Dallas Jensen, Director of Training
Many years ago, I started my full-time property management career with a mid-sized management firm. When the offer came from the recruiter to start on the Monday following my interview, I was eager to get started and learn about sales and leasing. However, when I came to new hire training, the first item on the agenda was not how to execute a sale or draw up a lease, but how to blow up the balloons for outside the leasing office. The second item on the agenda was how to properly vacuum the carpet in perfect lines. And, the third item on the agenda was how to clean the clubhouse bathrooms. I thought to myself, is this what I signed up for? If you are new to property management, I hope your experience is less of a shock than mine was.
If you are a new property manager, assistant manager, or leasing agent, the key to excelling is understanding. Here are three tips I wish I would have received to help you get to know your community, staff, and competition. This is not an all-inclusive list, but these are tips that will help you hit the ground running.
First, understand your community. This first tip is meant to give a full picture of your community (or communities, if you manage multiple sites). As you tour your new community, it is important to take notes of things that you like and things that you don’t like that are within your control as site staff. Here are some basic questions to ask your trainer or mentor:
-What is the resident base like?
-What are the quirks that I need to know about this community?
-What is our competitive strategy?
-If you were a prospect, what would you think of the community?
Write down these responses so that you can start to form an opinion on how you will sell your community to prospects and reassure your current residents that they made the right choice.
Second, understand your staff. No matter the role, it is vital that you understand those who currently work with you at the property. If this step is missed there is a chance that the current staff will not be open to change or suggestions. Get to know the staff on a personal level and find out what motivates them. Here are some example questions for your trainer or mentor:
-Who has worked here the longest/shortest?
-What does the org chart look like?
-What is the staff’s opinion on how the community is being managed currently?
-Can you perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis from your perspective?
Write down their responses and take detailed notes. Understanding your community and on-site staff will be helpful in understanding your role.
Third, understand your competition. Once your research on the community and other staff is complete, it is time to understand what the competitive strategy is. Spend a day driving from community to community in your area and do some comp shopping. Be upfront about who you really are and do not conceal your identity as so many do. Ask your competition the following questions:
-What makes their community attractive to prospects?
-How can we build a relationship that is mutually beneficial?
-In the future, how can I be helpful to you?
-What type of information would you gather from me on a regular basis if your company has you shopping comps?
This may feel counterintuitive since this is a competitive business environment, but being open and transparent will create an environment of reciprocity when you have to gather your monthly shopping reports.
These are just a few tips to help you on your way as a new employee to this wonderful property management industry. Learning how to blow up balloons and clean the bathroom properly will probably come in handy at some point, sure. But understanding the community, the staff, and the competition will help you convert leads at a higher rate and retain your residents longer.