JC 023: Resident Retention and Amazing Communities with Lauren Tabor
Leadership, Solutions & Infectious Enthusiasm
Lauren is the property manager for two iconic, Downtown Cleveland apartment buildings; Bridgeview Apartments and Perry Payne Apartments. Her enthusiasm is infectious and if love your work then every day’s fun. Lauren believes in teamwork and strives to be the leader that inspires them to reach amazing goals.
Lauren’s philosophy is to position the people on her team for success. She believes in setting goals and having a game plan to achieving those goals. Lauren believes in giving her team the freedom to hit their targets without micro managing them. She learns what inspires each person in order to keep them properly motivated.
Hire positive people who are creative and solution oriented. These are traits that people already have and can’t be trained.
Solving problems is part of the job description for property managers, so showing up with enthusiasm and helping your tenants out is the job description. Lauren always remembers that these are people’s homes and her clients require a special kind of personalized customer service. Lauren gets to know her tenants on a personal level and understands that her job is to help them enjoy their home.
Lauren and her team also focus on building strong communities for their residents. This effort leads to high resident retention, which reduces expenses by lowering the need to continuously flip suits.
“The Customization Station” – Lauren’s company offers new residents the opportunity to choose their own finishes and upgrades to customize their apartment as if they owned it. Lauren was instrumental in creating this unique point of difference for The Landmark Companies and is stoked to offer her residents something extra special to make their apartment feel like home.
7 Key Points:
- Be a leader who inspires your team to be amazing
- Your job is to set your people up for success and light the fire
- Pay attention to each individual in your company but don’t micro manage
- Hire positive, solution oriented people for your team
- Your job doesn’t end when the tenants sign a lease
- Building a strong community results in higher resident retention
- Believe in you gut, it’s usually right
Favorite athlete: Mary Lou Retton – Gold medal Olympic gymnast
Lauren’s pro tip is to stay positive and solution oriented and set your teams up for success.
Lauren invites you to reach out by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out Lauren’s apartment communities;
- Bridgeview Apartments – https://www.1300bridgeview.com/
- Perry Payne Apartments – https://www.perrypayneapts.com/
And follow The Landmark Companies on the following social channels;
- Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/LandmarkLifeCleveland
- Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/lmlifecleveland/
- Twitter – https://twitter.com/LMLifeCleveland
- YouTube – http://bit.ly/2w2GutT
Thank you Lauren for taking time out of your day to share your leadership and property management tips with us.
Listen to all the episodes of The Real Estate Locker Room Show and sign up for my FREE monthly newsletter at http://www.johncarneyonline.com
JC 023: Resident Retention and Amazing Communities with Lauren Tabor
Leadership, Solutions & Infectious Enthusiasm
Announcer: Welcome to the, “Real Estate Locker Room Show” with John Carney. Did you know investing in real estate is a team sport? Join John and his guests as they explore the business of real estate and athletic competition. The goal for this show is to grant you direct access to the real estate pros that are closing profitable deals and growing their businesses. On the “Real Estate Locker Room Show” we are getting in the ring with successful investors, developers, operators, and all of the industry professionals to learn what it takes to achieve on-going success. Now it’s time to kick-off and level up with new ways to grow your real estate business.
John Carney: Welcome back to The Real Estate Locker Room Show. I’m your host John Carney, coming at you again today from the sunny Westside of Cleveland, Ohio. Today we are going to be talking to a very experienced multifamily property manager who works for The Landmark Companies based in downtown Cleveland. Please help me welcome Lauren Tabor to the show. Good morning Lauren, how are you doing?
Lauren Tabor: I’m doing great John, thanks for having me, I’m excited to be here.
John Carney: Perfect. Alright, just a little bit about Lauren: she has worked for The Landmark Companies in downtown Cleveland since 2005. She started out as a leasing consultant and has worked her way up to being the property manager for two of downtown Cleveland’s iconic apartment buildings located in the Historic Warehouse District: Bridgeview apartments and Perry Payne apartments.
Lauren manages a dozen employees and 350 apartments. She loves what she does and her enthusiasm is infectious. We can hear it in your voice. Welcome to The Real Estate Locker Room Show Lauren.
Lauren Tabor: Thank you so much.
