Apartmentalize is always an exciting time of the year. From Philly to San Diego, Denver to this year's location in Atlanta, the NAA's marquee event combines amazing local flair, activities, and entertainment with the latest technologies, trends, thought leadership, and best practices from across the multifamily industry.
I live and work just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It's beautiful here, and I love the culture and vibe of the Twin Cities. But like many of us in the industry, I love the opportunity to travel. I get excited about visiting other cities and experiencing the diversity and variety that our country's people and places have to offer.
Atlanta is a hotspot—literally and figuratively. The city sits at the intersection of Southern charm, creativity, and sophistication. It's easy to love this beautiful city with its world-class attractions, award-winning dining, and hidden wonders. A bonus for me is that the company I work for, SALTO Systems, has its North American headquarters in Atlanta. This gave me the chance to catch up with teammates and colleagues from other departments and sectors of our business who I don't often get to see in person.
Apartmentalize is an annual pilgrimage for our industry. It is the hub for sharing and learning everything from marketing, operations, touring, property management software, hiring, staffing, and data management to sustainability, regulations, HR, waste management, security, access control (that's me), and more.
For Apartmentalize rookies, the industry's largest trade show can feel frenzied and chaotic. There's so much going on, so much to see, and so much to learn. For me, it gives me that same feeling I had as a kid going to Toys R Us: Oh... My... Gosh... How am I ever going to play with all these toys before I have to go home?!?
When the event kicked off earlier this month, a cast of characters, including property managers, maintenance staff, leasing agents, developers, and a throng of vendors (that's me again), descended on the Georgia World Congress Center. The halls, exhibit floor, and session rooms were filled with a buzz. Handshakes, hugs, and fist bumps ensued as attendees greeted friends, coworkers, partners, and colleagues from across the industry and around the world.
The event's programming offers conference-goers a unique blend of keynote speakers, learning sessions, expert panels, product demos, and idea exchange forums, along with a wide range of social activities, parties, and entertainment. Among the highlights this year were social entrepreneur Derreck Kayongo, Olympic gold medalist ski racer Lindsey Vonn, and the Ted Lasso creator and actor Jason Sudeikis.
The Business Side of Things
Each year, SALTO (once again, yours truly) exhibits at Apartmentalize and showcases our latest partnerships, hardware releases, and software innovations. For me, this event is special because it gives me the rare opportunity to connect face-to-face with property managers and on-site staff—the actual people using SALTO products on a daily basis. It serves as an invaluable listening post and an informal straw poll for measuring our customers' satisfaction.
I use the input, ideas, and criticisms I receive in these conversations to find new ways to improve how we collaborate with our partners and serve our customers, all with the intention to better align with the market and reduce any friction or barriers for our customers. The event also provides an incredible platform for educating potential customers on the power of smart access solutions in multifamily.
Getting Schooled (aka The Multifamily MBA)
Without a doubt, the biggest value that NAA and the Apartmentalize conference offer revolves around industry education. Admittedly, it doesn't happen often, but at Apartmentalize, there are moments when vendors stop talking and actually listen and learn about how multifamily operators piece together the complex ecosystem of technology, finance, construction, maintenance, and personnel, along with the real-world operations that make multifamily work. These education sessions provide attendees, regardless of their role, the chance to shift their mindset and view multifamily from a holistic perspective.
I attended "Many Paths to Efficiency: How are Operators Centralizing Services." The session was hosted by Chase Harrington (Entrata), Kimberly Nicholson (Greystar), and Suzanne Hopson (Tricap Residential). When I read the title, I assumed the session's discussion would focus on centralizing tech stacks using cloud-based solutions. However, the proceeding hour-long conversation challenged my perspective on proptech. The panel discussed how multifamily owners and operators are realizing that their property managers are being asked to wear too many hats. All too often, these property managers are supporting current residents, selling leases, directing and managing maintenance needs, analyzing data, generating financial insights on properties, providing reports, and caring for every little detail in between.
Greystar and Tricap Residential are committed to centralizing services, all with the intent to empower every staff member to be their best employee. For example, centralizing the sales team in one location creates efficiencies in process, resources, and support systems, allowing the sales team to focus on their primary skill set—selling and closing. Centralizing the property management team allows property managers to provide the best possible resident experience, creating consistency across a portfolio. Centralizing the maintenance staff so that they are dispatched from one office or location to service many properties allows for a better-optimized workforce with faster and more consistent response times.
How does all this relate to a shift in mindset? The goal of centralizing tech stacks isn't necessarily to make administering disparate systems easier. The goal of consolidating services and centralizing tech stacks is to provide multifamily operators with the tools needed to optimize their diverse and distributed workforce. The belief is that this fundamental shift in business processes will empower staff to focus on their strongest traits, increasing productivity and creating redundant resources.
(Shameless plug warning) Modern cloud-based access control and electronic smart locking systems are more than just a way of opening doors. They represent a new mode of boosting efficiency across an organization, leading to better resident experiences and employee satisfaction. Property managers can manage access from down the hall, across town, or across the country, all from their office workstation, laptop, or even using their smartphone while on the go. Maintenance staff can be given access to the right units at the right time. And leasing agents can offer true self-guided tours across multiple communities and during off-times.
That’s a Wrap
Apartmentalize is massive, drawing over 11,000 attendees, but leaving the event I feel closer and more connected to the industry than ever before. Thanks to NAA for hosting another awesome event in what has become my favorite trade show of the year. There is nothing better than reconnecting with customers and partners in person, building new relationships, and communing with the multifamily family. With that in mind, be sure to block your calendars for next June when Apartmenatlize returns to the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. I hope to see everyone there and wait to see what innovations the coming year brings.