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Article

Service With A Smile: UNITS Magazine

Canvas 14

By Paul R. Bergeron III, UNITS Magazine

LMC and its associates bring joy to the challenge of opening a brand-new community every month.

There is plenty of excitement to be found in managing a national portfolio that consists exclusively of new development. To open one new property approximately every month requires a certain discipline to maintain that sense of freshness and to motivate associates who are working toward gaining a competitive edge.

This flurry of activity is commonplace for LMC. Formerly Lennar Multifamily Communities, it is working toward making a strong impression in many of the most popular markets.

Having rebranded itself in May, its National Vice President of Marketing Beth Tuttle shared some of the company's best practices that LMC is using, during a 2016 AIM Conference session. They can apply to basic marketing and training principles needed by communities of any type in high-growth markets.

Hiring, training and cultivating culture and messaging are churning all at once with no stop in sight, she says. Tuttle says the strategy begins with LMC's associates, who today are represented at 17 communities-none of which were built more than 14 months ago-while another 65 developments are in the pipeline.

"We want our communities to be fun, lively and energetic," she says. "We need them to reflect what the prospect saw on our website; the mood and environment that our visuals and messaging put forth. Our onsite staff should be friendly and accommodating, and it has to show through their natural disposition."

To do so, Tuttle says LMC pinpoints the ideal candidates for its culture and always avoids hiring out of desperation.

"We often hire before we even need the position," Tuttle says. "We have brought on Regional Managers who manage areas that today include only one community. This enables them to be a part of the pre-development and construction phases of their future communities. The experience and input that comes with growing right along with the community while it's being built will pay off later."

Tuttle says, for example, that if LMC knows it will need to hire for a community opening in September, it could start looking for candidates in February and hire them in July. All new hires attend LMC's three-day orientation.

"This is their chance to not only begin training, but to get an understanding of our culture-and experience it first-hand," she says. "They also get to meet our senior leadership team and learn about our company's big-picture goals and how they can become a part of them."

Tuttle says that because new hires will often be assigned to work at a community that is still being built, attending an orientation of this length does not significantly affect the properties or current responsibilities.

To start off in an upbeat manner at orientation, associates are given a swag bag filled with items that display the company's new logo. The orientation includes a strong socializing aspect, Tuttle says.

"There is one night when we all go out for margaritas and tacos," she says. "It enables associates to get to know each other personally. This really helps in the future when a person at one community needs to reach out to someone at a sister community in another part of the country. Because of the bonding that took place during orientation, they are much more at ease in future work interactions such as collaborating, mentoring and problem solving."

More than 70 percent of LMC property management hires are referrals (49 percent for all of LMC, which includes its construction team, among others). Tuttle admits that the apartment industry is tight-knit and friendly and many highly qualified job candidates will move from one company to another. She says that LMC's culture of sincerely caring for its associates through positive reinforcement, among other things, fosters loyalty.

"We aren't losing people just because someone down the street might be offering them an additional 50 cents an hour," says Tuttle, who acknowledges that finding qualified maintenance technicians and construction crew are among LMC's biggest challenges.

As of May, LMC had 370 employees and communities in Dallas (four), Southern California (two), Northern California, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Orlando, Houston, Reno, Denver, Charlotte and Atlanta.

All Yours

Based on the tagline "All Yours," LMC designs its marketing collateral with welcoming images that include people.

"Given that we're an apartment development company, and many of our sites are still under construction, we don't have a lot of actual photos for many of our properties," Tuttle says. "So we rely a lot on stock images. We don't choose some of the posed shots that you probably see elsewhere. Instead, we try to select images that prospective residents might look at and think, 'This is a person who I might meet while at the swimming pool', or 'the type of person I might bump into down the hall from my apartment.'"

LMC also invested in photoshoots that include its staff. These shots are posted online on places such as the community's Facebook page. They include biographical information about the associate so that prospective residents might first see the leasing agent or property manager online, learn about them and then have the pleasure of meeting them when they visit the community and ask for them by name, Tuttle says.

Paul R. Bergeron III is NAA Director of Publications. He can be reached at 703-797-0606 and pbergeron@naahq.org.

The Oops Reward

LMC has a "$100 Oops Reward" program that enables staff to present residents with a $100 bill right on the spot if they feel that a resident has not received the best customer service that they should expect.

For example, if a resident arrives at the property and finds that their parking spot has been taken by a construction crew-or maybe something just doesn't seem right about their apartment home-they could receive $100.

For associates, the ability to offer this reward on the spot, without requiring upper-level management's permission, conveys that the company trusts its employees, Tuttle says. There are no restrictions on the number of Oops Rewards that can be issued in a week or month. LMC's management team tracks each instance through the company's dashboard to ensure the program is being used appropriately.

LMC's Tone and Voice

LMC's brand launch was based on designs from San Francisco-based Butcher Shop Creative. Its client list includes Adobe, Nike and other non-apartment companies.

"We wanted our campaign to be less traditional than most of our industry counterparts," Beth Tuttle, National Vice President of Marketing says. "Our tone, our messaging and even company apparel is designed to make us more approachable to our residents."

Tuttle says LMC trains its associates to show its residents the "unexpected" benefits of living there. Tuttle says its voice is intended to express the company's personality and establish trust.

"It creates an emotional bond with audiences that's really tough to break," she says. "Our guidelines will help staff 'hear' the brand voice in their heads when they write, edit or speak for LMC. Focusing on being kindly confident, relatable, inspiring, clever and clear will help associates make sure their words are appropriate for the audience and consistent with LMC's overall brand."