Relations are a Two-Way Street. Property Managers Who “Get Fired” by Vendors

Have you ever had a vendor “fire” you? Were you shocked, or did you expect it? Was the vendor easy to replace, or did you struggle to find someone new that you could trust?

While it may not happen often, having a supplier bail on a property manager is not all that unusual. Even though most of them will compete mightily for your business, if you abuse or disrespect them, or make outrageous demands, you may find yourself being let go as a source of business for them. While a property manager may be relieved in some ways in a situation like this, at times, it is better to work with “the devil you know”.

We’ve written before about the importance of building business relationships. Property managers and their vendors often have disagreements that seem impossible to overcome. So yes, there are plenty of examples when the vendor is NOT at fault, and the property manager is. As with any long-term relationship, both parties must benefit for it to continue, and both must respect the others’ needs, wants, and goals.

Poor vendor relationships are costly

If you’ve ever been fired by a vendor or wish to avoid such a humiliating experience, here are three things to consider:

1. Respect is a two-way street. You work hard to manage your property, right? Never assume that your vendors do not work just as hard. Many of them have truly thankless jobs helping you maintain your property, so pay them the respect they are due – especially if you expect to receive the same type of respect from them.

2. Share the wealth. Finding a supplier of products or services that meet all of your needs, and does so cheerfully and within your budget, is something to be treasured. To further the relationship, telling others within your network of property managers will help you build loyalty and appreciation. Another positive is that those others will likely do the same for you, which may come in very handy when you need help the most.

3. Forgive without forgetting. Every business owner will experience problems satisfying clients from time to time. Staffing and/or equipment problems can crop up now and again, interfering with performance. When this happens occasionally, that is understandable. However, if such instances begin to happen regularly, it is time to have a talk with your vendor and, if satisfaction is not forthcoming, you should start looking for a replacement.

Regardless of the size of the property you manage, you will often be dealing with small business owners who provide the services you need to keep the property attractive and appealing. For these vendors, you may be the literal difference between success and going out of business. Their investment in your success is as much emotional as it is financial and, taking advantage of that emotional investment is not only unprofessional, it can also do damage to your reputation and your property.

Again, we all experience problems from time to time. If you see an issue developing, have a conversation about it and work with your vendor to resolve it. Remember why you hired them in the first place and, be open to handling a short-term problem on an as-needed basis. The long-term benefits of a healthy business relationship are too valuable to toss aside casually.

Have you ever been dropped by a vendor? What have you done to ensure that will not happen again?

Property Management Apps & Software

Did you know there is an app for almost anything you need, that can help you manage properties?

It probably comes as no surprise that, in the high-tech age we enjoy(?) today, some great mobile apps and software have been developed for property managers. What may be at least somewhat surprising though, is just how good these apps and software can be. Depending on your needs, wants, and goals, you will likely find exactly what you need available today.

Having said that, probably the most important features of any property management app or software program is high-quality support services, with clear and comprehensive tutorials and “How-to” info being a close second. Beyond these features, full integration and the ability to customize functions are critical; conversely, simplicity of use is also a nice feature.

Property Management Apps & Software Reviews

So, where can you find all of these components in a single app or software program? Here are a couple of suggestions for beginning your search for the perfect property management software app for you:

  • Reviews.com – Reviews of the 8 “best” property management software programs currently available. Includes pricing, ease-of-use ratings, tutorial ratings, pricing, pros and cons, mobile app availability, and more.
  • SoftwareAdvice.com – Ratings and reviews of the 10 most popular property management software programs currently available. Includes pricing, recommended property type, recommended property size, deployment (on-site or cloud-based), and recommended platform (Mac, Windows, Linux).

Whatever your needs, these review sites will help you get started searching for the perfect property management software or app for your business.

Property Management Apps & Software Recommendations

While by no means a complete listing of all the software applications available for you to choose from, this short-list of property management apps will also help you get started in your search for the perfect solution.

