Image source: Sharon Cauthen
By: Sharon Cauthen
Recently, I was clearing out a box of old photos and papers when I came across two pages of childish script. I knew instantly what it was, and I felt transported to a moment in time – the emotions of the day flooding back in an instant. The truth is, I’ve never forgotten what happened and how it made me feel. It was a simple story that went something like this…
When I was in fourth grade, our teacher assigned a creative writing assignment. I loved writing and spent much of my no-frills home life tuned in to my internal fanciful thinking or reading anything I could get my hands on. For the assignment, I wrote a story called Lifecycle describing in youthful detail, the beginning, middle, and the predetermined end. There was a special gotcha at the end of the story, of which I was particularly proud. I turned in my paper, eager for a good grade and some recognition from a teacher who never quite seemed to like me very much.
The paper was returned to me with a notation in bright red across the top – “Was this plagiarized?” and a score of F! The shock of embarrassment ran through my body as my face flamed red and my heart pounded loudly enough to drown out the sound of anything but its beat in my ears. Students sitting in nearby desks could see the terrible grade and the angry red writing scrawled on my paper. Having my clever idea and hard work dismissed as something I wasn’t capable of stung, and I felt tears threatening to spill over.
I had to take a note home to my parents who were none too pleased. They were the kind of parents who always stood behind the teacher whenever there was an issue, but on this one (and one other story I’ll save for another day), they stood up for me. You see, I had written the story at home, sitting at the kitchen table and I read it out loud to my family because I felt so giddy with the preciousness of my story idea and its surprise ending. There were a thousand things they would have believed the teacher about – but my ability to craft this story wasn’t one of them. Their faith in my storytelling skills gave me the runway and confidence to continue writing to this day.
I learned a lesson that day that superseded one young girl’s paper. It serves me still today.
Anyone in a position of authority can leave a scar with one ill-conceived or short-tempered remark, the pain of which may never be forgotten. Building up the confidence of others and recognizing their talents pays back and forwards.
Lift people up whenever you can. A simple acknowledgment that you see them and appreciate their contributions is important but taking the time to learn about their interests and passion projects beyond their daily job duties is heady stuff. It’s magical. The people who fill our teams are whole multifaceted humans who possess untapped potential.
One final thought. Believe people until there is a real reason not to. It’s been almost half a century and I still remember my creative writing assignment, and I vividly recall the feeling of knowing how it felt to be denied – and who believed in me.
TANGLED by Sharon Cauthen
I woke up with a cold, a stuffy head, and a nose that had somehow forgotten how to do its essential job – air in/ air out. My car is in the shop, leaving me homebound today. I lost my glasses and frantically looked from room to room before finding them on the side table where they definitely do not belong. I needed to prep for a video meeting beginning in fifteen minutes when the dog started doing the potty dance. I quickly took him for a walk – but he needed more than a quick walk. He had business to do (have you ever successfully rushed a dog doing its business?). I required coffee to help me defy the cold medication and remain alert for the meeting, but the water reservoir was low, and I felt resentful that my spouse didn’t refill it.
Trying not to spill the hot coffee, I raced (walked briskly) to my desk for the meeting. I saw that most annoying message on my screen – the multi-factor authenticator blockade. Ugh. Text was the fastest way to get the code that obstructed my way. Fine. But my phone was playing a Daily Stoic meditation which I dumped unceremoniously on behalf of the code. I wasn’t feeling very stoic anyway.
Finally, I have access, glasses, and coffee, and I sit up in my chair with seconds to spare. Once I jumped through the hoops and could access my system, I saw a message from earlier that morning. “I’m sorry, I need to reschedule our meeting. I have an unavoidable conflict disrupting my calendar. Very frustrating.”
