a decent price. ASK you representative. They may have some creative ideas.
  7. What analytics/reporting do you have available? AND, how do I read/interpret the results? If you are NOT utilizing the analytics of your ILS, you aren’t using your ILS properly. There is A LOT to be learned from analytics. Depending on the ILS, and the detail of reporting provided, you can at least learn how people find you, when they find you, and how many are finding you. If there are advanced report/analytics available (not all ILS’s provide this, but many do), it can tell you the key words people are using, where they are coming from, how long they were on your listing, etc. With this information, you should tweak your ILS listing to boost traffic and keep people engaged on YOUR listing.
  8. Do you have any packages/bundles/specials available? Just like most services, they more you buy, many times, there is a discount. Sometimes the discount if for volume  – i.e. number of properties listed. Sometimes there is a bundle available, whereby you can get the regular ILS service, and for an additional $XX.00 you can also get some of their other premium services as well.
  9. Now that you have your ad written up, and your apartment community’s pictures posted, ask your rep to take a look at it and critique it. They see hundreds of listings all the time – and they can spot a winner from a loser a mile away. THEY are like your Simon Cowell. Listen closely, and you can glean MUCH from their expertise!
  10. Is there anything else I can do to boost my traffic/leads/closing?

With your ILS representative, ask, and you shall receive, you will become more successful, and you’ll maximize your advertising/marketing dollars. And people: Be nice. These are some of the smartest, most generous sales people in the industry. They want YOU to be successful – as in turn, THEY are successful! Work with them, and it will work out well for your apartment community’s marketing plan.

In this market even a small competitive edge over your competition could mean the difference between making your budget and NOT making it. Sharpen your tools now, BE ready, and make 2010 a GREAT year.

ILS: Are there other questions people should ask you? What is YOUR “sweet spot?” What is your advice on how to be SHARP amidst a sea of ads online? Leave a comment and share your experience. Feel Free to leave a link to your ILS service.

Get READY, Get SHARP. Call!

Don’t get it? RENT SODA. GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota MN

CEO

RENTSODA-small

Business & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com   Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

Become a fan of RENTSODA on facebook.  Connect with RENTSODA on LinkedIn!

Follow RENTSODA on Twitter!

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