Ep #504 – Leading a Multifamily Company with Maureen Miles
Maureen Miles is crushing it in the multifamily space! She is a Multifamily Entrepreneur, wife, mother, friend, and fellow Multifamily Boardroom member. Maureen has an all female run property management company that supports her 3000+ properties as well as 3rd party management of other properties. Here’s some of what we covered:
- Property management
- In-house vs 3rd party
- Flintstones to Jetsons in 6 months
- Covid hits and wins
- Capital Expenditures during a Pandemic
- Benefits of being female in a male dominated industry
- Challenges make you stronger
- Fast and stable growth
- “When the tide goes out, you see who’s swimming naked”
- Securing a property
- Sacrifice to succeed?
To find out more about our guest:
Full Transcript Below
Ep #504 – Leading a Multifamily Company feat. Maureen Miles
Rod: Welcome to another edition of “How to Build Lifetime Cashflow through Real Estate Investing”. I’m Rod Khleif and I’m thrilled you’re here and I’m super excited to have my good friend, Maureen Miles, back on the show. Now, if you don’t know Maureen, she’s been interviewed on here a couple of times already and she’s a good friend. She stayed here in our guest house more than one occasion. So, Maureen has been involved in over 3,000 units. In fact, in just, in the last year alone, she sold 1,100 units and purchased another 1,300. She owns a property management company, she owns a construction company, she’s a GC, she’s a freaking rockstar, and she’s my friend. Welcome back, sweetie.
Maureen: Hey! Nice to see you, Rod. Thanks for having me back.
Rod: Absolutely. So, you know, rather than go back through your history like we normally do because you’ve done it already on the show, I’d like to get right into some things because a lot’s been happening obviously and, you know, I’d love to get your read on some of the things that are happening. And, I know that, you know, you recently started or acquired your property management company. So, I think I’d like to go that direction and talk about why you brought it in house because I know, you know, you had third-party property management companies for years and maybe talk about that process and if Covid had anything to do with it. So, I’ll just leave it at that and we’ll take it from there and riff from there.
Maureen: Okay, cool. Well, thanks again. Nice to see you, Rod. I like your background too. But, yeah. So, a couple years ago, I started a property management company after basically firing for the issues we were having is never with the ownership. They’re always great and have good intentions. Just sometimes that like, seems like the regional level is where I always seem to kind of bang heads with and a little bit above that maybe–
Rod: I forgot that it’s been two years. Now, I realize what it was, was you kind of revamped it and you reinvented it. Is that more accurate?
Maureen: Yeah. What we did is, we had about probably 1,200 units when we did that. And we’ve been going through transitions of purchasing and, you know, purchasing and selling properties and all that, and that’s been fine. But, I’ve never really got it kind of, you know, our goal was to do eventually third-party management as well and we never really got that launched. And so, one of the things that Covid was actually good for us, for one of the blessings, right? Is, it kind of slowed us down. We did slowdown in acquisitions, although we did just close on something last week. But, it’s like, this year has been totally different than last year. So, we started really looking at operations and digging down deeper. And I just, I realized I was getting a bit burned out running things trying to keep all the balls in the air, right? So, my CEO, I had at the time or my Vice President, I just realized she wasn’t quite working out. And, we decided to really tear things down and take a look at things. And I realized, one of the mistakes I was making is, I was kind of, I feel like I was hiring like a VP or a regional with high aspirations to run the company as opposed to like an actual COO. So, I decided to do things a little differently this time and look for an actual COO and I reached out to a couple brokers I knew because I was thinking, how can we find somebody, right? That would know how, you know, that can run a property management company good? Who would know? Like, dude. Would I ask my HD vendor? Probably not, you know. So, try to think like, outside the box a little bit instead of just putting out resumes and things like that or asking for resumes. So, I reached out to a couple brokers I know and they did know of a large group that was just disassembling their management company. They were just, the owners were retiring. And, they put me in touch with a woman who was a COO. They’ve managed over 10,000 units doing third-party as well. So, I’m like, that’s my freaking person. That’s awesome. So, I ended up speaking with her, and we ended up like, shutting down our other company, and revamping this “Vicinia Living” is the name of it.
