Property Management – What Would Woody Do?

Toy Story is a great brand.  Woody, the main character in the movie Toy Story, is an old-time  wooden toy cowboy (albeit animated).  What does Woody have to do with multifamily property management?  Lots.   Woody has many of the qualities found in a good property manager. 

I like Woody…

Woody has a full life.  There seems to always be a fire that needs his attention and personalities that need stroking.  He even has a girlfriend.   I wonder if he sleeps?  What has Woody earned for Pixar Studio’s?   I”m guessing over one billion dollars in revenue from all sources.   What a great role model!  

What Pixar has done with Woody is a perfect example of how to build a property management company.  Finding winning strategy’s and systems; focus, sharpen, implement and repeat.  Buying an apartment complex without installing good management is like fishing with no hook!     It all starts with people… 

Woody has many of the same attributes we find in a good property manager.  Here are just a few:

  • a positive attitude
  • good problem solver
  • a people person
  • pro-active
  • thinks strategically

And, he never gives up (on people, poodles or plastic personalities).   These are all positive attributes to look for in personnel considered for property manager.  

Individual Manager versus Management Company

On-site personnel should be vetted by more than just the owner.  Back ground checks are a must as not all people are  who they say they are in this day and age.    References, validation of employment history and credit are all part of this process.   As some property’s accept cash, bonding may be part of this process. 

As an owner, you are entrusting an asset or group of assets to an individual or management company.   If to an individual, assuming assets of several million dollars, then your decision point on selection is critical.  I say critical because  if anything were to happen with that one person note that your “key man” (or woman) is the link between you, your customers (tenants) and the continued operations of the asset.   Now, they could do nothing more than move jobs without notice.   This nevertheless places the owner in the position of having to find a qualified replacement quickly. 

Hiring a management company offers increased flexibility at increased costs.  Very often, the trade off is worthwhile.   Management company’s come equipped with most systems already in place to take over management and hit the ground running.   They provide an array of specialist for  maintenance and emergency fixes.  And when the site manager has vacation time there is usually another individual provided  to step in during this absence. 

Assuming the owner (you) are going to employ a management company, as with an individual, check  references.  Further, ask for a sample monthly statement and a short written proposal of how they intend to implement their mangement plan.   If your contact person cannot generate either document, move on and find a qualified management company. 

Self Management

This can be arduous and  time consuming.  Property management can be a 24 hour job if through no other means than having to answer the phone at all hours.  New Owner/Managers seldom recognize the  time commitment necessary to be a proactive manager.  Before taking this step consider the time commitment and create a contingency plan.  Property management is not for everyone.  If your favorite thing to do is NOT talk to people and NOT pick up the phone- that’s a hint that you need to find a Woody with the appropriate skill set to serve. 

If a happy wife is a happy life (true) then a happy property is one that has a proactive manager to assist current and future tenants enjoy their tenure in residence living in your property. 

My hero:  Woody from Toy Story.  He is my choice for what a property manager should look like in terms of his proactive nature and assertiveness.   And if we could have WALLE (another Pixar character) for maintenance we’d all be further ahead…

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