DGS 45: Automate Tenant Lead Management with James Barrett and Calvin Davis of Tenant Turner

Many elements of the leasing process are very painful for property managers. Today, I am talking to James Barrett and Calvin Davis of Tenant Turner, a property management tool and resource that helps property managers manage their tenant leads, schedule showings, and put the leasing process on auto-pilot.

Tenant Turner removes burdens for property managers in a way that’s elegant and simple. This allows them to focus on higher value-added activities, such as growing their business and adding doors.

You’ll Learn…

[02:44] Tenant Turner was created out of necessity to put properties on the market.
[03:12] Simplify and improve leasing process to get feedback, reliable tenants.
[04:43] Tenant Turner focuses on people and simplicity backed up by support.
[06:02] Client-centric vision puts you in alignment with what customers want and need.
[06:53] Success was difficult initially, but became easier – it was a big, but good challenge.
[07:55] Look to experts and customers in the industry for advice and guidance.
[08:29] Determining if someone is a fit with Tenant Turner.
[11:00] There are no shortcuts to success, including bringing on the right clients.
[12:21] Biggest questions and concerns regarding Tenant Turner.
[12:43] Property managers are hesitant to give up control of tenant leads.
[13:35] Software, such as Tenant Turner, is becoming a necessity; it’s not if, but when to plug it in to focus on growing doors and giving owners the attention they need.
[14:00] Tenant Turner size is based on a company’s growth goals.
[15:42] Building technology into processes for improvement.
[16:25] Old school vs. new thinking and possible solutions; change is challenging.
[18:47] Time, savings, and other benefits of being onboard with Tenant Turner.
[20:00] Unaccompanied showings trend in various markets.
[23:05] Future of Tenant Turner: New technology and integration partnerships.

Tweetables

Resources

Tenant Turner

Calvin’s Email

Brad Larsen

Rentwerx

DoorGrowClub Facebook Group

Transcript

Jason: Welcome DoorGrow Hackers to the DoorGrowShow. If you are a property management entrepreneur that wants to add doors, make a difference, increase revenue, help others, impact lives, 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.

DoorGrow Hackers love the opportunities, daily variety, unique challenges and freedom that property management brings. Many in real estate think you’re crazy for doing it, you think they’re crazy for not because you realized that property management is the ultimate, high trust, gateway to real estate deals, relationships and residual income.

At DoorGrow, we are on a mission to transform property management businesses and their owners. We want to transform the industry, eliminate the BS, build awareness, change perception, expand the market and help the best property managers win.

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 here today with James Barrett and Calvin Davis. You guys can introduce which one is which here to the audience watching. Could you say hi, James.

James: Hey guys, how is it going?

Jason: Say hi, Calvin.

Calvin: Hello, I’m Calvin.

James: Everybody knows Calvin. If you’ve ever been doing NARPM show or any property management conference, you know Calvin already.

Jason: You are both from Tenant Turner, a property management tool and resource for helping people do what? Explain Tenant Turner. I’d love to get into the background […] put this or started this thing.

James: The most simplistic form what Tenant Turner is gonna do is help property managers manage their tenant leads and get them scheduled for in person showing appointments, self-access viewings and help put that leasing process on auto pilot. You mentioned it in your opening, trying to cut the BS. So many elements of the leasing process involve a word painful for the property manager.

They get intimidated with phone calls, syndication is always a chore and a pain, getting people to actually show up to their showings. When they do, are they actually qualified to make it through the application process? The goal of Tenant Turner is help remove some of those burdens from a property manager and do it in a way that’s elegant and simple for not just the property manager but for their prospective tenant and help them focus on higher value added activities like growing their business, adding new doors.

Jason: Give us the background then. How did you both get connected? How did you get into creating Tenant Turner? How did this come about?

James: We started Tenant Turner out of necessity, a couple of us all account manage or self-manage our rental properties. We had a background in IT consulting and IT sales and things to that nature. The pain point was that we would have to put our properties on the market and the best tool that we have in the toolbox at the time was Post List and Craigslist. You’re at work trying to focus on your day to day and you get phone calls and you get emails.

By the time you get back to those people, they’ve already forgotten […] and then you go ahead and you try to get them prequalified to a certain extent and you’re never able to identify these key things that helped determine whether they are a good fit, good match for that particular property. You do finally get somebody’s schedule and you show up at the rental by yourself because they left you hanging.

People do show up there and then you ask them questions. When you ask them at the showing it’s as if people don’t wanna offend you, they don’t wanna tell you you have an ugly baby so they don’t tell you actual feedback about the property.

Calvin: Those babies are ugly.

