Bringing balance to your force…..

Are you all about the grind or are you quite quitting?

Seems these days you can only be one or the other.  Celebrating the effort or giving the absolute minimum.  Sound familiar?

A few years back, at CaboPress, I gave a talk about balance.  I pointed out something that I thought was obvious but struck a chord with a few of the attendees…..

Balance can only be found in the extremes.

Need an example, think back to your playground days and the teeter totter.  You and a friend, laughing across an equidistant mounted piece of lumber going up and down like a piston.  Remember what happened when your friend got too close to the fulcrum?   You either got shot off the other end or stuck in the elevated position indefinitely ……or until the street lights come on you needed to go home.   Remember those days?

Even worse, remember what happened when your friend finally relented and got off the teeter totter?   Yep, you crashed back down to mother earth.  Often violently.

Our own work and life balance are just like the kids on the teeter totter.  They can only be balanced if they are given the same amount of dedication and focus.  And when we spend too much time with our efforts not equidistant to each other, when we do attempt to get off the teeter totter…….we put ourselves at risk of a violent crash.

Now I am not suggesting that we should always spend the same amount of time on each.  What I am suggesting is that when you are focused on one or the other, they command the same level of focus and attention.

When you are working….you are focused on achieving your best and giving it your all.

When you are with your family….you are focused on being intentional and delivering your best to feed the relationships.

In the end, it is my take that neither the grind culture or quite quitting is healthy for anyone if left out of balance…my answer is to give both work and life everything.

Failure is not Final

I was recently listening to an episode of the Tim Ferris Show with acclaimed restaurateur, Danny Meyer.  You may know him as the founder of a little burger joint named Shake Shack, perhaps you’ve heard of it?.   

See the full podcast here

Anyone who leads a team that has even a tertiary focus on customer service should listen to the episode.  Their conversation wondered from leadership to attributes of a winning associate, to surviving the pandemic, to taking care of your employees, to building a hospitality focused culture and a great deal more.   But the portion of their conversation that stuck with me was a story of failure.  More poignantly, how Danny reacted to a particular failure.

It is easy to forget, or at least overlook, that long before Shake Shack was a thing, Danny was a multiple James Beard Award winning restaurateur with multiple Micheline Stars.  His restaurant Maialino is a New York City icon that attracts the upper echelons to it’s tables.  Beyond just exquisite food, a restaurant of the caliber of Maialino delivers an experience.  An experience that depends on both product quality and service.  It was clear that service is what consumes Danny’s focus.  How to hire the right team members, how to honorably split with the wrong ones, how to build a service culture within an organization.  So you could hear the hurt in his voice when he began to tell the story of when friend and marketing thought leader, Seth Godin, had a less than stellar experience at Maialino. 

While we do not hear what specifically went awry with Seth’s experience, we are provided a clear lens into Danny’s approach to dealing with failure.  With a sense of urgency that comes through the headphones, Danny says:

“I have to write a next best chapter to this story.”   

Danny Meyers

The sentence struck me so hard that I had to stop my run, rewind, and listen several times over to make sure I captured it correctly.  As I dissected the seemingly simple sentence, I identified four key wisdoms around failure that Mr. Meyers expresses in those eleven words.

The story is not over:

So many times we see a failure as finality.  The simple recognition that there is a next chapter to the story should empower us all. 

Failure should motivate:

I love the determination the sentence exudes.  “I have to write” implies a compulsion, an inner burn, to improve the situation vs. settle for failure (back to the story not being over). 

We control how we react:

Reaction is a verb.  It is an action.  By expressing that the reaction is to write, a creative process, it implies that we have the ability to control the creation of the next action.  It is non-reflexive but rather intentional and self-designed.

Perfection will not get in the way of Great:

This was why I had to listen to the sentence about 5 times to make sure I heard it correctly.  Danny had to write A next best chapter – not THE next best chapter.  This implies that there are multiple positive possibilities to move forward to.  I think so often we, or at least I, look for the perfect solution to failure.  Or the biggest win to offset the loss.  That is not what Danny expressed.  He had to write A next best chapter….not letting perfect get in the way of great.

It was a beautiful expression of the reality we all face.  We are going to experience setbacks in our life.  Be they customer service, business, relational or personal setbacks long term success is not avoiding the setback itself but how you react to it.  What the next chapter in the story is.

