5 Minutes in Multifamily with Steve Boyack
5 Minutes in Multifamily: Episode #5
Recorded on May 10 by Hyro
5 Minutes in Multifamily—a new video series featuring real estate and #proptech experts sharing their insights on key industry topics and trends, all under 5 minutes. Well, usually under 5 minutes.
For this episode, we were honored to welcome Steve Boyack, COO of JVM, to dish on topics such as:
- The challenges behind integrations and how to solve them
- Why smart access is key to success
- How virtual maintenance is becoming increasingly popular in 2022
Our Key Takeaways:
- Access is the most important thing to enable a building to provide for the future.
- Things like more efficient workflows for maintenance technicians, leasing operations, really all start with being able to move frictionlessly through a building.
Before joining JVM, Boyack served as COO and global head of property management for CA Ventures, a parent company of CA Student Living, where he laid the foundation for the firm's European student operating platform (Novel Student), global sustainability initiative, wellness program and innovation department. Prior to joining CA, Steve was a senior managing director at Greystar where he was responsible for overseeing real estate operations and leading the expansion of the company's footprint in key Midwest markets. In addition, he oversaw Greystar's national construction and maintenance operations and worked with their global innovation team.
Boyack is an IREM® Certified Property Manager and is a current board member for the National Multihousing Council as well as a member of the editorial advisory board for Multifamily Executive.
CHECK OUT THE FULL ON-DEMAND RECORDING:
FOR THE FULL TRANSCRIPT, KEEP SCROLLING:
Monica: Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for joining. I am excited to introduce today's guest Steve Boyack. Steve, take it from here and give us a quick introduction of who you are, how long you've been in the industry.
Steve: Thanks Monica. So I'm Steve Boyack, I have been in the industry for, uh, I cut it off at 30 years. I'm not counting after that. I started at a very young age and have had the pleasure of holding just about every position you can in the real estate industry on the multifamily side, from all the site-level positions up through asset managements. Over the last several years I've been in various different C-level roles for a couple of mid-level and some of the largest real estate companies in the world.
Monica: I am thrilled to hear your perspective, knowing that you've kind of done it all. You've seen it all. You've done it all. So let's jump right in.
What are the top three things that owners and property management companies should be thinking about for 2022?
Steve: Uh, you know, what I've been spending a lot of time thinking about is first off, EV (electric vehicles) charging. You know, we're such a slow moving industry and oftentimes they're a little bit behind the eight ball. A lot of the problems we're usually trying to solve are internal. And this one is really, I think, an external challenge for all of us. So I think that the number of cars available in the marketplace is going to escalate dramatically in a very short period of time, and because of the slow decision making process in real estate, I think a lot of building owners and operators are going to get caught flat-footed with a tremendous amount of demand, and not having the resources to meet the needs. So I think it's going to be a distinguishing factor for buildings that have that infrastructure laid out already so that when the, when the numbers start ticking up quickly they can meet the need.
Otherwise the biggest things that I think are bandwidth in buildings, whether it's cellular capabilities or wifi, having a good nervous system for a building historically has not been that big of a challenge since most of the systems in the buildings have been dumb, let's call them. But on a go-forward basis, any of the systems, softwares or technologies that the buildings themselves or owners want to utilize are absolutely going to be smart. And again, the people who we are serving have nothing but demand for more and more smart devices and smart things. So the buildings really need to be able to accommodate. You know, during the COVID crisis and everybody's staying and working from home, additional demands on all of those buildings systems. And again, I think maybe some owners and operators were thrown off by that and the ones that have those systems with the additional bandwidth in place, I think performed really well.
And then the last, I would say, is access. Access to me is the most important thing to enable a building to provide for the future. So, if you have a tech enabled access to your building and you want to do anything in the future with regards to service or operational efficiencies, you're going to need a smart access system to do it. If you want to provide dog walkers or cleaning services or if you really want to tune up your leasing and maybe do self-guided touring; hard to do self-guided touring if you don't have the technology in the building to accommodate that. Things like more efficient workflows for maintenance technicians, leasing operations, really all start with being able to move frictionlessly through a building. And so I think that's kind of a step one type of thing, for any buildings to think about.
And then with the foundation of bandwidth and access, really the rest of it is just kind of bits and pieces that will evolve over time, that you can just pick as either your desires or your residents' desires, come to light if they want thermostats or lights or locks or just any of that other stuff, you'll have the infrastructure to just have things jump right in.
Monica: Right. I love the commonality of infrastructure across the board for all the top things, being future ready for the electric vehicles, making sure that you have access throughout the building and for your residents, and then of course the actual infrastructure.
What are some risks for companies who are hesitant to adapt to today's digital demands and changes?
Steve: Well, you know, the majority of companies really are, and you know, I think the best advice you could give somebody is to just pick something and get started. One of, I think, the tremendous benefits of COVID is again, it took a group of really hesitant and fearful people and forced them to take action on certain technologies. You just had to be able to serve people in the way that the pandemic was requiring them to be served. And so people started to do things that they typically would have spent years hemming and hawing about. And lo and behold, found out that it's really not that scary, and things do work, and people do enjoy, you know, one of the biggest surprises for us is that we thought service was the whole thing. And with regards to maintenance, everybody likes to have the maintenance person come out and serve them well and fix everything. And, with the pandemic, people not wanting maintenance technicians to come into their units, the virtual maintenance capabilities that we've put into play have been wildly successful. When there's basic things in your apartment, that could be very, very easily fixed, come to find out most people would rather push the button themselves than wait for a couple of hours for the technician to show up and they still feel very well-served. The example that everybody always gives us is the garbage disposal, you know, "Monica, would you mind opening the cabinet? And if you reach under there, there's a little red button. Could you try pushing that real quick?" And you flip the switch did that work. Oh, holy cow. It said anything else you'd like help with. And you're back off to the races as opposed to I'll send somebody up and you're standing there next to them and they push a simple button. And now, because you could have solved that really quickly.
