apartments

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.

 

Advertisements

When you think you know what you’re looking for.

In this undated video (probably 2008), Best Selling Author Malcolm Gladwell explains how we have a fundamental mismatch problem in how we assess which people will be successful in a given field. He starts with the differences between NBA scouting combine results and how players actually wind up fairing in the league and then goes on to point out all sorts of other gaps as only Gladwell can

The whole talk is fantastic as Gladwell may be the greatest storyteller of our time. I could listen to the man read a Swahili phone book and I would swear it was Les Miserables.

Gladwell’s point here is that we absolutely suck when it comes to using criteria that will give us a meaningful incite to the how well a person will perform in a given role. For Teachers, we require all manner of certificates only to find these have virtually no impact on the actual performance of the teacher. Job interviews are generally only good for finding out if you’re attracted to someone, it turns out. Or perhaps they’re only useful for discovering if someone is very good in social interaction, but for all sorts of other jobs, how well one does in an interview translates poorly to the ultimate role they’ll have should they be hired.

Around ten years ago we had a major issue in a tough market where our newest Community Managers were getting their clocks cleaned. Their teams couldn’t sell to save their lives, and these new Managers were grossly incapable of teaching them how to sell as they’d never done it before themselves. How did this happen?

It turns out that we’d been promoting “Rental Managers” aka “Assistant Community Managers” who were responsible for collecting rent, running reports, and that’s about it. They avoided sales related work like it had two types of the plague. So, of course, when they got promoted to their own ship they had no idea how to hire for sales ability or how to teach it.

Why would we do this? Because the people in charge of minting the new Community Managers were people who lived in glass offices and who dealt a lot with reports. Guess who typically had great reports? Rental Managers. They were two peas in a pod. Of course, the Brass new that sales mattered, but they overlooked this factor when hiring because they liked the cut of the RM’s jib. They could see a bit of themselves in these up-and-comers, and did you see how clean their reports were? Plus they tended to LOOK like Community Managers.

The most vital component in a Community Manager at the time (in the toughest student rental market in the country) was the ability to rent units, the ability to hire people who could do likewise, and the ability to train the uninitiated on their team. And here we were hiring without any real regard for that fact. The people we should have been promoting to these roles were our best salespeople who lacked any of the care or ability for the paperwork reporting. That’s a relatively easy problem to solve – at least far easier than a whole team at a community that can’t sell ice water at noon in Phoenix.

Maybe the answer would have been to split the job into equal halves; give two nearby communities to a pair of Managers. One would be in charge of the sales and training for each while the other handled the books and reporting. The two would compliment one another and with any luck, some of their skills would rub off on each other. Maybe an Area Manager would have been the way to go, with a couple of executive salespeople put in place to cover the selling and training. There’s any number of solutions, but we were wildly wrong on our criteria for assessing a simple promotion and it cost us big.

I’m sure this mismatch is all too common for you as well. How many times have you experienced one in your life, where you or your organization made decisions on things by assessing criteria that mattered not a bit in determining the outcome or the best course of action? What blinded you? How did you eventually see past it, or have you?

Trash Talk Leaves You Dirty

Donttalkshiz

The salesperson who says you’ll get feline aids and a year of bad hair days if you live at community X is only thinking about the short term gain – which is actually illusory. Maybe you believe them, but that doesn’t mean you like their community any better. If anything, you’re naturally put off as we generally dislike people who crap all over others. What’s to say they’re not going to do the same to us the second we leave?

Build a good reputation for honesty. Tell them the reasons why you do what you do, and what you believe in as an organization. State where you’re better than X and where you’re not and trust them to see the value you’ve worked so hard to build. That’s all the difference you need to stand out.

Personality trumps Plain, Every Time

Our new in-house, Marketing-Strike-Force-of-Awesomeness have been laying siege to the plain vanilla world of the tired & trite student housing adverts of old. Ben & Jerry themselves have trembled under the audacious show of flavor perpetrated by these skilled ninja-confectioners-of-imagination.

Calling themselves the Triple Threat, these three complimentary legs of the tripod are the razor’s edge of our marketing outreach to our; 2500+ Residents, future clients, and the rest of the Orlando market.

So, seeing as how they go into the field plain-clothes style for the bulk of their media making, we decided they’d benefit from press passes – as that’s what they are in so many ways. Lanyards made sense since they could be easily slipped on, so I told them to go ahead and whip up something for themselves.

I wasn’t disappointed…

Fabreesh

Fabricio Torres makes some of the most amazingly shot and edited videos you’ve seen, and he does it with blazing speed. We can conceive, shoot, edit and upload timely content in a matter of a couple of days where before it would have taken weeks.

Chanty

Chantell Cruz took these photos and a ton of amazing shots for our Resident events and advertisements. She’s a true artist behind the lens and we couldn’t be more impressed with her ability to capture it all, from the sublime to the stolen moment.

Danaenae

Danae McDermott designed these passes and all of our graphics for flyers, ads, Resident announcements, and anything else we may put out. She’s insanely talented with Adobe Suites and can crank out a professional design in no time.

I was beyond blown away by the quality and the personal expression they put into these passes. They’re conversation starters for sure and show that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. The rest of the team liked them so much they’ve been spoiling for their own. Ultimately, I can’t say no.

