DGS 34: The Importance of Culture & Vision in Your Property Management Business

A solid team is needed for any property management business to grow and be sustainable. One of the largest challenges of having, building, and retaining a team is creating an environment that enables team members to thrive. Having a culture and vision is foundational for attracting and keeping the right people on that team.

In this episode, I interview Tim Wehner from Dodson Property Management. Dodson is a large company with a large team, which is perfect for today’s topic of having a culture and vision within a property management business. Tim shares how they create a culture at Dodson and how a shared vision helps motivate team members.

You’ll Learn…

[03:43] Writing out a mission statement, company values, and vision. Then taking small steps to accomplish those.
[05:43] Dodson has about 1475 properties under 10 units and 4000 in the multifamily department.
[07:43] How important it is to make sure everyone shares the same vision and values.
[09:44] Dodson promotes long lasting relationships by dividing groups into pods.
[10:23] Dodson and their purpose or mission statement. Creating a positive relationship with tenants and owners. Trust, comfort, and pride.
[11:57] Values are to be empathetic, honorable, driven, and courageous.
[12:39] Vision to positively impact over 500,000 lives by 2025 is where they want to go at Dodson.
[13:24] The importance of community within their vision and the impact they make on the community.
[14:27] Inspire others to love true principles at Door Grow. Energy management and what is in line with purpose. Learning and sharing for fun.
[19:28] Trust and relying on each other and being able to share while talking with people like they are human beings.
[23:20] Being open to employees with new ideas.
[24:46] Challenges dealing with things like gossip and office politics. Trust and open dialogue go a long way.
[32:07] Making sure a job is a good fit and the team member will be motivated in their role.
[40:21] Celebrating wins and asking how to give support as a leader. This allows feedback and creates momentum.
[46:04] How memories don’t even exist unless there is emotion attached to that. Create positive emotions and wins.
[52:02] Finding what is working and continue doing that.
[52:22] Get clear on your purpose and values. Have a vision of where you want to be.



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Jason: Welcome DoorGrow Hackers to The DoorGrow Show. If you are a property management entrepreneur that wants to add doors and expand your rent roll, and you are interested in growing your business and life, and you are open to doing things a bit differently, then you are a DoorGrow Hacker.

At DoorGrow, we are on a mission to grow property management businesses and their owners. We want to transform the industry, eliminate the BS, build awareness, expand the market, and help the best property managers win. If you enjoy this episode, do me a favor, open up iTunes, find the DoorGrowShow, subscribe, and then give us a real review. Thank you for helping us with that vision.

I’m your host, Property Management Growth Hacker, Jason Hull, the founder of OpenPotion, GatherKudos, ThunderLocal, and of course, DoorGrow. Now, let’s get into the show.

This is DoorGrowShow Episode 34. In today’s episode, we have Tim Wehner of Dodson Property Management. Dodson is a really large company and they have a large team. We’re going to talk about the importance of culture and vision in your property management business and how foundational that is to attracting, retaining, and keeping the right people on your team. Let’s get into the show.

This is Jason Hull with the DoorGrowShow, hanging out with Tim Wehner of Dodson Property Management. We’re going to be talking about company culture and branding or creating an environment that is attractive to the right people and building a team that works well together. Tim, welcome to the show.

Tim: Jason, thanks a lot for having me.

Jason: Let’s talk about attracting, what it takes, what’s the foundational pieces to attracting the right people. I think a lot of people get really caught up on this idea that they need to know the right disk profile for a person. They need to have the right list of criteria and they get really anal and mental about all of this stuff that create and find the right person. They feel like everybody is lying and they have to all this kind of stuff. If we just take a real high-level step back, what’s foundational to creating a company that works?

Tim: That’s a great question. I agree with your comments about kind of getting stuck on some of the wrong details that’s like anything in life. Easy to see things as they sometimes are as you want them to be, as opposed to as they actually are. I think, foundationally—I’m going to talk about Dodson Property Management’s culture, but I want to make sure that people know—it’s not important to copy our culture to grow your business or to have a successful business, it’s important to find out what yours is. I think, foundationally, what you need to look at is writing out and living your purpose or mission statement and your company values, and then your vision as to where you’re going. From there, all of this stuff starts to make a little bit more sense. You can take small steps instead of trying to take one huge step. You can take 10 small steps to be successful.

Jason: I love this idea that, the most important thing is to get clarity on the intention or the purpose for the business. That’s going to be different for every business, even if you’re in the same business category. Every property management company does not have the same why or purpose behind it.

Tim: Absolutely no. I’m sorry to cut you off, Jason. I just want to make sure that that point is hit on because that’s absolutely true. We do things a lot differently than a lot of companies. Our office environment, people who have visited have said, “How did you do that?” It’s kind of something that sprung itself naturally by getting and attracting people that love where we’re going, where we’re headed, and what we’re doing right now.

Where we’re headed is not going to be the same place somebody else is going to be headed, even if somebody wants to grow 100 doors or 200 doors this year. That maybe where they stopped. We’re not going to stop. It’s all about finding what’s working for you, and creating that experience for your clients and your customers as you grow. You can’t always be there as a business owner or as an entrepreneur, and you can’t have every conversation with every client. But it’s about finding people that will have those conversations and represent you in the same vane as you would have that same conversation.

Jason: Cool. Let me ask you about Dodson. You guys have about how many doors in your portfolio? Give people a perception or the scale that you guys have achieved.

