Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Through a Child's Eyes

Natural disasters help us to take a moment to reflect on really what’s important in life.  Georgia has experienced devastating floods and this morning we are hearing reports of deadly tsunamis and earthquakes on the other side of the world.  When you witness people who have lost everything, it really helps adjust your focus and outlook on life.

Remembering our children’s perspective on life can also give us a few business life lessons as well.  I remember the time my son saw his first butterfly.  First he screamed with glee when he noticed this little creature, and then he wanted to know what it was.  For the next 15 minutes after that he worked hard on trying to say the actual word.  But what I remember from that moment is how he was just awestruck by its beauty and uniqueness.  This was just an automatic reaction to something he believed was special.

So the brief message for our multifamily environments for today is this.  We have Fair Housing laws to protect the people, but if we see something special in everyone, it will be much easier to follow those laws.  When we view our residents through a child’s eyes, how hard will it be to retain and engage them?  When we see the beauty and amenities of our community though a child’s eyes how much do you need to worry about being secret shopped?

In the overall picture though, it’s not all about work, it’s about life.  Look around, take notice, and be grateful. 

Written by Jonathan Saar  The Training Factor


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New Media Atlanta Summary-Choose Your Direction

Last Friday September 25th, I had the opportunity to attend “New Media Atlanta” at the Georgia Tech Research Institute.  Chris Brogan was the keynote speaker and was surrounded by other speakers who had their own take, message, and experience to share with this audience.

The scene was quite intriguing.  The room where the conference was held was extra high tech.  Quite comfortable for everyone and a place to plug in your laptop, make some notes and enjoy the presentations.  The environment was totally the perfect breeding ground for the social media enthusiasts who were ready with their twitter accounts to share this information with the world.  On that day alone, 3719 tweets were recorded based on statistics from

Trying to wrap up the key points from that day in a few paragraphs will be a challenge, but here I go.  Basically there is not a one size fits all standard of Social Media.  Every company has a different product, service, and customer that need to be engaged properly.  It does you little good to have 30,000 followers on Twitter and 950 fans of your Facebook page, when you have absolutely no dollars to show for it.  Social Media is just another aspect of any other marketing plan. You do not just jump in with both feet; you need to carefully study and measure to make sure your methods are providing the best effect. 

This really starts by “listening”.  Do you know what your customers or residents want?  Do you know what they are saying about you?  Do you have a message that will engage them, so that they want to come back and hear more?  These are just a few questions that are necessary when formulating a plan to add Social Media to your existing structure.  FYI-Horizon Realty made the list of examples of what not to do when using Social Media.  I don’t think we need to go down that road again.

One statement that stuck with me from Chris Brogan’s presentation was this; ask people “How much do I suck?”  In other words, be ready to take the good with the bad.  Social Media has made the world completely transparent.

The multifamily industry is starting to break into this frontier.  Some are trying it out on their own, and some are using experienced and skilled consultants.  Social Media can you show your dedication to Fair Housing Laws.  It demonstrates your commitment to customer service and resident retention.  The main point is to accurately measure your path.  Use strategic reporting to carefully chart your progress.  If after a business quarter passes by and you do not see the results, do not toss the plan into the garbage.  Tweak it and keep moving forward.  Social Media is not a fad, it is here to stay.

Written by Jonathan Saar The Training Factor

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Stay the Course

Those three words have inspired thousands of individuals for centuries now.  It’s interesting to reflect on the definition.  Wikipedia makes these statements. 

"Stay the course" is a phrase used in the context of a war or battle meaning to pursue a goal regardless of any obstacles or criticism.

Similar to "cut and run", a pejorative phrase used to describe cowardly withdrawal from battle, "stay the course" allegedly originated as a nautical metaphor on maintaining a constant, unaltering course while navigating.

How do these three words inspire you?  What are your business challenges?

Here’s a theoretical list.

  1. Marketing plan-Is it the right one for me? How long should I stick to it?
  2. Competition-What size fish am I in my pond?  What do I do about the bigger fish?
  3. Budgets-Do I spend the money, or do I cut back?  Do I invest or do I ride this economy out?
  4. Training-Do I really need it?  Can I live without it?  Will the cheap version be as effective as the higher quality version?
  5. Occupancy percentages-What really works for resident retention?  Do I use social media or not?

For many multifamily companies its budget time and new fiscal year decisions are being made.  Your leadership training now comes into play with crucial decisions that will affect your company, your team, and yourself.

Now think of our three words.  “STAY THE COURSE”.  In the nautical context, can you envision the captain of the ship who is trying to encourage and convince his entire crew that they will survive the storm?  The course is front of him is uncertain.  It’s hard to see with all the waves pounding against his ship.  Water is flying everywhere.  His crew is being tossed around.  The 1st mate and lieutenants continue to delegate orders so that the ship will not sink.  The captain cannot see clearly what is in front of him, but he has his instruments to tell him where he is going.  His compass has never let him down.  His maps and charts have been accurately created.  His calculations are correct.  He knows that the direction he is taking his crew is true.  He stands at his captain’s wheel and confidently yells out to the crew, “STAY THE COURSE”.

