DGS 44: Take the Stress Out of Connecting Utilities and Services

There’s a lot of stress that comes with moving. Push tenants toward the finish line by getting utilities turned on quickly. Today, I am talking to Wes Owens of Citizen Home Solutions, a free concierge service that facilitates utility services for new residents moving into a property.

Property management companies experience pain points and challenges with tenants setting up utilities. They struggle with getting utilities quickly set up in a tenant’s name and placing necessary equipment. So, Citizen Home Solutions engages directly with tenants and takes the stress out of the process.

You’ll Learn…

[03:48] Before and after results of using Wes’ company to save time and money.
[04:52] Tenants’ appreciate the company’s facilitation help and process.
[06:22] Growth Goals: Reach nationwide – outreach everybody.
[06:49] Citizen works with major cable, satellite, Internet, phone, and security providers.
[07:10] Property managers’ biggest questions and concerns about Citizen’s services.
[08:15] Onboarding process for property managers.
[09:00] Citizen only needs W-9 and logo to create a portal for property managers.
[09:20] Property management company provides Citizen with tenant information.
[09:35] Citizen contacts tenant about setting up utilities.
[09:45] Working with Citizen is a value-add piece that sets companies apart.
[10:07] Citizen pays a percentage of what it earns to property management company.
[10:30] How Citizen makes money from the utility companies.
[11:30] No agreements or contracts, only outstanding work required.
[12:13] Percentage of payout for clients.
[12:44] Citizen’s focus on growth.
[13:00] Property management mentors.
[13:24] Citizen doesn’t offer some services, but offers tools and does what it can to help.
[15:15] Citizen follows up with and educates clients on services.
[15:55] Updates and check-ups provided by Citizen.

Tweetables

Resources

Wes Owens phone is 214-493-2010 or wowens@citizenhomesolutions.com

Citizen Home Solutions

Citizen Home Solutions’ Dashboard and Onboarding (password:letmein)

Brad Larsen Podcast with Wes Owens

Tenant Liability Insurance for Property Management with Brad Larsen

Steve Rozenberg and Pete Neubig of Empire Industries
Kevin Knight of Liberty Management

DoorGrowClub Facebook Group

Transcript

Jason: Welcome DoorGrow Hackers to The DoorGrowShow. 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.

I am hanging out here today with Wes Owens of Citizen Home Solutions. Wes, say hello.

Wes: What’s up man? How’s everybody doing?

Jason: Doing fantastic. Wes, you have a unique business. I haven’t heard anything like this before. I’m excited to have you on the show. Could you share some background on yourself, what Citizen Home Solutions is, and how this sort of got started?

Wes: First of all, thanks for having me on your show. Been excited to be on for a while, so thank you for having us. Citizen Home Solutions is a free concierge service. We facilitate utility services such as water, gas, electric, cable internet, satellite, TV, security, and phone for your new residence that’s moving into the new property.

We started this business close to two years ago. We work with probably about 90 different property management companies across the state of Texas and then also some other states. We primarily focus our business on property managers and 60% of our businesses probably property management companies.

Jason: Fantastic. How did this get started? How did you get the idea, “Hey, we want to help people get these utilities set up and start doing this.”

Wes: We’re not a new business to the market. There are other companies like ours. We were working with another company prior to starting our own but we realize that focus more on property management companies because there’s pain points there associated with what they have to go through in terms of setting up utilities. When we left our prior company and started this one, this was our new directive to help and promote in the property management arena.

Jason: Great. With property management, getting into the property management arena, what did you notice was particularly unique to property managers and their challenges regarding this?

Wes: The biggest thing is, if a property manager says you guys know if you think the tenant is in their name in a timely fashion. Another big one is when a tenant signs up with us or we help them facilitate everything. If they choose satellite, we don’t let them install it on the roof of the house. It has to go on a pole-mount in the backyard. That’s another big one. The biggest thing is by us being able to contact the tenant and engage the tenant first, we’re acting like your frontline soldier of your company so we can help push the tenant to the finish line, which means get the utilities turn on quicker.

