In a business where everyone is offering the same service, it’s not so much about what you say, but more about the way you say it.
Today on the MoreCheeseLessWhiskers.com podcast we're talking with Arnold Barzak from up in Ohio, where they have a property management company. They work with condos associations, homeowner’s associations and they take care of all of the property management needs of those units. It's a very interesting business.
We had a great conversation about how to differentiate in a world where everyone is basically offering the same thing, and nobody's happy. It’s a business where there's a lot of resistance to switching management companies, because it's a whole ordeal. So Arnold was really wondering how to breakthrough? What kind of marketing is going to get people to pay attention?
I think you're going to be interested to see where we actually took the conversation, and how much of a difference just one shift in the way you communicate can make.
One shift in a word you use to describe what it is you offer or who it is you're trying to attract can change your whole approach.
I had a lot of fun on this call and I think this is going to be the beginning of a really transformational time for Arnold.
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Transcript - More Cheese Less Whiskers 097
Arnold: Dean Jackson, how are you?
Dean: I'm so good. How are you?
Arnold: I'm doing very well. Thank you for having me today.
Dean: Well, I'm very excited. I'm in my evil scheme hatching position with my evil scheme hatching notepad, and I'm ready for 100% attention.
Arnold: Me, too, thank you. Appreciate it.
Dean: You're very welcome. Where are you calling from?
Arnold: I'm calling from Columbus, Ohio.
Dean: Perfect. Is it snowing still?
Arnold: It is not. It's been a rough winter. Being in the industry we're in, it was very long, so I'm happy to see the sun shining today.
Dean: Awesome. Well, hit me with what you got going on. What industry are you in, and what are we going to work on today?
Arnold: Great. We are in the real estate industry, and our niche is management of condominium and homeowner association. A lot of people don't understand it, but the way it works is we're like apartment complex management company, except we don't have to deal with any of the rentals. There's not a lot of sales in it. It's really just about maintaining the asset that the association's responsible for. Typically, a person buys a condo, they want to have a carefree living. They don't want to have to cut the grass, worry about maintenance. That's what our company does.
Dean: Perfect. That seems like a really nice, stable recurring revenue business, that once you get clients, that you're pretty much locked in. I used to own a townhouse in Toronto and kept it even as a rental property for years. It was always the same management company that ran the thing for them, 20 years. I imagine you have some long-term clients like that.
Arnold: We do. That's the double-edged sword of it, that when you get a client, you keep them for a very long time, but getting into the industry and trying to get those new clients is the challenge that we're having because they're with a client. They're with a company right now. There's not a lot of ... Again, they're with somebody, and they have that 5-year, 10-year, 20-year relationship, so what is the reason for them to switch to another company?
Dean: It's not like ... They're not paying attention to the benefit they're getting. That's one of those things that's probably like if it's not broke, they don't go looking to fix it.
Arnold: Correct, and the problem is with us, it's that the board members turn over. Let's say that there's a dissatisfied board member. They've been on the board for two terms, which would be six years, and then they want to make a change, but they get off the board. You may have been courting this client for six months or a year, and they're no longer on the board, so now you have to get a whole new decision maker in the process, and it's usually a group of six people to work with.
Dean: Why should I, as a condo association ... Are you dealing with these are the boards that you're dealing with, or you're trying to be the management company? That's what it is, right?
Arnold: Correct. We want to be the management company.
Dean: Got you.
Arnold: The board members are the ones we need to get in front of.
Dean: Why should I choose you, or why would I switch?
Arnold: What we're seeing in the industry, and I was with another company, and it's an epidemic in the industry that people are being overworked. The management company sends their salesperson out. They get all this new business, and then the manager, sitting at their desk, who gets told, "Okay. You have another property to manage," and what ends up happening is these managers have 20 or 30 associations to manage, and they can't be proactive at all. It's all reactive. They're taking complaints, and they're not going on site, they're not really doing the job that the association was promised they would get.
What separates us is we limit the amount of night meetings, we limit the amount of units, and we limit the amount of associations that one person manages, and we do turn down business if they're too small of an association requiring too many of those services from us.
Again, I was in a position years ago where I was overworked, underpaid, and it was very challenging, and it was the same story that all of our colleagues were going through. I'm a partner in a firm now, and our goal is to really have a great work environment. We love our employees. It's a fantastic crew, and they're doing a fantastic job. The word is getting out that managers are overworked, and they want to have some restrictions on how much work a manager's doing.
Dean: All of that, that's going to change the work environment for the internal workings, but as a condo resident who lives in a complex, that's not enough for me to want to change. It's not going to say ... How is that problem manifesting itself for me, as one of the board members or voters of consult. That's really what it's about. They have to vote to bring you in.