John Carney: Cool. Well, you love your job. We’ve talked about that plenty offline. We have not in this show’s young twenty-some episode history yet been able to talk to a property manager like yourself who works specifically for multifamily buildings, let alone manages two buildings. So, the goal of our show today is to let all of our listeners out there who are either multifamily operators or property managers, or anyone who wants to be in the real estate investing game, understand what it takes to be a successful property manager. Because, in my opinion, the teams one needs to assemble to run a good operation in any of the niches of real estate property management is absolutely critical.
So let’s kick this off with a little bit of a stretching question. I like to ask our guests in the locker room: do you have a favorite athlete that maybe inspires you?
Lauren Tabor: You know what? I could give the cliché Cleveland answer and say I love LeBron James, because who doesn’t. Here he’s king. But in all honesty, the athlete that has inspired me most in life is Mary Lou Retton. I remember watching the Olympics with her doing gymnastics. I remember watching her win the gold. I was so inspired by her. Just seeing what could happen if you put all of your blood, sweat and tears into something and just ran at it with all your might and never gave up and fought and fought and fought. What I saw from her is that you can do anything. And I also absolutely loved her relationship with her coach. I loved that after she nailed her landing she ran and gave her coach, Bella, a huge hug. I remember thinking of that relationship as well and thinking: when I do something amazing I want to have someone like that in my life, who is so on board with me I can run and give them a hug. That’s something that I’ve carried with me my whole life. And not only do I hope to have for myself, but I hope to inspire with my team.
I hope that I can end up being someone that can inspire them to do their best and that when they reach amazing goals, I’m going to run up and give them an amazing hug because I’m so excited for them and they’re so excited for what they’ve done. Those goals and those relationships inspired me from a very young age, and I think I’ve taken them with me in all categories of life to this very day.
John Carney: Thank you for sharing that. Mary Lou Retton. I remember watching that live. I don’t know that I had the same inspiration, but your story has inspired me. So, I believe there’s a direct correlation between the discipline the professional and Olympic athletes put into their craft and what we put into our professional lives.
You are in a leadership position. You’ve got a large responsibility, and you have a team of people. So, could you just share a little bit about what it takes to successfully run 350 apartment units in two buildings in an urban market these days?
Lauren Tabor: Absolutely. I have a kind of philosophy of business. I always believe that you can set people up for success or you can set people up for failure, and your job as a manager is to make sure that you are setting people up for success. I think there’s a sad tendency for managers to overlook what’s going on with their employees and accidentally set people up for failure. And I think you need to take a look at who you’re managing, what inspires them, so that they’re motivated, and then outline specific goals for them. Take the time with your employees to make sure they understand how to achieve those goals. You can’t just set a goal on a table and tell someone to go, and then cross your fingers that they read your mind and know exactly what to do. It’s a two-step process: you have to outline the goal and then give them a game plan to achieve that goal. And then after you’ve given them some basic steps, you give them the freedom to accomplish that task in whatever way suits them the best, so that you’re not micromanaging. If you’re up in every step of their business, then they’re going to feel strangled and that they don’t have their freedom. They’re not going to feel like they accomplished anything, because you’re just hovering over them the whole time.
It’s a bit of a dance, but it’s just simply setting people up for success and making sure they’re motivated to get there.
I think you have to pay attention to each individual in your company, again, just to see what motivates them specifically. You can’t blanketly motivate anyone, although money is a pretty fine motivator all over I’d say. But just for an example, you can’t say you win a giant juicy steak at the end of this, by the time you achieve these goals, and you’ve got a handful of vegetarians on your squad. You’ve got to make sure that you actually know what is going to motivate everyone to properly light the fire that needs to be lit to get them to go and feel proud of themselves when they’re done. You want to feel proud of them and you want them to feel proud of themselves. You have to let them achieve their goals.
John Carney: That is great advice. I’m sure that any manager or anyone in a leadership role in a company is identifying with exactly what you’re saying. With that being said, to carry it a little bit forward, are there certain things that you look for? Or over the years have you been able to maybe distil a certain personality or a certain gut feeling that you have when you meet a new candidate. For example, if you have team member that’s a high achiever and moves out of town for a different opportunity, and you have to fill a space. Now you’re recruiting for your team, you’ve talked a lot about motivating the team members that are already in place. Do you have any advice for that?