Jason: What sort of difference do property managers notice before signing up with you guys to do this and afterwards, in terms of time and stress and with tenants. Paint a picture for me how this works differently.

Wes: Basically, it really helps cut down on the phone calls that the property manager will receive from the tenants regarding utilities because, as you know, we’re in real estate, we’re in the property management realm. You tell the tenant or somebody to do something or they don’t listen to you. We’re here to help call them and get them to set up their utilities so the property manager doesn’t have to handle those extra phone calls, text, and emails asking what’s available on that area.

We did a little bit of research and one of our property management companies, he calculated that we saved him over $6000 in labor over the course of last year. When you implement our service, you’re actually setting yourself apart from the next property manager down the street because you have a free concierge service that’s helping facilitate and get all your tenant’s utilities set up. It’s also a good selling feature.

Jason: Tell us a little bit about how the tenants, their sort of experience with this, and how they like it.

Wes: From my experience and from doing this for so long, everybody just set up utilities over the phone or via internet and all that, and it’s a big pain in the butt. It’s just a timely process. How our process works is we set a portal for the property management company that they’ll submit their tenants to us. When we receive that tenant’s information, we go to work behind the scenes looking up all the utilities and services that’s available for that current resident or address.

This helps cut down on the time, number one. On average it probably save the client around four hours of time of research and being on the phone and long-haul times and all that kind of stuff because we setup probably 80% of everything in-house that we do. Any of your major cable internet, satellite, security, phone providers we do that all in-house. Anything else has to do with the water, gas, electricity in monopolied areas, we help facilitate and get that customer going in the right direction.

Basically before we even call them, we have a game plan for them and we get straight to the point. It’s typically about a 20-30 minute phone call, but we can help get everything done within that time frame.

Jason: Tenants just love this then. There’s a lot of stress when you’re moving. The first thing they want is to make sure they got internet, they got TV, phone, the things that they need. You mentioned in the beginning you guys are in Texas. Are you guys expanding outside of Texas or what are your growth goals?

Wes: Growth goals is obviously to reach nationwide. Right now, we’re in Texas, Florida, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Nevada, Colorado, Chicago, and I believe there’s a few other states in there that we have some property managers in. But that’s our goal is to outreach everybody.

Jason: There’s certain services that you guys can help with nationwide already, correct?

Wes: Yes. Any of the major cable, satellite, internet, phone, security providers, we have probably about I think close to 28 of those contracts which is the majority of them now. We have pretty much of a solution for every state.

Jason: What are the biggest questions and concerns of property managers have when they first reach out to you, where they first have a conversation with you? What are some of those common concerns that keep bringing up?

Wes: There’s really not that many concerns I would say. The biggest deal when we started dealing with property managers a few years ago, the biggest is the implementation time. they’re going a million miles a minute and they’re like another program I got to implement into my daily process. We’ve really basically dialed-in the process to where it literally takes five minutes to implement our service into their daily process.

That was one of the big concerns in the beginning because we’re like, “Why is nobody implementing this?” We found out that unfortunately property managers—a lot of us—are still guilty. I’m guilty. We’re not implementers right away. You have to really dumb down that process for everybody so it’s easier to use.

Jason: Somebody signs up with you, a property management entrepreneur signs up, gets his business going with you guys. He can start using your service right away?

Wes: Yes.

Jason: What’s kind of the next step as soon as they talk to you and your team and they sign up, what kind of onboarding process look like? What is the next step?

Wes: It’s very simple. All I need to start with somebody […] and I’ll get to why that is here in a minute and […] how we track the tenants that they send from their property management company to our […]. I have a property management dashboard that I’ve created that I was showing you before the show that has all the verbiage that they need for the contract to the owner, the tenant verbiage and the lease agreement, and then onboarding emails that they can copy and paste. I have all the verbiage done already. It’s basically just copy and paste.

