Sunday, March 23, 2014

Everyone Needs a Little Support Sometimes

I received a text the other day while I was at work. It was from my son who was sitting in a training session for a new job, so I immediately worried why he would be texting when he was supposed to be learning.

“Last night Sawyer ate a whole bunch of aspirin, maybe as many as 15+ 325mg pills. He’s been vomiting all night long and could barely move around. This morning Kristin took him to the vet and I’ll pick him up today hopefully. Kristin leaves for LA (Los Angeles) this afternoon.”

Me: “Oh No!!!!!! Is he going to be all right?????”

As soon as my son texted he didn’t actually know the answer to my question, I texted his sister to tell her the news. She is an analyst for a pharmaceutical maker and she immediately researched the data on the effects of ingesting aspirin. And of course, thus began multiple texts with Lauren offering to go to the vet hospital to be with Sawyer so Kristin could make her flight while we figured out how Sawyer was.

Everything worked out after an overnight stay at the doggie hospital and a hundreds of dollar bill (good thing my son started a new job!) it occurred to me how families pull together in times of crisis. Our little family has been together through thick and thin with me at the helm making the decisions. Now I have adult children. Would it work that way now? It was always my hope that they would support one another because, after all, siblings know one another from cradle to grave. It is a special bond. Together they can weather life in a rowboat if they have to. I am so happy to know that not only can they, they will.

Much like my family, I wonder sometimes about our apartment community families, and whether or not they have the same kind of support. Oftentimes, our leasing professionals become their support system, especially if they are military, international or from out-of-state. I hope we are instilling the ability to make connections and the importance of offering community support with our property management teams to our Residents. Helping bridge the gap between Residents and our teams is the best guarantee of retaining those transplants.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Best People Are In Multifamily!

Walking into the reception area, memories came flooding back – but before I could even acknowledge them, I looked up and recognized an old friend standing and waiting her turn to register at the desk. We exchanged pleasantries – after all, here we were in a doctor’s office. Allyson registered and went to the waiting area for the first time. Soon enough, I joined her but it has been six or so years since I had been there, but it’s like riding a bike; you get right back into that routine.

Later that evening, I stayed late to organize paperwork and make sure the new move-in would go smoothly and generally make my desk look “clean.” My desk is never usually clear and I don’t apologize for it. But I do like to tidy it up before I leave for the weekend if I am not planning to work on a Saturday. This day has been super busy with problems to solve and much discussion with residents and the team. Driving home, I turned on the CD (yep, I still like my music CDs because I don’t always have time to download music so I’ll resort to old school) and found my mind wandering. A single tear rolling down my face, I looked at my phone to see that I had missed a call and there was a new message.

Lord, I am so tired these days. 

Once home, I listen to the message and suddenly the floodgates open and the tears come, the kind that choke you with their sheer raw emotion. It’s tough to be back in the medical arena, no matter how much you like your doctors. The message was short and sweet and from a great Maintenance Tech, a friend, someone I have known not that long, meeting him at a property I am no longer managing and he simply said he’s thinking about me and hoping I am feeling okay, just checking on me. Let me tell you, the people who work our properties, our maintenance and leasing teams, are the BEST people in any profession. We have the ability to make a deep connection within a short amount of time, a lasting impression. Lifetime connections. Quickly drying my eyes, I was grateful once again for the souls I meet in the world of multifamily. 

I haven’t been able to call him back yet, my emotions still a little shaky but I know he understands. Time waits for no one and we do not know what lies ahead, so take a moment to connect with a colleague today. Everyone struggles occasionally and our strength as an industry is built when we share with one another. Take the time to forge a mentor-ship, a friendship, or a relationship. You matter!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Lessons in Compassion or Is It Just Good Business?

You may have seen the following story (I found it on my Facebook feed.)

“A sweet lesson on patience. A NYC Taxi driver wrote: I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked.. 'Just a minute', answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940's movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware. 'Would you carry my bag out to the car?' she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. 'It's nothing', I told her.. 'I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.' 'Oh, you're such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, 'Could you drive through downtown?' 'It's not the shortest way,' I answered quickly.. 'Oh, I don't mind,' she said. 'I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice. I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. 'I don't have any family left,' she continued in a soft voice..'The doctor says I don't have very long.' I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. 'What route would you like me to take?' I asked. For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, 'I'm tired. Let's go now'. We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair. 'How much do I owe you?' She asked, reaching into her purse. 'Nothing,' I said 'You have to make a living,' she answered. 'There are other passengers,' I responded. Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug.She held onto me tightly. 'You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,' she said. 'Thank you.' I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.. I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk.What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away? On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life. We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.”

Sure, it is a lesson on patience, but I think it is a lesson on character and making a difference in a seemingly insignificant way. But it reminded me of how we can apply it to our lives in the multifamily industry. Recently, I heard about how one management company suggests handling a long-term resident (seven years at a predominantly student housing community. Apparently the resident lived there while attending college and after graduation decided to stay.) It so affected me that my entire weekend was spent thinking about it. When a resident requests permission to find someone to sublease her apartment so she could leave the state to care for her ailing mother, their response was it was permissible so long as they understand no one in leasing will help them, even if they could easily locate a suitable replacement tenant. “Why would we?” was the corporate response.

Well, why not? Isn’t it the human thing, the compassionate thing to do for this resident? Wouldn’t this resident be much more likely to tell her friends and coworkers how great the apartment management response was, how supportive everyone was toward her circumstances, how much more likely this person would be to refer everyone she knows to this community? After all, the management company continues to gain new leases from others, but in the process why is it the worst business decision to provide the opportunity to fill this standing lease? Of course, I understand that the goal is always to fill true vacant units first, but when I know there is the chance to make a difference in the life of one person, is that all bad?