JF1896: How To Grow Your Property Management Company with Jason Hull
We have an expert in the field of property management on the show today. Since Joe and Ashcroft us third party management, we don’t get into the details of property management as a business and how to scale it. Jason is here to help us and anyone listening who wants to grow their property management company. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!
Best Ever Tweet:
“If you take on bad clients, your operational costs will be 10x higher than a good client”
Jason Hull Real Estate Background:
- CEO of DoorGrow, is a property management growth expert
- They have:
- 1,900 property management business owners in their Facebook community
- Helped 400 clients since they opened in 2008
- 135 active coaching clients
- 53k downloads of their podcast DoorGrowShow
- Based in Valencia, CA
- Say hi to him at https://doorgrow.com/
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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast, where we only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. We don’t deal with the fluffy stuff. With us today we’ve got Jason Hull. How are you doing, Jason?
Jason Hull: I’m doing great. How are you?
Joe Fairless: Well, I am doing great as well, and I’m looking forward to our conversation. A little bit about Jason – he is a property management growth expert. They have 1,900 property management business owners in their Facebook community, they’ve helped 400 clients since they opened in 2008; 135 active coaching clients and 53,000 downloads on their podcast, “DoorGrow Show.” That rhymes, I like it. And you’re based in Valencia, California. With that being said, Jason, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?
Jason Hull: Yeah. A little bit of background for your listeners, which are in the real estate industry – I grew up around a real estate mom. She paid me two cents a fold to fold tri-fold fliers that I would canvas neighborhoods with, on either a scooter or rollerblades. So I grew up with a mom who show me hustle, she was an entrepreneur. And I’ve got several brothers in the real estate industry, but I was the one that was a nerd. I just got into technology, I started geeking out on stuff, I love entrepreneurism… And fast-forward, I ended up somehow coaching property management business owners, in an industry that I’ve never even had a rental property, but they keep coming to me, and I’m really good at helping them do what they need to do.
Joe Fairless: So what do you help them do?
Jason Hull: Basically, what I do in a nutshell at DoorGrow is we take property management business that are struggling to grow and we rehab their business, just like you would rehab a property, so it could cash-flow or rent-roll effectively. We rehab property management businesses so they can cash-flow or make money properly. Essentially, we’re doing anything from cleaning up their brand, to doing their website, to helping them set up a reputation strategy, to drive more warm leads, prospecting methods, sales process trainings, pricing strategy and psychology… Whatever it takes on the front-end of their business to help them grow. I just tell them “I’m not gonna teach you how to do property management. Not my jam. But I’ll teach you how to win.”
Joe Fairless: How do you know the industry so well if you haven’t done it yourself?
Jason Hull: Great question. I don’t know the nuts and bolts of property management. I’m not gonna coach somebody on how to deal with tenants, toilets and termites; not my thing. But I think the basics of what makes a business work really apply to any industry, and I just applied it to a niche that we started to get strong in organically, and it kind of took off. But there’s nothing magical in particular that I do, I would say, that wouldn’t work in any industry. But what we do is quite unique, and most business owners when they’re trying to grow their business, they first focus on SEO, pay-per-click, content marketing, social media marketing, and pay-per-lead services. And I don’t believe you need any of those in order to grow your business. We used to do those things, but we help property management companies grow without them… And they gro really well.
So the challenge is all of that really is kind of pinned on search engine marketing, all those channels. And the idea behind search engine marketing is if I could just have the top spot on Google, all my hopes and dreams would come true. And I jokingly call that the SEO lottery.
You don’t have to play the SEO lottery in which you have a few noisy winners at the top, and everybody else is a loser, in order to grow your business. There are other ways to grow your business.
Joe Fairless: Yeah, I think of the profit on A&E, I think; it doesn’t matter the channel… That’s gonna bother me, but anyway – it’s where he goes into a cupcake shop and he gives people products and process, and he gives an analysis of the business, and then figures out how to fix it. And he – to the best of my knowledge – hasn’t been in all of the business industries that he’s fixing, but he has a certain process. So I get the concept.
One thing that he did have is he had successfully created his own business, and sold it, and done well, and blah-blah-blah. What were you doing prior to DoorGrow?
Jason Hull: Really we were operating as a company called Open Potion, and we largely did website design. Originally, I started out freelance, really just me, and doing websites for clients… And I kind of quickly became the secret weapon of property managers. One of my first clients was my brother. He was bought into a property management franchise, he didn’t like the website, and asked me for some help; I gave him some tips from a marketing perspective…
Joe Fairless: What were they?
