After more than 40 years in the multifamily industry, Wendy Drucker has seen how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Even in the face of rapid transformation, thanks to artificial intelligence and proptech, running a successful property management firm still comes down to one thing: “It’s still a people business,” says Drucker, managing director of Drucker + Falk.

Wendy Drucker, managing director of Drucker + Falk
Wendy Drucker, managing director of Drucker + Falk

Drucker + Falk, based in Newport News, Virginia, manages more than 40,000 apartments across 10 states. Drucker’s grandfather, A. Louis Drucker founded the company with Emanual E. Falk. Since joining the family business as a maintenance hand, Drucker has held many roles in the company, from property manager and leasing professional to regional manager and business developer.

She can’t imagine doing anything else.

“I feel honored to be in this business,” she says. “We’re dealing with one of the most important things in people’s lives, and that’s where they call home.”

Here are four lessons Drucker has learned from more than four decades in the industry:

1. Prioritize for prompt turnarounds: Drucker + Falk has had as little as 24 hours’ notice before assuming management of a new property. From that point, the clock is ticking—Drucker aims to turn struggling properties around within 18 months. To do that, she prioritizes problems. Here’s an example: Her firm recently contracted with a large apartment community that had more than 120 outstanding work orders. She asked the owners to categorize the tasks across electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and miscellaneous repairs. This way, Drucker + Falk could quickly deploy their contractors to tackle the projects. At the same time the firm addresses any staffing or leasing challenges. The important thing is to make an immediate impact for the residents. “We want residents to come home and go, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s a new sheriff in town,’” Drucker says. Positive online reviews will soon follow, and the firm’s Crossroads Station Apartments in Fredericksburg, Virginia, recently received an award for best online reputation from the Virginia Apartment Management Association.

2. Emphasize human interaction: It’s possible for renters to visit a site virtually, sign a lease agreement, and be approved without so much as talking with a leasing agent on the phone. But Drucker believes good old-fashioned customer service matters even more in the digital age. “Your on-site people still need to know how to talk to residents and look them in the eye,” she says. “There’s so little of that today, and people crave it.” Plus, personal interaction allows leasing agents to serve prospective residents better. By learning about their interests, hobbies, and lifestyles, they can offer spaces better suited to prospective residents’ needs.

3. Lead, but leave room for others: Part of good leadership is recognizing your shortcomings, Drucker says. She surrounds herself with executives skilled in areas she’s not so that she can focus on where she excels: big-picture strategizing and team building. “One leader cannot be the be-all and end-all,” Drucker says. She also leads a culture of collaboration. For example, Drucker + Falk sends its marketing and IT departments to a technology conference yearly to learn about what’s new and what’s next. “Collaboration is huge at Drucker + Falk,” she says.

4. Invest in tech where it makes sense: Proptech offers so many solutions and ways to gather various points of data that it can be difficult to keep up with it all. When it comes to adopting new technologies to help manage properties, Drucker is cautious. She wants to be certain that any software that the firm invests in will be compatible with its software stack. But when it comes to technology that enhances the resident experience, she’s all in. Dedicated Zoom rooms, remote HVAC operation, and keyless entry are among some of the high-tech offerings at Drucker + Falk properties. Her firm wants to ensure all residents have access to reliable internet, whether it’s at a new community or a historic renovation. “As managers, we realized every resident has around 10 devices connected to Wi-Fi,” she says. “Thankfully, tech providers realized that, too, and stepped up their broadband offerings.” For example, Cox recently doubled the speed of a popular tier from 250 to 500 Mbps at no extra cost. Now 75 percent of their customers have speeds of half a gig or more.

Cox Communities works closely with property management firms like Drucker + Falk to develop technology solutions that set their communities apart from the rest. Learn how they can help you build stronger, connected communities here.