S1 Ep. 9 Creating a technology roadmap with ResTech

 

Published December 2022

 

Implementing technology into your multifamily building can be confusing. Where do you start? How will the implementation go? What integrations do I need to make this all work?

 

On this episode of Solving for Multifamily, Shaun Souers of ResTech discusses how they help their clients navigate these various questions, providing insight on creating and tailoring a technology roadmap to ultimately lead to measurable success.  

 

Who is ResTech?

The confusion on where and how to start technology integrations can cause major implementation delays. If only there was a guide to lead multifamily asset managers down the path to success... exactly what ResTech helps real estate companies achieve. They become a trusted ally, removing the hindrance of technology integrations with a proven process to understand operation issues, create technology solutions, vet potential partners and deliver end-to-end solutions to efficiently run a multifamily business.

 

Visit their website: ResTech-llc.com

 

Connect with the guest

Shaun Souers, CEO, ResTech, LLC

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shaun-souers-9518153/

Company LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/restech-llc


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Episode transcript:

 

Shaun

All right? Absolutely thanks for having me.

 

Robert Gaulden

Well, thanks Sean for joining me today on the podcast. Absolutely so I know we had a chance to meet through a mutual friend. But um I think we had a great conversation the other day around some of the topics you're seeing. You know, relative to technology and the adoption within the industry but before we get into it. Why don't you introduce everybody to who you are and what your company does.

 

 

Shaun

Sure. Yeah, so we're we're rest tech and so rest tech is a trusted partner for real estate companies helping them make technology decisions to more efficiently operate their business. We. Know that technology is a huge distraction for the groups that we work with and our goal is to remove those distractions so allow them to concentrate on what they do best and traditionally that's buy build invest manage and sell assets. Um, we kind of work on two sides of the house. So um. 1 is is more of the traditional consulting. So. That's what my background is for twenty five plus years that's business consulting strategy management consulting um getting into the data layer and doing kpi reporting driving their business toward a true data-driven decision making business. And helping them with those strategies so making sure we understand the health of our business. The health of our resources and being able to do that through data. Um, and and that's been something that again for for twenty plus years we've done for every other industry. It seems to be an inflection point right now in the real estate industry as well to be able to do that the other side. Um. Is is proptech integration. So that's a big push right now I think um technology is becoming a big part of really all real estate but specific to to multifamily so we've built roadmaps for virtual leasing so from the time I lead.

 

Shaun

Enters your ecosystem to the time you sign a lease being able to do all of that virtual without face-to-face interactions so that could be enabling chat and text Channels Smart locks self-guided tours being able to integrate those products. Um, and then another big piece of our business is centralized lead management. So we're seeing a push of of pulling some of the leasing out of traditional leasing centers and enabling Crm systems call centers pulling together customer orchestration which really hasn't been part of um, you know the multifamily space to date. Um. Because of this kind of the short window. But um, really enabling real estate companies to allow technology to do a lot of these things that traditionally were done by their own resources.

 

 

Robert Gaulden

Yeah that's an impressive amount of ah different ways that you're you're really kind of interfacing both on you know the traditional side where your business has come from on the data side. But then when we're talked about multifamily you know, virtual leasing you get so many questions around virtual leasing and. What's really interesting is um I kind of walked into it from an access control perspective. You know, given my background but there's just so much more than access control. Don't get me wrong I think ah, a good virtual leasing experience can be made better with seamless access at the you know at the property perimeter and into the units. But. Beyond that you know everything that goes along with that from background checks to the ability to to sign the lease or you know wayfinding all of those things going to be tackled by technology. You know I think one of the places I'd like to start Sean is maybe relative to virtual lease and some of the other things that you see you're tackling. Believe that one of the big motivators that I'm seeing out there. Um is that companies are trying to get to scale and and I think there's 2 areas to maybe unpack there. The first is scale from. You know the size of their business I've seen a lot of companies start acquiring units. It feels like we're going into more of an acquisitive state versus just build out and so reinvestment in their businesses and then beyond that an investment in technology and I think when you can get to scale.

 

 

Robert Gaulden

And have the right technology stack in place you can start to really leverage some of that efficiency. Um, and and then leverage some of those technologies whether you're talking about self-guided tour virtual leasing and other things are you seeing some of those same trends in the space. Absolutely um.