Jason Hull: I said add some faces to it.
Joe Fairless: Okay, add some faces…
Jason Hull: What were the tips?
Joe Fairless: Yeah.
Jason Hull: Add some faces; you need some humanity on your website. If there’s no faces on your homepage — imagine you walked into a town and you didn’t see any humans anywhere.
Joe Fairless: Scary.
Jason Hull: Yeah, it feels weird. And that’s how some businesses look. You see high-rise buildings, and maybe corporate structures, and you see text, and there’s no people. Or even worse, sometimes you see people, but they all look like really smiley, cheesy stock photos. They’re a little bit too good-looking; something’s off. They’re Stepford wives, or you’re in some sort of alternate reality… You need real people. People buy from people. People like people. Go figure. So that was one of the first tips I gave them.
Then I said “Why don’t you also take some of this content that’s just blobs of paragraphs of text, and let’s chunk this.” At least add bullet points. Something. Break it up a little bit. Make it easy to digest. Because people don’t read websites. They skim. So make it easy for them to do that. Add social proof, add trust symbols. There’s lots of little indicators that create trust, and sales happen at the speed of trust. So if your goal is to make money, the website really is all about creating trust, not about manipulating Google.
Joe Fairless: What are social symbols that add trust?
Jason Hull: For example social proof, or trust symbols… Social proof would be video testimonials, text testimonials with a face next to it, because that makes it real… Those things increase conversion rates.
Joe Fairless: Got it.
Jason Hull: It says somebody else is vouching for your company. Social proof would be indicators like if you’re a local business, having the Chamber of Commerce’s logo on there, that’s showing you’re a part of it. Better Business Bureau. Other trust symbols might be trade organizations. In my industry there’s NARPAM, which is the National Association of Residential Property Managers. So they’ll have their NARPAM logo. It might real estate logos, or Fair Housing stuff, whatever. Anything that says “We’re safe, we’re trustworthy. Here’s another third-party that’s vouching for us. We’re a part of this.” It just makes people feel safer. And if you put those trust symbols near lead capture, conversion rates are proven to go up.
Joe Fairless: When the prospective client comes to you and she says “Jason, I need help. My property management company is struggling to grow. We need to cash-flow more, and we wanna scale.” What are the questions you ask her?
Jason Hull: One of my favorite sales questions – and this is probably interesting for any listener – I first say “What is your biggest challenge in your business right now?” I love asking that question right now, because that’s the one thing they really care about. “Where is your pain?” Then they’ll tell me what their biggest challenge is. Sometimes they’re telling me what may not fully give me the story, so a great follow-up question I love to use in sales – if I don’t feel like I’m really getting the bedrock there – is “Why now?”
I’ll say to them “You’ve probably seen me on my podcast, you’ve probably watched a bunch of videos, you’ve probably been around me for a while… Why now? Why are you reaching out now? What’s changed?” And in those moments, you start to step onto sacred ground. Something interesting happens, because I start hearing stuff like “My wife just left me.” Or one guy said “I’m waiting for a double lung transplant, because I have a serious illness and disease and I wanna make sure my business is operating effectively, and I’m nervous.” Or “I had cancer, and I just came through it.” You’ll hear all kinds of crazy stuff. Sometimes it’s more simple, like “We just lost a bunch of our portfolio, our doors, and we’re struggling to grow, and it’s getting painful.” But it starts to go a little bit deeper beyond the superficial, because there’s something driving them to talk to you right now, if somebody’s reached out to you. If somebody’s become open to having a conversation with you that’s a sales conversation, “Why now?” is one of my favorite questions to ask.
Joe Fairless: What are top five things that when someone comes to you, you usually can implement rather easily to get them in the right direction?
Jason Hull: The basic things that we take a business through are really about five things. The first thing we wanna tackle–
Joe Fairless: Oh, what a coincidence.
Jason Hull: The first thing we wanna tackle is branding, because branding affects the very beginning of the sales pipeline, at the awareness stage. For example, in property management, a lot of property management companies have a brand name that says “Real Estate” in it, and real estate in your brand name in property management is a quick way to scare off maybe about half of your potential customers… Because they want a specialist, they don’t want somebody that’s out hunting/chasing real estate deals. They want somebody that’s actually gonna take care of their property. Like, is property management even really a focus for you? Because it’s not even in your name, or it’s not a main part of your name, or you’re trying to do two things.