Tim: On the residential side, we’ve got two different departments. One is what we call our single family side, which is a little bit misleading because it actually is anything 10 units in one place or under. We have, I think, at last count 1477 properties in that department.

We also have a Multi Family Community Management Department that manages about, I think it’s close to 4000 now. I don’t have as much to do with that side of the business anymore. My role is Vice-President of Single Family Management. We also have a commercial department as well that manages, I think, just over 100,000 square ft of commercial space.

Jason: This company is almost three different companies, then?

Tim: Yeah. That’s a challenge and that’s why, again, that foundational piece of mission, vision, and values is so important and it’s not easy. It’s something that we’re working on, especially because part of our growth over the years has been acquiring and merging with companies. It’s not an easy task to merge or acquire a company, have that same purpose, and make sure those values when you’re acquiring employees or bringing those on. That’s an important aspect of it because what you can’t do is grow. Whether retiring or acquisition or mergers, you can’t grow and bring people on the door that don’t share your values.

I think Duke Dodson, my boss, one of his favorite phrases is that, “Thoroughbreds don’t like to be around donkeys.” That took me a while. I’m not from Fredericksburg, Virginia so I didn’t quite understand that one. But the point is that, people who are high performers in your organization are going to feel dragged down when they’re around people who aren’t living their values, they’re not participating in company events, and they’re not getting the job done. It’s important, again, whether you’re hiring, merging, or acquiring, to make sure that all those folks share your values. Again, we’re going to go back to that foundation of mission, vision, and values and if everybody’s going the same place, it’s going to make a lot easier to get there fast.

Jason: You’ve mentioned that the people come to your office, it just seems a bit different than something they’re used to. Give people an idea if they come into your office, what they’re going to see? What’s stands out to them? What’s kind of different?

Tim: I think it’s just from everything from the way you’re greeted at our front door. Currently, we have somebody named Sarah. She’s sitting up there and she just does a fantastic job of really just representing who we are with a smile on her face. It’s not that you’re not going to go to other offices and get a smile, but it’s just the way she presents herself, the way our office looks, and the interaction with each other. It’s a little bit cliché to say that we work hard, play hard, and we’re just like a family. I’ve been to other offices that say those sort of things. I got to tell you, it’s a lot different here. There’s a little bit of vulgarity sometimes and a little bit of fun and playfulness, but it’s all with the intention of, again, going in the same place.

Our goal is to deliver living experience unlike any other, and whatever it takes to get there, I think, is kind of how we accomplish it. With that goes a lot of trust in each other. We’ve got an environment where we got some pods that we put together and allows our employees to lean on each other. It allows our employees to develop relationships with each other that are going to be long-lasting. I think when you have long-lasting relationships and people trust each other within your organization, I don’t have to do much because of that. They take us where we’re going because they know where we want to go and they do it together.

Jason: I now want to ask you more about that environment you’ve created. Let’s go back to the vision, the values, and the mission. You probably don’t know all these things off the top of your head, but can you give us kind of a high-level overview of your perception of what is Dodson all about?

Tim: I can kind of give it to you off of my head and that’s maybe part of the difference. Our purpose statement is to create a living experience that instills a sense of trust, comfort, and pride. When we’re developing that, there’s a tendency in property management to focus on property manager and owner or “client.” We were intentional about the fact that we wanted to create a purpose statement that encompass both the relationship from the client which is our owners, to our tenants who we call customers, and everything in between, our relationship with our tenants, our relationships with our clients. I think that sometimes gets lost in property management as your relationship with you tenant is just as important as it is with your owner.

When we say trust, comfort, and pride, we really mean that our tenants will trust us, our owners will trust us, our owners will feel comfortable with having difficult conversations with us, our tenants will feel the same way, and our owners will have enough pride in their asset, their home that they will take care of it. We give our tenants a sense of pride in the sense that, whether they’re in the nicest house or somewhere not so nice, they have pride in where they are. They know that we’ll be taking care of them. They know our clients will be taking care of them. I think that’s important when we talk about our purpose.

Our values are to be empathetic, to be honorable, to be driven, and to be courageous. Even when we write that out on our picture board, we got some fun phrases on there, like being courageous means to eat the frog, meaning, to have your most difficult conversation early in the morning. As the phrase go, if you eat a bullfrog first thing in the morning, the rest of your day is going to be pretty good. I never tried that exactly but I would imagine that that’s actually correct.

I think the most important thing that we have as far as mission, vision, values, is our vision—it’s a little bit long and drawn out so forgive me, but I’m fairly passionate about it so I like to talk about it—it’s to positively impact over 500,000 lives by the year 2025, by cultivating a team of the brightest, most trustworthy, and innovative people who are constantly raising the bar for our industry. That’s where we want to go. We want to positively impact people.

You mentioned why. “Simon Sinek why? Why are we in this business?” For the most part, for us, it’s a people business. Again, that’s not just a focus on our clients, it’s also a focus on our tenants and customers. Within that vision is also our community. You can’t impact 500,000 lives—at least where we were employee-wise—without making an impact on the community as well. I think you see that throughout our culture and organization.