Arnold: They have to go to ... Correct. That's part of the challenge that I'm facing. Internally, we're looking at the amount of time we spend on an association and how we can get them better deals with contractors and better competitive bids. We can spend more time on site, checking the work of the lawn care company, checking on the buildings to make sure maintenance is getting done or putting together service orders for maintenance that needs to be done, better responsiveness and, overall, again, just spending more time with those board of directors on creating quality, but the challenge is those are metrics that are hard to measure.
Arnold: And say, "We communicate more often," or, "We communicate quicker with our responses. We spend more time on site." That's part of the challenge. It's not like a for-profit business where we can go into them and say, "We can make you so much money by improving some of these aspects." There aren't those key indicators. I guess when people call us, it's usually about communication. They're complaining that they're not getting responded to by their current management company, and they had enough of it. It's months or years of this.
Dean: It's fed up, and we'll treat you better and we'll do that, but then you're setting up the bar that's just like, "We're going to treat you better." That's really the thing, but none of that is really. It's all sort of soft things. It's not fundamental shift. It's just like, "Oh, he's just ... They're so much nicer. They treat me nicer," or whatever.
Arnold: Will say that.
Dean: Let's get down to-
Arnold: How do you prove that you're not lying to us, because we've heard the same story over and over again, and we use references to help us with that? That's the thing.
Dean: The thing that's going through my mind as we're having this discussion is that Peter Drucker really said, "The only two things that matter are marketing and innovation and everything else is an expense." What I think that this is really going to come down to is an area where innovation is maybe what's going to win the day. How is the condo management role evolving to be more innovative and have more of an impact on the owners' lives? Can we go outside of the baseline thing? Let's just agree that the baseline to entry, to be a management company, is you got to maintain all the stuff, you got to be responsive when people call, you got to address issues that need to be addressed, right?
Dean: That's essentially what the job is, and you got to do it at a price that's fair. What people are going to look at primarily is looking at the job, looking at what is that, how much does it cost. In order to switch, you probably have to ... It's probably more of an uphill battle to get somebody to switch for more money. You probably have to, in addition to promising to be better, you have to also be in the same ballpark for what they're already paying or less, right?
Arnold: Yes. They're very price-sensitive.
Dean: Of course. I think if we were to think ... Let's just brainstorm. Spend a little thing here. What if? What else is going on in the person who lives in a ... Are they townhouse complexes, condo complexes? What are they?
Arnold: Just connected buildings, townhouses and ranch-style. There's no real one thing.
Dean: Connected buildings. How many units would there be in a typical association that you're targeting?
Arnold: We try to minimize or get our minimum at about 100. Our largest, for condos, is 550, and then HOAs is another thing that we do, and our biggest is about 925 homes.
Dean: What would you think ... Where could you innovate in this process? What could you do that would bundle along with the service that you provide that would add value and differentiate you from what other places are doing? What could you bring with it so that they're not comparing apples to apples, but they're comparing you and positioning you as the progressive management company, the lifestyle management company perhaps, if you look at it that way? Would there be other ... I do some work with the Mosquito Authority. They do mosquito control. Would it be something that, if along with their, for their management fee, that it comes with mosquito control for the property?
I'm using that as an example of one thing that it could do. My homeowners association, where I am now, I live in a gated community, it's 50 homes, and we pay 300 and something dollars a month for our HOA, and that includes all the ... These are all detached homes, but there's zero lot lines, so all of the property is maintained, so all the exterior maintenance, as far as the property goes, nothing to do with the house, but just all the landscaping and everything is completely managed. We have a clubhouse with a pool and tennis courts, and it also includes cable, a basic cable package for all of our homeowners.
I'm just wondering what other things could you ... What other ways could you add value for somebody?
Arnold: Those are all good questions, and that's part of the struggle on a service business. We don't really have much product to give out or even sample. I've been trying to focus on some elements as ... Let's just call them just for a lead generator to bring in some business. I offer board bootcamps. It's a training for all new board members so that they can be brought up to speed when they are new to an association. We offer a maintenance service. They do have to pay for it, but they know, like, and trust our guys. They see the trucks. They see the uniforms. Along with our services, the technicians that we can provide to them, and then, recently, I've been talking about, with some clients, somewhat of like a board retreat, because when we start managing an association, they don't have an operating manual. A lot of the to-do items are stuck in someone's mind, whether it be a board member or the old management company.
We really have to recreate the wheel when we start, and that process is slow without the board's input because, at the end of the day, they are the decision makers that we're working on behalf. I started working on this board retreat where it's like an eight-hour day. We bring in lunch and breakfast and really treat them well, and then we put together the pieces of the puzzle that should have been there 20 years ago that just have never been done, but other than those types of educating the board and having the technicians, the thing that we promise is time, which, again, is that element that is the X-Factor, but it's something that we can't actually show them or give them.