So branding is a big thing, after we get that thing cleaned up with the company… And there’s a lot of potential pitfalls when it comes to branding. Using names that are generic, that people can’t remember… Because the crux of branding is being memorable. The number one source of leads and deals is word of mouth, for most businesses. And the crux of that is being remembered, too. So if they don’t remember you, your brand and positioning might be off. And if that’s off, you could be losing out on half the amount of deals and leads you could/should be getting… And that’s a big leak. So we wanna take care of that first. Then we move through the pipeline.
Reputation is a big deal. You wanna make sure you have a strategy in place… Because most business owners get started and they think “If I just provide really good customer service, I’ll have great reviews all over Google, Yelp and everywhere else.” But that’s just not true. Those that have a really good reputation have some sort of process in place. They have a system they’ve created for soliciting feedback, for getting good reviews, for reaching out, identifying peak happiness, leveraging the law of reciprocity… These kinds of things. So we wanna make sure we build a process to get them better reviews.
We have a platform called GatherKudos.com, which any business or industry can use. We set it up to help facilitate this process, because property management companies have a hard time getting good reviews. This is a big challenge in this industry, because tenants generally are not very happy when they don’t get their full deposit back. So we had to build and create a system that would allow them to make the negative reviews more of an outlier, so that they were consistently getting positive feedback and reviews online from their happy tenants and owners.
GatherKudos.com is a service that we provide to do that for any industry; it just happened to be something our clients needed, and then we started tracking clients from all over. So we focus on that. Then we also focus on the websites…
Joe Fairless: Before you move on, how does GatherKudos work exactly?
Jason Hull: Real simple – we set up a landing page for the business, GatherKudos.com/yourbiz, or whatever, and then basically when people go to this page, in a single click it identifies whether they are happy or something else. And if there’s something else, then instead of giving them all your review site – so if they’re happy, it’ll just show all the different review sites, and it says “Pick whatever you’re comfortable with, basically. Pick whatever you’re used to.” Rather than trying to corral everybody to Google or to Yelp, they can pick from all the different sites. They may have come to you through Zillow, or Trulia, or something else, and that may be where they wanna go leave you feedback. So it allows them to go to the channel that they’re used to. Maybe Facebook is what they’re into and used to. Maybe they’re not a Google person or a Yelp person.
So it prevents waste of reviews, it prevents them from getting stuck or confused, and then it gives them directions how to do it. Real simple, text and images, and they click the button to go off to leave this review.
If it’s negative or neutral, then it a single click it will qualify them and identify them as this, and then it will give the opportunity for them to give you direct, immediate feedback. They can fill out a form there to send you an email, or we usually have the business owner put their cell phone number and say “We wanna hear from you directly. Call me if there’s an issue. We wanna take care of it.” So this allows people to bypass that natural barrier to feedback that every business owner creates as they build a team.
As we scale and build a team, we move our office into the back, we set up an auto-attendant, we have a receptionist… We’re protected, so that we can leverage our team, but the challenge is it creates a barrier to feedback between us and the customer, and we no longer have that direct feedback to know how we’re really doing… And the only person that really maybe knows is our frontline staff, that might be the ones offending our customer.
So this allows them to bypass your frontline staff for you to get direct feedback, and it makes it safe, so you can get feedback, good or bad. If it’s good, it’ll push them towards the review sites. If it’s bad, it gets to go to you directly, and then you can take care of it, so it helps prevent negative reviews… Because most people’s feedback is more in the neutral to negative category – they’re not at DEFCON 5 nuclear, wanting to destroy your business, but those are the ones that end up on review sites. And if you can capture them before they get to that point, you may be able to prevent a significant amount of negative reviews online. An ounce of prevention they say is worth a pound of cure.
Joe Fairless: So if it’s a positive review, did I hear you say they give text and an image…? Do you provide them with sample images within that platform?
Jason Hull: Yeah, so what it will say — for example if they click on Google, then it’ll say “Here’s how to leave a Google review. Here’s the steps”, it’ll show screenshots, like what the button looks like to click on, and it gives them directions.
Joe Fairless: Got it. But you don’t provide them with sample images to upload; they have to upload their own image and write their own text.