Just this week, we did an off-site event where we actually went to a couple of cemeteries in a lower-income part of town—150 year-old cemeteries that have been overgrown, they look like forests—and there’s an organization that helps clean those up and find headstones of folks from 100 years ago. Their ancestors are never seen because these cemeteries have gone complete disrepair. Just things like that that we tried to do to impact to the community, and not just focus on business, business, business every minute of the day.

Jason: In line with this—so we can drive this home for listeners—I want to share our values here on DoorGrow. My personal wise statement is to inspire others to love true principles. Once I got clear on that, time management no longer mattered to me. That really distracted me from that. It became energy management, like what is really in-line with my purpose and what is not, and how can I be doing the things that I most enjoy, most love, and that most fulfill me. What that boils down to, to inspire others to love true principles—sounds a little woo-woo or weird—but what that means is, to me, is to figure what works. I love learning and finding out what works, and sharing with other people. That’s something I would just do for free, for fun. It’s just something I enjoy doing. That’s what I’m doing during sales, that’s what I’m doing in conversations like this. It’s just fun for me.

Our business is an extension to that. The ‘why’ statement for DoorGrow is to transform property management businesses and their owners. We really have this intention to transform the industry. I felt like there’s a big need for that, that the industry is in its infancy, that there’s a need for expansion in market share instead of everyone competing and fighting over the existing market share, which is relatively small right now.

We believe and have a vision of creating internally our goals, similar to you in having a number of like 500,00 lives that you’re impacting. We have a critical number of having to create 300 clients, 300 property management entrepreneurs, an army of 300 similar to King Leonidas who was the warrior king, that are out there creating a serious impact and a difference in growing market share in property management, and doing things very differently. This is what we focus on as a team. This is what we have conversations about. It shifts the entire focus when you have a vision, you have a direction you headed, and you have values that you espouse, that you share, and you relate to your team on a regular basis.

It becomes very clear when team members don’t align with those values. The whole team can […] at you, you can just look at your values and go, “Okay, does this team member have this?” It becomes pretty apparent and they’re not a good fit. Before I had gotten clear on a lot of these stuff, I had a lot of team members that really didn’t share my values. When I got clear and brought those out, and just looked at them and they look to my team, I was like there’s a disconnect. Having that clarity, I think, is critical.

In all the things that you’re saying, one thing that really came across to me is that, in your culture, in your business, there’s a high level of safety. There’s no way a team communicates well or feels able to do what they really want to do, and there’s a sense of safety it seems in your business. How do you feel like that’s been created? There’s a lot of people don’t feel safe in their jobs.

Tim: Sure. Safety is a really cool way to put it. I actually had a conversation about something similar yesterday. We just got an HR consultant that works for us about 20 hours a week. I love to show the office but I love our HR person. I don’t know what Toby’s problem was but our HR person is awesome. We were talking about that exact thing in terms of leadership. Going back to your question was what created it or was it’s like, I think it’s an openness to ideas, it’s an openness to not always being right, and it’s creating a culture where you’re not afraid to just speak up even if it’s a little bit of a crazy idea.

There was one time I had an idea that we should get a helicopter and start showing properties via helicopter. It was actually something that we took a few minutes to analyze. When you just are open to ideas and it doesn’t have to be about you, it could be a focus on somebody else, I think that really opens a lot of people’s ideas. It allows them to be creative and when there’s not a fear of that, I think that you’re successful as an organization.

Not that there’s never been a time in our company where somebody wasn’t looked at oddly for sharing something. But I think I go back to that trust aspect, and I think that’s what makes the difference for us internally. Especially that we trust each other, we know we can rely on each other, we know that we’re going to be there for each other. Our clients feel the same way. Our customers feel the same way.

Now, again, not every single one of them are Yelp’s score would say that we’re worst company on the face of the Earth but I don’t judge myself on Yelp. Again, just to reiterate the point, when there’s a lack of judgment and you talk to people as if they’re human beings—not as objects which is something I think through creating the living experience that we want to—I think that really goes a long way in creating safety externally as well to our clients and our customers.

I think it’s just being open and honest and not being afraid to give each other negative feedback, because we know it’s the right thing to do, is the kind of last part of that. If there’s a fear of, “I wonder why this person is telling me that I did this wrong or that I’m not performing up to par.” If somebody thinks that there’s an ulterior motive there, you’re not feeling safe, you’re not feeling trusted. In a trusting environment, when you have a constant, “Here’s what you’re doing well, here’s what you’re doing poorly. Let’s work on these together.” That opens the trust and communication and safety doors, and that goes up and down.

My folks would come to me and tell me I’m doing a bad job when they think so as well. And again, I think just having that environment creates a safe space for everybody.

Jason: I think there’s this temptation among entrepreneurs that, as they start to grow and as they start to build a team, there’s this method, this belief that they need to know everything, that they need to be the smartest guy in the room, that they need to have all the answers. At some point, as they try to build the team, they have to give up this idea that they are the best or the smartest at anything and they have to give that up. Everything that gets them to that stage of growth, they have to give up, and it’s really challenging.

Tim: Yeah. Absolutely, especially in this business. I like what you said earlier about this business kind of being in its infancy, I think it’s how you put it. I totally agree and that’s part of why our vision statement is about setting the standards in our industry and having innovative employees who were constantly trying to raise the bar.