So the question really is….how do you write the next best chapter to your story?


Every year I choose a word for the year.  Something to keep me focused on what is most important in my life and to achieving my goals. I know it can sound cheesy but it works for me.

The word for 2022?   GRIND

Now I have never been afraid to work hard or get my hands dirty.  I am way more of a draft horse than a unicorn.  Give me a task that relies solely on my effort, and I will guarantee it gets done. Remember, I’m the guy who put himself in a coma simply by refusing not to stop & give up.

So why would I choose a word that describes me vs. one that challenges me?

Because it is an acronym – not a word.  I guess I cheated a bit this year in that regard.


  • GRACIOUS – No one is successful completely on their own.  Family, mentors, business partners, spiritual leaders and sheer providence all play a role in every success story.  I want to live a life of gratitude that is constantly aware of my blessings and expressing gratitude for them daily.
  • RELENTLESS– When I set out to accomplish a goal, or commit to others of completing a task, it will get done.  In everything I choose to take on, I will give it everything I have to give and will not stop putting the effort in until the goal is achieved, or it becomes no longer possible to achieve it.
  • INNOVATIVE – I look for new ways to be more effective in everything I do.  I can always be better and to be better I have to evaluate what works and what can be improved.  I am also open to the new things I am not doing today as well as stopping the things I currently do that are no longer serving me.  Innovation drives the progress that leads to success.
  • NERDY – I actively look for new knowledge, new sources of information, new learnings.  A dormant mind is a dying mind.  An active mind is a growing mind.  Be the Sword of Gryffindor – take in what makes me stronger (and if a Harry Potter reference is not nerdy, I am not sure what is).
  • DISCIPLINED –I honor the goals I set and the people I serve by doing what needs to be done. I put in the effort and dedicate the time and resources to achieve the task. I live an ‘others first’ life that places value on serving those I choose to surround myself with.  By serving others with confident humility, I am confident that I too will be served.

So in 2022 I will focus on Grinding daily.  Starting each day acknowledging how I have been blessed.  Focusing on the goals that serve me and my family and pushing hard towards them.  Taking the time to reflect on how I can do better, be better, serve better.  Intentionally taking time to be an active learner and consciously serving others whenever possible.

Time to start Grinding.

Make it a great year.

‘Confident Humility’

This week marks the first time I will be walking into my offices without the presence of my hiring mentor. Nearly eleven years ago, Keith Dunkin saw in me possibility. The possibility that I might have a long lasting career helping to lead the Multifamily space forward. The possibility that I could further the use of data in the space. The possibility that I might provide him the opportunity to not travel 300 days a year (well that last one may have been his wife).

Today he begins a new, incredibly exciting, chapter in his life as he builds his faith based real estate investment group full time. It is an endeavor he has been working years to accomplish and I could not be more proud of him.

But if I am being honest, I am also a bit melancholy. For over a decade now I have been referring to myself as ‘Keith Jr.’ , something I know has always given him a bit of indigestion. So beginnng today there is no more standing behind the legend. No more creeping just offstage. Nope, now is the time to be in the proverbial spotlight. A transition that he has been preparing me for for years and started well before his official departure.

So as I have spent the last several weeks preparing for this life A.K. (‘after Keith’), I’ve reflected on the many lessons I gleened from him and pondered which was the most valuable to me as a professional? There have been literally hundreds but one that has clearly risen to the top is his concept of acting at all times with Confident Humility.

This was a lesson that did not come easily for me. My wife’s first impression of me was that I was “a bit of an arrogant ass”. I was once accused by a previous employer of always being the “smartest guy in room” – and not with an endearing tone mind you. Truth is, it was my way of compensating for a lack of actual confidence.

Fake it till you make it. Imposter Syndrome at it’s best.

I soon learned through Keith’s example how to approach every situation with humility. To treat everyone with a genuine air of grace. How to work a room with dignity and respect for all in his presence. To this day, I have not met anyone who is more genuinely respected and liked in the industry – a function of his own genuiness.

I also learned that there is a difference between humble confidence and confident humility. A subtle but very important one. The difference is where it is centered.