It's amazing how many of those solutions are out there where people can. Maybe knock 40% of the things off by just flipping the breaker or pushing the button on their own and they feel part of the solution. So we found that that people are actually enjoying being part of the solution on some of the maintenance tasks.
Monica: Absolutely. I mean, being proactive and being able to get the solution quickly. I love that. Just take the first step. If you're hesitant, take that first step.
So what are you reading/listening to?
Steve: I do quite a bit of both and because of the size of the organizations that I lead, I'm usually flipping back and forth between something for myself or something that's going to either help my team or, you know, contribute to my leadership capabilities. One of the books that I always recommend is Start with Why by Simon Sinek. I think it's a good foundational book for leaders and for teams. A book that just hit my radar that I'm almost done with is called Thinking Fast and Slow By Daniel Kahneman. I, with my teams, always spend a lot of time and it probably goes back to in part my interest in technology and the speed at which things change, but I'm always encouraging my teams to think in action in the present, but also be spending a portion of their time provisioning for the future as well. So like with the example that UV charging, you don't want to get there and then have to solve the problem in the moment; I'd rather be planning into these things so that re-developments or new developments or any projects we can factor in, you know, what our desires for the future are.
And so Thinking Fast and Slow is a little bit of an off-take on that. Things that need to happen really quickly versus things that you have a little bit more time to plan for. So it's a solid book I would recommend.
And then podcast wise, I listened to a whole bunch of stuff, but with regards to multifamily, I think the guys that are doing the Future of Living Podcast are doing a pretty nice job.
Who do you think are some of the trailblazers in the industry, and how can we learn from them?
Steve: So from the technology perspective, I've worked with and spent a lot of time with Stephanie Fuhrman from Catalyst Housing Group. She was previously with Greystar and ran their technology and innovation teams. She's been exposed to a lot of great technologies. I like the way she thinks about them and her move to Catalyst was a really strong one for her because now she has a portfolio of properties that will have some longevity to them. So she puts different technologies to work. She both has the thought process and the diligence to actually plan and execute them for the long term so that she actually will be able to extract a lot of insights and data from them. And because she is such a generous person, I know she'll share those, people like myself and others, who are willing to listen.
What do you think is the next big trend in the multifamily industry?
Steve: I think the biggest challenge that the industry needs to continue to push towards solving is integration. You know, one of the biggest roadblocks that we have is the inability to quickly and effectively integrate technologies and products into our buildings, so some of the bigger software providers from a billing operation standpoint, have opened APIs. Some of them have a process to API into their softwares and the speed at which folks like myself and others wants to move forward is really impeded by the inability to stay connected to those softwares quickly. And so that has been a great frustration, I think, for the owners and operators, but also we have a lot of really great, new thoughtful people who are coming forward with technological solutions that are really meeting the mark as far as solving the problems that we have and because they're early stage and they don't have the funding, they're not able to plug into the systems really quickly. And so, people like myself, get to work with them, but they get to work with them in an abbreviated fashion where their tools or technology are not fully empowered to do all the things that they were planned to do because they just, you know, they can't integrate.
And so it's been a lot of big-thinking-type-talk about creating operating systems for buildings that flipped the script. And so, very similar to how our phones work, where any of the technologies that want to work on our phone, build onto the OS of the phone, you download the app it works, you download the app, you try it for a day or two, you're not delighted by it you delete it, and you try the next one. And so you can iterate really quickly because your phone has a very fluid OS. If we can get buildings to work in that way, then I think that would remove the fear from a lot of us, because all the time and expense that it takes to make things happen, we ultimately get committed to products or services, and then they don't work well, and we're stuck with them.
Whereas if we get the building to be the power center, meaning like that's the OS, and if you want to be our software for finance, boom, plug into our building, if you want to be the lighting solution plug right in. If we don't like the lighting solution, we pick the next one, we plug that in. Nobody even knew we changed because it's just that fluid.
If you want to be the entry system, if you want to be the self touring software, if we can design a building OS that would receive all of that, I think it would super-charge the industry. And so that's something that I have my fingers crossed that somebody will solve in the near future. I think we definitely are heading in that direction. And then there's a million other things we can talk about around blockchain and all of that to further revolutionize the industry. But I think building OS would probably be the most transformative technology to come out.
Monica: That sounds amazing and exciting for all of the other startups and companies out there that are dying to integrate and have those challenges of thank you for that. Well, thank you, Steve. So much that wraps up our five questions. My last question to you is who would you nominate to be our next guest?
Steve: I think if you can get your hands on Stephanie, I think that would be great. And then there's a couple of companies that I think are doing a nice job. Somebody like Jindu from HappyCo I think he's got a really interesting thought process to how his company is tackling things. Some of the VC's that are out there are doing a nice job because they see a lot of different products coming through. Somebody like Matt Knight over at the P-Tag group, or Constance Freedman at modern ventures would be interesting to get on board from the VC world.
Monica: Okay. I've got my list. Perfect. Well, thank you again. Really appreciate it. And we will see you next time.
Show Notes & Learn More:
Connect with Steve Boyack:
Read what Steve's Reading: Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Tune in to Steve's favorite podcast: Future of Living Podcast
Read more on JVM:
JVM has been investing in and managing apartment communities in the Midwest since 1975. We are committed to providing our residents best-in-class hospitality and amenities that help simplify their lives.
With luxury apartment communities across the Midwest, including Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, and Missouri, each award-winning JVM community is committed to delivering a superior resident experience by providing residents with respect, integrity, commitment, professionalism, and accountability.