You’re exactly right. You go from this, “Hey, I’m doing everything. I’m sending out leases, I’m doing inspections, I’m doing renewal letters,” and that’s your skill set that you’ve built, and that’s why you’re successful to suddenly, “Oh, I’ve got to teach somebody else how to do that and inspire them how to do it or inspire them to do it,” because we’ve all had employees that maybe aren’t as inspired as they’re possibly could be. That’s the real challenge, I think it kind of goes back to that foundation of how do you attract the right people, how do you find the people who you could speak to and they understand your language. It’s like The Language of Love. I don’t know if you’re married or not, but if you’ve read that book—

Jason: The Five Love Languages?

Tim: The Five Love Languages. That’s right. Finding those people that relate to you and can understand it, and then being open and willing to accept the fact that somebody along the line, if you have 2, 3, 10, 25, 50 employees, somebody is probably going to know more than you. They’re going to have a better way to do things than you. If you’re not open to that—I’m not saying you’re a bad person or anything—that’s fine. If you want to be a dictator and that’s how you want to run your business. It’s got to be this way, this way, this way and I’m not open to listening to new ideas, you have to find the people that are going to be inspired by somebody who has no want or need for other ideas. You can run a successful business that way. I wouldn’t do that for my business because we would be able to attract the people that we want here.

Jason: The challenge is none of us want to be the emperor with no clothes. You quickly become the emperor with no clothes if you shift into a dictatorship-type of role and you shoot down ideas. You don’t create a space for safety and trust.

Another challenge that you’ll see in organizations. I’ve been a part of large companies, large organizations like HP, Verizon. One of the challenge is the bigger an organization gets, when there isn’t clarity, vision and purpose, and in making sure that you really keep people, attract people that are a good fit, is gossip and office politics.

How do you guys kind of nip that in the bud or prevent that from festering and growing as a cancer in the business?

Tim: I don’t think we have that problem right now. I’m not certain that we’ve run into it and putting my finger on exactly why, I think just kind of goes back to that trust aspect and the open dialogue that we have both upwards and downwards. We’re constantly evaluating our folks and giving people feedback, allowing for them to give each other feedback, allowing them to give their managers feedback. Not that it’s going to solve all problems.

The politics question, I think once you find somebody who’s playing off his politics, I think it’s important to probably get that person out of the organization as quickly as possible. The gossip thing, you’re never going to get all the gossip out. I think setting the expectation that, if you’re having a conversation behind closed doors about somebody that should be one that you’re willing to have straight to their face, I think that’s something that we’ve done from the get-go as well. Let’s not have a conversation about somebody that we wouldn’t be willing to have right to their face.

I think it’s been difficult to translate that at times. We just ran into a situation with one of our offices that isn’t our main headquarters in Richmond where some of that stuff was going on. It really ended up taking care of itself because it just didn’t feel right to the other people at the office. That person wasn’t accepting of the open dialogue. It was blaming other people and lack of accountability. I think when you instill that accountability value in people, it really presents itself as quite obvious and those people end up not really fitting in at all. I think you know Verizon and places like the HP, where you got thousands of employees.

I’d like to have that problem one day but I don’t think we had that problem quite yet. You run into these situations companies that big and even as a company your size, you run into a situation. Somebody leaves from an important role, you acquire a large book of business and suddenly you need to hire somebody quickly. That’s not what we like to do. We like to hire slow fire, fast. I think, it unavoidable at times when you run into those situations but you really got to pay attention. You got to have a pipeline of people ready to fill in and then you do really have to pay attention to that fire-fast aspect.

Jason: Could you share with some of the listeners and viewer of this, some of the feedback mechanisms that you have in your business? I think this really sounds like a critical piece to what you guys do and create internally in your culture.

Tim: Yeah, absolutely. There’s two, now that I am analyzing it. We have relatively structured, weekly one-to-ones or biweekly-one-to-ones, depending on a number of factors. Those are opportunities to give feedback both ways, the employee or the managed employee has an opportunity to speak first and then we get into the manager discussions.

We also have a mechanism that we call ‘Our People Analyzer.’ This is not an idea that Dodson Property Management came up with. It’s ripped straight out of the book called Traction by Gino Wickman. It’s an entrepreneurial operating system. Basically, what it does is that it allows you to analyze the performance and have the discussion, both about your performance piece and your culture fit piece. We do this quarterly. It’s a little bit of a diagram that I love to draw but unfortunately, were on the Podcast.

Essentially, it just allows you to grade people on how they’re doing skillswise and performance-wise, and then you write out each of your values. You give them pluses or minuses based on how they’re fitting your values. In generally, that just opens up a lot of discussion and  we are also fortunate where we got employees, for the most part, of the people who have been working here for a while, and the people who are successful here are fairly self-aware. When you bring up a  point, it’s usually not something that people don’t know already. That allows again for just open, honest discussion and I think one of the main pieces that we’re really working on right now is the people manager aspect for kind of middle management.

Back to our discussion about the entrepreneur passing on his or her skill set and kind of changing from I’m a doer to I’m an inspirer. There’s a little bit of that in middle management that needs to happen where you need to be able to evaluate talent, you need to be able to have these conversations, you need to be able to help people with their personal goals and their career development, and you need to be able to absolutely make sure people are doing inspections and leases and things like that. It’s a totally different skill set from what you were successful at as a property manager or assistant property manager. Developing those people and making sure they have the skill set to manage people effectively, that’s also a big part of as well.