 

Shaun

Absolutely um, yeah I would say it's it's really twofold to your point. There's the groups that we're working with that. For instance, you know here in Indianapolis ah group version held they they came to us and said hey we're um, you know a certain number of units today. We'd like to double triple quadruple that over the next couple of years. We know we have you know again a certain number of people that that are are part of that process from the leasing standpoint from the the onsite perspective one we don't know if we could hire enough people to be able to ah service all of that too. Um, the expense and the training and the ah the overhead that goes along with that is something that um, they're just not traditionally set up to manage you know these groups are are Multibillion Dollar asset management groups. But when you look up into the covers and you get internal to their corporate structure. A lot of times they're pretty lean and they've got ah you know an infrastructure that doesn't necessarily support fifteen hundred or two thousand people in the field. Um, you know you've got to be at a point where you're ready to adopt some of the stuff. But if you got this plan to scale as quickly as what some of the groups that we're talking to um, have. They've got to be able to adopt technology or they're never going to be able to do it at the pace that they want to do it the other side of that we're seeing um some some multi-generational ah real estate companies that we we work with um, you know they were able to be the size that they were when their grandfathers had the company when their fathers had the company.

 

 

Shaun

Now that there's more competitiveness in the space. Um, you know they're not stealing properties because they knew someone who owned it they're they're acquiring properties and having to split that cost you know across their portfolio and what we're seeing is they need to be larger in order to be able to do the same things that their past generation. Um, you know, ah, ah, management has been able to do. So again, it goes back to technology that in order to be able to do that they know they can't purely rely on just the human capital technology's got to be a part of it and and you know quite frankly, it's just it's very difficult to get the resources. They need you know with the amazons and the Walmart fulfillment centers and everything else that's out there. Those jobs are really difficult to staff sometimes.

 

 

Robert Gaulden

Yeah I think it and it kind of presents. Ah a good time and a good opportunity I agree I I hear a lot about it's hard to get labor off the sidelines or it's hard to fill their their roles. Um, there seems to be ah, a movement towards. If we can leverage technology to help us kind of right-size some of those problems I think that would be a good thing. Um maybe digging a little bit deeper I have to imagine then as you start to talk to some of your clients. Ah, you may find that a lot of their properties and their operations are pretty decentralized and and you know when you take a look at it from that perspective whether you talk about access control whether you're talking about data management. Um, you know Crm systems. Whatever it may be.

 

 

Robert Gaulden

If it's all decentralized I have to imagine it's going to be really hard to to tackle and it may feel overwhelming. What are the first steps. So I have to imagine technology and and all the benefits. There's got to be a lot of confusion when you first interface with your clients.

 

 

Shaun

There is and um, you know one of the things we we've found is that um asset management groups are enabling or they have in the past at least they've enabled either regional managers or property managers to make decisions that they're not really equipped to make or have time to make. Um, you, you shouldn't expect your property manager to be able to go out and figure out exactly what the right access control system is or what the right contact management strategy is that's just not really part of that skill set they need to be able to manage. Ah you know leads as they come in and then existing tenants. Um, so that's you know what? we've done is come in and said hey if we're having this problem at this property. We're probably having it at majority of our properties. So let's make a decision ah across the board to to go in a certain path and and we did that with um, you know access control specifically. So. Um, knowing that um you know we could distribute different technology at different properties as long as they had the same backbone so going out and and doing that roadmap and understanding what the actual ah issue is as opposed to just solving it once we've solved it a number of times. By ah, you know, bringing it into the yeah at the enterprise level as opposed to the property level to be able to solve that stuff and then also put people in charge of that again at the corporate level to make sure that we're getting appropriate cost the appropriate technology that solves more than 1 problem that we have visibility. That's 1 thing that you know was kind of shocking as well is that.

 

 

Shaun

With all these disparate technologies that were being put in to the different sites. Um, you know corporate really had no visibility into what was you know, being done or think about access control if we had 4 different systems that were managing that or 5 across a portfolio. You know, ah having to log into different systems and and do different things. Becomes a distraction and and and more time that needs to be if we can you know build a common um framework to be able to support that stuff. Um, again back to the efficiency part of running our business. That's all going to become much more efficient and distributed and you know technology is going to help us solve those issues.