Humble Confidence rests in the ego. It resides in the mind…knowing that you can do the thing…whatever it is. It is an ego that has learned to act quietly and humbly. It exudes an air of quiet self-assuredness. It is not the same as Confident Humility but it was one of my stepping stones to it and usually my recovery spot when I slip from it.

Confident Humility does not rest in the ego but in the heart. It is the sincere desire to put others first and know that by doing so, your goals will also be achieved because your goal is to serve those you are surrounded by. It is exudes an air of competent service. It is an ‘other’s first’ mentality vs. an ‘ego’ first.

So thank you Keith for taking a chance all those years ago. Thank you for your willingness to lean in to me and so many others. Thank you for your past and continued example of living with Confident Humility. It is a lesson that certainly was not lost on me.

What if we completely rethought conferences?

A very large part of my work life is conferences.  Attending, facilitating, speaking and showing.  I have done it all over the years.

But there is one event every year that completely stands out from the crowd.  It is an event I have no real business being at but also the one I personally get the most out of every year.  CaboPress.

CaboPress is an event I can only categorize as a Thought Leadership Consortium amongst the WordPress community.  For those unfamiliar, WordPress is the vehicle that over 35% of all websites you experience on a daily basis are built upon.  An open source platform that is ripe for plug ins, designers, agencies and more to both build upon and sell across.  CaboPress is the premier, invitation only, event of the year where thought leaders in the space are invited to simply share.  No sales agenda, no show floor….just a constant, lightly currated idea exchange.

To say the format is unique would be under playing it.  Each day begins with an optional workout beachside (the whole reason I get invited). 

Morning workout on Day 1 of CaboPress 2021

From there, there are two sessions each morning with two topics discussed simultaneously….on either end of the pool.   Yes, you read that right and yes, it really works. 

How?  The audience is intimate and hand picked.  This year attendance was limited to fifty.  Not 5000, not 500 but 50 curated individuals and business from around the world.  Each with a very specific, and at least for this audience, unique viewpoint into the WordPress ecosystem.   It’s a format that should result in an annual boondoggle but instead curates amazing and very real business conversations.  It shouldn’t work but it does.

The success of this event has got me thinking – what if we rethought the entire concept of a conference?

Or at least a particular type of conference.

Let’s be real, the typical conference is all about attracting more attendees through more popular keynote speakers, more opportunity on the show floor and sponsorship opportunities.  It’s the classic business model of a conference.  The more attendees, the more profitable (aka successful) the event is.   But is that really how the attendees are defining success?

Attendees, the ones who are looking to gain something out of a conference vs. just having a week out of the office and some SWAG to bring home to the kids, are looking to have a problem answered.  To talk with peers about the struggles they face that might be common and the reassurance that they are not alone.  You don’t get that on a showroom floor or from a talking head on the stage (says the guy who is often looked to to be the talking head) – you get that from community.  From direct interaction with an intimate group of peers and maybe even a few who are outside your direct purview. 

Maybe I am mislabeling it all together.  Maybe it is not a conference at all but rather a mastermind group.

An intimate mastermind group designed to push you forward in your thinking, your development and your business.

Maybe that is what we all need, regardless of industry.  A mastermind group designed to push us past our typical thinking in a safe but aggressive way.

I know I need it every year and I think if you experienced it – you would to.

Here’s to rethinking ‘The Conference’ in 2021 & 2022.

What’s on your “Don’t Do” List?

I am a proud graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara (#GoGauchos) and yes, we are undefeated in football since 1992…..which was the year the student body voted the team out of existence. It was also my first introduction to ‘Opportunity Cost’.

At the time I was going in to my Junior year and after having attended both our last win and our last loss, I had decided to attempt to walk on the team. During our last game I witnessed players walk up to their girlfriends between plays and it drove me nuts. I thought I could bring some discipline to the team if I was on the inside. But as I like to joke, as soon as the student body found out that the level of talent was dropping to mine, they voted the team out of existence.

You see, to be competitive in collegiate football takes money. A lot of it. And the university was not overly interested in diverting from highly successful programs like water polo, volleyball, basketball, baseball and swimming to fund a really expensive sport that was bringing in next to no revenue and even fewer wins. So they put it up to a student vote. And the students literally voted the team out of existence.

It was a bitter pill to swallow but a great lesson in Opportunity Cost.