Jason: Great. You mentioned you becoming an inspirant, so I wanted to touch on this. A mantra that I have internally I picked up along the road or along the way was, “Whenever we failed to inspire, we always control.” What that means is, whenever we are not inspiring somebody, they aren’t choosing into it and choosing into our vision. They don’t feel inspired to do the things we want them to do. We, by default, then shift into a controlling sort of state, like we want to control them and force them to do this. If we can take a step back and recognize, “Alright, am I getting resistance,” which means I’m trying to control them, how am I failing to inspire them and how can I inspire them to do this?

My philosophy with hiring is really simple. I have really a simple rule. I think a lot of times we make it really hard when we try to figure out all this stuff out. But I’ve one main question that I ask people when I’m hiring somebody. I figure out what I want these people to be doing and what that person, that would be good fit for that, would love doing, it should be that thing. I just ask them, “What do you most enjoy doing? Tell me about your previous job. What did you most love about that job or what did you not enjoy?” I want to make sure this is a good fit.

It’s really just about them having this natural, innate, hardwire love towards doing the type of work that they’re going to be doing in that role, is my philosophy because they will be far better at that role than anybody else. You don’t have to motivate them to do it, they will naturally just choose into doing that.

Tim: I 100% agree with that. I may actually steal that. It’s a little bit like I always ask a question, “What are you passionate about?” I like to find people that are passionate about people, passionate about work, and passionate about making a difference whether it’s in work or job life. Similar philosophy is that, the skills of being a property manager can be taught fairly simple. It’s not rocket science. It’s being nice to people and opening up doors and looking for water leaks. That can be taught to people but it kind of goes back to what your culture is. You’re asking that question because you want to know if somebody fits your culture and it doesn’t sound like you’re a hand holder. You want to give somebody the creative space to work and allow them to be successful within in that space.

If you were a big hand holder, you would probably ask about proficiencies and this, and that, the other thing. I really believe that that’s again, a question that’s a basis on getting somebody in that fits in your culture and that doesn’t need to be overly managed.

Your original thought process, your controlling thought process got me thinking a little bit. I’m actually reading this book, Leadership From The Inside Out right now. I’m working on a few exercises. Really the first 60 pages have been awesome and there’s some great exercises in there. It made me kind of think about inspiration differently. It’s made me think about the way you show up to everything. We show up whether it’s a persona or an ego, not ego in a bad way but there’s an authenticity about this. We’re choosing how we show up in each one of these interactions, whether it’s the smallest interaction with an employee or a big HR nightmare. You choose how you show up.

All of these things we’ve been talking about are connected, and I think, authenticity as a leader and an inspirer, is the number one thing you can be. If I’m not living our mission, vision, and values, or I’m not being authentic to who I am, and I think I need to present myself in some way, people are going to be able to feel that out, eventually. It does you no favors as a leader to present yourself in a way you’re not. If you just have to be aware of it, and you have to be aware on what people see, if you want to be yourself, I think that’s the best way to be in business, honestly.

Jason: It takes some courage to be emotionally and mentally transparent, to be vulnerable with people. But that’s the only way to create safety  I feel in an organization. That tells me that your boss and yourself, if you have a team that feels safe, that you guys have a sense and this ability to be willing to, you feel safe yourself, you feel safe yourself in sharing and being vulnerable and sharing these kinds of things. It kind of like I’m not really a big fan of the word authentic because I feel like when people are like, “Let’s be authentic,” or “Can we all be our authentic self,” they’re kind of saying, “Hey, I’ve been lying this whole time and now I’m going to not do that,” like, “What were we doing before,” because that concerns me.

This idea of authenticity gets push around a lot. But it feel like as managers, leaders or entrepreneurs running a company or CEOs, we have to create this safety. It’s interesting. Naturally, what I would do during a hiring process if I’m doing the hiring directly, I will be asking them, “What do you most enjoy doing and what don’t you enjoy doing?” Because I want to make sure this is a good fit. Then I give them an example for myself, like, “I don’t like writing out contracts and proposals. That’s not fun for me.” I don’t want to say, “I can do graphic design very well but I don’t want to sit in front of Photoshop eight hours a day. I don’t get excited about that. It’s kinda cool to be creative, that’s not my purpose in life. But, I love doing this, and I love doing that, I love helping people, I love sharing, I love teaching, this sort of thing, and that’s just kind of who I am.” I share that with them, and I say, “Tell me about you. What are you most love and enjoy doing?” I just let them know, “Because I want to help you, I want to make sure this is really good fit. Because if it isn’t a good fit, we’re both going to be less happy.”

There might be other roles that we have that are a better fit. I’ve had that happen where somebody was marketing and advertising themselves as a writer. I was looking at them as a writer but I saw that, after talking with them and looking at their skill set, and getting a perception about really who they are and what they really love doing, they made a fantastic assistant for me. I had that person as an assistant for three years, and she was an amazing assistant. I saw this diamond in the rough and she was billing herself out as a low-dollar-like writer. She was this rock star assistant. By the time she left me, she was making a lot of money, and she moved on to even higher and better things.

We need to see beyond what people are kind of saying they are and find out where do they really start to come alive, where do you see them becoming happy, and help lead them into that. And when we really put our time, energy, and effort into our team, and supporting our team. A lot of times we think their job is to make us money and to make things work. We look it like they have to make a certain amount of money so that they’re worth being on our team instead of how can I support them in doing this.

