This article was posted on Sunday, May 01, 2016

Early in my career, I worked for a large recruiting and staffing firm. My sales manager, who was about my age, was the typical company man. He dressed sharp, drove a nice car, constantly smiled, was awkwardly positive about any situation, and was a never ending fountain of motivational quotes — a budding young Zig Ziglar or Tom Hopkins. 

As cheesy as that may sound, I still regularly quote some of his gems with my own staff. One such quote is “If you’re the best you’ll ever be, you can’t work here.” Simply put, if you really want to achieve continued success, you must continually improve yourself and hone your skills. 

Stay Educated on the Law

When it comes down to it, the single most important part of property management is making sure that your business is in compliance with federal and local fair housing and landlord–tenant laws. Lawsuits and fines can be devastating to a real estate investor or property management company.

Most violations committed by landlords are unintentional, and completely avoidable. The best protection you can have against these sorts of mistakes is continued education. Laws are continually changing and it’s very easy to forget certain nuances. Make a point to take a refresher course on fair housing and local landlord–tenant laws at your local landlord or apartment association every year. Also, keep your eyes open for seminars and trainings addressing legislative changes. Similarly, make sure you’re always using the most up to date state and local specific attorney or rental housing associate lease forms and rental forms. 

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Find a Mentor / Be a Mentor

Learning and implementing industry best practices into your daily business will make you more successful. There is no better way to learn great habits and skills than to learn from someone who’s at the top of their game. Whether it’s your boss, a co-worker or someone you meet at an apartment association function, find a really successful property manager and learn as much about what they do and why they do it as you can. Most successful people are more than willing to share a little of their time and expertise with people who are hungry to learn.

Likewise, be a mentor. When you are focusing on training and helping someone be the most they can be, it forces you to recall and review skills and knowledge that you might not on a regular basis. The exercise of imparting such knowledge, solidifies that knowledge in your own brain. Further, helping others produces positive feelings, which builds success. 


Having an active and vibrant business network is one of the true keys to success in any industry, and property management is no different. The best property managers in any market are constantly making contacts and cultivating relationships. Again, this is a great reason to be an active member in your local apartment or real estate investor association.

Get to know other property managers, because one never knows when they need to hire talent, or will need a new position. Networking is the most effective way to fill an open position, or find a better opportunity for yourself. You can also glean great market information and best practices from your competition.

Make sure you’re meeting and building relationships with industry service providers. Get to know what they do. Learn their strengths, and, if applicable, their weaknesses. At some point, you will most likely need the products and services these people provide and it’s always best to be informed and have a relationship, before you have an emergency need.

Lastly, get to know the real estate investors or apartment owners in your market. Whether they are self-managing, or simply using a competitor, build those relationships. In order to grow your business, you want to be on their short list when they decide they need to make a change and hire a (new) property management company. [The AOA Trade Show and Educational Conference at the Long Beach Convention Center on May 19th is a great place to meet other owners, attend FREE seminars and meet vendors serving your industry with new products and services!  Mark your calendar and be sure to attend.] For more information, click here.

Embrace Technology

We live in a world where he or she with the most effective and efficient technology usually finish first, or at least near the top. Great people still matter, but outfitting great people with great tools is a recipe for success.

Keep up on the latest and greatest gadgets and software for the industry. Allow yourself time to investigate and learn about tools that can help your business. This includes giving those pesky sales executives a few minutes of your time now and then. After all, when one comes along who actually can show you how to save time and money in your business, while growing revenue, isn’t it worthy your time?

Just as importantly, pay attention to the technology that your residents and prospective tenants use in their day-to-day lives. Property management is a largely consumer driven industry and those new gadgets and apps that your vendors are selling, are usually inspired by what kinds of technologies renters are using, and how they are being used. 

Make Time For Yourself

Our society was built upon the Protestant work ethic – the concept that hard work and dedication will lead to success. While there’s something to that, there’s also something to sayings like “Work smarter, not harder” and the concept of work life balance.

No matter the industry, you will find that the people who experience sustained business success and happiness always have some balance in their lives. By this, I don’t only mean balancing your career with your friend and/or family time. I also mean taking some “me time.”

Making some time to get away from stressors and obligations, even if only for a few minutes a day, is absolutely vital to being able to sustain high performance on the job. This can be different things to different people. I like to take some time to play and listen to music, or read. Others may enjoy cooking, painting, writing, hiking, running, etc. Still others might enjoy prayer or meditation. What ever that “thing” is for you, make sure you’re making at least a little bit of time for yourself to do whatever it is that gives you relaxation and allow you to recharge your batteries.

In summary, property management is a competitive industry that can make for a wonderful career. If you’re regularly keeping up on the laws that govern the industry, stay actively engaged in networking within the industry, work to continually learn and teach best practices, keep up with technology and make time for yourself, you will continue to grow and a person and professional. Do this and each day, you’ll be a better property manager than you were the day before. 

Will Johnson is the publisher at Rental Housing Journal.  Reprinted with permission.