5 Minutes in Multifamily with Steve Hallsey, Managing Partner, Wood Partners
5 Minutes in Multifamily: Episode #3
Recorded on May 6 by Hyro
Introduction: 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 Hallsey, to dish on topics such as:
- The nationwide labor shortage, hiring and retaining
- Consolidating operations and functions with technology, reducing task orientation for best customer service practices
- AI & technology in an ever-evolving ecosystem
Our Key Takeaways:
- Real estate is far from immune from the nationwide labor shortage. Hiring and retaining great employees is critical
- With less staff available tasks must somehow be offloaded. Technology, particularly AI, represents the best solution
- Look out for self-guided tours and enhanced AI technology as some of the trends to watch
Hallsey brings over 30 years of experience in real estate management and property operations, and has worked for some of the nation’s largest and most successful multifamily housing companies. Originally from American Fork, Utah, Hallsey is a graduate of University of Utah. He currently lives in Atlanta, GA with his wife. He has two children and six grandchildren.
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Monica: Thank you everyone. Today. I am excited to introduce our amazing guest. Steve Hallsey. I'll let Steve introduce himself. He'll share where he's working, what he's doing and how long he's been in the industry.
Steve: Thank you, Monica. And what a pleasure it is to speak to a distinguished moderator, as well as a distinguished audience. I'm Steve Hallsey. I'm a managing director and partner. Wood partners is one of the three largest developers of apartment communities across the United States. We currently operate in 18 states, 33 major markets. And, I'm fortunate enough to run a division of Wood Partners, which is Wood Residential, which does all of the operations for wood partners, and for our third party clients.
Monica: Incredible. And how long have you been in the industry, Steve?
Steve: I wanted to miss that question, Monica! I’ve been in business for 38 years. I mean, I think I'm the last of the old guys – 38 years. I spent a number of years coaching college football before I got into this business. But I've been in this business for 38 years.
Monica: That is incredible. You have 38 years of wisdom and insight that you can share with us today. So let’s jump right into our first question.
Question #1: What are the top three things that owners and property management companies should be thinking about for 2022?
Steve: I think that there's three major things that we've been talking about as peers and as an industry the last year, year and a half; number one is staffing. How are we hiring and retaining great employees? I know with the current unemployment situation and how difficult it is to find good employees, I think that's number one. We've really got to make sure that we are being very receptive to the potential hirerees and that we're meeting their expectations, or they're not going to work for us. So we spend a lot of time thinking through that issue and how we can retain the talent that we've got. If we can reduce the number of turnovers in each of those positions that we have on our teams, I think it helps a lot.
And then the second thing that I think everyone is trying to work through, is how do we continue to consolidate operations and functions within operations from a technology standpoint. If we can't find employees, we certainly have to offload those tasks to something, and technology seems to be the right solution. So we're spending a lot of time – how can we reduce the task orientation, or the number of tasks onsite to give people the opportunity to provide good customer service, and to be responsive to our residents. So I think that's number two.
And number three is technology that interfaces and, and works with our prospects and residents. If there is software out there such as, you know how do we receive packages?How do they get their information quicker? How can they just pick up the phone and get information without having to deal with a real person, such as the AI tools, which are so popular right now, which we are spending a lot of time thinking through, I would say those are the three major things that everyone is thinking through. And if you're not, I think you need to spend all that time thinking through those issues.
Monica: Incredible. So your top three things are focusing on hiring, sounds like increasing operational efficiencies with the use of technology, and also providing more interaction for technology for residents. Is that accurate?
Steve: That's absolutely right. And once again, customer service is so important, Monica, as you know, and anytime that you can create some sort of efficiencies and your ability to interact more rapidly with your prospects, I think you have a competitive advantage over the rest of the industry.
Monica: Awesome. This kind of goes right into our second question.
Question #2: What are some risks for companies who are hesitant to adapt to today's digital demands and changes?
Steve: I think they're big. I think that they're super big. And I know in talking to some of my peers, they are more reluctant to do so, but you know, in the old days where we had film and Kodak, Kodak didn't want to adjust to a digital photography world and look where they are now. And they were the largest photography company in the world. And that sort of situation is playing out in our industry. Our industry from a technology standpoint is a few years behind other industries, but we've caught up rapidly. But from where we've been fit 15 years ago, to where we are now, is light years. And, if you're not keeping up with technology, if you're not adapting, if you're not adopting good technology, I think you are at risk in terms of your business model and your ability to hire smart people. Smart people want to work for companies that are on the technology end and think forward-thinking. And, we really try to do that, because I think there's a big risk of losing talent, as well as not attracting talent, when you're not on the cutting edge of technology.
Monica: Wow. So that kind of goes back to what you think should be a top focus. So, as you're thinking about technology, you're also thinking about your hiring.
Steve: And I think it ties back to those other two items that I talked to you about that very beginning, Monica, I think that everything is interlaced and everything is interconnected. And if you don't have a strategy around each of those, and they're not interconnected, then your strategy is fragmented and doesn't serve a purpose for the people that you're trying to lead.
Monica: Absolutely. Nobody wants to be left behind.
Question #3: So what are you reading?