Going back to your feedback methods ideas, usually I have two main questions that I’ll ask team members that I want to know. The team members I bring on, I want them to be able to just do whatever it is that they need to. If they’re a graphic designer, I want them to just be able to do the graphic design, I want them to communicate with the client about it, I want them to handle it instead of me. A lot of entrepreneurs, they think we make the mistake as we build out a team of making our life tactically harder. We want to control everything instead of give it over to somebody else, trust them to do a good job, support them, give them the guidance, tools, and resources, and allow them to do their own thing. It requires you feeling safe with other people and giving that up to them.

But I asked them usually two questions, “Where are you winning?” We want to celebrate the wins. I think a lot of times, a business, especially as entrepreneurs, we just succeed, we win, but we don’t pay attention to it. We just keep moving towards this goal or move on to the next pane, or the next challenge, or the next fire. We don’t celebrate these wins. I feel like that in our culture, this is a big deal, like if we get on a client, if we helped a client get some new doors, or a client is growing or succeeding. We tell each other and we celebrate these things. If we get a website launched, we announce it and everybody says, “Yay” and this sort of thing, and this is a bit more challenged because we’re a virtual team. I don’t have them around me where I can touch and talk directly to them, so we’ve created this environment.

The other thing I want to know besides their wins and successes—because I want to celebrate their wins, I want them to feel they’re winning always—the other thing I like to ask is, “Where do you feel stuck or need support?” Like, “How can I support and help you?” They’re supporting me all the time, helping me but how can I help and support them? I think that’s where we shift into this leadership role, more almost like a coach type of role where we are allowing them to give us the feedback. That’s very safe because they can say, “Okay. Well, yeah I’m feeling a little bit stuck on this,” or, “I’m having a challenge with this client” “Okay, cool. Can I help with that?” “Have you tried this?” “What do you feel like you need support wise?” Between those two things, I feel like that creates momentum in a team member. We’re either in a state of  momentum or we’re stuck. Sometimes you just asking, like, “Where are you stuck?” I feel like this can be really empowering in leadership to be able to help them out.

Tim: That’s really good. I like both of those things. I think, in your point about, if you don’t stop for a minute, when you do, something will, or when you don’t celebrate those, as you put them, “What are your successes,”—we call them quick wins and then we can give each other what we call big ups, meaning a shoutout for doing something great—if you don’t stop and take a minute to actually celebrate that, as a super fast-paced business that is constantly fires, fires, fires, fires, sometimes, literally, but more often metaphorically, you get stuck in this kind of negative vibe around the office and you can feel it. If you don’t spend time focusing on some of these wins and some of these successes, you’re really just setting yourself up for failure and burnout, honestly. I don’t know if that’s how the way it works on your business as well. But it just seems that way for us. I love that you asked that those two questions, those are awesome.

Jason: I think also as a company and a culture, if you don’t celebrate your wins, you’re not just missing out on celebrating the wins but you’re destroying your wins. Because what happens is you’re creating an environment where, if a team member does something good or creates something good, you’re basically saying it didn’t matter. There’s nothing more to feeding into a team member than to be working their ass off to try and create and do and help you achieve your goals and vision of hitting some critical number of clients or hitting some sort of impact or making a difference or whatever, to then negate that and say, “Yeah, you got that but let’s move on,” or, “Let’s just sweep that under the rug and not  even make a big deal about it.” We don’t celebrate the wins and that’s kind of the default to not celebrate the wins, like “Okay, we didn’t screw up. Great. Let’s keep going.” If we intentionally create a focus on a regular basis to celebrate those wins and create a culture around that, we create a team that feels like they’re winning. That’s an aspired team.

Tim: Oh yeah, and it goes from everything from external wins of helping clients achieve goals, or you hit a sales goal or whatever it is, to just even something internally. I can tell you, I made some terrible mistakes in this business and a couple of them have been around these specific things. I had the person who really runs our single-family division, her name is Elizabeth Cane and all of our property managers report directly to her. She came to me one day, several months ago and said, “In 2016, we didn’t really promote from within and I feel that from people.” I started thinking after we had these meetings—because promoting from within is something we always want to do—walking away from that meeting and I started thinking.

Jason: Instead of promoting from within you’re like you need a new role, you’d hire somebody.

Tim: Exactly. I left that meeting sort of thinking about it. It was a great meeting because she was giving me some probably difficult for her to give me feedback, but it really helped me think about some things but a different point.

We had promoted from within three times in 2016. But I didn’t do a good job of celebrating that and it got to the point where she didn’t even remember that we had promoted people on her team from within. Because there was no celebration and there was no, “ Hey, you did such a great job and this is the reason we’re giving you this promotion,” we should’ve done something in front of people. It’s easy from instead of giving somebody a gift card because they’re doing a great job in private, maybe have that private conversation but also give it to people in front of others. First of all, it’s a celebration. Second of all, if somebody’s doing a great job, it’s probably because they’re a doing good job with your mission, vision and values. It gives you an opportunity to reinforce that as well. So your whole point right there, if nobody walks away with anything else, take that. The celebrating, the wins, and not letting opportunity like that pass by, because people get disgruntled when you don’t celebrate wins. It has an impact on your team to the point where people don’t remember when actually good things happen.