A few deep breaths and some introspection later found me reframing my morning. The cold is annoying but not debilitating. It will pass. I have a car and the funds to pay for its maintenance. I found my glasses and was reminded that no one puts them anywhere except me. I am grateful to have a furry companion and his need for regular walks is not a surprise. Moving his walk even fifteen minutes earlier would have made for a more enjoyable experience for us both. I have a nice coffee maker and access to clean filtered water for it. The Daily Stoic will wait for me. Patiently, because the Stoics are like that.
Two or three last thoughts.
My morning was irritating but not traumatic. There is a difference. Trauma should not be spackled over with platitudes. It deserves light and air for healing. This was not that. This was a series of slightly annoying events.
The meeting cancellation message was sent in plenty of time, but my messy morning disrupted its receipt. Just a wee bit more organization would have prevented the frantic race – after which I planned to look into the camera as though I had it all together all along. (I see my people nodding their heads at this.)
Finally, multi-factor authentication messages are ALWAYS annoying. I stand my ground on this one.
Podcasts have been around for a couple of decades, and you can find a podcast for every imaginable topic or area of interest – and in my opinion, the world is better off for it. Podcasts are egalitarian in that, with a few tools and a lot of grit, just about anyone with something interesting to say can find an audience for it.
If you listen to the Multifamily Collective daily vlog, you might have heard my take on “The Perfect Length of a Podcast” *(hint: I’m not a fan of this concept). As a podcasting veteran over the last six or seven years, I take issue with self-proclaimed experts putting guardrails on the creativity of the masses.
If you want to create a podcast or any other content, my encouragement to you is to just – start. Make a commitment to producing content on a regular schedule. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Make mistakes. Screw up. Dust yourself off and do it again. Your audience will find you and when they do, the thing I believe they want most – more than a highly polished and edited script – is the authentic you.
As far as the perfect podcast length discussion goes, I listen to audiobooks and podcasts as I drive around (and when I run) and for me, this much is true: if the content is compelling, I never notice the time. I’ve heard two-hour long podcasts that kept me engaged for the duration. On the other hand, I’ve listened to much shorter ones that were far less interesting.
On the Multifamily Collective platform, you will find daily vlogs that are 2-4 minutes long – bite-sized bits of encouragement and knowledge to start the day. Our Collective Conversations interview series are usually an hour or so – plus/minus. Some guests are so fascinating that we could have talked for much longer. Other episodes are shorter to accommodate the guest’s schedule. Oh – and we don’t edit our episodes. With very rare exceptions, all video content at the Multifamily Collective is an ‘all-in-one’ practice. It keeps us authentic, and the bloopers are (hopefully) part of the charm. Hats off to Gary Vaynerchuk who inspired our no-edit style.
If you go back to my very first Apartment Hacker video in 2016, you will find this: I resolved to Read Less and Do More, I worked at Mills Properties, and my hair was mysteriously much darker than it is today. As I reflect back over the years, there were many times when it would have been easier to stop, when the audience was quiet, and the time seemed hard to come by, and even when there were some naysayers about the whole thing. I am not declaring myself to be the expert on podcasting but if I were to leave others with one note that ensures success beyond just about any other guidance, it’s this: Don’t quit. It’s that simple and that hard. Do it as a regular practice even when it feels like no one cares at all. Do it anyway. It is in the doing that you learn and get better.
Finally, I will take this moment to say thank you to everyone who supported me through the years, who listened, who came on the show, and who believed in me. I owe you a cup of coffee and a ton of gratitude.
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Airplanes use autopilot software that can manage the aircraft under certain conditions using the craft’s hydraulic, mechanical, and electronic systems. It can do things such as stabilize speed and height as well as the heading. Mostly used on passenger planes, pilots generally use autopilot to lead the aircraft in a controlled manner except for departure and landing.
The use of autopilot technology has migrated well beyond the world of air travel. Decades ago, the term autopilot was briefly used to describe conventional cruise control. Tesla has branded the term Autopilot to refer to their feature that combines land-centering steering with adaptive cruise control. Many other cars offer advanced driver-assistance features. Some offerings rival or even exceed Autopilot’s primary capabilities.