Special thanks to our very own Gregory Eisenberg for finding such a remarkable team, bringing them together, and letting them do what they do best. I couldn’t be prouder or more excited to work with such a stellar cast.

A Great Guide to Awesome Oratory

Mr. Julian Treasure does a great job in succinctly breaking down the do’s and don’ts of public speaking – and he does so in a wonderful British accent.

This is going to run you less than 10 minutes and is a must for anyone having to address an audience.

Having sat through more conferences and speeches than I can count, I’ve seen a handful of excellent speakers. The thing they all had in common were their expert use of the exact tips that Treasure provides here.

#PictureThemInTheirUnderwear?

“Made To Stick” – Make messages that connect

Advertising is more often than not, about interrupting people. A lot of it is imitating what someone else has done and what other ads look like for that same type of product or service. There’s a straight and narrow path and plenty of people that would prefer to walk down it. For them, it’s not about connecting with people, it’s about being safe.

For these scared few, their creedo can be summed up simply:  CYA BAE, or “Cover your ass, before anything else.”

Making meaningful, original, honest work that aims to connect the brand/team with the client isn’t high on that list of motivations. If asked, they’d answer that they’d love to connect with people, and many may believe that their benign work is doing just that.

I’m in the business of housing college students, so being relate-able scores major points with our customers. In addition, our students have grown up with the internet since birth – and having ads thrown at them through every medium their entire lives is a constant. Originality goes a long way towards breaking through their defenses. Honesty has immense value.

I saw the following two flyers on ebaumsworld.com and immediately fell in love.

Set Rations to "Meager" and Pace to "Grueling"

Set Rations to “Meager” and Pace to “Grueling”

If you’re anything like me, you LOVED Oregon Trail as a kid. There’s an immediate emotional connection, coupled with the unexpected and the humorous. I’m hooked. I’m connected. Granted, it’s not advertising anything, but imagine a little logo in the corner and this posted at your property’s crosswalk across from campus? It’s enough to highlight the sense of you humor of your team, and to show that you’re human.

The next is a little rougher around the edges as far as language is concerned, so if you’re easily offended by light cursing, might I suggest skipping this one.

Caroline, please edit this blog for $15 an hour.

Caroline, please edit this blog for $15 an hour.

Probably without realizing it, Caroline totally nails the bulk of the Six principles of Dan & Chip Heath’s best seller, “Made to Stickwhich I wrote about in the past.

Six Principles of Sticky Ideas

Six Principles of Sticky Ideas

To wit:

1. Simple: She’s got a simple message! “I fix your paper so it doesn’t suck!”

2. Unexpected: You didn’t expect this, and certainly not with the cat picture.

3. Concrete: Caroline. Edits. Papers. Got it?

4. Credible: There’s a decent sample of her writing, so you could argue she’s credible, though her target customer wouldn’t know that for sure.

5. Emotional: She’s funny! By stating bluntly what she’s thinking she makes an emotional connection to her audience – especially  the type that’s likely to purchase her services.

6. Stories: She tells one for sure. She even gives example of exchanges she’s likely to have with you.

Essentially, the Heath brothers analyzed all kinds of messages to find out which ones stuck with people and which didn’t – and what qualities they possessed. You don’t need all six apparently for a compelling message, but the more the better. Caroline is almost perfect here. If asked weeks later, you could tell that; Caroline edits papers, won’t do so after 9pm because her meds wear off then, and that it’ll run you $15 and hour.

That’s a sticky message.

What would you have told Caroline if she’d made these for you and wanted to place them around campus, but YOU owned the editing service? Would you have said it’s too risky? That you’d prefer something a little safer? Maybe just straightforward – “editing services, $15/hour, call Caroline.” You could have, but then you wouldn’t have nearly 2.5 million views on imgur.

Understood, this doesn’t work everywhere and for everything. We’re not going to run the same style ad here, but the lesson is important – take away the reasons why it works and apply to your own marketing and advertising. Resist the urge to play it too safe next time. Aim to make a connection and get your message to stick!

Auto-Calculating Carpet Loss of Life Excel Build

Yeah, it sounds like a mouthful, but you get it. With 2500+ bedrooms, anything we can do to make mundane tasks faster is a life saver, so we’re always looking for ways to make our lives easier (see our Mission Statement post).

Below is a sample shot of a feature I added to our Excel Turn board where we’ve loaded the last replacement date for every carpet in the community and it will give us a bill-back amount we should charge the previous resident (if at all) when we schedule a new replacement. Just enter the new replacement date and voila!

CarpetLossOfLife

We track our current carpet on a five year life span, but I’ve seen commercial grade products that may have a 7-8 life span. The cool part is we can change the total calculations by manipulating the price we pay for carpet up top on the page, or the life span if we switch to a stronger carpet and it will adjust all future calculations. Cool, right?

The other exciting aspect of this is we’re far more guaranteed to insure we’re properly charging back for this common loss and we can cross reference the totals for carpet bill-backs from our turn board with our budget’s actual charges to insure we didn’t miss anything.

Total build time was around three hours and another 2-3 hours of inputting the last known carpet replacement dates for each unit. Note: this was made slightly easier than usual as the entire property got new carpets during renovations in 2011, so not every single unit needed data input, we just assumed 2011 unless we’d had an invoice since then.