Jason: Yeah. They’re like, “No, it didn’t even happen.” This is the thing about memory and why memory is so faulty. Memory, as far as a logical or logical memory, with data and facts like what the temperature was yesterday, this kind of thing, that memory doesn’t even seem to exist unless there’s an emotion attached to it. Everybody remembers what they were doing and what the day was somewhat like on 9/11. That was a […] right at that time.

Tim: Yeah.

Jason: People remember because there was a lot of emotions attached to that. But, maybe the day before or maybe the day after, there’s no emotion attached to that. If you can, attach positive anchors and positive emotion to these different events that you want them to remember. You want them to remember these wins and we want our team members to remember our successes in achieving our vision as a company. It validates what we’re doing, it validates that our mission is accurate, that we’re moving in the right direction which creates this momentum.

The second we take our eyes off of that, we don’t know the scoreboard. We don’t know how we’re doing and that instantly kills momentum if we don’t have (a) a clear outcome to move towards, and (b) we don’t know the scoreboard like where we at. It be like playing a basketball game and they’re like, “Well, we’re not going to be keep scoring on the board. We’ll tell you at the end.” It’s like, “Okay, did we make it? The end? We think we did.”

Tim: Usually when I’m playing, I’d rather not look at the score but I get your point.

Jason: I love these ideas you’re sharing. Dodson has gotten into this large skilled growth. You’ve got these multiple businesses internally. You’ve got the multi family side, the single-family side, the commercial management side. For property managers that are just starting out, that are small— this is the majority of them out there, the majority of them out there have probably under 100 doors—they can’t figure out how to grow beyond that, not even at a point where they can  afford to even get their first team member. What sort of advice would you maybe give to these guys in terms of creating this culture and all these stuff? How do we bring this down to their level?

Tim: I think, and I know you don’t like it but I’ll go back to a little bit of authenticity, and that whether you’re one person or two people, what makes you successful on a sales call, Jason or […] for example—I know him very well. He does feel, again I know you don’t like it but authentic when you’re talking.

Jason: No, you can say authentic. You can say authentic.

Tim: I think, when you sit back and think about it, and you think about what makes you successful on a sales call, or successful when you meet with a client, or a possible new agent that you’re going to bring on, you really have to analyze what that success looks like and what made you successful.

Additionally, I think you need to think about what your goals are overall. Not everybody needs to be 1475 units like we do and hopefully more. Not everybody needs to be 300 units, not everybody needs to be 100 units. You need to figure out what your goals are. Write them down. Hopefully share them with somebody because that’s important, and figure out how you gotten from point A to point B, and if you want, to get to point C, or if 75 doors is fine, or if 200 doors is where you want to be, write it down, figure out how you’re going to get there. Usually, it takes a little bit of sacrifice. Like you said, sometimes people can’t even afford to hire an assistant. There’s a number of wonderful ways to supplement that with virtual assistance these days—that seems to be the new hot thing—I think you even have a podcast on that if I remember correctly.

I think if growth is one your goals—like I said, I’m not certain there’s one specific formula that works as far as AdWords or what not, you would probably be able to tell people better than I would on that—write down what’s making you successful and try to mirror that everywhere you go. Try to represent that with every conversation you have and people will start believing in you when they see it.

Jason: I love it. Figure out what’s working and do more of that, right?

Tim: Yes, pretty simple. When you put it like that, but it sounded much more grandiose when I said it. No, but that’s seriously what it is. If people see something, and it’s who you are and what’s you’re bringing to the table and it’s working, why change it? That’s why we very easily, unless we’re getting to 100 employees, could have buttoned-up our culture. I could be wearing the tie that’s sitting on my board there and we could’ve become this corporate entity. I’m on the National Board with NARPM and sometimes we got to wear suits when we’re out in front of members and I’m thinking, “I don’t know if that fits what NARPM is.” I enjoy dressing up wearing suits, don’t get me wrong. I hope Steve Schultz isn’t listening.

But we could’ve changed who we were to try to match what corporate needs to be but we stayed who we are and we continue to find success in that. There’s something that people like about that and there’s something that people are drawn to you for a reason, Jason. I’m sure you’ve got clients that referred somebody to you because they liked talking to you. I’ve enjoyed our conversation today. There’s just something about when you just find what’s working and you sit down and analyze it and you say, “Oh, I’ve had a great conversation with that person because we’re able to relate on so many different levels. Let’s try to expand on that and see where that will take us.”

Jason: Tim, this has been awesome. Let’s recap some of the things that are this universal that we touched on because a lot of things that you’re doing will apply to any property manager or any business owner in any situation.

One, get clear on your purpose. What is the real purpose for this business and this company? What are your values that are important to you and that you want your team to also espouse? Get clear on those things internally and then have a vision. Where do you guys want to be in a year? Where do you guys see yourself eventually? You’re talking about vision, values, and this mission, this sort of thing. My recommendation would be to steer away from just a standard  mission statement. You’ve got this thing memorized, you know it by heart. I know mine internally by heart, I would imagine most of my team members could probably come fairly close to stating what the vision is. At least they understand energetically what that is and they can relate that, even if they don’t get it word-for-word or exact ‘why’ statement for the business. It need to be something that is real, not something that you’ve scripted, put on paper and stuck up on the wall that nobody even can remember or talks about. It’s probably something that’s reiterated in every sales conversation, it’s reiterated in every hiring interview because it matters to attracting the right types of clients, it matters in attracting the right types of people and it’s important.

