July 14, 2023

Reality at All Costs


John Bower


Chief Executive Officer

Hello Dear Readers, 

I recently returned from the NAA Apartmentalize conference in Atlanta. While last year’s conference in San Diego was my first NAA conference since returning to multifamily world, this year's conference was different. I walked away thinking I’d been “rebaptized” into multifamily, immersed in the reality of our customers' day to day lives. 

In what seems like 7 lifetimes ago, my wife and I were foster parents to 10 children. One of the things we learned during that time was to “enter into each child’s world.” It was the primary way to actually pay attention and actually create a mutual sense of connection and attachment. And during Apartmentalize I think I actually got a sense of the reality the majority of those in the industry are experiencing. And I wanted to take a moment to sum up some of what I learned, resource you to what was shared and, maybe, even if for a moment, try to sell you on how Bonfire can help. 

Reality at All Costs

My shrink told me (several times), that mental health “is the unwavering commitment to reality at all costs.” And I learned a great deal of the reality that property management groups are experiencing: expenses are going up, staffing turnover is high and the end users, the renters, want both hi-tech and hi-touch. 

Expenses are rising and, it would seem, that is in large part due to the difficulty of hiring and retaining staff as the demands of workers have changed. In the session hosted by Tyler Christiansen, one stat I heard that blew me away was that property management companies were experiencing 70% turnover year over year. 70%! Now I don’t remember if it was Scott, Michael or John who shared that, but it gave me a level of understanding regarding the “world” of our customers. It is hard to find good people and then retain them (let alone give them some semblance of a career path!).

I believe it was Taylor Blades, Jaymz Yates and Kim Young’s session that really highlighted the necessity to “retain and acquire human capital.” And here, automation must play a role as Frederick Smith of FedEx fame said, “Automate the routine, humanize the expectation.” With so much turnover and with rising costs, the reality is those from the corporate office down to the site level must work to figure out. 

And that goes along with the idea that the renters are much more “hi-tech and hi-touch” than ever before. In essence, they don’t want to talk to someone until they want to talk to someone. And once automation has gotten the basic answers to say a leasing preference (two-bedroom preference, pet-friendly, etc.), the human element must pick up without missing a beat. No pressure! 

The Way Forward

While each session I attended did a great job in defining reality (at all costs!), each one had a slightly different picture of how to move forward. Each group did an admirable job of defining automation and took a stab at the buzzword of the year, “centralization,” it would seem that the industry has a deep felt need for both automation and centralization and is still working to figure that out. 

A massive bit of understanding was that automation comes first. It will help with the turnover and the end users' need for hi-tech. Then centralization can happen, but it must come with technology partners that a) integrate with your PMS and CRM and b) be done in a way that fits the mold of your company’s business philosophy. 

In property management, automation cannot be done without integration. To put it simply, the industry relies too much on property management software to try and build automation around it. When assessing an automation partner, integrations and the LEVEL of integrations will determine the success. With this connection established, you now have to determine what it is that you want to automate….tours, maintenance calls, onboarding? There is a large list of problems to tackle, so when choosing, assess which problems have the biggest impact on the bottom line. 

I feel a (brief) sales pitch coming on… 

When we built Bonfire, we focused on 2 BIG problem areas:

  • Leasing - prospect outreach, follow up, and guest card management
  • Operations - resident communication, surveys, and renewals

With the automation for these problems built, we then focused on centralization. How can these areas be centralized to not only reduce costs, but save time?

We discovered that centralizing the CRM components was the solution. By allowing property teams to operate in their own space while enabling corporate teams to operate among ALL the spaces, we achieved simplicity. We offered support for onsite teams with centralized tasks, guest cards, and reporting. 

The result was improved lease velocity, increased agent productivity, heightened sales team efficiency, and enhanced messaging. Our platform is proof that if you automate and centralize, you will see change. You will address the issues caused by high turnover and lacking resources.

El Fin

So there you have it… my understanding of the current reality in both multifamily and student housing with a (brief) sales pitch. Let us know if we can aid you in the process of automation and centralization. 

JS Bower

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