Even the most advanced systems require the driver to pay attention and take over as necessary, often using a driver-facing camera that monitors driver engagement at all times. We are far away from leaving it all in the hands of the car while drivers read, surf the net, or otherwise zone out. Still, with or without an enhanced driver support system, many people are driving with their minds on autopilot.
Living On Autopilot
Have you arrived at your destination and not remembered anything about the drive? Ever listen to podcasts while driving and realized that you missed whole sections because your mind was elsewhere even though your intention was the listen closely? Earlier this week, I published this thought on the topic.
It seems to me that people are living on autopilot more than ever these days. The 24/7 deluge of information coupled with reliance on (and addiction to) devices is taking its toll but there is no slowing down the technology train. Even as I was writing this missive, my work was held up by the need for yet another multi-factor identification – stop writing, sign in to the system that I was auto-signed out of when the 14-day cycle expired, get the code from my device, input it, and back to my interrupted thoughts.
When it comes down to it, the only variable that you can change is you – your habits and practices. And those feel like the hardest of all to rewire but small changes are possible and when practiced regularly, they can lead to bigger and more permanent changes.
Here are a few suggestions for turning off your autopilot and tuning in to your life this week.
Focus Time – Build in a block of time daily for creative dreaming. Set it as a calendar appointment and hold it in high regard. This focus time is for expanding your thoughts beyond the next item on your to-do list. Meditate, journal, take a walk, or just sit for a while – without the digital leash of your device.
Do Something Differently – Take a different route on your commute and take note of the things you see along the way. Start a new hobby. Bonus points if you select activities that require the use of your hands like gardening, pottery, or painting – making frequent checks of your phone more difficult.
Set A New Goal – It can relate to your career, but it doesn’t need to. Some easy ones:
Take a walk/run before work three days a week
Sign up for and attend a class on any subject that interests you
Ask someone you trust to mentor you
Read one of the book recommendations you’ve been meaning to get to
Connect With Others – Loneliness is rampant, especially after the last two years. Lean into that awkward feeling and make the effort to get to know someone new. Ask a new neighbor to join you on a walk or to get a cup of coffee. Check out interesting events happening near you – anything from farmer’s markets to concerts in the park – and show up!
This short blog post is a simply a prompt and a jumping-off point. My encouragement to you today is to break out of your autopilot and wake up to all the possibilities. Surprise yourself with a self-determined and intentional life.
Have you ever found yourself living on autopilot? How did you break the pattern? Share your thought with us!
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Multifamily companies are using more and more technology, and it’s touching more and more areas of property operations. Most of the time it improves experiences and makes things more efficient. We tend to think about its impact on operations, costs, performance and customer experience. But as with most things, there can be unintended consequences.
As technology proliferates, the cost of technology increases too. In this article, I will focus on one cost in particular: the administrative overhead associated with decision-making. It appears to be growing in many multifamily companies, and it is becoming harder to control. As I will explain, there are important implications for both operators and vendors.
A Couple of Data Points
Over the last few years, the annual 20 for 20 survey has acted as a temperature check on the industry. Each year I interview 20 COOs and heads of IT to understand their priorities in operations and technology. It’s provided an opportunity to see what’s changing in the industry. And over the last few years, it has provided a couple of interesting data points about the cost of innovation.
Two years ago, almost all respondents had reported having formalized a corporate process for innovation. It seemed to be a consequence of the increase in VC dollars finding their way into multifamily technology. More investment meant more technology to understand and more evaluations to do. The industry’s traditional technology gatekeepers sounded overloaded with keeping track of the expanding technology stack.
This year’s report, which came out in February, found something much more specific. While the flow of capital, the pace of innovation, and the scope of technology continue to accelerate, the technology decision processes seem to be changing. In particular, the definition of “technology gatekeepers” appears to be expanding.