Dean: Thinking out loud, let's just create ... When we look at this, part of looking by taking the profit activator approach to this is to look and see what would be a dream come true for your ideal client, right?
Arnold: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dean: This is looking at things that maybe don't exist. I think about the things that ... being able to do and help them organizationally, like what you were just describing. That's something that maybe is a differentiator. Maybe it's something like how I would think about this is, what if you bundled your services so that, as part of your thing, that they get an association management kind of tool, even if it was something like gogoclients.com, like our platform with the CRM and the auto-responders, and the stuff so that the board can have an easy way to organize everybody's information, for all the homeowners, so they could distribute ... You help them with the community email newsletter or the message board or that you're creating this online organization environment for them that wouldn't really cost much money, but would be a difference for them, helping them manage the community.
Of course, they'd be able to have a text number that people can text and landing pages that they wanted to put up, do surveys or notice anything, could bundle it with all of the tools that come within GoGoClients to create a differentiator, along with your training tools for board members, you know?
Arnold: Mm-hmm (affirmative). We do have a board portal and a resident portal, so we can put their governing documents on there and they can see the delinquency list. Maybe we just have to, like you said, bundle that in to do a better job selling that, especially in the marketing pieces, tell them, let them know that this is stuff that they can get and they just have to call us to get more information.
Dean: Well, I just think about so many ... Where my mind goes is, what would be ... Just without any kind of limitations, think through, what do we know for sure is going on in there? Would it be cool if there was, especially in the ones with the 200, 300, 500 homes or even the ones with the 100 homes, what would be really cool is if there were other things that's going to make my life easier, that are optional services that are available, that are not ... What if, as a resident, I have access to an additional level of concierge type of service that I could use as needed?
I'm just thinking out loud, thinking about what could it be if somebody would just think about being the representative of these 100, 200, 500 people in all manner of things related to living in Valhalla or whatever the name of the community is, you know?
Arnold: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Are you saying to even maybe make that an additional charge and go directly to a resident?
Dean: It could be an optional thing that residents have this available as they need it, if they need it, if they want it, that if they want to have access to-
Arnold: Like cancel any time.
Dean: Well, it doesn't matter that it ... No, it wouldn't be like a subscription thing. It would be an as needed thing. If you want somebody to come and ... Even it could be some handyman stuff. If I'm thinking this through, it's just the way that I strategize about this, is I start to think, well, what would be the best possible scenario that I could imagine as somebody who lives in one of these communities. There are some things that they're responsible. Part of the reason that townhouses or condos or associations are appealing to some people is because they don't have to do any of the exterior maintenance, right?
Dean: That's part of the appeal of having a townhouse, but they're basically left alone inside the house, right?
Dean: That that handles the outside, but what if you were to provide the opportunity for them to get the inside stuff all managed, as well. It would be very easy to be an advocate for this group of 100 or 200 people and to, through surveys, if you set up a communication system, like GoGoClients, where people could communicate with the residents, that there's, at the beginning of the month or beginning of the quarter or something like that, you send out and say ... Maybe it's the same thing, "What would you like to get done this month?" Maybe it's things like carpet cleaning or filters replaced or my air conditioner serviced or my painting or any number of site to the services that somebody could, at the beginning of the month, check a box and say, "Yeah, I want to get my carpets cleaned this month," and then somebody goes and advocates and organizes a group carpet cleaning buy for everybody in the association.
Arnold: I really like that. I think that you're right. They buy into this condo association, and we have challenges where people buy in, and they're responsible for certain elements, and then they get upset at us because we tell them that we don't have authority to get their carpet cleaned or help them with painting projects. I think having that survey is nice so you can calculate and quantify how many people are interested in something, and then you're not just spinning your wheels looking for carpet cleaners every single month. Maybe one month, it's carpet cleaning, one month, it's painting.
I like that. That's a way to build that relationship within the community because a lot of the time, the relationship's built with just those board members, and that's who we're meeting with. The rest of the residents, again, they bought in there to not worry about things. They want to just sit inside their condo and not go outside. They want to go to the restaurants they go to and come home and they don't want to deal with that stuff.
Dean: That's it. That's it. I think that's part of the thing. I would much rather think that way and be in a situation where you're creating a service that is the only service like it, that you're not now competing against we just do the baseline things except we pay more attention to you and we do it for less money. It's different than that we ... to go all the way. Stop. Instead of doing the same for less is to do more for more or more for the same, but have the option to do some of these other things.
