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People First: Maintaining a Solid Organization During Rapid Expansion

people first culture
August 2019

Taking the time to hire the right person who fits into the culture is key to strong growth.

No matter what city you live in – a major urban core city or suburbia USA – you can hardly drive a mile without seeing a new apartment development.

The industry is growing … fast. So are the organizations that support it, making it difficult to maintain a solid company. But holding to the fundamental business practices will get you through, according to the “On The Grow! Maintaining a Solid Organization During Rapid Expansion” panel at NAA’s Apartmentalize.

“The solution to keeping a stable company during high times of growth isn’t some secret sauce,” says Kimberly Hurd, Senior Vice President of Operations at Sundance Property Management. “It’s the same things you need to do to keep your company stable.”

That means companies must resist the urge to focus solely on process and technology and put people first. It seems rudimentary, but it’s easier said than done because of the emphasis society has placed on technological advancement. “When you put technology first, you can sometimes forget about the people,” Hurd says.

Forgetting about the people often can result in providing too little support for onsite teams dealing with hundreds of issues involving both prospects and residents.

“The onsite team has 100 things coming at them every moment of every day,” says Aimee O’Connor, Vice President of Property Management for Watermark Residential. “You need to know the number of regionals who are right for you and the number of people in the corporate office that it’s going to take to support them.”

Determining when there isn’t enough support requires some emotional intelligence and predicting when onsite team frustration will hit its peak. That’s because it’s difficult to hire because of the labor shortage and it could take up to six months for a new associate to really feel confident in their new role, according to O’Connor.

That doesn’t mean companies should rush hiring decisions. In fact, taking their time to hire the right person who fits into the culture is the key to strong growth.

“There’s more to hiring than experience and skill level,” O’Connor says. “You have to hire the right fit for your company. You have to hire someone who fits into the culture you’ve created. The four things that are important to us are: Does the person instill trust; is the person an effective communicator; are they curious and willing to learn; and, are they results-driven?”

Once a company has the right person on the team, it then has to face the most difficult task – keeping them. According to O’Connor, that requires a strong culture that treats all associates well.

“In today’s world, we have to do more than just hand out a paycheck, and that’s easily forgotten,” O’Connor says. “We all need to remember that we should treat people with respect and kindness. It’s easy to hide behind an email or text message. It’s easy to lose that kindness aspect. You have to celebrate those kindness moments throughout your company.”

By staying focused on people and creating a supportive and kind culture, rental housing operators can maintain a solid organization even during times of rapid growth.