 

 

Robert Gaulden

Oh.

 

Robert Gaulden

Yeah, So if I heard you correctly, then it sounds like you know, maybe a better way to think about it. It is technology is there if adopted correctly and set up correctly from the foundation. It's there to help supplement your current onsite staff while giving that visibility or leveraging the enterprise to to make some of those bigger or broader decisions and then at the end of the day you know that that allows you to do a couple things right? Maybe it's helping streamline your vendor community. Um, and and leveraging some of those contracts you have now against not not a property but you know a portfolio of properties or against your entire enterprise as well and then that can lead to better benchmarking right? and and so.

 

 

 

Robert Gaulden

Gets back to the core of where I think your business started which is you know then we can really dig into the data because I have to imagine once you can get to that level Once you understand you know what's been. You know, defined as successful at one property. Can you benchmark that can you leverage that across your. Portfolio. Um, it allows that operational efficiency to really gain is is that a fair assessment.

 

 

Shaun

Ah, 100% and so you know again for the last twenty years we've done this with other industries and and you would never um, you know site to site put in drastically different technologies have a different strategy real estate's always um, kind of been a little bit different because of the investor base that goes into each one of the different properties.

 

 

Shaun

May have several different lllcs and and even though we're under the same umbrella. Maybe there's you know, technically competition from the the group across the street even though you know the parent company is the same because they're different and so there was all these distractions to to and reasons why we didn't want to do certain things and we couldn't share information and we you know we couldn't um. Kind of come up with a holistic solution across the board. Um, but really once we got down to it and and and the asset management groups finally figured out that you know if 1 of us is doing well we're all doing well this is good for the you know the entire group if we solve this now we can you know lower our cost. Um, and allow our our management staff to focus on what they think is important. Um, they start to get the big picture. Um, again, not being that different than say a travel company or an insurance company. Um, you know again in real estate sometimes as a um feeling that they're you know, just so much different than everybody else. But really I think they've just. Now figured out that you know if we approach it the same way and we solve these problems the same way we have other places. Um, you know we can really put something in that's efficient. That's um, you know, timely and and really help them solve those issues.

 

Robert Gaulden

Um, yeah, we've seen some of that as well, especially most recently with you know the advent and the adoption of smart locks and then looking at you know all of the different databases. For example that are required to run.

 

 

Robert Gaulden

Ah, your access control for the building right? and you know we've counted on on average. You know, 2 3 even 4 we've seen as high as 7 different systems. All that have to be touched just to move a resident in or or you know to turn a turn a unit and. It's no longer acceptable at least what we're seeing with the clients that we're talking to that. Why should I be touching up to 4 databases all needing about 85% of the same information and just to manage my business and.

 

 

Robert Gaulden

This is not intuitive. This is not efficient. You know how do we train against all of those and each one of them are are completely siloed and the interfaces aren't you know it aren't the same It's just making our life a lot more complex so I have to imagine that if you kind of Zoom out just beyond access control and look at everything that's involved in running a property you have to find a ton of different opportunities in in that space to say. Okay, there are areas where we can consolidate and and make your life that much better.

 

Shaun

Yeah, you know if you think there's 4 to 7 just with access control. You throw the rest of the technology on there. We're talking you know potentially 20 plus per property. Um, and then the lost data you think about the lost data that goes with that as well. So um, you know they're they're looking at each one of those different systems and trying to pull. A piece or two out of that and maybe even you know throw into a spreadsheet. Um, but they're not able to look at data across these systems and I think that's a piece that's that's really being missed and I talked about earlier. Um you know driving these companies toward data-driven decisions as supposed to being reactionary. The number of times we we talked to a group early on. And there was either the gut feel of like that's a great I feel like this is a great property or this is a great opportunity and you ask why? like where is the data to support that every other industry would say you're crazy if you didn't have yeah x y and z in place to be able to support that where um, you know with real estate you know because they only looked at a certain system and got reporting out of systems. And there were so many of them. Um without being able to pull it all together. Um, yeah, that was kind of what they had to do so being able to look and create a common platform. Not only for um, yeah, your access control that has multiple access points but really for the business as a whole like let's pull all that together to be more efficient. But's automate a portion of that. Let's get you know reporting that supports multiple systems. Um, all of that stuff enables us to really not only run our business more efficiently but run it more. Um, you know we're in it better and also be more strategic so we're no longer being reactionary to things that happen.