Arnold: How do we then market that, because when it comes to getting leads in ... We have a good referral network and getting a good amount of leads, and when we get into meet with them, we close a pretty good amount of them. I would say about 50-75% of the ones that we meet with, we do close, but it's getting them to call us in the first place.
I've listened to I Love Marketing for about three years. I've really ... every day in the car. I'm at the gym, I'm listening to it, and I've learned a ton of stuff, and the business would not be where it's at if it wasn't for all of that stuff. I appreciate all of that, and it's entertaining, too, but besides that the newsletter thing was an item that I had heard on the podcast, and then I finally just implemented it, and I send it out as one of our marketing materials, and I put educational stuff on there, and I put some call to actions, so, "Call us and sign up for the bootcamp," and I offered free handbook reviews and a couple of other things, and it's just nobody ... We just don't get the calls.
What's funny is I'll go somewhere, like an industry event, and I'll sit down at the table and I introduce myself, and the person looks at the person they're with and say, "Oh, the newsletter guy." They know who I am, but it doesn't result in those calls. What do you recommend for ... Let's say that this in-house maintenance services is the newest innovation in this industry. How do we get that lead to generate? What's the education or motivation?
Dean: A lot of it may be coming from the ground up. If you make the residents aware that these things are available, these options, that that may be ... You got to get down to the constituent level. The board is there at the service of the residents, the owners, and so the board are just representative of the owners, and the owners have to vote on everything, everything meaningful, have to take a vote, and you're going to have to be voted in anyway, right?
Dean: In order for the stuff, so that really is like a significant change in anything, is meaningful, is going to require a vote. I think that part of it is really ... I think it's a patience kind of a game, too, if it's not anything urgent that's causing it. It's more of a hassle to switch than it is to just tolerate and hope that things will get better, even if you just had a problem. They're still kind of, "Oh, that's behind us now. I think they got the message. Everything's going to ..." That's what you hope, right? That that-
Arnold: That's 100% what it is, and that's that double-edged sword. It's great for our client because we're going to hopefully keep them for a long time. In my career and my business partner's career, we've never lost a client. I've been doing this 8-1/2, and he's been doing it for 27, so it is great, but how do we get people to not have so much tolerance I guess?
Dean: Maybe it starts from the add-on things that you're talking about are the entry point, that maybe you do these add-on things, that they don't have to switch management companies to do some of these add-on things, and then gets you, now they know you, and then if anything does happen, well, we do that, too.
Arnold: I really like that. They just use our technician side and just start doing marketing into ... I'm sure we can figure out some ideas internally, but, like you said, the HVAC tuneup or the-
Dean: All of that.
Arnold: Hanging the pictures on the walls, just the little things that we find ... I'm guessing we can use some of our internal systems in our current clients to do those surveys, so now we're benchmarking what is the typical-
Dean: You may have heard me talk about before, the idea of I'm really thrilled with this idea of managed home ownership. How can you take that comforting envelope that you're creating in a townhouse or condo or association type of thing, but now extend that to their life, to their life within Valhalla, meaning their internal things and convenience things and errand type of things? How can you be in the business of helping people buy time, eliminating hassles-
Arnold: Which is why the bought the condo. I think that's a great idea. I like the ... We thought about doing an internal business where we're working with, inside the unit, but I never really thought about using that for associations that we don't manage. I imagine it's going to create a little controversy with our competitors-
Dean: Of course.
Arnold: But I'm not paying their bills.
Dean: Exactly. That's the whole point.
Arnold: I really don't have a problem with competition and doing that, and I don't think it's unethical or illegal to provide the services they're not.
Dean: I think the cool thing might be ... The cool thing might be to start with the ones that you already have to expand out the level of service that you have. How broad a geographic area do you cover?
Arnold: Franklin County, which is Columbus central area and the surrounding counties, but, usually, from our office, about no more than 30 minutes, and then past that, it's Ohio, so it's all country anyways. There are not a lot of associations.
Dean: Got it. Got it. How many of these associations that would be your target audience are there?
Arnold: There are about 200. In the whole area, there's about 500 condo associations, 200 our size, and then HOAs in that same area is ... They're about the same metrics, 500 HOAs and about 200 or so that we're looking to manage.
Dean: So about 400 total prospects for you?
Dean: 200 HOAs and 200 condos or complexes or whatever.
Arnold: Then about 100 units and up. There are definitely a lot of doors.
Dean: How many do you have right now?
Arnold: We have 22 associations and about 5,000, 5,500 doors.
Dean: There you go. Where does that break you in among your competitors or among the people that you're working with? Is that a small operation? Is that medium, large?
