Three veteran property managers who have implemented quarterly video calls with their clients. They speak to exactly how and why they operate these, and the specific value it creates for their companies.
In late 2019, Real-Time Leasing CEO Deb Newell launched a new communication initiative aimed at building a better investor experience. The concept was simple but effective: a regularly cadenced zoom meeting with all their investors.
“We invite all of our owners and we basically do a ‘state of the union’, a state of our company,” says Newell. “You pull back the curtain, you’re really showing them what’s going on behind the scenes and inviting them to have a little bit more information as to what the day to day may be.”
Other PMs have since recognized the value of disclosing the innards of the business to investors, including Bryan Jenkins of AHI Properties and Karen Jordan of HBR Rentals, all of which appeared on a panel at PMLX with Newell to break down how they run these calls.
What is the goal?
These investor zoom calls have one main goal, which is to keep the investor informed about and engaged in the processes of how their asset is being managed. When it was pioneered by Deb Newell, CEO of Real-Time Leasing and professional property management consultant, the intent was to provide such a thoroughly informative session that investors would leave feeling like they’re being kept in the loop and their questions and concerns were heard.
This has proven more than successful for Newell and Real-Time Leasing, as well as other companies that have adopted the practice. It’s an obvious win for the investor, but the resulting relationship development with clients is also a big win for property managers. In the new age of property management, where lifetime value has supplanted immediate cash flow as the PM’s north star, making efforts to keep investors in the loop helps build a relationship that contributes to said lifetime value.
Newell notes that a lot of investors think that the only time they hear from their management company is when there is a problem. That can really strain the client relationship, but it’s such an easy thing to fix and doing so will usually come as a surprise to the investor. Many probably aren’t expecting to be this informed. Their experience with old school PM companies would give them no reason to. “We’ve heard nothing but positive things about it. They were amazed that we did it in the first place,” said Newell.
Bryan Jenkins of AHI Properties, part of the PURE Property Management family, has seen similar positive reviews after adopting the quarterly zoom call concept. “We've had nothing but positive feedback on the two that we've done this year. I've got clients that have properties in multiple states with multiple managers. And their comment is always no one else is doing this. And they're just blown away that it's proactive versus reactive.”
How do you run them?
Newell recommends doing these meetings quarterly and generally tries to provide investors a holistic view of the company’s status and the performance of the assets it manages.
“The idea was to say ‘hey, we’re just going to tell you exactly what’s going on in the company, how well we’re doing, how well rent has been received, what our percentage of occupancy is, what our percentage of delinquency is, that way they felt more engaged.”
Newell typically lays out an agenda that features a run through of all those things. “That usually lasts about 45 minutes, and we do open it up for questions. So we’ll have somebody monitoring chat . . . they can definitely ask questions during the chat, then at the end we open it up, let everybody unmute and ask questions.”
Jenkins and AHI take a slightly different approach, electing to focus on the strategy for AHI’s decision-making and making sure their clients have a good understanding of why they’re doing what they’re doing. “We want to have our clients understand the why, why we’re doing certain things, why we’re deploying certain systems. They don’t need to understand the how, it’s the ‘why’ portion of it.”
Jenkins hits on an important point, which is that it’s worth identifying what’s important to your clients and focusing exclusively on that. You could probably talk about what you’re doing as a company and why for hours, but whittling down to what’s most important to the clients can result in a more streamlined and efficient meeting that loses fewer people over the course of it.
“We're explaining why we're doing things, how we're doing it for their benefit, and we focus on the triple win. We even talked about on our last call that we're looking for a win for the owner, the resident, and the manager and once we focus everything through that lens, it's easy. And we're also focused on the education of our owners and educating them on the way that we want them to think as investors.”
Jenkins, Jordan, and Newell break their meetings up into segments, each with time allotted to different speakers within the company. Karen Jordan of HBR Rentals remarks that this helps clients put faces to names and build a more direct relationship with employees beyond just company execs. “I loved that they can put a face to a name because a lot of our owners have only met myself. So they haven't met the team. So to see the face of who's our maintenance coordinator, who's the Resident Experience Manager, to really get to know them, I think it really helps them,” said Jordan.
Creating a Triple Win
The extra communication with investors Newell, Jordan, and Jenkins are striving to create is another great example of how property managers are realigning their business toward lifetime value via triple wins. The benefit to the investor of being in the know and feeling like their questions are addressed is obvious. On your side as the PM, this is a great opportunity to forge a strong relationship with your clients, but it’s more than that too. Regular communication with clients also gives you an opportunity to teach. Investors may not understand everything you’re doing, why, or how your long-time priorities have shifted as a triple-win driven property manager.
Jenkins focusing on “the why” provides powerful insights to investors on this exact question. As a property manager, you’re trying to provide value that investors can’t easily replicate themselves or with the assistance of technology. These quarterly calls are great opportunities to ensure your clients understand exactly what value it is you’re creating for them.
When investors and property managers are on the same page about the future of property management, creating a great resident experience is even easier. That's a triple win.