Lauren Tabor: Yes, absolutely. We just actually went through this. We had two great members of our team shifted. So, we’ve been through a lot of interviews lately for a couple of positions here. When I’m interviewing people, I try to sit down and get to know them personally on top of just: do you know how to accomplish the task? In the conversations, like you were saying, you’re hoping to find someone who is motivated. I hope to find someone who thinks outside the box. That’s something that’s important to me.
This particular industry is a lot more creative than I think a lot of people realize. It doesn’t have to be a cookie cutter, cut and dry thing. I look for people that think outside the box and are positive. It’s really important for me to find a positive personality, because if you get someone who is negative within your team, they’ll drag the rest of the team down. So, finding someone who is looking to the bright side of things. I would say that I’m a solutions oriented person. Some people hunt for problems and talk about the problems and yell at people about the problems. Whenever I’m dealing with things, I hear an issue and I immediately think, “Ok, here’s what’s on our plate, this will be ok, how do we fix it together?” And I need to find someone who’s on board with that concept to join my team. If I don’t have someone who is looking for solutions, but who’s looking for problems, that’s not going to fit in the team.
So, there are lots of skills in this industry that are trainable. When I’m weeding people out through an interview process I’m looking for the things that are not trainable. What makes you special? What makes you different? Because I can teach you everything you know on this computer, on the leasing, on all this kind of stuff. I can teach everyone the basic brass bones of the company. But I can’t find a positive, solution oriented team player. That’s what I’m looking for.
John Carney: So let me just jump in with my interpretation of what must happen, and you can call me out if I’m totally off base. If you are managing one unit, two units, 200 units, 2000 units, whatever the count might be, eventually you have to expect that you’re really going to be finding solutions to problems, on one hand, and you’re going to be dealing with the complete variety of human experience, right?
Lauren Tabor: Yes, absolutely.
John Carney: And personalities. This helped me out when I started my second business, and I wish I’d known this when I started my first. If you have an expectation that you’re going to show up to work and solve problems, it makes your day easier. Because then when the emails — I’m sure we could do a whole podcast part two on just angry emails or complaints that you receive — you already know that that’s part of the job description. You’re looking for people that say, “Hey, that isn’t really a problem. We understand that your toilet didn’t flush right, but we’ll have someone there in ten minutes to fix it, and then we’ll be onto the next minor issue.” So, that’s kind of part of the job description for being in the property management industry, correct?
Lauren Tabor: Absolutely, you nailed it on the head with that. There are plenty of little issues that come up every day. There are plenty of giant issues that come up every day. You can’t come into that kind of environment seeing it as just terrible things or you can’t carry the weight of it, if the problems are beating you down. You have to just be working for the solutions and you have to motivate your team to fix these issues.
And you have to remember that these are people’s homes. This is a different kind of customer service than retail sales or anything like that. We are in a whole different ballpark of the industry where we are helping people with where they live. And they don’t want to just feel like a number. They don’t want to be apartment 601. They want to be Jenny Smith, who has been here for three years, who has a cat named Frisky and she’s taken it to a couple calendar events. I don’t know, something like that. It’s nice to make it personal. You always have to let the people feel heard and important and take care of their issues because it is home. It’s different than anything else, and you have to treat it as such.
John Carney: And create a community right.
Lauren Tabor: 100%
John Carney: Whether it’s psychology 101 or what humans just need outside of air, water and food. We need a sense of community, and you help create and maintain that community. You start, really, by building the culture within your team. Am I right?
Lauren Tabor: Absolutely. And speaking of that, we love fostering a community. We actually have a number of resident events throughout the year. We have one of them going on tonight. We have a tailgating party to kick off our Browns season, and we have food trucks, wine and beer, and live music. We host events so you can kind of get to know your neighbors, get to know your management company. It’s our opportunity to let our residents know that once again we love them, we’re grateful for them, and thank you for staying with us. Holy smokes, you could be staying anywhere and you chose us! Thank you! So have this awesome party and come play. Be part of the community.