Arnold: We're a small operation. I'd say we're about fourth when it comes, fourth or fifth, when it comes to the amount of units. The amount of associations, since we have a higher threshold, we don't really manage a 20-unit association.
Dean: Got you.
Arnold: Other competitors have about 50 where we're at the 22, but the bigger ones, the bigger companies, they're managing 200, 250 associations.
Dean: Wow. There are lots of things. I think that part of the-
Arnold: We want to be about 100.
Dean: I think that part of the opportunity for you is thinking about the ... It was just curious to me and very interesting the way you describe it, that, "We have 5,500 doors," and that everything that you're thinking about is metaphorically that draw the line in the way that you communicate about it, that you got 5,500 doors, meaning that you're depersonalizing it and treating it as the functional unit, as opposed to thinking about it as 5,500 people or families.
Arnold: That's a good point.
Dean: I think that where the opportunity really is going to come is thinking ... You're thinking outside the door, and I'm saying that let's go beyond that and start thinking inside the door and combine the two, that to think about how that might be a really great differentiator is that all of your other competitors are thinking about only the ... They're not thinking about the people, per se. They're thinking about the board, and they're thinking about the doors, right?
Arnold: Yeah. I wrote this down. No longer saying, "A per door cost," but more per family, or figure out some element of converting it from that product to an actual person. I think that'll ... Even putting that into some kind of headline will perk some ears versus the doors. That's huge.
Dean: Well, it just sends the right message.
Arnold: I'm a type A personality, so, sometimes, it takes a lot of talking for me to think more of that crafty, as opposed to the nuts and bolts of it.
Dean: I'm thinking ... I just think it's a bigger idea. We're up-leveling instead of competing as an also ran, trying to get more doors. It's really about, how can we improve these 5,500 families' lives? How can we give them more of the reason that they chose the exterior management situation for living, you know?
Arnold: Yeah. That's a great point. I like the way that that can get us in. We try to specialize by being an association management company, and that's what we do, that's all we do. Our resources, all of our efforts, our investments go into that, and we have competition in that, so we're not the only one, but I can guarantee that there's nobody that's specializing in association management interiors and handyman services that focuses on and understands the dynamic between the two elements, the association and the personal property of it. By being the only one, now we can get into these new associations, and they're going to say, "Wow, they're super friendly. They're doing a great job. They take care of everything for me. Why don't we have them for our association?" Wow, I like that.
Dean: It can start with, as a ... You've already got 5,000 right now or 5,500. Now, it can start there. That's going to be your innovation lab is to start thinking about ... Maybe if you think about the conversation that we've had right now, just so far, what one property that you manage right now would be the most sort of suited to that, that you think ... Depending on what the economic, what the price range of the homes are ...
Arnold: I'm thinking one either in Gahanna or Canal Winchester that is because they're large enough, 300+ units and 500+ units, that we could at least get a benchmark on, and there's enough people where we can start to figure out what the metrics are and what people are really looking for in those associations, and I think that their price point is about mid range for a condo in the area, so it's not like a high-end where we'd automatically have high chance of getting this to take place when we put it out there.
Dean: I think that I see this on two fronts then. First of all is, how can you really embrace and go above and beyond for supporting the board of the community that you're thinking of? How can you help make their job easier? What would be the main components of their job, where you could add value? Right now, if they wanted to get a message out to all 500 families, what would be the means of communication that they would have at their ... Do they have to start up a prayer chain? How do they get...?
Arnold: They would generally call our office, and we have a list of email addresses for all the homeowners or most of them at least, and we could put out an email in a very short period of time. We have administrative staff that's very good and on top of things. Things move pretty quickly.
Dean: Would it be helpful for them if they had access to be able to internally, among themselves, go in and send a broadcast message to everybody or to create an announcement page? What kind of things would they ... Would they find that valuable, a communication tool?
Arnold: It's tough to say, but we do have one association that uses their website to do stuff like that, but they really don't even use it that much. It's mostly to announce the monthly board meeting and maybe the pool is opening or there's a yard sale, but there's no real push communication about traffic alerts or lawn care changes.
To be honest with you, most of these boards, when we work with them, they're used to doing all the work for their association. They're meeting with the lawn care company. They're getting the bids for all these projects, and they have no idea what they're doing. I'm not plighting them in any way, but then when we come on board and they see that we do all of the stuff that they've been doing, they just love it. It's one of those things where, in the sales process, we do good, and when we manage the community, we do good and show them the stuff, but for them to recognize that there is a difference before they meet with us. How do we show them that there's something different?