  • AppFolio – A web-based application with a variety of helpful features. Popular among multi-family managers, and in addition to online vacancy posting services that connect your property to listing sites such as Oodle, Rentals.com, Apartments.com, Zillow and Trulia, with only a few clicks, AppFolio offers prospect tracking, online rental applications, resident screening, online lease agreement templates, and even website set-up.
  • Buildium – With a wealth of easy-to-use (and learn) features, Buildium offers desk-top and mobile applications. From property accounting to company financials to online payment features, the app also provides you with a resident portal, lease and document management, and maintenance request tracking, as well as rental listing, applications and screening, and a website for your property.
  • Rent Tracker – A great little tool for helping you get paid, the app is available for iPad, iPhone, Windows PC, and Android devices. The app allows property managers to enter residents, contractors, buildings, and even multiple owners. With only a few clicks, residents can enter their rent payment and receive a receipt by email.
  • Total Management – A powerful and customizable web-based application that is particularly well-suited for managing larger commercial and residential properties. Beyond the standard features shared by the apps listed above, the app offers credit, eviction, and criminal screening built-in, rent tracking and resident communication, a “letter wizard” with templates or customized notifications for all situations, a 1-step move-out feature, work order storage and tracking, a resident portal, and online marketing features.

Managing a multi-family property presents many challenges, not least of which is being ready for any eventuality. By choosing the property management software application that is right for you, you’ll be able to sleep easier in the knowledge that you’ve done all you can to make your life, and the lives of your residents, that much simpler.

Do you have a property management software app that you love? If so, share it with us!

How to Build an Effective Custom RFP

Knowing what you want to achieve in a project is important of course, but ensuring that your vendors and contractors know your expected outcomes and goals is, even more, important. A well-thought out, well-written RFP (Request for Proposal) prior to beginning your project will not only accomplish this for you, but it can also protect your interests should the project begin to experience problems.

It’s difficult to overestimate the importance of an RFP when you start a new project, for it becomes the “baseline” of understanding between you and your contractors or vendors. The RFP outlines your needs and requirements, making them clear to all parties involved. As a written document of your expectations and your vendor’s responsibilities, it becomes a historical record to which both sides can refer as needed.

The importance and value of your RFP

As all property managers know, a problem can develop at any point in any project, and may include any aspect of the project: from scheduling to deliverables. If a problem becomes serious and begins to affect the project itself, the baseline documentation, your RFP, will most likely be the tool you use to determine where the problem occurred, who is responsible, and what must be done to resolve it.

While it’s difficult to outline every piece of information required to create a comprehensive RFP within the limited space of a blog post, it is important that you understand the basics of how to build and distribute a custom RFP. Much of this information is borrowed from the Warehousing Education and Research Council website, an association for logistics professional. If you would like a more detailed explanation of the components of a well-written RFP, and perhaps a useable template as well, click here

Here is a brief description for each and any of the common sections of your RFP:

1. Statement of Purpose
Describe the extent of products and services your organization is looking for, as well as, the overall objectives of the contract.

2. Background Information
Present a brief overview of your organization and its operations, using statistics, customer demographics, and psycho-graphics. State your strengths and weaknesses honestly. Don’t forget to include comprehensive information on the people who will handle future correspondence.

3. Scope of Work
Enumerate the specific duties to be performed by the provider and the expected outcomes. Include a detailed listing of responsibilities, particularly when sub-contractors are involved.

4. Outcome and Performance Standards
Specify the outcome targets, minimal performance standards expected of the contractor, and methods for monitoring performance and process for implementing corrective actions.

5. Deliverables
Provide a list of all products, reports, and plans that will be delivered to your organization and propose a delivery schedule.

6. Term of Contract
Specify length, start date and end date of the contract, and the options for renewal.

7. Payments, Incentives, and Penalties
List all the terms of payment for adequate performance. Highlight the basis for incentives for superior performance and penalties for inadequate performance or lack of compliance.

8. Contractual Terms and Conditions
Attach standard contracting forms, certifications, and assurances. You may include requirements specific to this particular contract.

9. Requirements for Proposal Preparation
A consistent structure regarding content, information, and documents types simplifies things for the people evaluating the proposals. Therefore, you should request a particular structure for the project and provide an exhaustive list of documents you want to receive.