Jason: You give them all the materials that they need on their end and then from them you just need to get their W-9, get a logo, you build out a portal for them. Is this a portal they send their tenants then too?

Wes: No. When we started this two years ago, we used to say, “Oh yeah, promote this on your website. Hand this out to your tenant.” Well, the conversion rate was horrible. What happens is we have the property management company. Somebody assigned at their company just send the tenant’s information over to us. That way, we can do all the research and everything up front. We call them and we have all the information for them. That’s what that onboarding email states. It’s like, “Citizen Home Solutions will be giving you a call to setup all your utilities and services for the house.” Basically telling them, “Expect a phone call from our concierge service.”

Jason: This is a value add that they can use to distinguish from their competition in their property management business.

Wes: Yes.

Jason: It sounds really nice like this concierge service. It’s a really great way of positioning. I love it.

Wes: This is the best part about our service. It’s zero cost to implement, it’s zero cost to the tenant, and then why I need your W-9 later is we pay the property management company quarterly. Whatever we earn on our cable internet, satellite, phone, security, we pay back a percentage of that back to the property management company quarterly.

Jason: Okay it’s free for me, it’s free for the tenant, and you’re going to pay me money quarterly. How do you make money, Wes?

Wes: Everybody wants out business as far as the internet cable, satellite, security provider. If AT&T is not available in this area but Spectrum is, they want us to have all these contracts so we can make sure we don’t miss anybody.

Jason: So you get paid by the utilities?

Wes: That’s correct. The customers get the same prices no matter what. They can compare online while we’re talking to them. It doesn’t matter but we help facilitate, setup, install dates, and all that stuff right in their office while we have them on the phone.

Jason: This is a win, win, win, all the way around.

Wes: Absolutely. And I don’t have a contract. We don’t do contracts with our company. I […] with the property management company. If something happens or they don’t want to work with us, then let’s just say our piece and go elsewhere. But I have to say, we haven’t lost a property management company in two years. I’m really proud to say that.

Jason: So you mean there’s no time commitment, there’s no agreement that they have to keep working with you, you earn your keep, and people stick with you because you guys are doing an awesome job.

Wes: That’s right. I was on Brad Larson’s podcast a few weeks ago or actually a month ago now. He stated that he’s been using our service over 18 months and he’s honestly just forgot about us, unless he gets a check in the mail—which quarterly he does—then he starts thinking about us again. Empire Industries and Houston Center, one of my big clients, we’ve been doing business with them for a little over four years now and they just basically forget about it and they’re happy to see the check when it comes in.

Jason: Yeah, we had him on the show. What sort of payout does that look like when you’re paying out these checks? Is it just tiny amounts from each client or—

Wes: It’s a percentage from each client. We pay 20% of what we earn from that client for whatever our commission is. Not gross profit, it’s gross revenue. If we earn $1000 from three different vendors, then we’re paying the property management company $200 for that.

Jason: What else should people know about Citizen Home Solutions?

Wes: We’re a fast-growing and we’re a very eager company. Really, my focus this year is strictly property management company, always around to listen to better ideas and to grow our business as well. I have a lot of new mentors out there and the property management world. Steve Rosenberg, Brad Larson is a great one, Kevin Knight […], Pete […]. You guys are my mentors and I appreciate everything you guys do for me.

We’re just a growing company and learning. Any ideas, it’s always an open door. If there’s some way we can change the process or make our service better for clients, we listen.

Jason: You guys are doing water, gas, cable, satellite, and if was sort of things are not handled, then how do you guys handle when they’re asking for other stuff.

Wes: Like for movers, right? I really do not like referring movers because I don’t know anybody that has ever had a good experience with a mover. If you know one, please let me know. We help look up, research, and we’ll get people. For movers, for instance, we help research, do Yelp research and google, and we’ll give the customer three options. We’re not going to make any money on it but we still want to be here to help them get everything that they need. We want them to call us in the future.

Jason: You go beyond just the utilities that you have in your system that you know that you can get money with. You actually go and help the tenant and make sure that you’re finding other services and other tools that they might need in their market.

