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Rose: Lincoln has a new program – I think


it’s called MIT, Manager in Training – and we hire people, usually right out of college, and it’s someone who we think would be a good candidate to be a manager in our business. And then over the course of the next two years, 24 months, we put them through a training program where they’re on site. … We grow them at a faster rate, focusing in on what the goal is – to eventually get them to a manager’s position, but at the rate that we feel like they’re capable of doing. … We hate to see people leave because we failed to advance them in the amount of time that they should have been, and so I feel like we’re doing a good job of not letting them just sit in that position knowing that they need a change but not being able to offer it. I’m excited about that.


What are some of the challenges that you face on a day-to-day basis? What are some of the big issues in the industry right now? Gongora: The buying market – houses. We’re


losing people because the interest rates are so low, and our unemployment rate is still the same. It hasn’t really changed much. That has a big influence. Rose: I think to get good, quality, qualified


people that we want to grow. I do think that our salary needs to increase a little. I think to attract really great, college-educated entry- level people, we need to at some point try to raise our salary levels a little. Billig: That’s a good point. Rose: I think sometimes we might lose


good people because of that. I think initially that they’re excited about it, but then they find that they can make more money somewhere else. Gregg: I think one of the biggest challenges


we’re having right now, but it’s kind of a fun challenge, is actually the rent increases we’re implementing. (laughs) I mean, it’s weird see- ing $300 rent increases going out and people actually signing renewals, but it’s a pretty good challenge when somebody comes in and says, “I don’t want to renew for that much,” and you say, “You can move. I’ll move some- one else in who does want to pay that much.” It’s kind of an interesting change from what we’ve had the past three years. Rose: With rent revenue systems, it’s really –


I think it’s changed the industry so much. It takes a little bit of the guesswork out, and you really are able to get so much more. Gregg: Oh sure. I think it makes it a lot easier


for the on-site staff, really – “I’m sorry, the computer generates the price. Nothing I can do about it.”


Rose: And people pay it! It’s amazing. Gongora: You’ll find a renter. Gregg: Yeah, someone will take it, or else the


price will drop enough at some point where somebody will take it if it was too high. The interesting thing is, though, we’re still staying pretty highly occupied. … We’re happy if we stay at 93 percent occupied. That’s where we want to stay, because then we’re really maxi- mizing our rents. Sometimes it looks like it’s going to drop down to 85 percent, but a week or two later, it’s right back up to trending 93 percent. Rose: 100 percent used to be good – it’s not


good anymore. If you’re 100 percent, your rents are too low. You’d better raise your rents quick. Gregg: We’ve raised ours already this year on


several of my properties. And already this year several times we’ve raised the rents on a cou- ple of our properties – not just $25, but let’s try a $75 rent increase, market rent – and actually change it in the computer. And we’re getting it. Steidl: I would agree about the rent growth. I


think that it’s a good and a fun challenge. But it is a challenge to balance the rent increases and still maintain the occupancy that you need to have. Billig: Lag in technology can sometimes – I


just know there’s a lot of things that we could do easier, more effectively, with the technolo- gies out there with other industries. So that’s still a bit of a challenge, because I know the focus is the higher these rents are, the more relationship plays into it. It’s a lot easier to get that $300 if that relationship’s there. And then I would add just the work/life bal-


ance. That’s not a unique problem in our industry, but you know, we do have some crazy hours. It is a little bit of retail, but at the same time, depending on what we do, you’ve got certain reports, certain deadlines, blah blah blah, but if you’ve got this restriction on you but you’ve got seven people walking in the door, what do you do? So there’s that. The more that you are active in, maybe HAA, school, education, the more you put yourself into work, then you’ve got to find that work/life balance. And it’s doable, but certain- ly a challenge.


What motivates you? How do you motivate your teams and the people you work with? Gongora: I think it’s a combination of the


relationships among the staff and the resi- dents. I think that just makes it a lot easier. It makes you want to do things to help out and get more involved and it’s more of a team effort.


Gregg: I like to empower my staffs to feel like


they can make decisions. … My managers all know that I’d much rather you make a deci- sion, whether it’s the supposed right one or a wrong one. Just make a decision and not neces- sarily rely on me to give you the answer. That doesn’t even mean that I’m going to be right, but make the decision, and if it’s the right one, great. If it’s the wrong one, own up to it. … I want them to grow and learn what it


takes to be a regional manager so that they can grow in their careers. I think empowering them makes a big difference. It keeps them motivated. And a lot of my managers do the same thing with their staffs – cross-training their assistant managers, cross-training their leasing consultants, cross-training their house- keepers, whatever. It makes a big difference for them. Billig: I would say that it’s performance. So


you’ve got your performance benchmarks and this is what you plan to do, or this was the old goal, but now that we know we’re getting X percent, these are the new goals. Knowing what the expectations are and then hitting those performance numbers, that, to me – well, I’m a numbers guy. And then the team – knowing that you’ve had the same team, except for one position, for almost two years at the same property. A lot of team-building, a lot of empowerment, a lot of good days and bad days – but you’re a family, whether you like it or not. Rose: I try to pride myself on growing peo-


ple. It’s sort of my thing to hire someone and watch them grow – empowering people and showing them early on. Instead of saying, “We don’t have it in the budget,” explain why don’t we have it? “Let me show you the budg- et. Let me show you how this works.” And explain that from the leasing agent on. They need to know what we do and why we do it. That’s how you grow great people, teaching them from the beginning what we do and explaining it to them. And we used to not do that as much – you


just made your balloons and opened your models and toured your apartments and typed your leases, but now I think that we really – I do, I teach a lot more behind the scenes about revenue and what it all means. I think they understand it and appreciate knowing more about it. Billig: That probably goes back to the owner-


ship. I mean, you can’t have ownership if they’re not involved and don’t understand. If you’ve got a problem, you can either try to tackle it yourself or get the whole team involved and say, “These are our hurdles.”


ABODE AUGUST 2012 51


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