Keeping one eye down the road is critical in a changing industry.
Matt Whitaker, CEO of Evernest, was kind enough to join us on The Triple Win podcast and share some interesting insights about the future of the property management industry. Whitaker has been a CEO since 2008 and has no shortage of experience managing a major player in the industry. His company is rapidly approaching 5,000 doors managed and now exists in 13 markets including Birmingham, Detroit, Nashville, and Atlanta.
One of the topics of discussion between Whitaker and host Andrew Smallwood was the increasing polarization within the PM industry. Now, polarization as a word typically has a negative connotation to it, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing for the professional property manager in this case.
Boutique vs. Scaled
“I see the property management industry breaking into two worlds. I do believe there is still a place for the boutique manager in the future,” said Whitaker, who noted that some people may disagree with this assessment. But the personal relationships, nimbleness, and communication offered by a small-scale handful-of-doors property manager is hard for a large company to replicate. Not everything can be scaled efficiently and the value created by the smaller business’ ability to do those things well will continue to create opportunities for boutique property managers to thrive.
“On the opposite end of that spectrum, I think there are going to be platform businesses that provide value to investors in other ways. So the boutique manager is the partner and the platform business, let’s call it, is going to provide an ecosystem of everything from property management, perhaps brokerage, perhaps maintenance, all these other verticals that are driving value for their clients.” Whitaker continued, “What I would be afraid of is getting caught somewhere in the middle, where you’ve got a big enough company that you don’t know all your clients, but you don’t have a big enough company that you can drive scale and give your clients and customers the benefit of that scale."
Scale is certainly where Evernest is headed if it’s not already there, and Whitaker’s prediction is based largely on how companies like his and companies on the opposite side of the size spectrum create value for clients in two very different ways. This is the concept of differentiation, which is not achieved by the companies “in the middle.” Those companies are simply not going to be able to offer anything in the market that somebody else isn’t doing better. The spectrum Whitaker discusses can be warped to some degree, and some companies are attempting to do that by scaling aspects of the business, like personal relationships, that have not traditionally been scalable (see Auben Realty’s Pod System). But a general understanding of how a good property management company creates value for its investors and clients would lead you to the conclusion that, barring a major disruption, Whitaker’s polarization prediction is probably going to be right.
“Begin with The End in Mind,” as Stephen Covey once said, is a concept that always applies in business, but is especially relevant now in the property management industry. Having a defined vision for your company can help you set meaningful goals and stick to them. Knowing what space in the industry you want to be occupying in five years can protect you from “getting caught somewhere in the middle.”