Wes: Absolutely. I preach this to real estate agent a lot. “Mr. Smith I haven’t talked to you in a while. Hope everything is going well with you and your new home. Just calling to do a yearly follow-up call with you. I got a great program to offer you. It’s a utility check service from me provided to you.” All it is is we do a five minute consultation with a certain client that’s been at home for over a year, and we typically—with the new promotions and things that come out—we can typically save somebody between 20% and 30% on what they’re paying net if we talk to them.

Jason: Already?

Wes: Already. So if you guys have been paying your utility bills as far as your cable internet, phone, or satellite, and you haven’t looked and see if you can get some new introductory rates out there, because that’s what we do is help people save money and utility companies are hosing you. I’m just letting you know right now. You’ve been paying for longer than two years on your bill, that’s another thing that we do is help educate our clients on cut-back in two years or we call them after 23 months or on the 11th month to check in with them to see if we can do any shopping for them to help them out.

Jason: Okay, so you guys already have that in place. If you have a tenant in your database, you guys will follow-up in about two years because you feel by then there’s probably new promotions, new ideas and you’ll be able to—again—get them some additional stuff, get you some additional revenue and then get a percentage paid out to the property manager.

Wes: Absolutely. We have a utility check button on our website and they can upload their current cable, phone, internet, energy bill where it’s deregulated and within minutes we can tell them if we can save them money or not.

Jason: Is that something that you’ll do during the onboarding process, then as well could a property manager say, “Here is our database of people and we’ll send out an email to all of them and say, “Hey, check with Citizen and make sure that you have the best rates and this sort of thing,” and they can all kind of opt-in to this or go through some sort of process to recheck their existing utilities?

Wes: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great point and it’s something that I’m starting to reach out to some of my property managers about now, probably blast out an email to all of them. But I’m wanting to say put a little blurb so when the tenants logging in to the tenant portal to pay their rent or look at something, request maintenance or whatever, it actually pops up on the screen when they log in that says, “Hey, you have been in your residence over a year. Here’s a free utility check-up provided by us.” They’ll take them straight to the utility check-up page. They can throw out their information and then we can call them.

Jason: Wes, this sounds really cool. It sounds awesome all the way around. How can people get in touch with you and your team to hear more about this and get the process started?

Wes: A couple of things is if you go to citizenhomesolutions.com/propertymanager, this page is password-protected but the password is very simple. It’s ‘letmein’ and that will give you access to basically everything you need to know about onboarding, our verbiage is there that I was talking about earlier for your agreements and your onboarding email. You can get everything right there. You can upload your PNG and your W-9 on this website. The email will come directly to me, I can get the portal started and then you can get started earning income quickly. You can reach me directly, anybody can call me. I’m available always at (214) 493-2010 or email me at wowens@citizenhomesolutions.com.

Jason: Wes, fantastic having you come out on the show.

Wes: Thank you so much for having me.

Jason: Absolutely and I look forward to seeing some of our clients signing up with you and people listening to the show. I think this sounds like a no-brainer and an obvious solution to a challenge that property managers generally aren’t thinking about.

Wes: Absolutely. We look forward to helping you.

Jason: Awesome. Alright Wes, thanks for coming out on the show. Those of you that enjoyed this episode, be sure to like and subscribe on iTunes and everybody make sure you get into the DoorGrow Club. Go to doorgrowclub.com to join our free Facebook group. We’ve had over 17,000 interactions in the last 28 days.

In the last month, we’ve got only about 900 people. It’s the highest engagement Facebook group ever. People are just sharing all kinds of ideas. The file section is full of files and tools and tips, where we plug and include different vendors. We have to make sure that Citizen Home Solutions is listed on the list there. Check that out. There’s some really great resources there. You can post questions in there and get feedback from other property managers. If you’re not already in the club, make sure you get in the club and become a DoorGrow Hacker.

Wes, again thank you for coming on the show and that’s it. We’re out.

Wes: Thank you. Have a good week.

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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