There’s a challenge with apartment buildings: No matter how fresh and cutting edge they are when their doors open, there’s always a newer rival coming. That newer building might even rise next door, offering even more amenities and higher-end finishes.
How, then, can an apartment building continue to attract residents over the years and decades, even as newer product fills the market?
The key is to provide top-notch service and a true community of residents. This can only come by hiring the right people to staff and manage your building. Filling your properties with the most talented and committed employees will help foster an environment that attracts residents. When residents know that the staffers in their buildings care for them and are committed to solving their problems it goes a long way to boosting the resident retention rate in a building.
At Saturday we’ve seen the positive results of building these kinds of teams. This isn’t surprising, because the teams working onsite in our buildings interact with our residents daily. They set the tone for whether residents feel like they are cared for and respected.
Our team members understand that they are dealing with people’s homes. They know that when something goes wrong, emotions can flare quickly. But they also understand that the best way to resolve problems is to be available and to listen. By being responsive and taking action to fix issues quickly, they build trusting and loyal relationships with their residents.
Of course, this leads to a big question: How can you hire the best people to staff your apartment properties? What are the qualities of a top-notch team member?
We believe that the key lies in providing team members with a reason to care about their jobs, their company and the residents they serve.
It’s true that everyone comes to work for a paycheck. The right people,though, are looking for more than that. They want to be part of something bigger, a company that they feel good about and offers them opportunities to grow, learn new skills and advance their careers and lives.
Our goal is to provide a clarity of purpose for our team members, from top to bottom in our organization. We strive to give all employees a sense of ownership in our company by clearly communicating where we are and where we are going. We want them to know about and buy in to the long-term goals of Saturday Properties.
When hiring, we look for people who, first and foremost, will deliver the best resident experience. We’re not just interested in the leasing agent who has the highest closing rate or the property manager with the most years of experience. Although these people may hit the ground running, we are more focused on finding team members that have the right personality and will be committed to Saturday over the long run. We know that we can teach the skill set and provide the tools and support for them to grow in their careers with us. Why? We’re playing the long game. We’re looking to build an extraordinary resident experience, something that will result in a higher number of residents renewing as well as attracting their friends to live in a Saturday-managed property.
Here’s an example of the benefits of creating that special experience: Following the disposition of an asset that we managed, a resident reached out to us to share that they had loved living in the building. After the disposition, this resident discovered that it was actually the Saturday team that made the building a special place, not the building itself.
The upshot? That resident planned to leave the property and move into another Saturday Properties building at the end of their lease.
This commitment is rare in our industry, and it doesn’t happen without the best onsite staff. It’s also invaluable: It’s far easier to keep your vacancy rates low when people love the community in which they live and aren’t just looking for the next best deal.
How do you find and keep the right people for your company? Here are some critical tips:
• Create and foster a culture in which the focus is on having the right people. Provide these people with the tools and support that makes it easy for them to be the outward face of your organization. We always hire, review and make personnel changes based on our core values.
• Lead your organization with clarity of purpose, and clearly communicate where the company is headed. As an example, we gather everyone in our company each quarter for an entire day. We spend the morning volunteering at local service organizations and spend the afternoon with a fun activity or barbecue. This includes a State-of-the-Company update during which we discuss our collective achievements over the last quarter. We also analyze how we are performing relative to our long-term goals.
• Provide clear expectations and hold people accountable. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, but if you are committed to growing your business and keeping good people, this is critical. It requires follow-up and a willingness to have sometimes difficult conversations in real time. Be aware, though, that providing clear expectations and demanding accountability is very different than micro-managing. When you have agreed upon a desired outcome, it boosts the odds that your team will be successful and more productive, without direct intervention from you.
For too long, the people in this business have focused almost exclusively on the bricks and sticks. The buildings themselves, of course, are important – It’s not easy convincing residents to remain in an outdated building that lacks the newest amenities and finishes. But from what we’ve found it’s equally important to focus on the people working in your buildings. The gamechanger is when your team can honestly build and foster a community within your buildings. This is what creates long term value through sticky residents that feel like they are getting more than just space for their rent dollar.
Brent Rogers is owner of Saturday Properties, a boutique property development and management firm based in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.