My trouble's even been, these board members talk about how much they love education, and there's a law firm in town that puts together seminars twice a year, and they get 100+ people each time, and they'll do, let's say, 12 seminars in that first period of the year and then 12 the next period of the year. There are 100 people show up at each one of those. Man, for me to not get anybody, I had one seminar where two people showed up, quite embarrassing, but they came out of there like, "We love it. It was great."
I know we're close on our marketing. I've read some Gary Halbert stuff and some other books on copywriting, and it's fun to me, too. It's figuring out how to craft a letter and make the newsletter read well, and then our marketing packet. I really put in there a decent sales letter. Going through that process has been real helpful, and I think we're close. I really do, because we hear from everybody that they're unsatisfied with their current company, not just our clients, but it's just around this area that people are just very unsatisfied. That's where it's frustrating on my end because I'm like, "I'm sending you this information. You guys, if I see you in person, you say how great it is and how it's been helpful to you, but then you don't give us a call and actually try to make that transition."
I know we're close. I just don't know what that next thing is. Maybe it is going to some of these homeowners and getting into those associations, that route. It's a business ... It's a money-making effort at that.
Dean: Well, that's the thing is I think that you've got the opportunity of, though, is that to start with the 5,500 that you already have access to, and, specifically, the 500 in that one community that you're talking about, is to float that idea, to think about the 500 people in this area, and if your job was to make their life easier, more fulfilling, better, cheaper, more convenient, what could you possibly take off of their plate or add to them that's going to save them time or save them money or increase their enjoyment or peace of mind? You just start thinking about those people. That's where the clues are going to come for this, and then, if you're thinking that through, that's a cool way to create some extra income on top of what you're already doing.
Arnold: Exactly. As you were talking, I was thinking it's almost like your painting business, when you did the survey. You had certain things that you could do, which was the painting, and then there was a bunch of other leads from other businesses that, let's say we do a survey and carpet cleaning is a big hit and HVAC, but we don't use those services, that we could somehow partner with those companies and co-brand or something, so that when they go into those associations, they're working kind of on our behalf and we could at least get that name recognition, but also keep those people calling our office instead of just creating the relationship for that HVAC company. Now we've been kicked out and they forget that they could call us for other problems that they want help with too.
Dean: That's exactly right.
Arnold: We need to just think about not just the association management, but what those homeowners bought into the association for, which was that carefree lifestyle, try to find that solution-
Dean: That's exactly right.
Arnold: To not only those association problems, but those residents that really make up the association.
Dean: That's it. You start to think about that. It's funny because, with Dan Sullivan, I do the Joy of Procrastination Podcast, and one of the things that we talk about, Dan is very funny, but in his approach to the way that they live both in Toronto and Chicago is that they're overriding thing is that they don't want to do anymore at home than they would do if they were living at the Four Seasons. It's funny because that kind of construct takes on a life of its own. We lovingly refer to our house here as the Four Seasons Valhalla because that ... We start to look at it that that's how I want my life to be, and so everything that we have is about maintaining that. I have-
Arnold: I think a lot of these owners are surprised when they buy the condo, that it's not all done for them like they were promised. If we can go in there and find out what those other elements are that they wanted to have done, but doesn't come with those dues-
Dean: There's a great book called The One to One Future that was written over 20 years ago now, probably 23 years ago, and it was really ahead of its time in outlining what the possibilities are for providing personalized service to a group of people. They talked about privacy and they talked about advocacy and all these things, and if you read that book now, it really is so much easier to execute than it was 20 years ago, but all the ideas are there, that this idea that you're acting as an advocate for the collective is really a ... There's a lot of similarities there, a lot of value, and I think that that's going to be a better and more fulfilling game to play than trying to the, "Hey, we do all that, too, for less and we don't beat you."
Arnold: These things are ... This is very interesting. The wheels are spinning about how do we implement and how do we make that a ... How do we make that into something to get out to these associations? How do we just package it so that it shows, because I think it'll sell well. Again, we close things really well, and this will help us. It's how do we get that to be something that brings them in the door, and I think that it's very common for associations to ask us to get those bids for people that want to get more insulation in their attic, let's say.
In the past, it's been ... I don't want to say frowned upon, but it's more work, and you don't know who's going to do it, so if we can throw that old mindset out the door and think about how we can use that to better that service so that we can really use that to help these associations. I think it's more about just planning it better than we have been. Where before it was more of a reactive, now it's a proactive. We can do it on our schedule.
Dean: I think if you look behind the door, on the other side of the door, I would take some time and really just imagine what's life like on the other side of that door. What is the typical budget of that family look like? What are they doing? Where's their money going? They're probably living on, if they're in a mid range thing, they might be living on $50, $60, $70, $80,000 a year or more or less, but somewhere in that range maybe. Where's that money going? Some of it is the mortgage and taxes and HOA and their utilities and all of the things that go into that, but then what are the things that they're going to have to spend money on over the next 12 months starting with just inside the house?