10. Evaluation and Award Process
Lay down the procedures and criteria used for evaluating proposals and for making the final contract award.

11. Process Schedule
Clearly and concisely present the timeline for the steps leading to the final decision, such as the dates for submitting the letter of intent, sending questions, attending the pre-proposal conference, submitting the proposal, etc.

12. Contacts
Include a complete list of people to contact for information on the RFP, or with any other questions. Incorporate their name, title, responsibilities, and the various ways of contacting them into this list.

In short, a well-constructed RFP will allow your providers to propose creative, relevant, and cost-effective solutions by focusing on the end, not the means.

Having trouble finding trustworthy, honest, responsive vendor partners? Click here lyoung@multifamilyzone.com to contact us for help.

Vendor Challenges – Dealing with Decision Makers and Influencers

As a vendor, one of the most important challenges you’ll face when bidding on a project for any property will be figuring out exactly who will make the decision to hire you – PLUS – who else might influence that decision.

Who is the “Decider” and who is the “Influencer”?

Answering this question, in every situation, will be critical to the successful resolution of your bids on any project. Understanding the difference is the first step while making sure that you appeal to both (or all), will speed the process and improve your chances of success.

Who’s’ who in the bidding process?

The terms “Decision Maker” and “Influencer” are somewhat arbitrary labels. The fact is, until everyone with the power to affect the final solution buy-in, and any ensuing change is managed, the decision to accept your bid will remain in limbo, regardless of how well your solution matches the needs of the proposed project.

Of course, the larger the company you’re dealing with, the more difficult it is to determine who will decide to accept your bid and who will sway the decision. At times, even the people in the organization will have trouble defining their roles in the process. Internal politics and personalities can influence the bid-acceptance process. Experience and patience are critical elements you can use to enhance your chances.

With all of that being said, there are some steps you can take to help the process along, and to direct your bid to anyone and everyone who may have the power to influence the decision-making process:

  • Follow the bidding process – exactly as outlined in the Project RFP.
  • Be on time with your bid – and timely with your responses to all questions and requests for more information.
  • Anticipate objections – and use the RFP to clarify potential problem areas before they arise.
  • Perform due diligence – to learn as much as you can about the personalities involved.
  • Research the roles – of every member of the team that may have input into the bid-acceptance process.

While this process is not perfect, following these steps will improve your chances that your potential client’s team will have all of the necessary information at their disposal, enabling both decision makers and influencers to more readily accept your bid.

New Year’s Resolution – Create More Professional Relationships

Did you know that 80% of people who make a New Year’s Resolution give up it within the first 30 days? If you read on, I’ll explain why this is important to you as a property manager in just a couple of minutes.

A quick Google search of the phrase “property management pain points (or problems)” inevitably leads to a massive number of sites that list common resident problems: slow pay/no pay, damage to the property, excessive noise and more, along with suggestions to overcome them. Surprisingly few, however, offer insight into the array of common problems that most property managers encounter when dealing with contractors or vendors.

But, here’s the thing…

While most of us already have a pretty good handle on the things that make life difficult for a property manager, the advice of the “experts” tends to focus almost exclusively on a tactical approach to resolving them, rather than a strategic plan of action. In other words, they offer short-term solutions to long-term problems, missing the mark entirely.

Resolve to focus on strategic relationships

This emphasis on the immediate (temporary) resolution of ongoing resident and vendor problems ensures that they will continue to plague you while taking a longer view will eventually eliminate these types of issues.

OK, here’s why I included that statistic in the opening…

If you’d like to be one of the 1 in 5 who will successfully achieve their resolution this year, and eliminate most of your problems into the bargain, you need to develop a relationship-building strategy – with your residents and your vendors. This does not mean that you need to be “best friends” with them, but that you will want to foster professional relationships with them; associations and alliances that are based on mutual respect, expectations of acceptable performance, and that benefits both parties involved.