John Carney: Right. If any of our listeners are in downtown Cleveland and looking for a new place to live, I’d recommend checking out Bridgeview and Perry Payne. But if you go through your websites and the various properties that are managed by The Landmark Companies, and you look at some of the people who have submitted reviews, you have some residents that have lived in your buildings for a long time. So that is a testimonial to someone doing something right. I believe people have a choice, and I’m sure you acknowledge that with your team. Talk about resident retention and what advice you could give to another property manager in your position who is located somewhere else in the world and is tuning into this, who might be seeking a solution to higher retention.
Lauren Tabor: Absolutely. If you can close the back door you don’t have to worry about opening the front. Resident retention is hugely important and we actually are lucky. We have a group of people we even joke about as our Bridgeview retirement community that are going to stay here for life and get VIP status to our parties and whatnot.
Really, we let people know that they are thought about and cared about throughout the whole year. And this is where I’m talking about getting creative. Enjoy these people. Your job does not end when they’ve signed their lease. They are still going to come home. Give them a call that first week they’re in the door. Check on everything. Make sure all the lightbulbs are still working, that they’re happy, that they’re heard and get them off to the right start.
And then you want to have little ticklers throughout the year, like a little birthday celebration. When people come in they have to fill out applications. We get their birth date, and we keep a file of the birthdates. Then on our resident’s birthday they get a bag of candy and balloons and a little card from all of us that’s signed and put on their door. So, it’s little stuff like that.
There’s the party events that we have. We have early renewal bonuses for people, so that if they do decide to renew early, then we offer them a $50 gift card. Because in the grand scheme of things, what’s that to you as a management company, to offer up something special like that to, please stay with us instead of going somewhere else. And then you don’t have to share the expense of turning a suite and getting it market ready again. So really think about that, as a company, where is it important for you to spend your money? Is it better to spend a couple $100 on some resident retention? Or do you have to do a whole market flip of the suite and advertising costs and everything of that nature.
So really, just examine the importance of where your dollars can go. The fewer that go to resident retention to get some smiles on their faces, then you don’t have to worry about filing people in the front door and trying to run specials for things if you’re in a bad situation or anything like that. It’s hugely important, and again, one of those things that makes it feel like a community and home.
John Carney: That’s outstanding advice and great tips for retaining residents if you’re an owner, operator, manager or property manager or any type of residential landlord. The incentive to stay. Really quick, I want to ask you to talk a little bit about a very unique offer that The Landmark Companies has for incoming tenants. If you’re scheduled to turn over a unit and someone is looking at that unit, aren’t you doing certain things with finishes and paint and carpet.
Lauren Tabor: You’re revealing our secrets John! We’ll share. Yes, we are. Thank you for bringing that up. We offer a very unique opportunity for our residents that we have nicknamed our customization station. Typically, the only time that you have to select finishes or upgrades to a home environment is when you have purchased a house or purchased a condo. You have to own something to make choices about décor. And what we offer when you come in, is the opportunity to customize your suite as if you were owning it. And you get to choose either your colors of granite, colors of backsplash, refinishing colors of cabinets and fancier knobs that we can put on. We have an upgraded lighting package, there is a variety of hardwoods you can choose from if you wanted to put hardwood throughout your suite. So, we have all of these choices. If you want to do custom paint colors throughout, you can absolutely do that.
Now this doesn’t come without a price tag, however the price tag goes right into what the new market value would be. For example, we’ve got a lot of new construction that’s been going on around us that could be considered our competition. So, we’re competing with new stuff and instead of just offering the brand-new granite and hardwood and everything that’s in there, that dollar amount is at a market value for that level of upgrade. So, when you do upgrade a suite over here, you do increase the market value to that level of upgrade. And people are happy to pay it though when they are getting what they want. They aren’t walking into the cookie cutter that’s already made. They get to choose, and to feel like they own it. Again, making it their home, a very special to come home to and something you don’t really want to leave.
John Carney: That reminds me of the old choose your own adventure books I used to read.
Lauren Tabor: Oh god the best books ever.
John Carney: So, you are providing your incoming residents, your customers basically, a choice in finishes and the look of their unit. And that upgrade was scheduled anyways, so you’ve got two wins there: a win for the company and a win for the resident. Also, if I’m a landlord listening to this I’m thinking of dollar signs. So, do you have to sign a longer lease? Do you just automatically know that you’re getting a longer retention? How does the cost of this customization station become absorbed? So, if you can just shed some light on how the cost breakdown works. I think that’s an important business point for anyone that might want to implement this.