Jason Hull: Yeah, they leave their own review, they do their own thing, so it ends up being real.
Joe Fairless: Got it, okay. Cool. And just jumping back to the branding part, and being memorable – you said make sure that you don’t have “Real Estate” in the name, have “Property Management” in the name; it makes total sense. And be memorable. What are some other branding guidelines that you’d give to someone whenever they’re creating a brand in property management?
Jason Hull: Some of the basic rules in branding in general are you wanna avoid names generic to the category. So if you’re a real estate business, you don’t want your name to be “Best Real Estate Company”, or “Phoenix Realty” if you’re in Phoenix. You also don’t wanna have names that are generic to the location, like Phoenix Realty if you’re in Phoenix. You’ll notice that some of the most successful brands have nothing to do with the category. Who came into the scene of online books and crushed it? Amazon. Who came onto the scene and started crushing online search? Google. Who started the industry of facial tissue? Kleenex. These names had nothing really directly to do with the category. They were original, unique names. So you don’t want names that are generic to where you’re like the same as every other company in the market. In Phoenix, you would have “Phoenix Carpet Cleaning” and “Phoenix The Bank” and “Phoenix Whatever”, and you don’t wanna be “Phoenix Property Management” or “Phoenix Realty” etc. It just makes word of mouth really difficult. People can’t remember names that are generic.
So that’s one of the biggest rules, and there’s a whole host of rules when it comes to color, when it comes to layout, with the logo, when it comes to spelling there’s a lot of potential pitfalls… The absolute worst thing you can do with branding, for those listening – take a look at the brand name, and if you have a generic business name, it’s generic to the industry or the category, and you’ve misspelled it to be clever…
Joe Fairless: [laughs]
Jason Hull: Barber, and you do Haircutz, with a z at the end, because you think you’re clever, you are probably losing out on tens of thousands of dollars in annual revenue. Probably monthly. So… Yeah.
Joe Fairless: Will you just close the loop on why misspelling it would be a mistake?
Jason Hull: Oh, yeah… So there’s this great thing called autocorrect that happens, which if your name is misspelled, every system on the planet is gonna try and fix it, so people won’t find out. Another thing is people won’t hear this misspelling, so verbally word of mouth gets hurt and damaged… And if it’s a generic name, if they search for you because they’ve heard about you, who are they gonna find? All your competitors. That’s what they’re gonna find when they search for a generic term. So that’s the basis of that, I guess.
Joe Fairless: Great stuff. Let’s do one more. I know I asked for five, and you’re prepared for five, but we probably have time for one more… So what’s another step in the process you take someone through?
Jason Hull: Well, at the very front end you’ve got branding, reputation, and then the website. Because the reputation stuff is gonna feed you leads to your website. People are gonna check your website, so it needs to be high-converting, and it needs to be focused on trust. So the three biggest tips I could give for a website – look at your homepage; it needs to answer three core questions. Every visitor has three core questions when they land on your page. The first question is “What do you do? Is it what I need?” That’s question one. If it doesn’t answer that in big, bold text, at the top of the page, “We manage properties in Phoenix”, for example, or “We help real estate investors find property”, or whatever it might be… People wanna know “Am I at the right place?” That’s question number one.
Question number two once they know they’re at the right place, that you can do what they need, question number two is “Why should I choose you to do it? What’s special about you? Help me make a choice here. Why should I pick you over everyone else that does that? Because there’s other people that do that… What’s different about you?” Help them make a choice. So why choose us.
You should have some unique differentiators, or a unique selling proposition, or something that sets you apart, to say “Here’s why you should choose us to do this.” That crux of your content below the headlines that I was just saying you need, should be on the page. And then the third question – so once they know what you do, and why they should choose you to do it, the next logical thing they’re gonna be thinking is “Alright, what do you want me to do next?” Then you need the call to action. So the third question that they need answered is “What do you want me to do next? What’s the next logical step I would be willing to take as a consumer? Give me that direction and I’ll do it.”
You’d be surprised how many websites have no call to action on the homepage, no lead capture to fill out a lead… There’s no action that they’re asking them to take. They’re just hoping that somebody will just decide to do something.
Joe Fairless: What is a call to action that a property management company should have?
Jason Hull: One of the most simple is “Give us a call, or fill out this form for a free quote, or find out what your property could rent for”, or even just “View pricing. Go to our pricing page” is a great call to action for the homepage… Because everyone’s gonna want to do it anyway. Send them there, and then have that page sell really effectively.