Thinking of your residents and vendors as partners in your properties will enable you to manage them more efficiently and effectively, with far less stress and confrontation. Plus, if and when they let you down, whether by repeatedly failing to meet their commitments to you, you’ll feel no remorse at ending the relationship. Just think of the peace of mind you’ll enjoy!

In my experience, property managers who place a priority on building relationships with their residents and vendors have fewer problems, in both the short- and long-term. To me, that’s a great reason to make your New Year’s resolution all about creating more professional relationships.

5 Tips to Working with the Best Vendors

Creating a trusting, honest, mutually beneficial relationship with your vendors is easier said than done. These relationships tend to be somewhat confrontational by nature yet, in the long run, creating a partnership with your service providers will be of great benefit to you, as well as to them.
By overcoming the “Us vs. Them” mentality that is so often found between property managers and their vendors, you’ll be saving yourself a great deal of time and emotional energy, not to mention money. After all, most vendors want the same things you do: to grow their business, increase their profits, reduce hassles and costly redundancies. By helping each other to reach these goals, you will go a very long way toward building the type of relationship that can last for decades, to the benefit of both of you.
How to build the partnership with your vendors
Hiring the right vendor for your property can create opportunities to reach untapped potential that at your disposal, but which you have yet to recognize. To help you reach that potential, here are 5 Tips to Hire the Perfect Vendors:
1. Create a short-list of vendors – too many choices can make it impossible to pick one, or a few. It’s also difficult to build relationships with a dozen or more vendors, while doing so with just a few is easy. By using a “select” few vendors, you’ll be committing to spending more with each, improving their loyalty and service to you.
2. Get to know them – while you may not be looking for a new “best friend” with your vendors, you might want to indulge in an occasional lunch or dinner. Taking some time to meet socially with vendors will help you build relationships that will make your work interactions better. These are short-term investments of time that can lead to powerful long-term benefits to your business.
3. Send more work their way – the quickest way to boost a vendors’ loyalty toward you is to help them grow their business. You can do this by providing them with more, and more regular, work of course but, you can also be a reference for them – and refer other work to them. Most of us have received tips from friends and associates about new business opportunities; provide the same courtesy to your best vendors.
4. Trust them to resolve problems for you – no one enjoys being micro-managed, yet there are organizations that admit problems only reluctantly. By being up-front without being confrontational, you can let your vendor more clearly know your expectations for performance, while providing them the opportunity to resolve problems independently.
5. Make them a part of your team – you goal as a manger should be to foster engagement, not just from your employees but from your contractors too. The sense of commitment to the team’s success can be built among both groups, but only if you treat them equally. If you want “all-hands-on-deck” for the good of your business, make your vendors a part of the team.
It’s the nature of the property management business niche that working with contractors is a necessity. Creating strong partnerships and mutually beneficial relationships with your vendors may be the determining factor in whether or not you reach your business goals.
Having trouble finding trustworthy, honest, responsive vendor partners? Click here to contact us for help.

Property Manager vs. Vendor – Why It’s Not a Battle, But a Partnership

Why are so many relationships between property managers and vendors confrontational?
While controlling costs is important to successfully managing properties, whether for yourself or for clients, the long-term benefits of building good relationships with your vendors cannot be overstated – or underestimated. If you seem to be in perpetual conflict with your service providers, someone is doing something wrong. Is it you?
Build a partnership with vendors
There is an old saying in retail that applies to all businesses: “Price is what you pay, value is what you receive.”
If you’re constantly shopping for the “best price” rather than quality service, you’re going to have problems with your vendors. If you focus exclusively on short-term gains, your vendors will have no vested interest in helping you meet your long-term goals. If you expect a reasonable rate of return and profitability for your own efforts, offering the same to your service providers can only benefit both of you.
If you want to build a smoothly running organization that will grow over time, you’ll need to form mutually beneficial relationships with your vendors; partnerships based on mutual respect for each other’s needs and goals. Like any relationship, there are three keys to generating that respect and creating a partnership that will benefit both of you over the long haul:
Build Trust – between you and your vendors. This is the foundation of all lasting client/vendor partnerships.
Promote Honesty – understanding how necessary it is for both partners in the relationship, so that each of you receives the right answers to the tough questions, even when they’re not the answers you might be hoping to get.
Be Responsive – to each other’s needs, knowing that understanding your vendor-partner’s issues and concerns will foster a long-term commitment to the success each of you are hoping for.
Your most successful business relationships are no different than your personal relationships. Each requires a commitment from both parties to making the relationship work well for each of you. If your goal is to build a flourishing property management business, you must seek out vendors who are committed to helping you realize your goals and aspirations, while showing them the respect of returning that commitment to them. Your business, and your peace of mind, will thank you for it.
Are your vendor relationships confrontational or mutually respectful? What have you done to build partnerships with your vendors? Have they lasted over time, and what are the benefits you’ve realized?
Having trouble finding trustworthy, honest, responsive vendor partners? Reach out to MultifamiyZone.com or email us directly for assistance at lyoung@multifamilyzone.com