James: I need to know that you didn’t wanna rent this house because the carpet looks like crap or I need to know that you think it’s price is too high for this neighborhood, not, “It’s nice, I’ll put in an application.” All lies.

With a software, could figure these things out a little bit easier. With Tenant Turner, in particular, try to make it very conversational so people can open up about the process and provide their input on what they like and what they didn’t like about a particular property.

Jason: I’ve heard nothing but really positive feedback about Tenant Turner. I’ve been dying to get you guys on the show because I feel like everybody needs to hear about you guys. Inside our DoorGrow Club Facebook Group, shameless plug, you can check that out at doorgrowclub.com. Everybody has been talking about Tenant Turner, you guys like to go to guys right now. What is so special or different about what Tenant Turner is doing versus everybody else?

Calvin: I get that everyday, I talk to property managers across the country. What’s the difference between you and this company and this company? I tell everybody, it’s my go to, it’s like Pepsi and Coca Cola. There’s a lot of different solutions out there that are gonna get to where you might go, we just take a different approach in doing it. We focus on people, we focus on simplicity. James is hitting on my head a minute ago, you have to have a simple solution. There’s so many different tools that property managers are using and so many different technologies. Landscape is changing so quickly.

Without an easy tool that you can log in to and know what you’re doing, when you’re doing it, it just add some noise. We figured let’s make something simple, let’s make something easy and let’s put great support behind it. There’s no element of business that doesn’t involve people. If you can pickup the phone and talk to somebody, if you can write a note, write your question and know that you have a good team on the other side, it’s gonna get back to you in a timely manner. We’ve seen that be the difference in most cases.

Just be there for your customers, build relationships and be honest. I’ve directed people to other solutions before because it was a better fit for them. It doesn’t benefit us to bring somebody on if it’s not a good fit. We’re looking to help the property manager, we’re looking to help the end user, that’s what helped us build the footprint that we have now.

Jason: I think that’s a hallmark of every business that is best in its class. That’s something that we strive for here at DoorGrow too, is to have a very client-centered vision because if you have a client-centered vision first and foremost, then you’re always gonna be in alignment with what your audience really wants and what they really need instead of just trying to sell them what you can sell them which is what a lot of businesses do. I don’t believe that that’s the future of business, at least not healthy businesses. You’re just selling stuff because you can get away with selling it but selling the things that are actually going to serve and help your audience.

If you start a product from the ground up with how do we actually help our clients achieve what their goals are, then everything else in the business gets in a totally different alignment. Success just seems to feel easy, doesn’t it? Do you guys feel like it’s been easier than you expected or does it feel difficult?

James: Two years ago it was. Man, I’ll bet it’s easy then than it is now.

Calvin: I think I said it to James a while ago, it was a big challenge but it was a good challenge. It was a challenge that we wanted and we’ve looked for and we went after. It did feel like for the first 18, 24 months, we were pushing a rock up the hill but it got easier and easier. Now it’s just rolling down the hill. We feel great about the partnerships we’ve created, we feel great about the clientele that we have and we’re really looking forward to 2018. It’s a really exciting time.

James: I think a big thing for us is—you kind of touched on this—is having a customer centric approach to everything that we do. For anybody who has met Calvin at a conference, he’s not there to sell anybody anything, he’s there to have a conversation and see if Tenant Turner could be of benefit to them. That’s how we take every step of our process and we’re continually trying to improve it. As we talk to customer, is that Larson in there?

Calvin: Yeah.

James: Brad Larson, his market have a unique lead that wasn’t something that our other customers have had before but in talking to him and understanding the San Antonio market and what it was gonna take for Tenant Turner will be a huge benefit to his organization as well as that of other companies like his. We approached that open ears, we looked to the experts in the industry, let the customers help drive the future of what Tenant Turner is and is going to be.

Jason: I’ve heard lots of positive feedback about Tenant Turner. How do you guys decide who’s a fit? How do you know whether they are fit or not for your business?

Calvin: A couple easy things right off the top that I look for when I’m talking to somebody that hasn’t been introduced to Tenant Turner before. It really focuses on the mentality when it comes to showings and how leads are being passed around. When you’re in a round robin type of lead environment where you’ve got agents and a brokerage, Tenant Turner is really not the best fit for you. You gotta take some manual approach and you gotta adjust some things here and there. I would tell people that upfront.

It was really surprising to me because I was so much afraid to do that at first because we were building new functions and new features and I wanted everybody to love Tenant Turner. But even then, at the end of the day, there were just some things that we didn’t have that people needed. What I found was, in being honest and transparent to people upfront, they wanted to continue to have that conversation with you and they were willing to try even though it wouldn’t be a perfect fit.

