When Mann Report last interviewed Jason Paul, head of asset management for Arch Companies, in March, the world and residential asset management were very different. With all the changes that have taken place, we thought a follow-up was warranted. Arch Companies is a national developer, asset manager and construction manager based in New York, focusing primarily on multifamily properties. Paul leads asset management across the firm’s growing U.S. asset footprint in the Northeast, Southeast and West Coast.
The current work environment has been disrupted considerably, requiring many employees to work from home until offices can fully reopen. How has this affected your ability to manage your teams and your properties across the country?
The onset of COVID-19 has certainly affected our business plan, but prior to the full-scale shift to remote working, we were already developing a distributed management structure for two very important reasons.
The first is about accountability and building a quality team. We have had very good success with building our internal asset and property management teams, and this has necessarily been remote in most cases, as our portfolio spans across the country. However, once we developed a strategy to manage the most important property tasks internally, our reliance on external site teams diminished significantly, and operational efficiency improved. Basically, we were already seeing the importance of a robust remote network for collaboration within the company.
The second reason is that going remote was essential to scaling our portfolio. Now that we know our leasing or collections, for example, can be successfully managed remotely, we can explore more diverse locations that may not prove viable to other out-of-town investors. As we’re seeing with many things in the market, COVID-19 isn’t changing the game so much as accelerating things that were already happening.
What systems or processes have you put in place to empower remote working and ensure accountability?
We created our own call center with seven remote leasing assistants that each rotate between five to eight properties. Additionally, we have resident relations, marketing and backend accounting specialists that provide oversight to our entire portfolio. We keep channels of communication active throughout the day through chat, Zoom and constantly updated reports. Most importantly, we have significant transparency with respect to our workflows and expectations; everyone is clear about what they are working on and what they are attempting to achieve. This allows for a unified culture that revolves around aligned goals.
What does this mean for on-site property management? Are there other areas where you hope to have a more distributed management presence?
We believe that repair, maintenance and resident relations can be opened up to a larger remote strategy and that those elements will create a better resident experience and workorder completion success rate. We’ve started using video calls to engage residents, diagnose issues and prioritize repairs, and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive.
This can certainly be further scaled as we fine-tune the process, allowing us to remain inconstant contact with our residents, which improves resident satisfaction and ultimately retention.
Do companies no longer need to work in the same office?
There are myriad items that will always be completed more successfully in person than remotely. Contract negotiations, employee hiring and after-work socializing are all items that are better done in person. That being said, we have found a lot of room for improvement when we transitioned certain tasks to being managed by one person as opposed to a group. Apartment leasing is a prime example. Our asset management team always knows where we stand without the need to communicate directly with each property daily or depend solely on month-end reports.
On the other side of the equation, Arch Companies thrives on the collaboration and teamwork that we have in our New York office. We believe that acquisitions and development will always thrive in a more conventional environment. We constantly discuss these items in real time, and they involve a more geographically concentrated team.
Is there a factor or variable that is constant throughout all of your operations that leads to Arch Companies successfully managing remotely?
It revolves around having your finger on the pulse of what is important, and ensuring your team is pointed in the right direction toward achieving your business plan. This is done by constantly reviewing the data and correcting course when necessary. As Peter Drucker said, “That which is measurable is manageable.”
By: Mann Report