 

 

Shaun

The end of a quarter and of ah a month we're being strategic and making decisions mid-month midquarter to make sure that we get to the end the finish line and we're successful for that for that period of time.

 

Robert Gaulden

So with all the decisions to be made and with all the different opportunities and different things that you can go tackle is there a common starting point have you created a ah Playbook or could you share. And where do you advise people to start because I have to imagine it's got to look pretty overwhelming if you really start to dig in.

 

 

Shaun

It is and and and that's um, you know our initial business you know again when when we get contacted sometimes it's hey we want to put smart locks in at this property and and my first thought is that's great and I think that's a good idea, but let's take a step back right? let's let's assess let's do a technology assessment of everything you already have we may already have a solution in-house that another property is using that can solve this specific problem for this property. So let's let's look at our entire business and our technology stack in general and make some decisions and I like to work backwards. Really so you know if we look at um. You know where do we want to be in eighteen months do we want to have a full virtual leasing model in place with a call center and you know be able to do customer orchestration for our inbound leads right? If we you know if that's the playbook and that's what we want to do in eighteen months and we start to work back from there and say well if we're going to do that in eighteen months then in in three months we better have a good idea of what our requirements are and we better have an idea of who the vendors are that we should be able to select you know in twelve months we better have an implementation plan and a good idea of um, you know how we're integrating this into our existing process. And then those last couple months we're looking at change management and who we need to hire and and and who you know who needs to be in place to be able to pull this off so it's not as easy. You know it's it's extremely overwhelming like most problems that you know we come up with day-to-day we look at it from above and we think.

 

 

Shaun

Um, my goodness. How am I going to solve this It's overwhelming. There's no, you know there's really no place to to start and and how do we figure it out or if we break it up and do these chuns and we understand what the finish line looks like we understand what the checkpoints look like it makes it ah much more. Ah palatable to be able to tackle. The other thing I would encourage people to do andve. We've seen this a number of times as we've talked to different groups is um as they tackle technology problems make it a job description. Ah you know we have way too many instances where um, you know they want to make it. Someone's part-time job. They you know they're run very lean. And um, they say you know hey you know so-and-s sos in asset management. You know like I think they're they're into technology and they'd like to help out well, that's great. We'd love to have the help with that that can't be part of their job. They can be part of there. They be part of the steering committee and they can be part of what ah if it really is their job let's change the job description um we can't but but the moonlighting um and a technology integration one. It's going to push out your timeline 2 the costs are going to go way through the roof because you're not focused on it and 3 if you really do successfully integrate it. It'd be a miracle and.

 

 

Robert Gaulden

So yeah I've run into that you know hey I've been ah volunteered or volunteer told that this is now my my part-time job and and you know that's where I see most of that confusion. Um, yeah, if I can classify the the different type of buyers. We see.

 

 

 

Robert Gaulden

Must certainly see those that have a vision and they're great right? and they just want to know hey can you help me make my vision a reality and and then you know here are the things that I require here's part of my vision. This is the technology stack.. Where do you interface with making my vision a reality and then don't make me look bad. That's potentially what they want but all too often, especially in this space. What we've run into is you know this is my part-time role or someone said hey we need smart locks or they're interested in how to make self-guided tour work or something along those lines and.

 

 

Robert Gaulden

This is not their day job. Um, and and they're super confused I mean to your point of just you know, taking taking stock on what you have and then really trying to help define you know if there are those smaller pieces to make that initial stack. What are what are things that are important to you today. What are your must haves versus you know what? what may be on your roadmap but you may not want to enact right now but you want the flexibility to get there and then what are the ones that you know ultimately everyone says yeah I need that but when you really discuss it with them. Maybe it's not as important as I thought I mean we see that so often in what we do just on the access level. We generally ask are are you running a property management software system. What's your Pms and then what are you doing for perimeter today. Do you have elevators in your portfolio or in your building and.

