I sat down with Elizabeth Francisco, President of ResMan, Patrick Johnson, SVP of Sales at AMS Billing and one of ResMan’s Sales Executives, Justin Hayward, to discuss what went on at the FAA 2021 Annual Conference and Trade Show in Orlando, Florida.
If you missed the FAA Annual Conference and Trade Show, hear what Elizabeth, Patrick and Justin had to say about what was so great, what they learned about the market and what the industry’s conversations revolved around:
So, how was FAA for you all this year?
Patrick: I thought it was one of the best FAA trade shows I ever attended. It was busier for vendors this year since they were getting back out there for the first time in-person in years. It was even more inclusive this year because the size of the space, so the big venue made for a lot of great conversations.
Elizabeth: I agree. I really liked that there was a lot of focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) this year. It was very relevant and necessary. People know there are issues and are willing to make changes, they just don’t know how to fix it. I was asked if we had made progress regarding DEI. We have made progress but given the amount of time it’s taken and the amount of progress, we have a long way to go. Especially when we talk about multicultural representation and people of color, specifically. I truly applaud FAA’s commitment to DEI and adding that to their sessions this year. They are committed to it and it shows and we need that to continue.
Justin: This was my first FAA so I didn’t have a lot of expectations going into it. I, personally, thought it was cool to see all the suppliers and vendors come together to grow their networks and grow referral business. That face-to-face interaction was priceless.
What seemed to be the theme of your conversations with other property management companies at FAA?
Justin: A lot of the conversations we had on the trade show floor opened the door for conversations around attendees’ pain points regarding their property management software. People were like kids in a sandbox when they got to navigate ResMan’s product.
It was also great to see some previous customers and re-engage those relationships to hear their pain points. We had a customer who made a switch from ResMan to Yardi and she essentially went through a list of areas where Yardi wasn’t currently supporting the property managers. She spoke to all the things she lost when they moved to ResMan. Hearing all of that helped me better understand the value our customers get from our product versus other competitors.
In the end, most of my conversations were with property managers. It was helpful to learn more about their day-to-day as a property manager, from seeing how they process a work order to how they communicate with residents. When they spoke up about challenges within those day-to-day tasks, we’d point out where our software helps with those pain points.
Patrick: I think that’s a great point to go off of, Justin. We’ve all been sitting at home for a year and a half. FAA gave us a chance to be back face-to-face and remind ourselves what property managers go through in their day-to-day. We haven’t been around each other to see it as much as we were prior to the pandemic.
Along the same point, I think people being trapped at home and focusing on resident retention and current state of their properties has left a lot of people stuck and unable to make changes. There’s been a lot of mergers and acquisitions and most of our competitors have been bought out by bigger companies. Larger corporations are buying anyone who will let them. So that got the industry really excited for the possibilities of optimizing their operations.
But people are still sticking with what they have in ancillary services and software. This event was a chance for them to get out and see what else is out there. They don’t always have a chance to take a phone call and don’t always want to answer emails. The tradeshow spotlighted the pain points of these decision makers because they could see where other services and softwares did things differently. I got to have conversations with people I wouldn’t have unless I was face-to-face at a trade show.
Elizabeth: That’s very true. For business relationships, in-person trade shows allow us to break through the noise. This is providing opportunities on both sides, not just suppliers getting potential customers but property managers and executives getting to optimize their business with other products. Relationships matter in this industry. There’s only so much you can do to develop those relationships virtually. Only an in-person event can take a relationship all the way. We are human beings and face-to-face interaction creates a different warmth and strength in relationships, reminding people why they do business together to begin with. It also helps us to read body language. We can better support our customers when we have face-to-face interactions safely.
Elizabeth, you hosted a session around DEI and what impacts it has on career growth for others moving up in the property management industry. How did that session go?
Elizabeth: It was so great to speak with Sonya, Jimmy, and Antoinette about their experiences. We had over 300 people attend the session alone and that was really powerful to see how many people were interested in this topic.