In retrospect, it was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me. I tend to dive all-in on things and this would have been a massive distraction from my educational pursuits. It also was one of the first lessons I received that what you don’t do is just as important as what you do. The collective University had decided to not do Football so it could be better at all of the other things it was doing.

It was a lesson I was reminded of just this week when speaking with a colleague about become the absolute best at what she does. In the course of the conversation I mentioned my efforts to do the same in a slightly different discipline. When she asked if she could attned several of the sessions I was setting up my answer was simple;

“Not if you want to be the best at [the other thing]. You are going to have to be ruthless with your calendar.”

I passed an additional piece of advice to her and that was that every day she should be writing out her “Don’t Do” list. In my daily journal I call it my “I wll not self-sabotage” list (just being honest with myself).

In his book ‘Winning”, mindset expert Tim Grover calls it a “NO List”.

“I’ve had clients make a “NO List” of things they are not going to do, a nonnegotiable reminder of things that aren’t a priority. Keep it in your phone, on your desk, tape it to the mirror, the refrigerator and use it.”

Winning (page 111) – Tim S. Grover

So just like a University only has so much money and resources, so do you. We each only get 24 hours in a day. Be ruthless with your calendar and be sure it is filled with the Must Do’s and that it has no place for the Don’t Do’s. The opportunity cost is far too great not to.

What is the real cost of maintaining the eviction moratorium?

In the wake of the highly controversial decision by the CDC to extend the eviction moratorium, I have been thinking a lot about the ramifications of the moratorium and its eventual lifing.  How will operators react?  Are we simply delaying a flood of availability?  How will it effect rent levels as that inventory comes on market?  A line of thought that eventually brought me to: 

How has it effected rent levels already and what is the cost to the rest of the Nation’s renters?

To answer that last question, I started to do the math.

A general rule of thumb in budgeting for the multifamily space is to expect about a 4.0% skip and/or eviction rate, or about 1 per month on a 300 unit building.  Certainly not a hard and fast rule but a guideline many use and experience.   Meaning that on a 200 unit property, 8 leases either skipped or were evicted from their residence annually.  Now that may not seem like a lot but let’s build some context here.  As observed from the RealPage lease transaction data set, In 2019 the national achieved renewal conversion percentage was 53.1%.  This means that on our hypothetical property, 94 of the units would turn annually.  Since a lease that terms early is not a renewal, it is safe to assume that 8 of those 94 units that turned were a direct result of either skip or eviction.  That is 8.5% of the turned inventory annually.

OK Andrew, we get the math but why does it matter.

In 2021, the national average renewal conversion rate rose to 55.6%, meaning the annual stock turned on our hypothetical asset dropped from 94 units to 89.   Except it didn’t.  It dropped to 81, a full 13.8% year over year decrease in available inventory to rent. 

How you ask?  

Because all of the inventory that normally would have been turned through the eviction process or renter leaving early are still being occupied by the renter who is behind on their rent payments.  I can’t imagine that renewal contracts are being executed between the landlord and the tenant in that situation and we know they are not being forcibly removed so these units are not in either the executed renewals nor on an availability report.  So while in previous years the inverse of renewal conversion was a good proxy for available units to turn; mid eviction moratorium it is no longer accurate.

Now it doesn’t take a revenue management expert to cast forward the impact of a 10.6% reduction in available supply annually and how that will affect rent growth numbers.  Even operators leveraging manual pricing are seeing 13.8% less on their availability reports and reacting as best they can.  Those who are using revenue management tools are seeing rents move at breakneck paces as the models see a clear imbalance between supply and demand and are reacting accordingly.  Compounding the decrease in supply is a spike in demand, as measured by the number of leads per total units, that is up 35% through the first six months of the year as compared to the first six months of 2019.  In other words, we are in a year of incredibly high demand but also a year of constrained inventory due to public policy.  It is the perfect scenario for aggressive rent growth which can clearly be seen when we look at lease over lease trade out, otherwise known as replacement rents.

The impact?  While the 4.5% of renters who would normally be displaced are able to remain in their homes, a measure that was absolutely needed as the economy locked down, the other 95.4% are taking the brunt of the unintended consequences. 

If we look at year over year asking rent growth in 2019 vs. 2021, the costs of those consequesnces starts to be revealed. 