The round robin lead environment, a traditional brokerage with agents that will focus on property management, that’s something right off the top of that to say, “That’s a flag, let’s have a conversation about that.” Let’s see if a couple of these work arounds work for you. In some cases, that phone call that was originally scheduled for 30 minutes was 5 minutes. In some cases it went an hour long.

That’s just a different approach. A lot of sales people, if they identified upfront that it wasn’t a potential sale, that call will end really quickly. I don’t mind staying on the phone and telling somebody how another company has worked getting to their process and what it’s done for them. It’s fun, it’s like problem solving, each call you have.

Jason: In our business, at DoorGrow, one of the things that we realized even before it was DoorGrow, back when we were just operating as OpenPotion, eventually I had this epiphany, I didn’t want every client. I started getting pickier about the clients that I take on. Even with the services that we offer at DoorGrow, we make clients apply to work with us. It sounds a little ridiculous but we make them go jump through a bunch of hoops which proves to us that they’re going to also jump through the hoops necessary in our process.

We’re basically vetting people, they have to go through this whole vetting process. After they go through that, we make them apply. What’s funny is we still sometimes get people that lie on the application like, “Yeah, I watched the video. I reviewed the frequently asked questions.” You get on the phone with them and they’re asking all those questions and you’re like, “Did you really watch?.” They’re like, “I watched a part of it.” There really are no shortcuts to success, you have to do the work, you have to do the right things.

We’re really careful about bringing on the right clients. People don’t realize that. This goes for everyone running a business, everybody listening to this. If you aren’t picky about who you bring on as clients and you bring on everybody, your customer service level and your reputation are both going to be damaged significantly. That has to be one of the strongest reasons why you have such a high value reputation, is because of that qualification process that you’re willing to not take on every client.

It’s scary, a lot of people are scared to not take on that business. They feel nothing more creepy during sales than somebody being needy. Those are the people that buyers remorse, people that don’t follow through, that don’t commit, that don’t go follow your onboarding process properly. I think that’s a critical distinction. I call our first call the fit call, that’s all we do. We just wanna see if it’s a fit. We’re not trying to sell them on anything, we just wanna see if it’s a fit. If it’s a fit, then we’re gonna get them to jump to the hoops and take them to our sales process. But otherwise, there’s no point wasting that time on either side.

Tenant Turner, what are the most common questions that people are throwing at you or the biggest concerns? The first one that comes to my mind is they’re wondering about their property management back office because this is the centerpiece of their whole business operationally and they’re wondering how does Tenant Turner connect to this and not make my life twice as hard.

James: I don’t feel like we do of this much anymore but a couple years ago in particular, people were hesitant to give up control over their tenant leads because as annoying as they were and as much of a headache they would cause, it’s the lifeblood of the leasing process. To hand that over to a software, you need to make sure that you trust the software, it’s gonna deliver everything more than they’re promising you that they’re going to do. If I tell you that every lead that comes in the email is gonna get in the media response and multiple follow ups, you need to believe that.

If you don’t believe that, then being able to transition to that type of platform is not gonna be an easy transition. I think our reputation is built as an adoption of this type of software has increased over the past couple of years. This time a software is becoming more of a necessity now than whereas maybe three to five years ago, it was almost more of a novelty

It’s really just when I do plug Tenant Turner, not if, it’s when do we plug this type of software into our process because without it, we won’t be able to focus on growing our doors, we won’t be able to give our owners the attention that they need to retain them so we have to be able to leverage this type of leasing automation.

Jason: What’s the size that somebody can start with Tenant Turner? Can they be a little 50-door company and get started with Tenant Turner? Are you guys looking for the guys that only have 200 doors and up?

Calvin: I always ask what are some of the goals that a property management company has? I used to think when I was fresh, the industry was new, everybody wanted to grow, everybody wanted new doors. That’s not always the case, it is most of the time but it’s not always the case. Sometimes I’ll find companies out there that are well established and they’re good at 100 doors. I always ask, what are your goals? Do you wanna be involved? Do you wanna work on your business or work in your business which is a tagline that I hear often now. Some people are absolutely okay working in their business and not on it.

I always ask what are some of your goals? If your goals are to grow and you wanna focus on building sales plan and a business development opportunity, pipeline, then outsource the lead management because you’re gonna get the same questions nine times out of ten. You’re just gonna have to go back and forth over emails and phone calls to get somebody scheduled. Outsource it, let somebody else do it and you focus on building that sales pipeline and building those responsibilities.