They're probably going to need some type of servicing done of something in the house, whether it's some plumbing or electrical or...
Arnold: I think a lot of it's even real basic, just changing light bulbs.
Dean: That's another thing.
Arnold: There are people that are older that simply can't do that stuff anymore. Their kids have moved out of the area, so you go into their house and half the light bulbs are burnt out, and they just simply can't do it. It's making me feel really bad that we haven't been focusing more inside the door, and it really makes just-
Dean: That's where all your-
Arnold: That statement that we should somehow brand that, that we're not just thinking outside the door.
Dean: I think that there's something about this idea, that I think on a service like this, how would you rate the design presence of your business and your collateral and whatever communications you have on a scale of the high school newspaper versus the Apple or Nest. Nest would be a really good example for really design that conveys the message.
Arnold: I think we've got to do a better job with our marketing. It's not bad. I would put it at least even with most of our competition. It's not bad-
Dean: Right, but not different. This is the thing that I think that where you're, if you imagine it, all the association management companies, if you looked in the Yellow Pages or you looked on their logos and their trucks and their literature, that they all, plus or minus, look like an association management company, but you don't-
Arnold: We're all the same. That's that type A in me. It's challenging for me to create all this stuff.
Dean: I think in this situation, a better benchmark would be skewing more towards a luxury boutique hotel lifestyle brand as opposed to a utilitarian maintenance look.
Arnold: But make it not look like it's too expensive or-
Dean: No, look at-
Arnold: Make it look really nice, but still keep the same pricing and not be an actual luxury, like where only half the people we want to work with to even look at us.
Dean: Not at all, but you want it to look like ... I think if you looked at who's doing a really good job of that is Nest, the way that they incorporate design into everything about it. You know what I mean when I say Nest, the home automation thermostat?
Dean: That sort of thing, I just think there's so ... The more we talk about this, the more that I really feel like you've got a unique opportunity that nobody is thinking this perspective in this field.
Arnold: 100%. I don't get it. Everybody thinks about the outside, and they really do have strict limits on what they'll do when it comes to the interactions and help and the system of these homeowners. I think that that's great, and it's really why I like doing this job. I was in the sales industry for five years before I did this, and I really like that relationship building, that long-term client relationship. This really helps extend what our company stands for.
Dean: I think that's the thing is I think that the shift from maintenance to hospitality, and lean towards the hospitality convenience service side.
Arnold: That's a good word to use, as well.
Dean: Because words matter, the way that you ... Words frame the way you think about things. That's why when even just the shift from doors to families, personalized is what you're doing.
Arnold: That's huge. I love that. I think it's fantastic.
Dean: You can win those families, and that's going to be a gateway into the others, and they won't even know ... All these existing management things won't even know what happened because you'll be taking over from the inside instead of trying to just knock them off the hill.
Arnold: Exactly. I'm sure when they start seeing our trucks in their communities, they'll give me a call, but we're one of the only companies that has our own maintenance team. A lot of the places steer away from it.
Dean: This may be something that you ... This may be something that you brand as a completely separate thing, that it comes with it as you're managing the things, but almost like Geek Squad for Best Buy or whatever, that the consumer, the inside the door brand, can be sort of a supplement to whatever your main thing is.
Arnold: I like that. Then you can, like you said, brand it separately so that it's just that additional piece of the puzzle that they get that's included.
Dean: I think that's great, and then it's just ... I think that that One to One Future would be a great book for you to read. Don Peppers and Martha Rogers are the authors of that. There's another ... I would look for ... There's a book that Tony Hsieh from Zappos wrote called Delivering Happiness, and that's really some good stuff, but that's really what you can lean towards on the inside of the doors is delivering happiness in a way, and the vehicle just happens to be through a property management company, you know?
Arnold: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dean: Got that mindset.
Arnold: From The Ritz-Carlton about that kind of stuff at one of our industry events, and the stuff that he was talking about, it was almost overwhelming about how much stuff you have to do, but I imagine we can at least start small and then just build a routine around it so that it gets to that point. I think that's probably one of my problems, too, is being a perfectionist. You want to roll out something that's 100%. Sometimes you have to-
Dean: No, you've got to roll.
Arnold: You got to start playing offline.
Dean: You got to start, and I would say just focus 100% of your attention on absolutely falling in love with the 500 people who live in that one community and just focusing all your attention and intention on making their life better. What could you possibly do to serve these people and make their lives better? You're going to learn so many lessons from that.