Lauren Tabor: That makes total sense. The goal here is that you want people to still take the opportunity to do the upgrade, so you don’t want to make it cost prohibitive. You’re not asking them to buy this upfront or anything like that. So they aren’t going to see these enormous price tags. And our goal is pretty much to break down the cost of what it would be for us to recoup the cost over three years. That’s kind of where we see it, because, like I was saying, they’re not just buying the product, but the actual market value of this suite is increasing for good.
So, the value goes up at a level that lets us recoup the cost in three years, and then it stays at that point or increases for the time frame after that. So, you just continue to make profit after that. It’s just a great, simple company decision that makes sense all around.
John Carney: One more question about the customization station/choose your own apartment opportunity that you offer residents. How long has The Landmark Companies had this program and were you a part of the conversation that brought this to the forefront? Because it’s innovative.
Lauren Tabor: Yes, we’ve had this about five years. And I definitely was involved in the conversation for it and helped develop a whole presentation board, which would show the different finishes so people could point and choose what they want, because everyone is visual, especially when you’re choosing finishes. We have some concrete samples that are in the leasing office, and we have a customization station little menu. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a fancy hair salon and seen how they have that thick card stock little short menu to look at. We have a menu for people to take home with them to kind of dabble in the ideas of what the cost of hardwood would be, what the cost of granite would be, what the new lighting package could be, and just start to daydream about what their suite could be for whatever their budget would allow.
And this is the kind of stuff I thrive on. I love getting these creative ideas and doing something new and different. And you know what? Everyone who’s shopping around for apartments loves to find something new. What makes you different from every other apartment complex that they’ve walked into. If you’re moving to Cleveland, and you’ve got every option, and you’re going door, to door, to door and you just see this box and this box and this box, when you go to one and they say, “You know what? You can come here and you can make this your own.” And, “Hey, we do these fun parties and we’re really fun, well you’re having fun with us.” You remember those people, you remember that experience. That makes you stand out, it makes you different and I love that about our buildings. We are being memorable by getting stuff like this together. It’s fun to be creative.
John Carney: Well, thank you for elaborating on that, because it’s a pretty neat concept that came to fruition. And it is definitely a point of difference for you in downtown Cleveland and any market across the country right now that’s competitive and looking for that point of difference.
Alright, it’s getting close to our time to wrap this up. I have a little segment called the two-minute drill which usually goes a little over, but I’m conscious of your time. Were there any sports you played as a child? Were you a gymnast like Mary Lou?
Lauren Tabor: Man, you know I tried doing some gymnastics. It didn’t pan out so well for me. I ended up getting involved in dance. When I was in high school I was on the dance team there and had a lot of fun doing that. I ended up being the captain. And I think I’ve always just been into motivating and getting people excited for stuff. So, sitting in the captain’s seat to get people going.
John Carney: The captain. So you started your leadership training through your athletic training in high school. We’ll leave it at that.
Lauren Tabor: Yes. I’ll take it.
John Carney: Perfect. How about when you’re not on the clock, I know you’ve mentioned that you’re a busy mum of two, which is another full-time job. And congratulations. Do you have time to check out and read? Are you a reader? Are there any type of motivational books you’ve come across that you’re like, “I like that, I want to keep that handy in case I need to go back to it?”
Lauren Tabor: Gosh, you know, I wish I had more time to read. I would love to be an avid reader. Instead, at this point in life, I surround myself with avid readers who can give me summaries of things that are interesting and poignant. So, I have lots of conversations with some great intellectuals that are in my close friendship circle. Other than that, though, I read articles that are pertinent to things here and there that pop up, in the real estate or motivational in general industry. But I come from a huge psychology study background, so I’ve got tons of psyche books that I think are relative to every single possible position in life. So out of anything, those kind of still sit on my shelves. But I’m a big believer in my gut too. And just listening to and following what you feel inside. Because darn it, it’s pretty much always right.
John Carney: Have you heard that your gut contains the most sensitivity, neurons, the decision-making process as your brain does? I just learned that recently, and thought that was interesting.