 

 

Robert Gaulden

What your approach for the unit you know are you obviously generally with us. They're talking about smart locks and then beyond that do you have aspirations to get to smart building or smart apartment. You know, are you planning on leveraging self-guided tour. You have distributed wi-fi or plans to get down that path and then ultimately are you looking at a 1 app application and an app or customer or or sorry a resident experience app. But when you break it down to these are the kind of things that.

 

 

Robert Gaulden

These are the pieces that make up an access control-centric stack and you break it into what do I need today. Where would you like to go thirty months from now sixty months from now. Whatever that timeline is you can start to build that foundational piece. So I think your approach makes a lot of sense and most certainly helps the person who. Is really confused and it's just a report out to someone within the organization to make that decision or at least start making those recommendations because what I've found is if you can't break it down into those elements where they can consume it. They just freeze up and and then they'll so they'll defer. Well, we're not going to do it on this project. We'll do it on the next one and and the next one either never comes or you lose that opportunity because someone else can come in and articulate what those values are are you are you seeing a lot of those same type things I have to imagine on a much broader scale based on everything you guys tackle.

 

 

 

Shaun

Um, yeah, absolutely so the idea of when do we do the project right and being able you know it's you know there's always an excuse or an issue that comes up that that kind of pushes it down that road the groups that are successful with it. Um, one. They understand what the problem is um, they may not always be able to articulate it from a technical standpoint but they can tell you you know we don't convert enough leases right? We we have all these you know leads that come in and for some reason our lead to lease conversion is super low or we don't renew very well with existing. Tenants or um, you know we haven't been able to distribute or you know have success with self-guided tours so they can ah come up with what those individual problems are don't always have a technology solution for that and again, that's kind of where we play in that space is you know. Am I ah, you know when I so but I started this company was I ah an expert in access control and self-guided tours. No but I understand technology and I've solved technology problems for twenty plus years and and did I always understand exactly what was going on in the technology from a you know a deep dive perspective. No but I understood.

 

 

Shaun

What the problem was being solved and how we could solve it and I can understand what vendors could help us solve. Ah.

 

Robert Gaulden

Yeah I think that's really important and maybe one last thing I'd like to highlight have a conversation with you around which is I think it's really important as the industry continues to look at technology. Um that we start to delineate the difference between. This is technology that is core to my business versus this is technology that's core to helping me run my business. We see a lot of people out there because some of this adoption is so brand new. They're trying to tackle it on their own and I'm not quite sure. Everybody has to go down that path right? there's. Lot of great technology out there I think there's a lot of great places to start. But I think core to you know property management if I was an own or core to my business is attracting and retaining residents and then help me understand what technology is out there that. Allows me to build the experience I want I'm not quite sure I'd want to get into the technology myself and I think we're starting to see a lot of that today that the technology available out. There is starting to mature. Um, but you don't necessarily have to wade into this and and build it yourself.

 

Shaun

Absolutely and I I wouldn't recommend I mean who wants to be ah I mean other than maybe you guys in the hardware side but you know I don't have any interest in building a software company. Um, you know there's It's a ton of money. There's There's a million ways to fail. Um, you know that's that's really really difficult. Um, you know I have an interest in growing an opportunity to help solve those technology problems by um, you know, making that translation between what the the problem is from the asset management group and what technologies could help solve that and me being the translator that sits in between it. We see a lot of times where. Um, you know the the asset management group. Um, again internally can articulate what they need to happen. They maybe they don't know the true cause of it but they can articulate it. Um, they can't necessarily go to a technology company and tell them what they want to do on the on the reverse of that a technology company comes in and does their demo even a you know real estate specific. And everyone's head spinning and they have no idea you know it looks cool and they'd love to do it but I don't know what it does for us so sitting in kind of that middle and being the translator between okay this is our functional or our business requirement. How do we turn that into a technical requirement and find the right vendors for it. I'm not trying to sell you. You know a specific lock or a specific solution I'm trying to find the right partner that we can integrate with that solves the problem for you being you know the you know trusted partner you know like that we like to call ourselves. That's.