Steve: I'm an avid reader and I always have been. I'm reading 3 books right this minute. One on abnormal psychology, which is a textbook; my sister was a psychologist and studied psychology in college. And I have a great affinity for that. I'm also reading another more Tools book; Lincoln Highway. I think he's one of the most outstanding writers of our generation, I think he's doing well, but the one that I'm spending a lot more time on right now is Mind Wise by Nicholas Epley. He's a professor at the University of Chicago and his book is – how do we understand what others think, believe and want? And I think that that helps any leader to try to understand what your employees are thinking, what they want, what they believe, and how they want to be treated. And so I'm spending a lot of time on that book. He's an outstanding writer, very thoughtful. It's readable (some books are a little bit too much textbook), but it's very readable and very understandable. And it's a very insightful book and I'm really enjoying it.
Monica: Oh, I love that. So, viewers have three books, but the last one sounds really awesome for everyone to check out. I love it.
Question #4: Who do you think are some of the trailblazers in the industry, and how can we learn from them?
Steve: It would depend upon how you structured that question, Monica, if it's towards the technology end, I think that there's some companies out there that are very, very much trailblazers and are on the leading edge of what's happening in the industry. If it's from an operational standpoint, there's probably three or four companies that are doing some outstanding things too. So for example, Amli out of Chicago, is doing a great job with leads and their lead certifications and making sure that all of their buildings are lead qualified and are doing a very good job in terms of sustainability. You know, the companies like Bazuto that are doing such a great job in terms of technology adoption and those kinds of things. I think we’re partners, I think we are, you know, building new every year. And I have to lease 100% of our apartment communities every year. So if we're behind on technology or we're not forward-thinking, we put our emphasis on customer service. So in terms of those interactions with the customer, making the customer experience more relatable, making sure that we are passionate about delivering that message to our residents, I think we are on the leading edge as our scores have been in terms of reputation management and things like that in terms of customer relationships and customer experience.
So I think if you look at it from the different levels, I think that there are different companies that are trailblazers. I think it's hard for one company to be a trailblazer in everything. You have to focus on what you think is going to create the greatest value for you as an organization, and then get your people passionate about it and make sure that they want to deliver what you're trying to deliver to your prospect residents and clients.
Monica: And. Absolutely. It's hard to pick just one trailblazer. There's so many out there.
Steve: Absolutely. And it's like software. You know, there are so many good technology companies that are jumping into our space right now. And you're with one, I mean, it's, it's great to see that sort of dedication, thought process going into – how can we streamline a fairly mundane industry. I mean, you rent apartments. And I think it's interesting to see the number of companies that are jumping in.
Question #5: What do you think is the next big trend in the multifamily industry?
Steve: You know, I've been here 38 years. And I think it's been very interesting each decade, how we focused on the next big thing, and sometimes it materialized, and sometimes it didn't. I know back 8, 9, 10 years ago, we were all thinking through the package solution; how do we receive packages? How do we distribute packages? How do we get packages to our residences without burdening our already under-sourced employee base. But as I look out into the future, and I'm starting to see the traction that some of these items are gaining, I think self guided tours are in their infancy. There's still a lot of work to be done on self guided tours, from a risk perspective and from a security perspective and from a closing perspective. But I like the concept. I really like the concept. The second big thing that I'm working on and spending a lot of my time on is AI. I think AI is the way of the future. I think it's going to reduce the number of transactions, the number of the tasks that a person's going to have to do while they're working on site, and I think it's going to give a better focus to our residents of getting information in a timely manner, and prospects on what apartments are available and the features in a community and things like. So that's the second thing. And then I think the next big thing is big software companies are becoming more open structure, and we certainly need to have that where these smaller companies or companies that are thinking in our space need to have that
ability to connect with these big software programs to provide the sorts of information that we need. No company is going to supply everything that we need, so we need to have more open software systems that allow good smart companies to be able to tap into these massive software programs and be more adaptable to us and the end user.
Monica: Okay. So we've got a lot to be looking out for. Obviously I'm biased to the AI side. So I definitely agree with that!
Steve: I don't blame you. I think it's fascinating, Monica. I think it's a fascinating field and, and is quickly gaining traction across the industry, and we just need to really understand how best to leverage it. That's my biggest concern; is how do I leverage it effectively to make sure that I'm meeting the demands of my employees, as well as the demands of my residents and my investors and prospects.
Monica: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Steve.
How can we stay in touch?
Steve: Absolutely. I'm on LinkedIn. I'm not a big social media guy, but I'm a big LinkedIn guy. You can certainly follow me on LinkedIn or anyone can email me at [email protected] and I'd love to give people responses or if I can help them in any way. I'm always willing to do that. A lot of people help me on my way up the chain and I'm more than happy to help anyone in terms of advice or helping them.
Monica: Thank you so much, Steve. And who would you nominate next to be one of our interviewees for industry experts?
Steve: I think one of the real rising stars in our industry is Dan Gladden at Amli residential. Dan in Chicago heads the entire west coast for Amli - he's the west coast president, a real rising star. Very smart individual that is really thinking through some of the more material things in our industry., and I think he's a real thought leader.
Monica: Awesome. So Dan watch out, I'm sending you a note. Well, thank you again, it has been a pleasure to learn from you and we will see you next time.
Show Notes & Learn More:
Connect with guest Steve Hallsey:
Email: [email protected]
Read what Steve's reading: Mind Wise by Nicholas Epley
Read more on Wood Partners:
Wood Partners is one of the nation's largest multifamily real estate developers, based in Atlanta, GA, with offices located across the United States. To learn more about Wood Partners, please visit WoodPartners.com.
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