Maureen: And so that, it’s her and I. So, it is still female-run, which is cool. Property management, she has that experience to do third-party. So, just since July, I believe we’re over 1,200 units now, third-party. Along with our–
Rod: Fantastic. Let me stop you for one second because you’ve thrown some stuff out that some of the people listening may not know what you’re talking about. So, yeah. In third-party management, you typically have what’s called regional managers that manage multiple assets, multiple properties. So, when she said, she didn’t really want a regional that had aspirations of running a company. And, I agree, you need a COO. Somebody that’s great in all that. All aspects of internal management operations. The other thing is, when she’s saying third-party, she formed the management company to manage her own assets, but now she’s doing outside management for other owners, which is not uncommon. So, it’s “Vicinia Living”, vicinialiving.com. And, female-run. And, let me just add one other thing. Maureen has been such an incredible inspiration to women that wanna get into this business. I can tell you, I’ve got scores of successful warriors in my mentorship program that are ladies that are killing it, and she’s been an inspiration for them. So, I love the fact that your management company is female-run. Anyway, sorry I wanna interject that. Please continue.
Maureen: Yeah, sure. No. And, I just, that’s what I wanted to share with you, the update. So, I think with Covid, there’s a lot of people kind of freaking out. But, I also know a lot of people that are just, it’s giving everybody the ability to slowdown and kind of find the gift in it. Right?
Rod: That is a gift.
Maureen: And, find the blessing in it. A lot of companies I’ve heard also, we’ve went from the Flintstones to the Jetsons in six months. Right? As far as, how much you can operate over zoom now and how many things we can do remotely. And, you know, we’ve gotten better online tours on all our properties now and ways to lease online and just to be more efficient in that aspect and just changing with the time. So, I do think it’s brought some gifts as well. Yeah. And so–
Rod: No question. And, you know, this is the time. And I will tell you, the strongest companies in history were formed in times like this. And so, the fact that, you know, you use that as an opportunity to hone your operations, to enhance your, you know, I’m sure you enhanced your measurement, and probably, you know, really took a look at the tech it sounds like, and, you know, with the virtual tours and all that we’re doing exactly the same thing and it is an opportunity. And so, you know, a lot of people are bemoaning it. But, so, let me ask you this. How have your collections been on your assets through all of this?
Maureen: So, it’s varied. So, we’re typically in Indiana and Georgia right now, the majority of our assets. And, in the markets, we’re good. In each market, we have one property that’s slacking a little bit, a little bit heavier. And then, we have other properties that, literally zero affected. So, I think that that’s just a testament to the manager there, how well they know the people. Like in Indiana, we have one property that’s kind of close to the casinos that was there. And so, when they shut that down and pulled back, that was, it took a little bit of a hit, but then, the Indiana, I think it’s their hood. I forget, I don’t know the exact program. But they stepped up and they actually paid 60% of anybody’s rent that was behind. And then, also, going after kind of like, the unemployment, that they got a bump on unemployment. And so, collections have been really good. So, we’ve really only seen a blip on two of the properties.
Rod: Do you think is it based on demographics of those two particular assets where those people are employed or do you think it’s more the on-site management?
Maureen: I think it’s a little of both. It’s probably, it has to do with where the people are employed. But we, right from the very start, we set ourselves up to make sure number one, people knew that they did have to pay rent. So, we started offering like, if you pay by the first, that we do it a raffle for 50% off their rent, or $300 credit, or whatever. So, just to get people kind of like, Oh, okay. No, we do have to pay it. We are expected to pay it. So, that was something that, I think, definitely worked in our favor. And, the other thing was the job thing, but again, that was just kind of a blip and it’s pretty steady now. It’s pretty normal now. And those are, they drop down, but it wasn’t enough to affect any investor distributions or anything like that.
Rod: Right. Let me ask you that on that note. You know, with your crystal ball for the future, have you suspended any CapEx? Have you built more operating reserves? Just talk a little bit about your strategy in the event things do get, you know, do start becoming more challenging. Have you done anything different?