Arnold: That's very exciting. People call us asking for referrals all the time for different projects, so now if we're the one taking the position where we want them to call us or we're pushing information out to them, now it's adding that value to them.
Dean: Well, that's very exciting.
Arnold: I really appreciate everything. I've really been looking forward to this call.
Dean: Me, too.
Arnold: Hopefully, I can get down to Orlando one of these days and do the whole Blueprint Breakthrough.
Dean: Breakthrough Blueprint.
Arnold: And all that.
Dean: That would be great. We'd love to have you.
Arnold: Good. Awesome. Well, any last words or anything?
Dean: What's going to be your first action? What's your first action?
Arnold: My first action, I'm going to go through our marketing materials and remove buzzwords that are property-building specific, and I'm going to replace them with family and home and look at where it says management and see where I could put hospitality or words that are similar to that and really just start to build that atmosphere and talk with our staff about how we're going to be modifying some of these terms, and then I am going to talk with my business partner about what it would take to get an additional technician or two in the field so that we're ready to go-
Arnold: And start using our survey. Get a survey out there. We've got a software company that does that, and see what are the top five maintenance projects that people want to have done. We can maybe put a mailing out to them that says, "Based on your input, here are the top five projects you guys wanted in your community, and here are five contractors that can do those things at a great rate for your association."
Dean: Wouldn't it be great? What if you even lead it into the future, you start future pacing things? Imagine you start talking about home automation and even upgrading. I had an electrician come to a Breakthrough Blueprint earlier this year, last fall, and we talked about this ... I've had this done. He did this in my house, switching out some of our light, not light, the plugs outlets to include USB chargers, so it's got the electrical outlets plus two USB chargers right inside of it, so you can charge things like your iPhone and whatever else.
Arnold: I could just throw some ideas, where you guys didn't mention this in the survey, but here are two other options for being technologically savvy or this month's newsletter is about going green.
Dean: You can highlight things. Exactly, but then have an opportunity for them to actually get that project done.
Arnold: That's the key point right there is we're not just going to leave you hanging with an article about how to be green. Here's the person to call and talk to about being green, and so each month or each quarter, do something that's unique to that association.
Arnold: That is really impressive.
Dean: Awesome. I can't wait to see how it all unfolds.
Arnold: Me, too. Cool. Well, I appreciate all of your time. Again, I've been listening to you guys for years, and it's really made marketing the best part of what I do, and it's really what keeps me going.
Arnold: I just really appreciate this time.
Dean: I'll talk to you soon.
Arnold: All right. Take care. Bye.
There we have it. That was really fun. I loved that conversation. I loved everything about it, and I think that that idea of instead of going, just doing more of the same for less money or trying to differentiate on something as simple as we just respond better or we're going to make you less unhappy, to really go the other direction and think, "What would be the best thing that we could do? What would really be a dream come true for these 5,000 families that we help with the external maintenance of their environment? How could we really add value through innovation? How could we really be a differentiator in their lives?" I think that Arnold really got it, and I think that we'll see what actually transpires here. I'll have him keep us up-to-date on this.
A couple of things that we mentioned in the episode, we talked about GoGoClients.com, which is a platform that is all of the online tools that you need for growing a business or doing a digital business or even a bricks and mortar business to do some digital marketing. It comes with all of the tools that you would need, like landing pages, auto-responders, a CRM, toll-free voicemail with extensions that you can use for recorded messages, text marketing, postcards, and all wrapped around really robust CRM that allows you to keep notes and records on each of your clients for their preferences, their important dates, anything that you would need to know to categorize, sort, and intelligently target market your audience, and that's all available at GoGoClients.com. You can come on in and take a free 30-day trial. No credit card required. You can just go in, see what it's all about, see how we can help you manage your online business.
Then, every now and then, about nine times a year, I do an event called The Breakthrough Blueprint, and we do many of them in Orlando, Florida. I also go to Toronto, London, Amsterdam, Sydney each year, and we spend three days focused in a small group, 10 or 12 people, focused on applying the eight profit activators to your business. It's a small and sort of intimate environment where we have conversations just like this one that we had today, except imagine if we had three days to flush out this idea and really overlay all of the profit activators on it. That's a really cool environment. If you'd like to see about joining us for one of those events, you can send an email to email@example.com and just put Breakthrough Blueprint in the subject line or Orlando or London or Sydney or wherever one of those locations, Toronto, would work for you, and we'll get you all the details on the events.
That's it for this week. If you'd like to be a guest on the podcast, you can go to morecheeselesswhiskers.com, and you can download a copy of the More Cheese Less Whiskers book, and click on the Be a Guest link and maybe we can hatch some evil schemes for your business. That's it for this week. Have a great week. I'll talk to you next time.