I am a fan of telling it like it is. At a gathering of industry executives earlier this year, one REIT CEO did just that. He was talking to an intimate group of his peers about how the recent influx of renters into multifamily properties was only temporary—that these renters would still want to buy single-family homes once the market recovered. He argued that, knowing this, property managers shouldn't be shy about raising rents. “While we can, we should stick it to them. Stick it to them,” he said.
That wasn't all. What about training employees and investing in developing a qualified staff? “I don't do training,” was his response. “I leave it to all of you to invest in training, and then I'll just pay them more.”
I couldn't help but smile as I listened to him speak. In an industry where many professionals politely make noncontroversial observations, he was candidly sharing opinions and perspectives that may have brushed some in the audience the wrong way. He took a stance, offered his point of view, and quickly earned the respect of those in the room. In fact, at the end of the session, attendees clamored to ask him questions and to glean additional nuggets of wisdom from him.
If you've experienced such candid, open sharing of information, you know that great things often follow. Consider this month's issue, which includes MULTIFAMILY EXECUTIVE'S annual ranking of the industry's Top 50 Owners, Top 50 Managers, and Top 50 Builders (the coverage begins on page 36). For this special section, senior editor Les Shaver wrote a compelling piece on the industry's quiet giant—AIMCO. The firm is notorious for shying away from the media, but after weeks of dialogue and discussion between company executives and our editorial team, they finally opened up, sharing some of their long-guarded strategies exclusively with MFE.
True, the lessons they've learned and implemented are useful for many of our readers. But more importantly, AIMCO recognized that by identifying and sharing their successful tactics, they would help to solidify their brand among investors and their colleagues.
AIMCO gets it. But each year, a handful of companies decline to participate in the MFE Top 50 rankings. The LeFrak Organization, Fairfield Residential, BlackRock Realty, The Morgan Group, Archon Group, and Cornerstone Group come to mind.
These firms will likely never rank at the top or bottom of the lists, but they do contribute to the holistic picture of what the multifamily real estate industry looks like today. So why don't organizations such as LeFrak participate? Here is a ranking of the biggest and best firms in the business, and yet they turn a blind eye. Perhaps they don't have the time to compile the information about the number of units they own. (Shouldn't they be regularly tracking this data?) Maybe they worry their competitors will figure out what regions they invest in. (My hunch is they already know.) Or is there possibly an ulterior motive behind the secrecy—one that might call their numbers into question?
I salute those companies and their leaders—which include my candid “stick it to them” friend—for choosing to participate in our annual ranking. The MFE Top 50 lists are an industry benchmark, and these companies can be proud to be named among their peers. Perhaps if more firms take a cue from them and tell it like it is, the industry will continue to learn, grow, and prosper.
CORRECTIONS: In the April 2008 issue, in the article “People Person” (page 67), Ed Wolff was mistakenly identified as chief administrative officer of Dallas-based Pinnacle Properties. Wolff's company is Seattle-based Pinnacle. Also in that issue, in the article “Class Dismissed” (page 38), Shawn Horwitz's name was misspelled; and in the article “Beacon for Buyers” (page 57), a rendering of Quechee Lakes was actually a rendering of the Winthrop Club in Evanston, Ill. MULTIFAMILY EXECUTIVE regrets the errors.