Within our multifamily companies we have our instruments that do not let us down.  We have specific ones to deal with Marketing, Competition, Budgets, Training, and Occupancies.  We have instruments that have stood the test of time and we are discovering new ones that deal with the more current conditions and times we live in.  The message is clear for us.  If we act as leaders within our company, have you ever thought of those three words?

Post written by Jonathan Saar from The Training Factor

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Acorn Got Secret Shopped!

It’s current events like we have been witnessing recently that give us a whole new appreciation for being Secret Shopped!  I was hired at one time to do secret phone shops, and I never felt more uncomfortable in my whole life.  I felt so sad for the people I was talking to on the phone and looking to try and find something to score them high on.  I felt bad because now that report had to go to their boss and I was so anxious that because of my call, someone might lose their job.  After witnessing the ACORN events, my attitude has changed.  Secret Shops are for a protection and will only make you strive to achieve higher in your position.  Notice below from the ACORN website their motto and brief bio.

Who is ACORN?

ACORN is the nation’s largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people with over 400,000 member families organized into more than 1,200 neighborhood chapters in about 75 cities across the country.  Since 1970, ACORN has been building community organizations that are committed to social and economic justice, and won victories on thousands of issues of concern to our members, through direct action, negotiation, legislative advocacy and voter participation.  ACORN helps those who have historically been locked out become powerful players in our democratic system.

Now in the property management end our bio or our mission statement on our website may read something similar.  Let’s change the words up a bit.

Who is Property Management XYZ?

PROPERTY MANAGEMENT XYZ is one of the nation’s largest property management companies.  We have a portfolio of over XXX condos and apartments in over 10 states.  Since 1970, PROPERTY MANAGEMENT XYX has been building communities that are dedicated to helping our residents have the best living experience possible.  Our goal is to keep you happy and satisfied with your community and to retain you as a resident indefinitely.  Our chief concern is you as the resident.  Our goal is the utmost of customer service.  We want to hear your voice.  We are here for you.

The question is:  Does our company description match what our employees portray?  When you look at ACORN and their company description, the proof is in the pudding.  It sounds good on paper, but reality is much different.  I can guarantee you right now that they are wishing they had some sort of secret shop system set up in order to protect their organization. 

Does our “About” page read something similar to the example above?  What are we doing in the multifamily industry to make sure our mission statement matches our people?  If you were not participating in secret shops before, what will you do now?  If you were not creating and implementing a performance review program, what will you do now?  If you do not have an active and ongoing multifamily training program, what will you do now?  Do you believe that the only way an employee can benefit from their secret shop is if they have follow up training to enhance their skill sets?  It all ties together.

Never be afraid of secret shops, but welcome them.  Treat each situation as if you were being shopped, that way you can never go wrong.  They are a protection for you and your company to make sure that fair housing laws are being followed and customer service skills and leasing skills are optimized.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated.  If you have been secret shopped before, what is your general feeling towards them?  As a property management company who has that policy of using secret shops, how do you use them to make your team better with their job title?

Questions about your current program contact us:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

You Must Choose, But Choose Wisely

Decision makers have such a huge responsibility.  Whether or not we are on the property management side or the vendor side, everyday there are decisions to be made. It could be new employees, products, services, events, you name it, there are numerous items on a given business day that need to be addressed.
One of my favorite movies, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” had such an interesting scene towards the end that gave us all something to compare to.  The scenario: What do I base my decisions on?  The Grail Knight in the tomb used that expression, “You must choose, But Choose Wisely”.   We all remember what Walter Donovan did right away.  His superficial reasoning was that the most beautiful chalice had to be the correct vessel.  However he really did not know his history well nor did he do the proper research in order to come to a correct decision.  He just went with what looked best and what seemed to be the easiest choice and we know what happened to him, it kind of got yucky from that point on.  However Indiana Jones knew his history and had studied well which enabled him to ‘choose wisely’.  The action hero once again saves the day.
So what is the application for our industry?  We are confronted daily with 2 paths to take on any given decision.  One appears to be the intriguing and easy choice.  It looks pretty, it has a lot of show, and it glistens with promises and makes you think that if you choose this way it is going to make you a hero, that you will be so highly esteemed for the decision you made.  Where will this path lead?  The other path does not outwardly appear like much.  There is not glitz, no glamour, no outrageous promises, but you have done your research on this path.  You have investigated thoroughly.  You have educated yourself enough to know that even though the glitz is not there, you will not be misled by superficial reasoning.  You will know by your research that this path and decision is the best because you have examined it thoroughly and you want your team to benefit the most.  As the Grail Knight would say, “You have chosen wisely.”
Of course we are not talking about life or death decisions here, but the same principles apply.  Let’s continue to make our industry stand strong because of the professionalism that its foundation is based on.  Don’t get sucked in by a high pitched sales presentation or a resume with pretty borders and big words.  Don’t get caught in the snare of someone who says they will undercut a proposal no matter what, just to get a sale.  Be careful about the events and resident retention concepts you bring to your communities.  Our decisions should not be about short term glamour, but long term prosperity.
I am so interested in hearing from you on some of the challenging decisions you face and what steps you take to make sure you are making the best choice for you and your multifamily company.