So often we get caught up in going around and telling everybody what we do. We do property management, we do this, we do that. People like Simon Sinek says in his famous video, “People won’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” I love that, that’s universal, that will apply to anybody. Thank you for sharing that.

The other is, you guys have thousands of doors, but one thing that I like that you guys talked about, you have a critical number, you have this number of impact you want to have. It’s not the number of property manager contracts that you’re going to close for example, it’s our focused, it’s some sort of positive impact that’s beyond that. I also want to point out, that I think that is great because not everybody on the team directly benefits by you getting on a certain number of contracts but everybody benefits that is inspired by your vision and chooses into this vision by seeing that vision accomplished and seeing this difference made to all those people.

Tim: Sure, yeah. It’s not even that everyone in our organization necessarily doesn’t benefit from more contract. Sometimes, more contracts is a negative for them, it’s more work, it’s longer hours. You’re exactly correct when we’re making about others and we’re making about the impact on the community that we can have, on the impact on tenants. I’m sorry if I’m going off on a tangent here but we do a lot of lower-end stuff and there’s a lot of those of those folks who have been taking advantage of for a long time and there’s a lot of those folks that live in places that I wouldn’t necessarily want to go into if I wasn’t in this business.

Having a responsibility in providing that same experience to those people, as a people that live on your highest end, townhouse or home or whatever it maybe, finding people who get excited about that, it doesn’t matter how many contracts you have, it doesn’t matter what your revenue is at the end of the year. That’s really authentically what we want to be about and taking care of people.

Jason: The thing I really love that you talked about or that you can recognize that can be applied to any business, is having a feedback mechanism in place. Even if you’re just solopreneur, running a property management business, if you have a feedback mechanism in place—we talked about probably a little bit on previous episode or people have seen our GatherKudos service—but having some sort of feedback mechanism in place to get feedback from your clients, feedback from your tenants, and allowing that level of communication, then when you start bringing on team members that’s part of your environment and culture, you’ve got feedback mechanisms in place that allow you to know how your team’s doing, know the perception of how other people perceived you are doing, and being willing to allow feedback for yourself and in the business and not being resistant to all of that which creates some big blind spots in business. I love the idea of feedback mechanisms that you talked about. You’ve also mentioned the book Traction which I have to check out.

Tim: Traction is a good one and feedback, like you said, whether you’re one person or a hundred people. We use GatherKudos. Property Meld has a feedback mechanism. When we’re talking earlier about the external stuff, we constantly, every month, send out a client and tenant survey to all of our clients and tenants, trying to make ourselves better and that’s what it’s all about. Delivering the experience you want to and how do you gauge whether you’re delivering that experience or not.

Jason: Yeah. There’s no way to know. This is a dangerous place to be as a property manager or a business owner, to assume and say, “I think my team’s happy,” or, “I think our clients really like us.” But, do you really know? Do you know for certain that your clients are happy and like you? “We’re a great property manager.” You can say that and you probably said in so many times during your sales pitches, you believed it’s true. But, there’s this subtle fear or this lack of certainty when you don’t really know what sort of results you’re creating out there. When you get connected to that, this confidence that comes out and sales becomes far more powerful. I love the whole idea of feedback.

These are all really fantastic ideas and principles, Tim. I really appreciate you coming out and sharing with us a little bit about the inside and inner workings of Dodson Property Management. How can people find out about you, or connect with you, and what takeaway do you want people to have from this?

Tim: People can get in touch with me anyway they want to. dodsonpropertymanagement.com. My mug is on there unfortunately. That’s probably bad for marketing but my email is long but it’s easy it’s tim@dodsonpropertymanagement.com. I love talking to people about whether it’s company culture specifically or just business in general. I’ve been doing this now for about a decade and there’s always stuff I’m learning. People often call me to try to get opinions on something and I end up taking away more than they do. Call me, text me, email me, I love to talk about property management. I love to talk about companies and businesses. That’s the takeaway.

Get in touch with me because I love doing stuff like this, Jason. Thanks so much for having me. This certainly had been the highlight of my day and I really had a good sandwich for lunch, so that’s saying a lot.

Jason: Good. I’m glad we trumped the sandwich.

Tim: It was delicious. It was like a pork shoulder thing. It was really good.

Jason: We had a delicious conversation.

Tim: That’s right. People can follow me on Snapchat. My last name, the number one, Tim is my call sign.

Jason: Cool. You can connect with me on Snapchat too. It’s kingjasonhull on that, on all social media.

Tim: Got it. I’m writing that down. We’ll get together.

Jason: All right. Sounds good. All right, thanks Tim. Appreciate you coming out.

Tim: Thanks a lot, Jason.

Jason: All right. Bye.

Tim: Bye-bye.

Jason: You just listened to The DoorGrow Show. We are building a community of the savviest property management entrepreneurs on the planet in the DoorGrow Club. Join your fellow DoorGrow Hackers at doorgrowclub.com.

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Find any show notes or links from today’s episode on our blog at doorgrow.com. To get notified of future events or news, subscribe to our newsletter at doorgrow.com/subscribe. Until next time. Take what you’ve learned and start doorgrow hacking your business and your life.

Jason Hull

Jason's mission is "to inspire others to love true principles." This means he enjoys digging up gold nuggets of wisdom & sharing them with property managers to help them improve their business. He founded OpenPotion, DoorGrow, & GatherKudos.

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