In June of 2019, asking rents grew 3.06% year over year.  In June of 2021, they grew 6.25%, which is 73% higher than the ten year average of 3.6% annualized asking rent growth.  So with very fuzzy math we can extrapolate the theoretical burden the rest of the renter base is bearing.

Now admittedly, I am not considering the entire SFR marketplace in my estimates, which could easily double the impact, but that is $9.9 Billion in real cost to real people who are getting no assistance at this point.

Dear Simone, Thank you – I think I finally get it now.

I would love to show up here and say that my first thoughts after hearing that Simone Biles had pulled herself from Olympic competition were:

“I hope she is ok.”  or “How brave!”  or even “What a team player, putting the team’s chance for gold first”

But I can’t.  Because they weren’t. My first reaction was simply

“Wow.  I can’t believe the pressure got to her of all people.”

It is a reaction that forced me to ask if mental toughness is actually contradictory to mental health.

After a lot of mental wrestling, I think I have arrived at a point of vague understanding of where Simone is coming from.  While not on the same level as an Olympic competition, I get not feeling right on one of the biggest days of your life.  Nine years ago today ironically, I was bowing onto a mat to test for my black belt.  A test I had prepared years for.  A test that had enveloped every moment of my ‘free time’ the previous 6 months of my life.  A test that would come way too close to taking my life….literally.

I won’t go into all of the details but as the test started, my heart began to race.  I am sure you can imagine the adrenaline dump that comes from having a 6’6” 250 lbs man attack you.  Yes, that is how my test started. 

My heart rate skyrocketed and never really came down.  Turns out I had a previously undetected heart condition known as atrial flutter that kicked in.  Looking back on it now, I had felt it before, including my recent training sessions leading up to the test, but feeling ‘off’ was no reason to stop.  I was mentally tough.  I was going to finish no matter what.  I was going to earn that black belt.  This was my time and nothing could stop me.

Fast forward 3 hours, through multiple self-defenses, grappling matches and sparring rounds vs. fresh black belts and I had robbed my body of all oxygen.  I had suffocated myself through pure exertion – because I was mentally strong.

My mental strength led me to passing out on the mat.  Crashing in the hospital.   Enjoying a CareFlite helicopter ride to a better equipped hospital.  Two days in a medically induced coma, three in the ICU and ultimately heart surgery to correct the afore mentioned atrial flutter.

My mental strength was anything but healthy in my case but I still struggled to see how Simone could step back from the world’s biggest stage.  The phrases ‘Embrace the Suck’, ‘Love the Grind’ and ‘Nobody Cares, Work Harder!’ have prominent places in my journal, my decor and my wardrobe so it was just not computing.  

But after putting myself in Simone’s situation and attempting to process it, I think I am coming around to see her perspective.  A decision as monumental as pulling out of the Olympics would come down to three things, all of which could have a direct impact on how we deal with mental health in the workplace.

She was in physical danger

The job of an Olympic Gymnast is to hurl themselves either on or at apparatus in way that any mistake can lead to severe, career threatening injury (remember Kerri Strug?  She never competed professionally after the 1996 games).  Simone had the presence to identify in herself that her mental state was not right and would pose a direct threat to her physical health.  Although many of us do not face the same physical threats when work goes poorly, several of us do.  If the mental state of an electrical line worker is off, the consequences are dire.  If a surgeon is having a hard time focusing, the patient is at risk.  We have to empower our teammates to self-identify, without fear of consequence, when they may be putting themselves in physical danger.

She was committed to doing everything she could to ensure the US medaled

Simone knows that in order to bring home a team medal, every member of the group that is out there in the gymnasium floor has to give their best performance…not their best effort.  When you are operating at that level, an alternate who is able to deliver 100% of their capability will score higher than Simone delivering 90% of hers.  The right thing to do for the team was to give up her spot.  This is actually the point that drove home the selflessness rather than the selfishness of Simone’s decision.  She put team first.  When was the last time you deferred a great opportunity to a teammate because they are more likely to perform?  How often do you evaluate the situation and then ask who is best to address it within the organization regardless of tenure or position?  Probably not often enough.  I know I don’t do it enough.

