Pain and Gain: The Net Result of Great Property Management Leadership


We live in a culture where Google is the panacea for everything. Something wrong with occupancy? Google it. Something wrong with delinquency? Google it. Something wrong with Frank? Google him.

It’s fast. It’s easy. It’s painless. But in the context of great business leadership, it’s just plain stupid.

Property Management Leaders Persevere through the Pain

In the quest to be an amazing-over-the-top multifamily business leader you must find the pain and go there. Not just arrive at the point but stare the pain right in the face and power through it. If your occupancy is struggling, go through the pain of looking in the mirror and asking yourself if you are the right person to lead the recovery. If your delinquency is in the tank, go through the pain of asking yourself if you have backbone. If you shy away from moments of truth and courageous conversations, ask yourself why. If Frank is struggling, ask yourself if he has the right leader guiding him. Are your actions screaming louder than the words you are using in attempts to move him?

We are conditioned to avoid pain. No property manager or maintenance supervisor on the planet likes to be on the downside of knowledge when it comes to a regional manager reviewing their business. They don’t like to feel the pain of piercing questions. They don’t like to feel naked while they walk past that broken window, dirty sign, or curb with peeling paint.

So what do they do when faced with that kind of pain? They lie: “All that stuff happened this morning;” “You would not believe it but a tornado of epic proportion raced through the community last night giving cause for 20 people to move out and not pay their rent. And on top of that, it peeled the paint right off those curbs. We seriously painted them last week.”

We avoid pain instead of feeling it and taking action.

Three Tips for Owning the Pain of Business Leadership

The only path to multifamily leadership greatness is littered with craziness and truckloads of pain. And not the kind of pain you can work through with your Google therapist. But know that pain is only temporary—so for the short term, own it! Pain is but a physical manifestation of the downside of greatness. Don’t listen to that proverbial devil standing on your shoulder telling you all the outs for avoiding pain. If you listen and give in, you will never move past it.

If you’re struggling with owning the pain of great business leadership, here are three tips that can help:

1. Give Your Pain a Name

Call it Chucky. Call it Freddy, Jason, or Guy with a Scream Mask. By naming it, you can interface with it. It doesn’t make it go away but now you can bring some personality to the process of moving through it. You can slay your fictional character and be the hero of your own occupancy gains and delinquency declines. And you can truly move people.

2. Do the Hard Stuff First

Know the multifamily market you operate in like the back of your hand. Know the comps. Know what sets you apart. Make the collection calls. Walk your property from curb to commode. Be the subject matter expert and thought leader. Which leads to my last point…

3. Set High Standards for Yourself

Your individual and business leadership greatness comes in direct proportion to the standards you set for yourself. That takes planning. Wait till the last minute to prepare for a site visit and you get the scene described above. Take the time early on to define standards for yourself and preparing for a site visit is a thing of the past. You’re just ready.

Come joy or pain, don’t Google it – you own it!



Vice President of Operations, Mills Properties

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I’ve spent the last 15 years in the real estate business, working my way up from earning a license to sell single-family homes in New Mexico to my current position–managing a portfolio consisting of multiple sites and thousands of multifamily units in Illinois and Missouri with Mills Properties. Before landing in Missouri, I spent 10 years on the West Coast, moving between San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland, working as a regional manager with Equity Residential—one of the largest apartment owners in the nation. Along the way, I’ve experienced a lot—not only about what engages our various constituents, but more importantly, learning how to leverage that knowledge to improve service and the bottom line at the same time.

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