Joe Fairless: Based on your experience as an entrepreneur in the real estate industry, what is your best advice ever for property managers?
Jason Hull: My best advice ever for property managers, especially for the business owners, is don’t be a property manager. Consider yourself an entrepreneur. Be the business owner. Property managers are who you hire. They’re the people that do the work in the business, for you. So be the business owner, and get out of the tactical day-to-day.
Joe Fairless: We’re gonna do a lightning round. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?
Jason Hull: Let’s do it.
Joe Fairless: Alright. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.
Joe Fairless: Best ever challenge you’ve come across when working with a property manager/business owner?
Jason Hull: Oh, man. The best challenge… There’s been so many different challenges, but I would say one that stands out is I had a client come to me that had 600 units under management. That’s a pretty healthy property management business. It’s rare to get to that point. But he was making zero dollars. He had zero profitability, he was making no money. And I said “How is this possible?” He said “Well, I’m doing three million a month in real estate in my brokerage.” So he had a really healthy real estate company, and his property management company was his cancerous tumor, sitting on the side of this healthy body called real estate. And that’s somewhat common in the industry, that you’ll have businesses that do both brokerage and property management, and a lot of times they artifically have broken past some of the typical barriers they would have had to make changes to get through by siphoning away resources from the real estate company.
So we took that challenge and I coached him through it, and he fired about half his staff, he fired about 200 doors, and he’s making a whole lot more money. So one of the biggest challenges in the industry that this reveals is what I call the cycle of suck. They take on bad clients. And this applies to any industry, any business. If you take on bad clients, your operational cost will be ten times higher than that of having a good client. So sometimes in order to move forward we have to trim the bush, so to speak. We have to get rid of the fat that’s causing harm… And some of these clients are eating up 80% of our resources and they’re only paying us a small portion. If you can clear those people out, it creates a lot of room and space to be profitable, lower your operational costs and to grow and bring on more business.
Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve recently read?
Jason Hull: A really fantastic book is a book called “It doesn’t have to be crazy at work”, by Jason Fried. He is the CEO of Basecamp, and I actually got to hang out with him on a call, not unlike this, face-to-face on video, for about 90 minutes… And at the time, I had a bunch of different software tools we were using, we were really struggling in the company; I couldn’t wrap my head around why. And he spent 90 minutes with me, showed me how he runs his company… He’s written all kinds of books on virtual teams, and things… So I was really excited to hear what he had to say. No kidding, in a day he had cut my staffing costs in half. Our productivity had doubled.
This book is fantastic, because — he just recently came out with it, and I had met with him years ago, and he had transformed my business from just that one call, showed me how he ran things. He just came out with this book and it reveals a lot of the principles that he had shared with me on the call, so I’m really excited to share that book with everybody.
One of the biggest takeaways is to eliminate interruptions. It was one of the biggest things that I got. One interruption will cost you about 18 minutes of productivity. So if you or your team members are interrupting each other, or coming into each other’s office once every 18 minutes, you’re basically at a standstill in your business. So by eliminating/cutting down interruptions, our teams become infinitely more productive; we cut down on all kinds of meetings that weren’t necessary. We don’t feel like we’re spinning our wheels anymore, and business gets a lot quieter.
Joe Fairless: What’s the name of the book again?
Jason Hull: “It doesn’t have to be crazy at work.” It’s all about creating calm in the workplace.
Joe Fairless: Best ever way the Best Ever listeners can get in touch with you?
Jason Hull: Really easy. I am the same username/handle/tag on all social media, King Jason Hull. I’d love to connect on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, you name it. Feel free to connect with me there, and if you wanna connect with me for business reasons, I’m DoorGrow everywhere. You can check us out at DoorGrow.com.
Joe Fairless: Jason, the insights you gave are applicable to not only building a property management company successfully – or rather making it profitable – but also any company, so I’m grateful that you were on the show. It doesn’t take much of a connection to go from what you’re saying about building a property management company to building a fix and flip company, an apartment syndication company, a real estate brokerage… So I’m grateful that you were on the show, and sharing the tips, from branding, to websites, making them have the right messaging, and to reputation strategy and the importance of it, and the website that you have, GatherKudos.com.
Thanks for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you again soon.
Jason Hull: Thanks. I appreciate being here.