She is secure in her identity as a champion

I can only imagine that Simone was able to walk away from the possibility of being an Olympic Champion because she is already secure in her identity as an Olympic Champion.  Kerri Strug made the final vault, ending her career, because her coach told her she had to in order to secure the Gold Medal for Team USA.  An assumption that turned out not to be true.  The US would have won the Gold either way based on the Russian’s floor performance that followed Kerri’s amazing effort.  As leaders, are we continually assisting our teammates in building a champion’s identity?  Do they have the confidence that their performance towards a singular goal is not identity defining?

I don’t plan on taking my foot off of the gas anytime soon and you will definitely still see me doing my best to be the hardest worker in the room.  But I think Simone and her decision has taught me to have more empathy for those who choose a different path.  Those more in tune and self-aware than I.

Rethinking the ‘Leasing Office’

I remember seeing a post on LinkedIn years ago where an apartment owner was setting the goal to get to a staffing model where he would have one on-site employee per every 1000 apartment homes. 

I also remember thinking he was crazy.  Turns out he was just prescient.

The traditional staffing model of 1:100 is clearly on the way out.  With ever increasing cost burdens of taxes and insurance, the high turnover rate and the lack of available workforce right now, it simply has to.  Operators’ margins are thin enough as it is and the increasing cost of maintaining the current staffing level, let alone the cost associated with a 50% average turnover ratio, are forcing them to compress further each year.  It is an unsustainable relationship.

Fortunately, the PropTech industry has come forward with several solutions to the problem.  Virtual tours, online leasing processes, self service work orders, resident portals, smart home technology, IOT and Artificial Intelligence (just to name a few) are all driving a trend towards the automation of the traditional leasing office.  We now have the ability to run a property completely remotely if we so desire and during the beginning of the pandemic of 2020, several operators found themselves doing exactly that whether they wanted to or not. 

But as we come out of the pandemic lock down, the real question we should be asking is not ‘Can we do it?’  It’s ‘Should we do it?

The evidence is clear that our guests want to be able to do business on their terms.  They want to be able to interact with the community digitally.  At any time of day.  Through a smart device and not by walking through the office doors that are only unlocked between 9am – 5 pm.  They want flexibility.  Automating all of the functions of the Leasing Office should both deliver savings for the operator and the experience our residents desire, right?  In theory at least, yes.

But I believe there is also an inherent risk in executing on this strategy – the commoditization of your product.  A completely digitized experience leads directly to a commoditization of your community.  Commodities are easy to abandon or switch between.  Homes are not.

So we face a conundrum – how do we leverage the efficiency that automation and artificial intelligence deliver without sacrificing our ability to build a sense of community?

Because here is the thing, the evidence is also clear that guests want to feel a part of something.  They do not want a box, they want a home.  In a recent study conducted by the Data Science team at RealPage on multiple years’ worth of data generated by JTurner Research and their ORA Score, a clear correlation between online reputation and both resident retention and revenue performance was identified.  To summarize the study (available here) for every point of improvement a property experiences in their ORA score, it correlates to a 3bps improvement in revenue.   Reputation and guest experience matter and you do not build either through a completely digital interaction. 

So what are we to do with this conundrum? 

My opinion is it is time to start rethinking the purpose/function of the onsite team itself.

Back when I was running multifamily properties and during my time leading corporate housing operations, I became known as the ‘Disney Guy’.  My goal was to create as close a ‘Disney Experience’ in my operations as possible.

  • I had all of my manager’s read ‘The Disney Way
  • We referred to all of our residents as our ‘Guests’.  Prospects were also ‘Prospective Guests’
  • We did not have units, we had ‘Homes’
  • I even had an executive (who was also a resident) question the landscaping expense at one of my communities because it was starting to look too good.

So it should not come as a surprise that I think we should take a page out of the Disney playbook.  When automation eliminated the need for paper tickets related to the Fast Pass, Disney did not immediately move to lowering staffing levels, they thought about how those Cast Members could enhance the Disney Guest Experience in other ways.  Then when resources became excessive, they moved to lower their Cast Member count per guest.  Look for the opportunity to enhance first, make cuts second.

The multifamily industry has the opportunity to change the game.  We need to convert the ‘Leasing Office’ into the ‘Resident Service Center’.  Our on-site staff should not be concerned with filling the building but rather keeping the resident base serviced.  If we are able to automate & centralize the majority of the customer acquisition process, the entry of a work order, the monthly rent payment and other mundane interactions, our on-site teams are freed up to focus on servicing the needs/desires of the guests we currently have.  Improving reputation, retention and ultimately, profitability.  This should lead to a staffing model that is lower than 1:100 while also meeting the desires of both our resident base around service and ownership expectations around cost.