Good Things Happen When You’re in the Zone

When was the last time you said “yes” to listen to a sales pitch? Then viewed a demo and were amazed at what it could do for your business? The challenge is taking the time to meet with potential vendor partners to discover new products and services. If you pass on too many, you may miss out on the next big thing that could have a positive impact on your business. If you are seeking a specific product or service, and don’t have time to weed through all the sales calls, reach out to MultifamilyZone. We can assist with narrowing down the connection.

Simple Points to Vendor and Document Management

Protect your property and your company. Most all management companies and independent property owners require their potential vendors to have certain documents, insurance, positive references and more, in order to work on your property. Many times this can be exhausting for all parties. You find the right vendor partner that has just the right product or service you need, but they are not an approved vendor. Do you give up and say – sorry, we cannot do business because you are not an approved vendor or do you provide the steps for the potential vendor to come aboard? We know not all vendors are created equal, but there are a few things that are critically important. Here are the top four:

# 1 – You need to protect your property and your company from selecting the wrong vendor. A vendor without the right credentials or lack of proper insurance can prove to be disastrous if something goes wrong. By utilizing a third party company to assist with keeping your vendors insurance records and information up to date, generally helps to keep your property protected. If you believe in the vendor and their offering, partner with them by giving them all the details and requirements of your company to become an approved vendor (using a third party that monitors the process). If they want the business they will understand and jump through the necessary hoops to make things happen. If they give immediate push back, this could be a sign they are not the right match for your property or your company.

# 2 – By only utilizing your existing vendor list, and just exploring other potential vendor partners, this could keep you from having the very best in products and services. There are always new vendors entering the multifamily / property management arena. Yes, this can be a challenge if they do not understand our business, but many times if they are a professional company, they have done their due-diligence and will quickly get up to speed on the industry. Therefore, coming from outside the industry they may bring fresh new ideas and solutions that we have been waiting for. This has proven successful on numerous occasions including technology for marketing and in the area of maintenance services.

# 3 – Always call on the references! Most vendors have a list of clients they have done business with. Great, ensure you pick up the phone or send an email for a candid conversation with their reference. In addition, social media is priceless when it comes to asking about a potential vendor. We don’t recommend discrediting a vendor online, rather ask about any raving fans of a product, service or potential vendor. Many times, nothing said is enough said.

# 4 – Go with your gut! The right vendor can make all the difference in your property or business. Many times, it is not about the lowest bid or about the proposal. Rather about that synergy you develop with a vendor that can take the product or service you are exploring to the next level. It is evident those vendors that really believe in their product or service, those that know what they bring to the table is unique and different, even if that difference is the level of service they will provide.

Always do your due diligence when selecting a property management vendor. It may be painful up front, but the end result will be well worth it.

About the Author: Lisa Young, CEO & Founder of Multifamily Zone, LLC provides Marketing, Sales & Project Management Services to the property management industry. MultifamilyZone.com is an all-inclusive resource, offering everything multifamily professionals need, including industry information and news, products, services, technology tools, marketing trends, training opportunities and much more! Our goal is to assist individual owners, as well as fee and national management firms in the operations of their assets. Contact Ms. Young at lyoung@multifamilyzone.com