Just for fun check out the old Diet Coke Choose Wisely commercial below.
Written by Jonathan Saar-Director of Marketing The Training Factor
For more information on The Training Factor visit our site

Monday, September 14, 2009

Did Your Light Bulb Go Off?

So you receive your energy consumption bill in the mail (electric or natural gas).  It’s already not a pleasant item to have to open, but you have no choice.  Much to your chagrin, what you owe this month nearly gives you a heart attack.  Then you reflect on how you have to pay all this money this month for your utility bill and yet your home never feels comfortable!! It is still so hot and my air conditioner is always on and nothing, no relief, still uncomfortable!!
Then you notice a little pamphlet inside the envelope that your bill came with.  It has a simple title, “Would you like to make your home more energy efficient?”  You gasp “YES” and you read the information.  It clearly outlines for you what it will take in order to start saving money.  Tips are given on your windows, doors, filters etc.  As you read through the material you come to realize two things are necessary in order to start feeling comfortable in your home.
1. Decisive Action
2. Spending Money on materials to upgrade various components in your home.

Now can you imagine yourself analyzing these 2 steps?  Would you be saying to yourself, “How ridiculous this is to spend money in the short term in order to save money in the long term?”  I would hope not.  Could you see yourself with such an important matter putting this decision off until next year?  I would hope not.  What is important?  Feeling comfortable in your own home, while saving money is priority.
Notice the picture of the light bulb?  Not so many years ago we used an incandescent light bulb above our heads to symbolize that a great idea has come to our minds.  Those days are over people.  We now use a fluorescent bulb.  Why? It’s called progress.  It’s called taking current trends and translating them into how we do business.
Two of the hottest budget topics that have been circulating within the multifamily industry are Training and Marketing.  This has become an “uncomfortable” topic.  The lack of comfort has come as a result of poor or no training and marketing dollars that are being spent with a very poor return. 
Has your light bulb gone off yet?  When industry professionals present information and services that will make your company feel more “comfortable”, in what timely fashion do you address the presentation and information? 
So ask yourself, what kind of light bulb does my property management company have above its head?  Utility companies present information to its consumers in order to help the environment.  Dedicated multifamily professionals present information to property management companies in order to help the growth and stability of the multifamily industry.  If this post has given you a new or brighter light bulb above your head, I would appreciate your comments.
Interested in quality online training that is engaging and retaining?  Click the link below.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Perfomance Evaluation and Analysis Feature

We are pleased to announce a new feature that has recently been added to our Training University! We are constantly improving our product for your benefit. You have told us of your need to marry employee training with employee performance evaluations. Whether those evaluations are in the form of Supervisor/Manager evaluations or secret shopper experiences, you needed a way to disseminate those evaluations to your employees and to train them in the areas where they may need extra help. You spoke and we listened!!
Introducing the Performance Evaluation and Analysis feature. This feature will allow you to upload all of your employee evaluations to your employee’s transcript page. Your employee will be able to see their evaluation, see and/or hear their secret shop, and receive training based on their performance analysis!
Best of all, this feature is available now and at no extra cost to our valued clients!!
We will shortly be unveiling reports to complement this new feature as well!
If you are interested in learning more about this feature and get an overview of how to use it effectively, please call Mechelle or Renée at 770-514-7773 or email us to schedule a mutually convenient time!
Thanks again for your feedback that helps us make The Training Factor the most comprehensive Learning Management System in the multifamily industry.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Blue 32--Blue 32--Ready, Set Hutt Hutt

Football season is now in full swing. Time to take the passion of the game and use it to your advantage with your residents and with your team. Statistically speaking, football continues to grow in popularity with many different demographics. It is no longer just a guys game, but the amount of women who tune into NCAA on Saturday and the NFL on Sunday is steadily growing.

So with such an ingrained passion with so many people, what can you do to use this to retain residents and gain loyalty with your multifamily team? How about dress up Fridays? Let your staff show up with their favorite team jersey. The result? Instant conversation starter when the residents come in!

The stuffy office atmosphere is gone and opportunities for fun and engaging conversations now have a breeding ground.

Now what about direct resident retention? Pretty well I am sure you know your resident's birthday, anniversary, graduation day etc. What about their favorite football team? Interesting fact to chat about on the community blog and get the residents involved in a little friendly rivalry.

How about a fan dress up contest? Or maybe a Saturday tailgate party? Options are probably endless when those wheels start spinning upstairs.

Bottom line-- have some fun with your multifamily team and with the residents. Show them both how much you value and appreciate who they are and their own particular passion for such a great weekend pastime.

If this is something you have already tried before, please share. I would love to hear how it worked for your community.

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