Maureen: Yeah. So, we did slowed down some of the CapEx measures. Just some of the extra things. Especially when it first came out, because we wanted to make sure we had some extra reserves in case, you know, nobody really knew how big the hit would be when this thing hit. We were all like, every month we were kind of bracing for it, right? But, now that we kind of have the gist of it. We slowed down on some of the CapEx. I am putting an extra reserve, like, so we just closed on a property last week, and we do have an extra like 150,000 of just extra debt carry costs that we hold on to, as well as–
Rod: Reserves required by Fannie Mae, right?
Maureen: Yeah. The Fannie loans. So, but that’ll turn into CapEx in nine months, which should be sitting there anyway, so we’re okay with that.
Rod: Just one second. For the brand newbies who are listening, CapEx is the repairs you make right out of the gate when you acquire an asset or you’re gonna reposition an asset, it’s called, “Capital Expenditures”. So, you know, just for anybody that’s super new. Okay.
Maureen: And that’s important, Rod, too. Just on that CapEx thing. I don’t know if this ever came out on one of my stories but my first deal was 117 units in Atlanta and our CapEx budget was $50,000 and we thought we would like–
Rod: 100 plus units. That’s really funny.
Maureen: That sucker cash flow, like, unbelievable. And we bought it for like 24 doors. Sold it for– But anyway, so, that had a lot of cash flow, so we were okay.
Maureen: But that’s one of like, the newbie mistakes. So, I just wanna make sure your listeners know that like, get somebody else to look at your CapEx budget because we had, like, that totally could have burned us–
Rod: Or get bids. I mean, you know, you could go out there and just get some bids, you know? I mean, and know exactly what it’s gonna cost. But yeah, you need multiple eyes for sure and that’s absolutely a newbie mistake. And, a huge newbie mistake is thinking you’re gonna do it from cash flow. Now, you got lucky, but a lot of people, you know, fail in this business because they think that they can do their CapEx from cash flow and that’s a recipe for disaster. So, let me ask you a question and I’m gonna go to the, you know, we’re in a male dominated, for the most part industry. I just did an episode. I don’t know if you saw it come out called the “Titans of Multifamily”. It’s actually going live here, Monday. And this is being recorded on November 12th. But, you know, those were all men with, you know, anywhere from 15,000 to 150,000 you know, deals that they’ve done. And so, as a woman, I want you to speak to the women that are looking at this business and, you know, maybe talk about some of the barriers that you had, if any, if maybe they were just mental. But, could you speak to the women, female listeners, that I have and hopefully encourage them as you’ve done it. I mean, Maureen’s been on my stage numerous times when we had live events and even live stream, I think. And so, can you speak to the ladies as to the experiences that you had because of your gender, if any, and what they might do to push past anything like that.
Maureen: Sure. Well, I mean, that’s a great thing to bring up, Rod. I tell people before. I do see it as a benefit. We definitely stand out a little bit. We’re a little different and, you know, there are different things that we run into, that I think, it’s our attitude is the, like, helps us the way we deal with it and approach it, right? So, I’ve got in the comments, you know, do we have to wait for your dad to come in and sign these papers? And, that was a good one. I had to like–
Rod: Thank God I wasn’t there. I would have unleashed anything.
Maureen: No, because you just realized, you know, it’s them, it’s just their point of view. It’s not me. It’s not a reflection of me. It’s not because I act like a young girl that doesn’t know what she’s doing. It’s just like, it’s their perspective, right? That’s all that that is.
Rod: I love that you said that it’s a benefit. I freak, because that is a mindset. That’s a foundational, you know, overarching mindset belief that is huge. So, ladies, I hope you own that one. That is fanta– because it is. My god, you have the ability to use vulnerability which would drop a man to his knees. And so, you know, it is absolutely a benefit. I love it.
Maureen: These people have said, you know, is your husband coming, or are we waiting for your husband? That’s another thing, I was like, No, he’s not involved with the business. So, but thank you for being considerate. Right? I think, one of the biggest like minds, which is like, don’t ever be a victim. Don’t ever position yourself as a victim. If you don’t get that deal, I mean, even if it was strictly, if they said to you, “Oh, I’m never giving it to a female.” Which I doubt you’d ever hear. But, if really somebody had the perspective or the position to say that, like don’t own that, just be like, “Wow! That dude really has some issues with his mom maybe”, or like, we have a joke around like if somebody cuts us off, you know, I have some, I have, my kids are in their 20s, my business partner’s 30. And sometimes they get a little aggressive driving and, you know, somebody cuts you off in lane. And when you’re driving, and I was like, you know what, he might go home and get beat up by his wife. So, this is what he has to do. So, it’s all like, it’s all perspective, right? My driver, that’s why he’s so angry driving. It’s not you. And so, I never think of it as me or a fault of me. Maybe I should, once in a while.
