January 12, 2023

Relationships Still Matter


John Bower


Chief Executive Officer

Relationships Still Matter

My wife has a coffee problem. Oftentimes, this problem involves a daily trip to her (current) favorite coffee shop, Houndstooth. With some variation of our 5 children in tow, she regularly takes a 30 minutes roundtrip for an Iced Americano with a dash of oat milk. Having purchased fine coffee for at home use, I often ask her why she would go through all the trouble of loading two toddlers, Irish twins, and a 4th grader into the Suburban for this trip. Her response was  “I am going for the experience.”

However, with a little more digging, it isn’t simply the experience of delish chilled espresso, nor is it the surprising sanity of leaving the house while Finding Nemo plays for the 100th time. It is a relational experience. At Houndstooth, she finds the baristas are kind, considerate, and genuinely glad to see her as she is now a regular. While she is quite the entrepreneurial woman, at present, most of her interactions are online. And as a mother of 5, she has often commented how necessary it is to talk in a language other than Grizzly and the Lemmings (I live with the kids too. Trust me, she ain’t lyin’).

I firmly believe we are biologically hardwired for relationships. We cannot help it. COVID highlighted it. Neuroscientists prove it. Whether you like it or not, you and I both need other people. The question is, in a day and age when technology and automation are must-haves in business. How do we keep the human connection going?

The Automation Question

While Lord Musk readies his plan to plant chips into our brains, I am spending the majority of my days talking to current and (hopefully) future customers about their company’s specific needs. It is one of the best parts of my job; hearing their stories and their obstacles, their triumphs and failures. Most share honest insights into the industry about the PMS options (ex: Entrata’s innovative API, RealPage and their ability to have everything under their umbrella, and the ever-reliable, Yardi, which simply sets the standard for backend operations). And I get to learn much about our “great and worthy opponents” (EZ-Texting, Knock and Funnel to name a few) and their specific offerings and differences.

Yet in each call, I learn that there is still something missing in each offering. Each current (and future!) customer expresses a similar desire for simplicity and centralization, although worded differently (“IF IRIO only could add _____ and cost 20% less and integrate perfectly with ____, then we’d buy!). And honestly with the amount of conversations I’ve had you could sub out any of our PMS partners or our competitors and it would sound similar. So while we wait for Lord and Savior Elon Musk to return to earth from Elysium and save us all, I want to offer two thoughts.

Automation is Great, and Relationship’s Still Matter (unless you are a suit looking at the bottom line)

We/I often joke in the office about my role as a “big time tech CEO” especially when I can’t seem to remember how to log into Zoom. Yet, I know that when technology is done right, technology and automation should enhance customer relationships and experience (Don’t take my word for it, Forbes and Newsweek and even our own visionary Taylor Davis agree).

And yes, all of us are trying to use this new technology to scratch some dough together to make a living (all the while the “suits” are looking at the bottom line to make a few more million). Technology is improving and more and more the cries for automation, data, and centralization are being discussed across Zoom meetings from the boardroom to the makeshift office/bedroom. And the perfect platform/integration has yet to materialize. Yet, lest we forget, in multifamily, the core business is to provide a home for millions of men and women, boys and girls from every creed, class and color. What makes a home is the relationships that are within it.

And so I leave you with this faithful reader. I have no big reveal, no magical insight, but rather a gentle reminder. We are all built for relationships and in an age of increasing technology, relationships still matter. Your co-worker, your boss, your vendor, and in the case of multifamily, the people you are serving, creating homes matter. We are wired for relationships. Automation, centralization, and technology should be a tool, much like a campfire… something you can bring your people around to help share in your community’s story and facilitate what we are built for: connection. And quite frankly, if technology cannot serve that end goal, we all will lose sight of what our brains are made to do: connect.

That and the daily enjoyment of delicious Houndstooth expresso’s with oat milk (which you can order online here)

JS Bower

Get Started with Bonfire

Time to see how Bonfire can help solve your business challenges.

Get access