Lauren Tabor: You’re blowing my mind a little bit with that, and we’ll have to talk about that later. I don’t know about neurons being anywhere but in the brain. So, I would love to have more discussion about that.
John Carney: I am not an expert, but that’s just one of those interesting facts that I heard on a podcast when I was out for a run or stuck in traffic. So, I guess there is information out their folks. If you want to learn about that intuition you have that you call a gut feeling. There are people that believe that is real.
A couple more questions and then we can let you go back to creating amazing communities. What is your number one come-from-behind victory that you can think of in your role with The Landmark Companies?
Lauren Tabor: Sure. I’d say, overall, the best come-from-behind story that I know of is just the history of this property from when I started to now. When I started in 2005, we were 80% occupied. We would dip into the high 70’s. There would be so many suites on our reports, I just remember my head spinning as a leasing agent. Like ok, how do I even nail down what this person wants? And going through things and over the years, things have changed. Some of the negative players that have been in this working community have left. They’ve given room for more positive thinkers and for more creativity to come through.
Our dull grey leasing office is now bright colors and very welcoming. We have a cookie machine that bakes cookies every day—who doesn’t like the smell of cookies when they come in? We’ve obviously developed community programs — on and on and on with everything that we’ve done to show our residents that we care. Become a community ourselves, as a team that is managing these other homes. Now we’ve been 100% leased for about the past three years. And we pre-lease the suites and everything like that. It’s been ages since we’ve even been out of the 90’s. Just taking us from this grey, drab environment that did feel like everything else, and was not exciting, and lifting it to a level that’s not only fun to work at, it’s fun to live here. Every day can be exciting, every day can be creative.
John Carney: That is true. Thank you for sharing that, because you’ve just described a very team-driven, come-from-behind victory, and testament to your captainship of your team, didn’t really take any credit for that. And so, along with that, I think that you do have this amazing come from behind city. I hadn’t lived in Cleveland for 19 years. I returned a year ago, and its mind blowing to see.
Lauren Tabor: It’s a different world.
John Carney: And now that my wife and I are settled, we’re in a position where we can actually go out to some of these new neighborhoods and go to the restaurants we keep hearing about.
Lauren Tabor: It’s such a foodie town.
John Carney: There are some celebrity chefs, and more varieties of beer than I’ll be able to taste in a year. So, it’s pretty exciting times, and I’m sure that your day-to-day job reflects that with the community that you’re charged with operating downtown. Well Lauren, thank you so much for joining me in the locker room today. Where can our audience find you to carry on the conversation if they have any questions about how you bring this infectious enthusiasm to work every day. Are you willing to share your contact details in our social media? Where can people look you up?
Lauren Tabor: Anyone can shoot me an email if you’d like, I’m at: email@example.com. You can find out more about our apartments at 1300Bridgeview.com or perrypayneapps.com. We’re on Facebook as Landmark Life Cleveland. And I think that’s the same handle for our twitter account and things of that nature. You can follow us all over the place and get the best tips of Cleveland. I’d be happy to answer any questions and wish everyone the best of luck. Just stay positive and stay solution oriented. Set your teams up for success and you’ll be ready to rock and roll.
John Carney: Boom! Well, there you have it folks. I truly hope that you picked up some actionable advice today from Lauren Tabor. And if you are a landlord or a multifamily operator tuning in to this episode, you definitely have some things that you can think about, wherever you may be listening.
Make sure to check out the Real Estate Locker Room Show on iTunes, Stitcher or Google Play and hit that subscribe button to ensure that you never miss out on the pro tips from our guests. The mission here is to help you elevate your real estate game.
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The post-game report show notes, links to Lauren and her business, and additional content related to this show will be available on my website, which is: johncarneyonline.com/podcast.
We generally have five tips or key points from every episode, but I believe we’ll set a new record here. A lot of good information from Lauren, so we might be in the 7-10 key point range.
So, let’s all remember to stay focused on your goals, have fun and stay in the game. I’m your host John Carney and until next week: work hard, play hard and profit hard.
And one more time Lauren, thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to share some great, great advice and tips on property management with our audience.
Lauren Tabor: You bet John, this was a great time, thank you so much.
© John Carney 2017
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