This article was posted on Sunday, Jan 29, 2012

When the economy turned a couple years back, the real estate bubble burst like an over-inflated water balloon. We took a hard look at our operations.  Like many companies, the prosperous economy had brought with it several superfluous programs, policies and perks. Getting back to basics became paramount.
Meeting with my dad one day during year-end strategic planning, he made a statement that at first irked me. He bluntly and knowingly said, “You know, there’s really only three things you have to do.  It’s your whole job description.”
Being that my dad has a reputation of over simplification …”Can’t you just push a button?”… I sighed and braced myself.  He said, “Create traffic, convert traffic and retain traffic.  Anything else is extra.”  It made sense…which in itself created more angst in me.  The man tends to be right … a lot.  But that’s a writing better shared with my therapist!
We proceeded to create a whiteboard list of all the activities we do onsite and in the home office to complete these three obvious tasks.  Some of what we wrote is listed below:

Under the “CREATE” Column
•    Referrals
•    Internet Presence
•    Outreach Marketing

Under the “CONVERT” Column
•    Curb appeal
•    Training
•    Effective staffing  (to ensure our best closers received the bulk of the traffic)

Under the “RETAIN” Column
•    Community maintenance
•    Resident communications
•    The Apartment Life CARES program

Several other items appeared under each column as well.  Once we had our list, I presented it to our teams, effectively creating an achievable action plan to minimize the economic downturn’s effects.

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But what made this lesson stick was my dad’s assertion that the “Plan” could apply to anything we do.  My dad has left full-time real estate and now invests his time in a non-profit.  For him, creating traffic means generating a prospective donor list, converting traffic by gaining a commitment for a contribution and retaining his contributor base with effective communication of tangible outcomes.
Funnier, was his application to finding a mate! To create traffic, you have to get out there, but first, check your curb appeal. The image you’re putting out there needs to attract the prospect profile you desire.  Once you get an interested party, objections need to be overcome.  And if you close the deal, the rest of your life will need to be spent working with your mate to retain each other’s commitment and love.  It’s a little tongue-in-cheek, but the accuracy of the analogy and humor it generated made the lesson stick.
Many times since that day, my team and I have referenced these “three things” as a reminder that the basics of our operations need to remain foundational if we are going to see the success for which our owners are looking.  Just three things…create, convert and retain.
So beyond the reports we love to create and the minutia of the every day, take a look at all the activity you spend your time on and put each process under one of the three categories.  Evaluate your community’s performance.  Chances are you are very strong in one or two categories and you will end up with a wonderful “to do” list to accomplish the third.

Amy R. Smith is a principal in Bella Investment Group, LLC, an asset and property management company based in Northern Arizona.  She has 20 years of experience in real estate investment and management. Reprinted with permission.

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