Bozzuto's Gorski: The Time to Innovate Is Now
Jamie Gorski is a firm believer in innovation to keep the apartment industry moving forward. As Senior Vice President of Corporate Marketing for The Bozzuto Group, she is constantly prodding her staff to think outside the box. Her hope is that there will come a day when other property sectors look to multifamily as a source of new and cutting-edge ideas and practices. She recently sat down with Marketing Buzz to discuss how to get to that future place. What follows is our chat:
NATIONAL APARTMENT ASSOCIATION: Jamie, please introduce yourself to our readers.
JAMIE GORSKI: I am Jamie Gorski, Senior Vice President of Corporate Marketing for The Bozzuto Group. We are a diversified real estate firm, and I oversee the marketing for the different divisions of Bozzuto. It's a great company that is based in the Washington, D.C., area and has been in business for 25 years. I have been in the business close to 30 years. I started on sites and worked my way up. I have a degree in mathematics, which I use every day. Certainly now, you are seeing more marketers with degrees like that. In the beginning, I was sort of a rare breed.
NAA: That's interesting. What is driving the trend toward more Math majors entering the marketing niche?
JG: You have to be able to analyze information and even predict what will take place based on data and have good procedures and processes in place. Math is a good basis to start with, and then you can insert the creativity. The combination is actually very important.
NAA: You participated in NAA's Education Conference back in June, at which you said, "I would like for us to be an industry others look to for ideas." Do you think that is where the apartment and property industry is headed?
JG: It has been a frustration of mine. I think we can certainly push in that direction, and we can get there. I really want our industry to be looked upon as innovative, as great marketers. The limitation has been dollars. I think that our online reputation management and other things we have done as an industry is something people can and will look at as good examples. If you look at what we're doing with our website today and how we're pushing it, I think we're doing better than even most hotel websites. We tell the story better, our design is better, and we have very interesting features and functions.
NAA: Is there a specific program or initiative that you have captained or being involved with that you are particularly proud of, especially with regards to innovation?
JG: Definitely the infusion of digital into print. It's a place we all should go. If you look at House Beautiful or Forbes and how they are using digimarcs and infusing technology into print, that's what we do. I'm actually not big on print, but it does have an impact. And infusing technology with print makes a difference.
NAA: With specific regards to apartments, how in your view can professionals in this sector be more innovative?
JG: One of the two areas I'd really like to see our industry improve on is amenities. I feel like we are doing the same amenities over and over again, and it's being repeated across the country. It's really time for someone to step up and say, "What really is a new amenity? What really could help our customers. What new amenities could make their lives easier? And what could make them really excited to live here because it has this new and exciting amenity?" That is an area we need to push. And, two, I think the real place that we have not been innovative is our sales process. We spend so much time thinking about our marketing that I don't feel that we are paying attention to sales the way we need to. Look at the hours. The hours for most property management companies are the same ones we've had for years -- 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, and open on the weekends for a couple of hours here and there. Is that the way? We have all these people moving in, and they're working all day. What are we doing with our evening hours? What are we doing to be able to handle extra-hours calls? There are call centers that can do it, but is there a better way?
NAA: Moving forward into the unknown can be daunting. What advice would you have to those in your position who want to be innovative, but are meeting with resistance from the top?
JG: It's always about proof of performance. You have to at least convince management to try. If you can try, then you can see the numbers and see the performance. Then, you can build upon that and continue to innovate. You can't just overnight say, "I'm going to change everything." You have to implement well, you have to test, and then you have to draw upon those tests and improve for the next time. If you can't convince them to even do a test, then you should point to case studies in the industry. "Here's what has been done with this portfolio" or "Here's what has been done at this apartment community, and see the success they have had."
NAA: Having been in this line of work since the 1980s, was there some advice that was given to you early on that has stuck with you?
JG: I have worked for some amazing companies and with some amazing people. I was with Charles E. Smith, which doesn't exist today. It was a private company in the 1980s, and the leadership was very much involved in what was taking place. Charles E. Smith himself would visit the properties even into his 90s. Then, I went on to Archstone after they purchased it, and I learned such lessons about standardization there. They are a REIT and had a certain way of doing things. Then, I went on to Kettler, which had such vision. Now, I am at Bozzuto and have learned so much from Tom Bozzuto. I've had this great mix of private and public companies throughout my career, and they all did business differently. And, for me, the lesson was ... they all were right! I learned you don't have to do the exact same thing that somebody else did to be successful. At Charles E. Smith, it was all about the property and making sure we did everything right for each property. Then, at Archstone, it was all about the brand. It was all about Archstone. There was consistency and standardization. I learned a lot in terms of ease of doing business, because you weren't changing things all of the time. It was fun along the way for me to sort of sit there and say, "Wow! They all do business so differently, and they are all so good!" Where I am now, we do a lot of third party. The owners are very important to us and what they want with their asset. I try and do as much as I can on the back end with standardization and good practices to make it better for them and easier for them in the end and also give them the branding that they want.
NAA: Are there any other industry trends that you think our readers should be aware of?
JG: When you are creating your websites today, the search optimization, the organic search, the paid search, your content marketing, your digital footprint, your social media, your online reputation -- all of this is now controlling your branding. That is different than in the past when we relied on Internet listing services (ILS) and Craigslist to "get us found." That's completely changed now. and I think that trend will continue. You have to make sure you are presenting the right content, the right storytelling, using video, and so forth.
By Teddy Durgin. Abstract News © Copyright 2013 INFORMATION, INC.