JF2278: Increasing NOI With Jamie Wohlschlegel
Jamie is the CEO of ServusConnect, ServusConnect is an exciting, new technology for the multifamily industry that delivers innovation and mobility to medium & large-scale apartment maintenance operations to optimize multifamily NOI.
Jamie Wohlschlegel Real Estate Background:
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Best Ever Tweet:
“Work on getting optimized with your digital approach, digital documentation is a big deal these days ” – Jamie Wohlschlegel
Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners and welcome to the Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever show. I’m Theo Hicks, and today we’ll be speaking with Jamie Wohlschlegel.
Jamie, how are you doing today?
Jamie Wohlschlegel: I am doing awesome. Thanks, Theo. Thanks for having me.
Theo Hicks: Absolutely. Thanks for joining us. So a little bit about Jamie. He’s the CEO of a ServusConnect, a multifamily property tech startup that focuses on optimizing multifamily maintenance operations; he’s been doing this for six years. He launched ServusConnect at age 40 as a first-time entrepreneur. He is based in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the website is https://servusconnect.com/
So Jamie, do you mind telling us some more about your background and what you’re focused on today?
Jamie Wohlschlegel: Yeah, I’m a typical mid-40 professional who’s had a number of careers. I did start out in multifamily out of college. I worked for a large multifamily operator in greater Washington DC and Baltimore Metro Area. And then I kind of got out of that, got into IT, and have been doing IT consulting for about 15 years, sales and consulting and working with Fortune 500, and that was a really cool experience. And then I kind of got bored.
About the time that I turned 40, I took a sabbatical from that job and started thinking about my roots and what was happening in the multifamily space, and saw an area that hadn’t been applied from a technology perspective in the maintenance area, and so we kind of dug in; that’s where we landed.
Theo Hicks: Perfect. So let’s talk about that. So what exactly does ServusConnect do for multifamily investors?
Jamie Wohlschlegel: Well, ServusConnect is a dedicated maintenance operations platform and what we do is try to optimize and apply top technology to the maintenance workflow that typically happens between a resident and the management company or the folks responsible for handling maintenance issues in apartments. This is an area that has not necessarily had a lot of technology applied to it. It’s kind of an afterthought when it comes to the traditional property management systems that are out there, whether it’s your AppFolio’s, your Yardi’s, RealPages or MRIs, they all certainly have facilities modules, but they’re, again, typically an afterthought.
So when we started this process, one of the things that we saw was that maintenance operations was just a really black hole when it came to data, and that’s because a lot of it was still being done brute-force. There’s still a lot of paper and maintenance operations in multifamily… Which is really, really interesting, because it’s an area that just generates a lot of interaction with a resident. And as things have moved online, so online rent payments and online leasing and certainly during COVID-19 and pandemic, the need for a contactless resident experience with your landlord has been something that is really important, and certainly maintenance operations is a huge part of engaging with the tenant community.
Theo Hicks: From the residents’ perspective, if my management company, my owner is using ServusConnect and my toilet’s clogged, what happens? What’s the difference between me calling some guy and saying, “Hey, can you come and fix this?” What happens instead?
Jamie Wohlschlegel: Typically, a lot of management companies and certainly probably a lot of investors, who are also operators have ways for residents to put in service requests – either online forums, or they call the office or they have resident portal or maybe they’re running an AppFolio, so the resident has an app and will log in and will put their service requests in.
From there, that’s where the brute-force starts. And that’s where we have kind of find our niche is, providing that back office between the time that the resident calls in and it hits the system, to the time that the technician responds to it, digitally documents their work, and then that digital documentation gets recorded against the unit record, against that asset.
We really have found our niche optimizing almost that backend process and really streamlining the workflow from when a resident calls in and says, “Hey, I have a maintenance issue, my toilet’s clogged,” and they put that issue in an online form somewhere. That’s where a lot of our automation kicks in.
So it has required us to really open up API’s and figure out how to digitally connect those online resident forms and those property management softwares to our system. But really, where we shine at is streamlining the backend, which really makes a big difference when it comes to taking a lot of time out of the response time for maintenance operations to handle a resident issue.
Theo Hicks: Okay, so I submit my form, the only change for the resident, you’d say, would be a faster turnaround time. So from their perspective, they’re not seeing any of these calculations happening.
Jamie Wohlschlegel: Right.
Theo Hicks: They just call in and then someone shows up at their door faster?
