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Preventive and Proactive Strategic Partnership

KETTLER, a multifamily developer, investor and property manager, is finding that its choice of Yardi as a strategic partner has helped it become more productive, especially during the pandemic.

An outsider with deep understanding of its multifamily niche is just what KETTLER needed to take advantage of the more robust technology emerging.

Six years ago, Robert C. Kettler, founder of the Virginia-based family business, hired Cynthia Fisher as his Chief Administrative Officer to assess and consolidate operations.

“KETTLER was into land and community development, multifamily acquisition and development, and property management with a focus on Class A and B properties,” she says. “But because it was using some older systems and on multiple platforms, the company wasn’t keeping pace with changes going on in the industry, including investing adequately around customer relationship management (CRM).”

After understanding KETTLER’s way of doing business and being promoted to Chief Operating Officer in 2018, then President a year later, Fisher was ready to institute changes. “We needed to get out of doing things manually to be much more efficient and automate as many processes as we could,” she says.

She sent out a request for proposal (RFP), and with buy-in from her stakeholders, they decided to partner with Yardi, a leading property management software corporation based in Santa Barbara, California. “It was the clear winner, able to provide a roadmap to simplify all processes and help us see what was happening daily, rather than react afterward,” she says.

This became even more critical as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the company’s—and others’—normal way of doing business and spurred everyone to act faster, embrace new technology and operate from decentralized locations.

Concerns arose about how prospects would safely tour communities, residents would pay without going into a leasing office, whether maintenance staff would receive and respond to repairs promptly, if finance team members could report results monthly and even where staff would be found as labor shortages emerged in the industry—and almost every other one nationwide.

Yardi’s panoply of robust technology products—Voyager, RentCafe, Asset IQ, Mobile Maintenance and others—offered seamless solutions to keep business going and goals met as the company grew to 18,000 units in five states and the District of Columbia.

For example, self-guided tours with prospects making an appointment online and getting a code proved safe and efficient, as did residents paying their rent at a convenience store, by credit card or in other ways. Other products let finance staff view data daily and make changes in real time rather than wait until a few weeks after the end of the month and then hurry up and react.

Among the biggest ways the new technology helped during the pandemic was by having a system to track collections and deferred payments—when they arrived, and which were permitted because of mandates that had been put into place. “We thought of doing an Excel sheet, but this was much more efficient,” Fisher says.

Yardi was also key to custom designed websites for different KETTLER communities, business intelligence and data analytics, benchmarking and other needs. 

Yardi staff became as key as its technology. They were available to implement, train and follow up new options. “We worked through the initial implementation in waves, having them tailor products to how we do business and how some of our clients do in cases where we’re third-party managers. Yardi was flexible to adjust settings, which allowed us to set up the system to work with our policies and procedures,” Fisher says.

And when questions arise, Yardi has one central person available, who understands KETTLER’s entire platform, so its staff doesn’t have to go through numerous channels or “five different people to get an answer,” Fisher says.

Yardi also keeps KETTLER informed as it develops new products such as its recent REACH by RentCafe and listens to what clients like KETTLER might want. Fisher thinks what’s missing industry wide is a way to hold onto residents who relocate—maybe, to a different state. “You don’t want the renter to have to start the leasing process completely over with a new deposit. We’re trying to get customers to stick to us so the process can be more seamless,” she says.

As the fast pace and challenges continue, Fisher hopes the industry and her company will become more data driven. “If we can look at data every day and see that rents are trending down, expenses are going up or that there are more maintenance tickets to deal with, we can be more preventive and proactive,” she says. “Yardi has been with us through the recent transformation, and we expect it will continue to be.”