 

 

Shaun

That's right, That's exactly what we're doing is we're trying to partner with you to solve these and then what we do is we go through a change management. Ah you know a truly successful integration for us is figure out the problem help them solve the problem um help them then staff someone who takes over the ownership of that problem and then move on to the next. Um, you know, staying around and and can perpetually trying to solve the same issue over and over and over again doesn't do any of us. Any good guys.

 

 

Robert Gaulden

Yeah I think that consultsative approach and really getting down to tell me how I can help your business or where where your pain points are and and let me bring kind of best in class solutions to you makes a lot of sense to me. Maybe 1 last question leaning forward. So. In in your exposure and what you're seeing today. You know what's next right? What's the next technology. Um or what's the next problem that needs to go get solved right? I'll give you an example today where I mean it was package management and it's you know package management still ah an issue and people are you think are getting closer to.

 

 

Robert Gaulden

What this may look like in the future but you know self-guided tours really exploded coming out of the pandemic. What do? what do you think? maybe next.

 

 

Shaun

Um, yeah, we're seeing a lot of centralized lead management and I would say you know it engulfs you know several different technologies but we talked about um some of the constraints on um, you know the workforce and. And being able to staff a lot of these um you know, leasing offices. Um, if we have an opportunity to bring that more in-house instead of managing you know three hundred or four hundred different leasing agents. We're managing 6 or 7 or 10 um, you know call center agents are trainings much better. We've seen significantly lower. Ah, turnover rates our um, our inbound lead conversion to tour is thirty five plus percent higher that in conversion from tour to um, contract is almost double what we're seeing into traditional model. Um, you know 1 of our big goals is to help people with their in-channel lead. So. If I've got someone that's on our text stream on a chat you know calling us. We should be able to respond to that 24 hours a day whether it's automated to some extent to get them enough information to fill out a guest card to get a tour or whether it's a physical call center in channel the second they leave our channel and they leave us a message. They ask us to call them back. You you know the the sales cycles so small within you know the multifamily leasing space by time we get back to them. They forgot who we were and they've made other decisions so being able to tackle that piece of it I think is huge, um, you know and then it also enables you to let your on-site staff.

 

 

Shaun

Deal with onsite issues. They're not dealing with the cold lead that comes in who's just asking for pricing or maybe it's even just a competitor to see what your pricing is that stuff's all going to the centralized lease um lead management process and and they're dealing with those. We don't flip the leads over then until they've booked a tour and then we get that touchy feelely of. You know testing outbound to say hey we're looking forward you to kind of you know, coming into the office. You know we know you have a dog you know and and we can't wait to see them as well like then that that process starts where we're you know we're not losing that touchy feelly we're just letting them to focus on you know, most likely to lease ah leads right. And then it also it enables us to be able to manage our existing tenants I mean you know in in every industry they say right? like the the most um the best customer is a customer and you keep right? It's it's much more expensive to get someone new. So. Renewals. Um, you know it allows you to to be focused on that experience like everyone wants to create an experience while they're at there. This is someone's home. You know this isn't a hotel that you're staying out for a week or 2 or whatever. This is a home and let's not treat it like it's any commodity. Let's treat it like someone's home. So I think centralized leasing. Is the big push if I you know the groups we work with that are scaling really really quickly. This is what they're putting in place. It's Crm. It's call center. It's customer orchestration. Its you know again, all the things that we've seen in other industries specifically travel. Um, you know in insurance and and and those industries.

 

Shaun

All filtering down much smaller window. You know we're not talking about. Um you know? yeah know weeks or months of a window here. We're talking about 4 or five days most likely people are making these decisions but it can still be um, you know put into a process that's very um technology-driven. Ah, very personalized still because we know a lot about this. You know about the ah the lead and then also again letting our existing onsite staff really deal with the issues they need to and not really filter out the noise.

 

Robert Gaulden

Which brings us all the way back to then you can leverage the data and get back to scale right? So hey Sean it's been a great conversation enjoyed having you on the show. Love to have you back. But before we depart someone want to find out a little bit more about you and your company where where can they find you awesome.

 

Shaun

Exactly.

 

 

Shaun

Absolutely, you can find us online at Restechllc.com that's restechdash lllc dot com you can find myself and the company on Linkedin. Um, or feel free to shoot me an email. It's Sean S H A U N the number 1 at rez tech llc dot com thanks a lot you too.