Jamie Wohlschlegel: That’s right. The service request shows up digitally on a technician’s servusConnect technician app. We have points where we do touch the residents a lot is through our resident notification system. So we have automated resident notifications by SMS that go out and will alert the resident, “Hey, we’ve got your request, we’re adding it to our queue,” or when the technician gets ready to start the work, they’ll get an SMS that says, “Hey, so and so is going to be showing up at your apartment soon.” And then when the technician is done and they complete the work order, our system does send a survey to the resident. So we do have a lot of resident touch after that initial call and/or after that initial submission on the website that, “Hey, I have a maintenance tissue.”
So really, if we can keep an open line of communication with a resident and just brief them on what’s happening with their service request — because that’s the big problem is they put a request in online, and then it’s a black hole and they don’t know what’s going to happen until somebody knocks on their door.
Theo Hicks: 100%. Is it email or is it text notification? Is it everything?
Jamie Wohlschlegel: It’s both; it’s text and SMS. SMS is an email. So the SMS is the killer medium. I think the statistics are 95% of all SMS messages are read; you may not necessarily respond to them, but you pretty much read everyone. In the election season, now we’re all starting to get election SMS-es as well; you read them and then you delete them. But it’s a great notification medium; it doesn’t require residents to download some app that they may only use for a year while they’re living in that apartment. So SMS is the killer notification medium. And then from there, it’s kind of like the airlines – we take them into a unique mobile responsive browser-based, on their mobile device web experience so that they can see their service request and add any comments etc, get status details.
Theo Hicks: Do you have like a stat that says that before someone use our service, their response time was X and then after the response time was Y?
Jamie Wohlschlegel: Yeah. Usually, we’re seeing a 2X improvement. They call it service cycle time. So that’s a major metric that we track in our system. It is just the time that takes from what a resident submits a service request to when the technician completes it. That’ll typically improve 2X. The thing that I think that’s interesting that we’ve also started to see is that most operators manage for the things that slipped through the cracks. They’re not managing to the things that they’re doing really well.
And so one of the things that was surprising to us is that a lot of operators actually do a really good job responding and having short cycle times on a percentage of all of their service requests. But they don’t ever manage to that, because they don’t actually have that statistics easily available to them. What they’re managing to are the things like, “Hey, these service requests have been open for five days, where are they?” And then it’s a process to obviously try to figure out what’s happening on the service requests.
But when we get involved, we tend to have a lot of data that they haven’t previously been privy to, and so now that we can show and see where their faults are, and show them their improvements, we can also show where they’re actually doing really well, and those become key metrics on performance as they move out.
Theo Hicks: And this kind of my next question, which is from the property management and the owners’ perspective – do they have their own portal too where they can pull reports? The reason why I’m asking this is because I remember when I had a third-party management company, it was really annoying when I got a report and it just said, “$500 maintenance.” I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t know how many maintenance issues there was. I just was like, “Okay.” Well, something happened that month… And I called them and asked them what it was, and then they had to find the maintenance guy to figure out exactly what it was.
So from my perspective, as a landlord or as a property management company, what type of reporting do I have access to?
Jamie Wohlschlegel: There’s kind of two levels of reporting; there’s the what’s happening now reporting, like, what’s in the queue? What are folks working on? What’s the status of these open service requests? Have they been responded to? Have these guys uploaded photos and videos and comments on what’s been going on? So that’s kind of the current state of operations, which is very much front and center in our platform and our managers dashboard.
And then there’s the, “Hey, how are we doing? How did we do last month? How did we do last week? How are we trending over time? How do we do this year compared to last year?” And beginning of 2019, we actually implemented a business analytics and business intelligence back into our system that allowed us to provide our owner operators and investors and all the folks who are interested in that type of data, more the analytical data of, “Hey, how is this particular property or how’s this particular service tech, or this team or this region performing over time? How have their service cycle times ebb and flowed?” and then compare that with the resident feedback, the survey data that we get in as well, and you can definitely start to see patterns here. So that has become a pretty important part for our clients of how they manage health of their maintenance operations teams, and frankly, how folks are doing and just general health and wellness of their operations. So yeah, for sure.
Theo Hicks: What’s the portfolio size of your average client? Like, if I’ve a duplex, is it something I’m going to be able to use and afford, or is this for bigger guys?
Jamie Wohlschlegel: Our target market based on our go to market model has been anybody over 500 to 1000 units under management has been a sweet spot. And as you get into 5,000 and 10,000 units and beyond that – we certainly have some very large customers who manage into the tens of thousands of units.