Maybe it’s just you wanna streamline and become more efficient, maybe you just don’t like billing lead calls. I didn’t think I’d ever hear that before but somebody said, “You know what, it doesn’t matter. I don’t ever wanna have to deal with another tenant lead phone call. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dollar or a thousand dollars, I’m not doing it.” They saw the value in outsourcing it. It’s so unique and so different. Every time I think I’ve got somebody picked, I get the script flipped on me.

James: One of the things that I’ve noticed, and maybe it is this next wave of property managers, are starting from scratch and they’re building tech into their processes. A lot of companies we talked to have 500 or 1000 or 2500 doors, they’ve been around for a while. It takes a while to get to that level. What they’re doing is they have people and process and they’re trying to improve it. I feel like a lot of people that we get to sign up now, they have just a handful of doors, maybe less than 10. But they’re building these processes in day one so that they can focus on other activities that are going to help them achieve their goals and whatever those might be.

Calvin: Very different mindset with some of those old school thinkers with these established companies that have been around 20 years. Most of the time too where I’ll be on the phone, I’ll hear some of the challenges and concerns and […] maybe able to eliminate some of them, it’s almost like their mindset goes right back to, “This is the way I’ve been doing it for 20 years, this is how I’ve got to where I am so I’m not gonna change it.” It’s a very […] perspective because you just identified and you just told them to me but then when a solution is presented, it doesn’t matter how good that solution is, that’s just how they are.

Jason: In business, whatever got you to where you are now, it’s gonna be completely different things that are gonna take you to where you want to be. If you wanna survive and thrive, you have to give up almost everything. Those of us that have started business from the ground up like myself and you build up a business, you have to eventually give up doing everything that got you there in order to build the team, in order to bring everybody else.

Your role changes completely, everything that you did and that’s hard. A lot of us find that really painful. One of the most painful transitions any entrepreneur go through is doing everything themselves to having a team because they have to change everything completely and it’s difficult to give that up. Basically the short answer to what you’re saying is the people that are not a good fit for Tenant Turner are the people that don’t wanna grow and that want to just keep doing things the way they’ve always done it. They don’t wanna change.

Calvin: Exactly.

Jason: They’re probably not listening to the show because if they’re listening to the show, then there’s probably a disconnect in the audience here because we’re all about growing businesses. It’s interesting that some people think growth is a painful thing, they’re imagining that it’s gonna be worst in the future. What I see is that there’s this possibility that the business, as you grow and scale it, if you do it in the right way, your business and life becomes tactically easier. You can do it because you can leverage and use more tools and resources.

You can get Tenant Turner, you can get all the other bells and whistles and things to help offload and take more pressure noise away from you as entrepreneur so that you can have a better, less stressful, lower pressure noise lifestyle. What are some of the changes that people are telling you about? Not just maybe dollar amounts but what are they noticing different in their business after they are fully onboarded with Tenant Turner?

Calvin: I know you said not dollars, Larson just mentioned the great one right there in the whole chat.

Jason: He’s got savings of money.

Calvin: It’s also a little bit more of control as well. That ties in in the rank works example. He was co-brokering fees with other agents in the local market and now he’s found a way to eliminate that entirely and keeping full control in house. In my opinion, that’s one way that I’ve seen, is somebody is co-brokering markets and helping keep some of those traditional commissions that we’ve just assumed for part of the business.

How can we start to bring them in house? Maybe you’ll find a way to separate them out to your other team members or reinvest back in the business in additional marketing channels or just go to Disney world. That’s what I’ve seen, most specifically from the sales side is how can we find a way to not only be efficient and save dollars on some of the manual tasks but let’s eliminate this co-brokering and let’s bring these commissions back in house.

Jason: That brings up the question in my mind about unaccompanied showings, some people are still fearful of that. They just see that as incredible liability or just couldn’t work in their market, do you guys have any qualification process to figure out whether or not it’d be a good fit in every market or are there some markets that unaccompanied showings just won’t work?

James: There probably are some markets that we’ve run across. We’re a Virginia-based company in Northern Virginia around DC, it’s such a real estate agent heavy environment that it’s all in person showings all the time. That’s a big shift to try to turn. San Antonio is another market like that and Brad pioneered some self-access there. What it really takes is a collaboration between a company like us and a company like Brad works to push the envelope and try something new that traditionally hasn’t been accepted.

I think, long term, there isn’t a market where it wouldn’t really be an option, but in short term there is definitely pockets of the country that just haven’t really adopted it. Even within our software, we still see, what were the percentages?

Calvin: The first year that I was tracking them, over the course of our entire portfolio, all of our customers, about 15% of properties were used to self-access. We looked at it over the course of the 2017 year and that doubled.

