Roommate Matching

D-Day, Logistics, and Student Housing Turn

Today is the 74th anniversary of D-Day (aka, Operation Overlord); the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe by Allied forces. The “D” just stands for “Day” and was a term used for any important military day, though now it has become synonymous with Overlord.

No doubt you’re familiar with D-Day, if only because you’ve seen “Saving Private Ryan” which begins with the beach landing. It was (and remains) the largest amphibious military invasion in the history of mankind, and it was a massive success.

Thinking about D-Day made me think about General Dwight D. Eisenhower as he was the Allied supreme commander for the invasion, and further how Eisenhower thought about logistics. In fact, it was his experience with logistics during his time in the military that influenced his decision to create the Interstate Highway System as President in 1956. One of the provisions was that every five miles of the system needed to have a stretch straight and long enough that a fully loaded C-130 should be able to use it as a runway in the event of war.

Eisenhower_d-day

The invasion was really a culmination of several other operations which required the build-up of men and materials. Infantry, ships, boats, ammunition, supplies, rations, fuel, everything needed to support the invasion had to be amassed and then put into motion flawlessly. Can you fathom?

bythenumbers2

Instead of warships, this isn’t much different than the maintenance supplies you may need for turn.

The fact that they knew what they needed, got it where it needed to be and when it needed to be there is an accomplishment so vast it’s impossible to fully appreciate.

If you’ve seen “Saving Private Ryan” then you have a snapshot of what the initial landing likely looked like to the first guys that showed up.

Dday beaches

A lot like a Turn schedule if you think about it.

In the world of Student Housing, our D-Day is “Turn” or the period where students move out en masse around the end of July while a new set moves-in a couple of weeks later. In the middle of our operation, we’re gathering intelligence, making repairs, painting, cleaning, moving furniture, replacing flooring and fixtures as needed, and getting everything ready for a new group of students and their parents.

At Knights Circle, we have some 2,500+ rooms, and we’ll typically turn between 1300-1650 rooms in about two weeks. Every room is unique and we have to record its condition, schedule the work, and ensure everything is shiny by move-in day – regardless of how the previous college student left it. Clearly, you can see how logistics matter, if you’re not already familiar yourself.

Most of the industry uses something like a dry erase board or a legal pad. If you’re turning 100 rooms, maybe that works, but for most places turning 500 or more rooms, that’s insane. Could you imagine Eisenhower overseeing D-Day with a clipboard?

I created an all-in-one solution which we dub our Placement Book or Turn Board, depending on what we’re doing. We use a spreadsheet as opposed to a Google Sheet due to the sheer size and number of calculations necessary to track the mammoth amounts of data. For smaller communities, a Google Sheet is a great solution as it can be accessed anywhere and multiple users can access it in real time. However, I recommend having as few chefs in the kitchen as possible, lest the broth be spoiled.

PB

Placement Book, aka Turn board for managing 2500+ beds.

We keep it updated throughout the year with who lives where, and who have renewed their leases in their current unit. This allows us to do all kinds of things without confusion and creates instant access to information for everyone on the team. Early move-ins? Late Move-outs? Transfers? Need to track carpet replacement for 786 rooms scattered among 2500? No problems at all.

TurnStats

Turnover Stats by building and by phase. This allows us to adjust which days we want to do which buildings depending on how many beds there are to turn in that building. 

Our latest iterations have also integrated real-time move-out inspection data so we know what level of painting, cleaning, or maintenance we may need to assign to our vendors. And our vendors LOVE working with us for this reason as they can get as many printouts as they want.

Due to how much automation we’ve built into our operation, we’re able to run full audits of various databases, conduct our roommate matching, get solid estimates for turn, and keep an accurate picture of our capital inventory by the unit and overall.

Turn is the most difficult part of the business and it hinges entirely on logistics. Accuracy ensures efficiency, which means people don’t get burnt out through long hours, which means their quality of work is better, which leads to fewer mistakes. Everything starts with accuracy and speed – two things most people don’t get at the same time.

The entire operation is a massive logistics game and winning it means winning your whole year. If you’re in Student Housing, and you want a consultation on how you can make your turn the best it can be with what you have, feel free to drop me a line. I love talking to other people in the industry about turn.

I’m no Eisenhower, but the lesson of D-Day hasn’t been lost on me.

 

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RoommateFit, LLC offers “eharmony for roommates?” Hipsters & Cowboys cheer?

This guy is doing it!

Justin Mares is attempting to sell his RoommateFit Software to College Campuses for their Housing Operations

eHarmony for College Dorms?

Justin Mares today announced his new roommate matching software “RoommateFit” which he’s pitching to college campuses to aid in their dorm room assignments. The University of Pittsburgh Business student’s system will ask 42 questions, covering 6 distinct traits, in order to better match like-minded students with one another.

I recall talking with a co-worker in 2001 while working at a large, all-inclusive, student community here in Gainesville who realized the need for exactly such software. “So wait, you mean there’s no such thing as 3rd party roommate matching software out there for college communities?”, he asked me incredulously. “Not really” I said, “most people make their own proprietary system but the whole thing takes a back seat to other business aspects of the operation.” He resolved right then and there to make the first, one-size-fits-all roommate matching software for college campuses and stand-alone communities.

It’s been a decade and I haven’t heard tell of him, or his software, yet.

And that’s probably because it’s not as easy a thing to do as one may initially think. What really matters when matching roommates? It’s not like they’re dating… they just need to do a bit better than not kill each other. So, preferred bedtimes are the big deal? Drinking? Hobbies? Majors? Affiliations like Sororities or clubs? Music choices? How’s the hipster vegan from NYC going to get along with the Agriculture major from Texas who believes Bacon isn’t just a food group but a full-blown religion?

So much more common than you think

Passive-agressive Post-it notes are a staple in student apartments - like Ramen noodles and mini-fridges.

How do you correctly weight the answers to these questions and which factors hide the buried fault lines of potential friendship or ever-lasting war? That’s the problem most campuses and Property Management groups have when it comes to finding “Martin” his new “Lewis.”

If you’re a new college student and are getting an assigned roommate I have a sobering truth for you: That ‘random roommate’ is way more RANDOM than you may actually think.

Many times, and due to the actual calamity of placing/assigning units and coordinating dates/furniture/vendors, etc… roommate matching can, and is often, done based entirely on gender alone: “I got a single guy here for a 4/4, you have a space open with three other guys?” says the Leasing Manager to the Property Manager – “Yeah, done and done. Placed in 1010B, next?”More on this exact process later…

This is where Mares’ software really becomes appealing; if you can sort people to be placed together based on similar interests, reduce immediate roommate conflicts, and speed up the process so the office staff is free to focus on preparing your unit correctly for move-in, everyone wins.

The big question remaining to be seen is this: Will Mares’ system create better matches than random assignment? Significantly better as to justify the cost of his annual service? And how do you even measure such a thing? What’s a successful placement? Is this system better than letting students find their own roommates on Facebook?

Those questions are why most groups don’t see money in attempting to ensure roommates hit it off… “random” or limited review of roommate preferences has worked thus far, therefore, why spend the money?