We typically price our product on a per unit per month basis, not necessarily by the number of service requests or not necessarily by number of users accessing the system. So it’s typically units under management. So we do have some small customers who get a lot of value out of our system, but sometimes it gets a little pricey as the portfolio just based on the model — the portfolio is very small, and it’s hard for somebody with less than 100 units to make ServusConnect work for them… Although we do very much try to work with everybody and want to work with everybody where it makes sense. But really kind of how we go to it is, hey, we want to work with as many people as possible and if you have a need in the space, let’s try to just be mutually respectful of each other’s time and amount that people have to spend on this type of problem and let’s just come to some sort of conclusion on what makes sense for both parties and move forward if we can. If we can’t, that’s okay too.
Theo Hicks: Perfect. So this might not be the best question, but — so you have a lot of experience in optimizing maintenance… For someone who can’t afford your product right now, what would be your best ever maintenance advice for that person with a portfolio under 100 units? What’s one thing they can do that’s not necessarily getting ServusConnect that they can implement in order to optimize their maintenance?
Jamie Wohlschlegel: First thing is try get organized with just your digital approach. Digital documentation is a big deal these days, and just being able to have a uniform way to connect a single channel, if you will, that connects with your maintenance teams, keep track of what they’re doing on a daily basis and get digital updates from them on the work that they completed… And then whether that’s a spreadsheet or— just a lot of times we see clients who have very capable property management software systems that have maintenance facilities aspects to it that are really not being utilized, so—and this comes from my IT consulting days. There’s technology that’s sitting on your shelf all the time. Every company has technology and every business has technology sitting on the shelf. Go and dust it off, make sure you understand what’s there and you can make it work for you and it helps you organize your day and see that you are on top of things. Use it, absolutely put it to good use. But if sometimes those things don’t scale very well and as you start to manage more teams and more units, and then you want to start to do some more intricate things with resident engagement, then certainly platforms like us are a good place to start. And we’ll talk to anybody and I’m happy to give anybody advice on this topic, even if ServusConnect isn’t a good fit for them.
Theo Hicks: Alright, Jamie, are you ready for the best ever lightning round?
Jamie Wohlschlegel: Oh, man, maybe. We’ll see. Let’s go. Let’s do it.
Theo Hicks: Okay, Jamie, what online resource do you read, do you use to stay up to date with?
Jamie Wohlschlegel: I’m a news junkie, so easily Drudge Report is my number one go to.
Theo Hicks: If your business were to collapse today, what would you do next?
Jamie Wohlschlegel: I would start a YouTube site for mountain biking, and a home improvement venture.
Theo Hicks: You should do that anyways, right?
Jamie Wohlschlegel: I should do that. I want to do that anyways. Someday, I’ll do that.
Theo Hicks: You just put a GoPro on your head while you’re mountain biking and then [unintelligible [00:16:32].03]
Jamie Wohlschlegel: I’m a huge project guy, projects around the house, building mount bike trails in the backyard, going and hitting jumps… That’s what I want to do.
Theo Hicks: What is the best ever way you like to give back?
Jamie Wohlschlegel: I’m big into praise and worship music. So I love to sing and play. I play guitar and I sing, and I love to do praise and worship music… So leading worship or being part of a worship team at Church is a way that I like to give back.
Theo Hicks: And then lastly, what is the best ever place to reach you?
Jamie Wohlschlegel: LinkedIn is a good spot. I may not always respond right away, but LinkedIn is probably the one universal spot where folks can hit me up.
Theo Hicks: Okay, and that’s Jamie Wohlschlegel, so they can look him up on LinkedIn. Alright, Jamie, I really appreciate coming on the show and talking about your company ServusConnect. I kind of mentioned this, but yeah, maintenance is definitely a major area of headache, even for smaller landlords.
So we walked through how your company’s able to optimize maintenance operations, both on the residents’ side where they’ll get their maintenance requests fulfilled sooner, as well as no know what’s actually going on.
Jamie Wohlschlegel: Yeah. And it’s important to mention, Theo, that everybody does maintenance differently. Every company, every landlord, every investor, every operator does maintenance a little bit differently. And that is the challenging part about it, and I think that’s kind of made it difficult for companies like us to provide a uniform approach to it. But if you think about sometimes can you adapt to the technology? Man, we spend a lot of time thinking about this problem and I know, certainly a lot of other folks do, too. So if you’re a small operator, man, it might be a good idea to adapt to the technology that’s out there such that you can get some uniformity in your operations and that’s a really, really important point.
Theo Hicks: Exactly. Well, Jamie, again, I really appreciate you coming on the show. Enjoyed talking to you. Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for tuning in and listening. Have a best ever day and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.
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