Jason: To 30%.

Calvin: Yeah. It’s definitely increasing at a pretty strong clip. There’s still the majority of people are doing in person showings, that’s something that our software can support. I’m sure you have talked to different property manager across the country. There’s just different ways of doing things. We have some customers who do in person showings, we have other customers who do key checkouts, we have some people who still have master lock lockboxes and not even electronic lockboxes to allow for self-access.

Some of those people have been doing that for 15 years and really don’t have any plans on changing. Of course, the electronic lockboxes, that’s making more and more progress. I think when you ask property managers, they don’t necessarily wanna drive out to all of their rentals all the time to be stood up. A software like Tenant Turner can help alleviate them and make them more efficient and make sure people are actually there. What we found is that a lot of our customers, they wanna try it.

What we do is we give them their first lockbox for free. That gives them a chance to try it. If they don’t like it, nothing lost. They get the opportunity to try it, they don’t like it, nothing lost, and then they can continue to use Tenant Turner for showings, coordination of in person appointments. They do like it, they get more lockboxes and they start to deploy more and more properties. This is something that I would think over the next few years, it’ll be more and more widely accepted, but inevitably, there are still gonna be markets and people who still want to show their rentals.

Jason: That’s a nice […], sounds like […] the people can figure out they’re gonna do it.

James: Exactly.

Jason: What else do people need to know about Tenant Turner? What’s the best stuff, Calvin? Everybody is asking you about.

Calvin: We’ve got some really cool stuff coming down the pipe. If anybody has ever worked in a tech environment for sales persons, you never tell the salesperson what the tech team is building because they just go and run their mouth. I cannot use this […] because he’s right beside me but if you call me out, I would show you what we are working on. Outside of that, we really focus on some integration partnerships this year.

I think there’s a consistent theme that you see on a forum, that you see at the conventions, that you just hear people talking about, why don’t these systems talk to each other? Why can’t we just log into one, why do we have to have seven? Tenant Turner is open. If you’re a vendor, if you’re a property manager and you like to see two systems connect, shoot us a note. Let us know who that may be, we’re open to talking to anybody. We’re gonna build a marketplace and we’re gonna support the customers that we have now and those that are gonna ultimately use Tenant Turner in any way that we can.

Other than just the growth in general and where we expect to be at the end of the year, I think from some of the technology functionality perspectives, that’s some really cool stuff that I can start to introduce to people to that hasn’t been done before yet.

Jason: Sounds exciting. Open integration is what everybody has been begging for, everybody has been begging for some open API. It’d be interesting to see which property management software gets onboard with having a fully open API first. I think whoever does, they’re going to be pretty exciting to everybody out there. It’s what everybody has been asking for. That’s one area where businesses haven’t been listening to the clients, it will be interesting to see what comes down the pipe there.

Awesome guys, anything else that you feel like anyone should know about Tenant Turner? How do people get in touch with you?

Calvin: calvin@tenantturner.com, tenantturner.com/doorgrow.

James: Check us out if you’re using anything similar today. Come take a look and see what people are talking about on the DoorGrow forum. If nothing else, you’ll learn something new and get an opportunity to chat with one of us. We’ll share with you what some of the best practices are and hopefully you’ll realize one of those best practices are Tenant Turner and up onboard.

Jason: I’m excited to see what you guys do over the next year. I appreciate you guys coming out on the DoorGrow Show.

Calvin: Jason, real quick man, thank you. I see a lot of forums and things online. I thank you for building a great community for people, man. I think you’ve done a great job. Kudos to you my man.

Jason: I appreciate it. Those of you listening, if you’re wondering where that is, you can just go to doorgrowclub.com, it will redirect you to our Facebook group. The engagements is insane. We’re approaching getting close to 1000 members. We only let broker owners in, at least that’s what we’re trying to only let in. The engagement there is amazing. When you get entrepreneurs together, even if it’s an industry like property management that can be challenging and difficult and frustrating at times, the optimism and the helpfulness is just insane.

The engagement is just through the roof and it’s positive. How many property management related forums are positive? There’s all kinds of positivity, there’s just tons of momentum there because that’s what entrepreneurs are, we’re momentum based beings. If you are a property management entrepreneur, make sure you get inside our free Facebook group. Yes, we make you apply to get in it so that we can make sure you are the right fit, that you actually are a business owner. Check that out.

James, Calvin, I appreciate you guys coming out. I wish you guys all the success in the world. I’m excited to see what you guys do over the next year.

Calvin: Thanks a lot, Jason.

James: Thanks, Jason.

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