The whole point of our session was about the disparities in the industry around diversity and inclusion, which we can all see with our own eyes. There is a certain aspect of it that falls on us individually. We must acknowledge and deal with things in our career to succeed. The baggage we bring with us holds us back. There needs to be personal accountability when it comes to investing in yourself. If you aren’t investing in yourself, why would anyone else want to invest in you? We saw how you can use results from that very investment to overcome bias. Not 100% of the time. But in the business world, results create respect because results in business demand respect.
That’s a great point, Elizabeth. Justin and Patrick, what did you think about the session?
Justin: One of the biggest things for me watching Elizabeth’s session and her panelists, you could just tell the topic was garnering support from the crowd. We sat at a table with property managers and people were constantly talking under their breath with “mmhmms” and “yeses.”
Ah, so it was like church on a Thursday with all the echoing “amens.” That says a lot about the market and how they relate to the same problems Elizabeth and her panelists endured themselves.
Justin: It really does. From time to time, the panelists would also give feedback on challenges they faced when moving up in their roles. Elizabeth did a great job of taking their responses and giving closing statements that included more insight into how leaders and property managers can take these testimonies and make changes in the industry.
Elizabeth: I heard that a lot, too, Justin. People were so relieved to hear even executives like myself have self-doubt. No one is alone when it comes to second guessing yourself.
Patrick: I really appreciated that the session was relevant and had useful takeaways for just about everyone. Even if you’re not trying to get to the top, it’s still things you can think about in your day-to-day life. It encouraged people to think about small investments they could make to further their career, whether that’s sitting at your desk a little longer to earn that new resident or investing in professional development. It applies to multifamily and beyond.
I like how Elizabeth pointed out there’s a lack of women in the leadership roles within property management. When I looked around at the attendance, 90% of the audience were female. Elizabeth, I think you asked thoughtful questions to these women to get them thinking. All of it was to support people in their career growth and make them ask “What’s stopping me from getting where I want to be?”
That’s a powerful response overall. It sounds like the topic was incredibly useful to a lot of the attendees. Since it sounds like the session was well attended, what did you all think about the attendance of the trade show overall?
Justin: I didn’t know what to expect to have regarding engagement and attendance. Overall, it was great. I was pleased with all the conversations and leads we took away from the event.
Patrick: The quality of the event attendance was very good. I did appreciate that there were a lot of decision makers attending. It made the conversations more productive overall. You always run into the people you need to see which is important and I think that aspect was an important reminder of why tradeshows are so useful.
Elizabeth: I was told over 700 tickets sold for the APAC (Apartment Political Action Committee) event. That was a big attendance.
What seemed to be the biggest takeaway from FAA’s event?
Elizabeth: One thing I learned from being there revolved around supply chain issues. As many know already, the supply chain issues are causing delays for repairs and turning units and when that happens you have frustrated renters and staff. You’re coming off a tough 14 months. It’s important for properties to maintain quality of these units. I knew there were supply chain issues and I was thinking of it from a pricing and an expense management perspective, but I guess I lost sight of the impact on those maintenance teams I took the time to talk with several of them and it was incredibly eye-opening and something worth talking about.”
Justin: “The biggest takeaway for me was the ability to create relationships, especially at the APAC event. As Elizabeth mentioned, there were so many people there. The EPCOT fireworks show during APAC was amazing and had a great space for conversations, with drinks and 30-minutes of great entertainment. We got there early and got to talk with other people for 2 hours before the fireworks actually started and it set up some great conversations.”
Elizabeth: I, also, felt like I appreciated FAA and their willingness to help educate people and support their growth. Multifamily is very family oriented and the industry as a whole is a family. We rise and fall together.
To echo that a bit more, FAA’s Political Action Committee had a vision statement that really resonated: “Providing quality rental housing for hardworking Floridians is your business. Our business is to make sure you succeed.” This is how they (FAA) view their engagement and for us to be able to provide good rental housing, we must work with governments, so they aren’t regulating us out of quality.
Thank you, everyone, for sharing more about FAA this year. It sounds like an amazing event and I’m sad I missed, but hearing your recap makes me feel like I was there. And a special thank you to the Florida Apartment Association for a wonderful event. See you next year!
Did you miss Elizabeth’s session at FAA? Stay tuned for her upcoming podcast as she rejoins her panelists to continue the conversation around DEI and career growth within property management. Subscribe to our podcast here.