We need to convert the ‘Leasing Office’ into the ‘Resident Service Center’

In order to make this wildly successful though, we need to do things differently.  Very differently.  We need to hire for different talent.  We need to set different expectations with both our residents and our teams.  We need to compensate differently.  The physical structure of the office needs to be rethought.  We need a well thought out and integrated self-service resident platform to empower residents to actually self-service.  We need to change the game but now is a great time to do just that.  Change the game.

How well do we really know the renter of tomorrow?

­­This week I had the opportunity to host a discussion that I have been wanting to facilitate for almost 10 years now.  A discussion with recent and soon to be college graduates and what their expectations are of their first conventional apartment…away from school….away from their parents… the ‘Real World’.  I first had the idea of this session at the Interface Student Conference when the absence of any multi-family developers was palpable.   I just could not believe that all of the leaders in the space where their next renter would be coming from were getting together and not a single multifamily developer whas there to learn their next renter’s expectations.

It literally shocked me.

And then again, it didn’t.  I mean we know our renters and we know our kids.  The ones who game all day, live their lives on mobile, value connectivity above all and never want to step foot in a leasing office or talk to an actual person.  Right?

Except we don’t.  We know the stereotype and have never really asked if the stereotype is accurate or not.  Enter RealWorld 2021 – the annual User Conference for RealPage clients and the first ever session focusing on the expectations of tomorrow’s renter.  A session that both confirmed some biases and blew others out of the water.

Through a combination of survey and live interview, I think we confirmed three assumptions we thought were true and exposed three assumptions that we totally got wrong.

So let’s start with what we actually got right:

  • Connectivity is everything
    • This generation has never interacted with a world without WiFi – and it shows. Almost to a person, connectivity speed and WiFi availability were are the top of their ‘must haves’. Even those on the panel who were not into gaming wanted a signal strength strong enough to ‘watch Netflix and my Zoom meetings without glitching’. But beyond just the speed, they expect it to be at least an available amenity with them having the choice of getting service from another, faster, provider.
  • Mobile really matters
    • Duh. Did we expect anything less on this one? This generation executes crypto trading from their mobile device. You better believe they expect to be able to pay their rent, reserve a visitor parking space and enter a workorder from the same platform.
  • They expect to be able to do business differently
    • Example after example were provided by our panelists on how communities were making it more difficult to conduct business with them. Increased deposit requirements for a lack of credit history vs. offering deposit alternatives. The inability to split a payment online under a single lease. The unwillingness of the building access system to have multiple residents to be contacted for a single unit. Electric vehicle charging stations outside the gated perrimiter at the club house where they would be towed for overnight parking.
The next generation of apartment renter

And now to where we were totally wrong:

  • They never want to actually see an onsite staff member.
    • When asked the importance of having the ability to take a guided, inperson tour of their next apartment home (on a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being Absolute Must), EVERY SUREVEY RESPONDENT RANKED THIS A 10. Every. One. Now they also expect to be able to tour virtually but those goals of getting our staffing models to 1:1000 may be a bit ahead of themselves. This generation desires efficiency but not at the cost of quality.
  • Social media really matters
    • An audience member asked the panel if they started their search on Social or via Website and the answer that all panelists provided suprised everyone. While social for their student housing decision was a critical search component, it really did not factor in at all for our panelists first ‘real’ apartment. I almost got the feeling that they saw stepping away from the TikToks and Instagram Reals as a way to show they were maturing in their housing search.
  • They rely on first party web content to become educated
    • This upcoming group of renters has an inherent distrust of anything a brand puts forward as reality. Instagram influencers, filters and selective messaging have jaded this group to the point that they expect pictures to not reflect reality and to only trust the impression of referrals or the mob.

In short, the renter of tomorrow is a bridge between the future and the past. They lead the way in the use of technology but still desire the relationship an onsite team brings. They are smart, saavy and optomistically cautious.

Which leads us to the ultimate question – how do we serve them well and maximize efficiency and profitability. Can’t wait to see how the industry takes on that challenge.