What Prioritization Tells Us
In this year’s research, we split the tech stack into four discrete segments: Leasing Tech, Data Analytics, IoT/Connectivity, and Resident FinTech. We asked each of the 20 respondents to rank the four segments in order of priority. The results, which we summarized in the chart, are instructive.
Leasing was unsurprisingly the top priority; after all, it is the area that has changed the most over the last couple of years. Data analytics was highly active as the pandemic forced management teams to virtualize and report on many new metrics. But it is the two lower-priority technology segments that are more surprising.
IoT should be a higher priority than it is, given the high costs and the risk inherent in installing physical equipment into properties. That it sits in third place probably has more to do with decision processes than its actual importance.
Consider the way that companies buy technologies like access control. It’s normal for the traditional technology buyer (the CIO or the CIO) to be heavily involved in deciding which technologies they will support in their companies. But the actual decision to purchase the technology is much more of a property-by-property decision.
So it may start as a decision that looks like a traditional technology selection process, overseen by the traditional technology gatekeepers. But then it changes into something far more like the decision to renovate a property or purchase appliances.
A similar thing is at play with Resident FinTech: a fast-growing segment of the tech stack, with numerous new companies and innovations taking hold in the industry. These tools are both popular and relatively easy to implement, so evaluation and decision-making are frequently delegated in the organization. Numerous CoOs, for example, described being aware of the fintech that tech companies were buying and implementing but had delegated decisions to buy it and implement it.
What This Means for Operators
More tech can simplify and remove friction from operations, which is a great thing, but it creates different types of complexity. The risk is that when firms delegate decisions below to traditional gatekeepers, they risk creating “shadow” IT departments, where decisions are made outside of the control of corporate IT.
Deposit Alternatives provide a good example: a quick look at the websites of competing suppliers shows that they include the same companies as clients. Vendors appear to be succeeding in selling directly into regionals, for example. And this has implications for vendor management and customer experience because having many different vendors across different regions makes it harder to offer consistency across a portfolio.
In the case of IoT, devolved decision-making can drive up IT costs. Non-IT actors (e.g., Asset Management) are making decisions to implement technology like access control in a particular asset. That makes sense, as the asset manager is responsible for allocating capital to the property, but their decisions can impact IT overhead, a pool of costs that it is not their job to manage.
That represents risk. Imagine choosing to roll out an access control solution means contracting with multiple vendors rather than a single provider. That creates a level of overhead, training, contract management, misaligned agreement dates, and general admin overhead that companies should want to avoid. As decisions like this become more devolved, the risk of higher overhead will increase.
What it Means for Technology Vendors
Vendors need to be aware that the bull’s eye is moving. It’s always been a winning strategy to focus on the traditional gatekeepers, the COOs and heads of technology. (That’s why 20 for 20 focuses on those specific roles!) But in my work, I’m increasingly seeing vendors lose business to competitors who did a better job of figuring out who is making the decisions.
The losing sales teams focus on selling into the conventional buyer persona, while the vendor that won the businesses figured out where the real influence was. It’s particularly true in companies whose sales teams do not yet have deep insight into the multifamily industry.
The mistargeting of effort filters through to marketing activities too. I work with many marketing departments across the tech sector, but I can think of very few who apply significant effort to persona-based marketing campaigns.
As technology and decision-making proliferate, this (already substantial) opportunity will continue to grow. More companies should grasp it! Companies need a wider variety of playbooks to integrate a more sophisticated concept of personas. It will confer an increasing advantage on the companies willing to invest in being good at it.
Unintended consequences aren’t always harmful. It is easy to think of ways that devolved decision-making improves multifamily operations as teams get smarter about how technology improves resident and associate experiences. But operators and vendors should be wise to this changing landscape. Administrative overhead is easy to ignore until it isn’t! And sales and marketing playbooks should always reflect the current state of our industry.