Rod: No, I love it. I love it. It’s like water off a duck’s back, and that’s how it should be. I love it and that’s the reason you’re successful is, you don’t internalize it. What else would you tell ladies that are thinking about getting into this business, you know? What advice would you give them?
Maureen: Yeah. I say, just don’t stop. That’s the thing is, you have to have that attitude that, you know, I’m gonna make this happen, no matter what happens. And it’s almost going back to like, the light bulb thing, right? When he was creating the light bulb, ten thousand ways not to do it. Just when you hit a wall, you’re like, “Oh, shoot! that didn’t work. Let me try it again.” Was it the situation? Was it the guy? Was it my experience? You know, what do I need to overcome this? And so, everyone is a challenge that makes you stronger, every time you say “No”. So, I had about four or five deals in the very beginning. I was just telling somebody this the other day too, so it’s funny. But I had four or five deals in the beginning that I really thought were gonna be the first deal. First deal is the hardest one by far, and that’s the one that, I think it’s only met, you almost like, test it along the way, because this business is so freaking awesome. Once you do figure it out, but like, you gotta almost prove yourself, I feel so. As I was getting these either a team together or a deal together and it would fall apart, I mean, it’s devastating, it’s crushing. But you know what, let yourself feel sorry for yourself for five seconds and like, switch it and get back on there and say, “Damn! I fell off the horse, but, you know, I’m gonna get back on that sucker and let’s just try it again”, like that wasn’t it. And you just, you know, you just have to keep going for it. No matter what. And, you know, we do have children involved. We do have–
Rod: Well, you do. You have your–
Maureen: I do, and just women in general. Sometimes, they’re the mom or the wife and, you know, there is a balance there that I think is a little unique. But, you know, females, typically, can juggle more things than dudes. No offense to guys.
Rod: No. You are definitely the superior sex, so don’t even worry about that. That is an absolute fact. And, let me circle back on something you just said. You know, guys, that road to your outcome, to your goals, is never a straight line. It’s like, I use the analogy at my live events, you know, if you’re a fisherman, or you’re a pilot, you know, you’re off course 90% of the time, but you always end up in the right place as long as you don’t give up and recognize that it’s not a straight line. So, let me ask you this. Talk about any kind of like, “Aha” moments that you had in this journey, and you go back to when you bought your first duplex or triplex. I forgot what it was, but talk about any “Aha” moments that maybe you had about this business, or about your capabilities, or, you know, maybe the female component. Anything that comes to mind for that.
Maureen: Well. I do, people do remember you, I think, as a female in this business because it is so male dominant and I have a friend out in California. She’s been in real estate forever and she said, Yeah. She goes, I think we’re talking about the NMHC, which is a big gathering of brokers and things like that and, you know, you just see a sea of suit jackets.
Rod: Suit jackets, I remember seeing you at the last one. Yeah, and that’s National Multifamily Housing Council. I believe it is, right?
Maureen: Yes, and it is—
Rod: Yeah. It’s the event, really, to go to, to meet brokers and other vendors and things in the business. But I remember seeing you and William at the last one, or the last one I went to in San Diego anyway, and you’re right. It was all guys. In fact, it was funny. It was really funny, I joked about this component in that, I was the only one that didn’t have a jacket on. I was literally out of foul, a few thousand people had my black v-neck on, and it was really kind of hilarious. Anyway, I interrupted. Please continue.
Maureen: Yeah. No, no. It’s just like, you know, how do you stand out? What makes you different? You know, there’s many, you’ll hear it throughout. People like to do business with people like them, right? And you say, “Well, I’m so different” you know? I’m not golfing on the weekends. I’m not, you know, necessarily they talk about sports games and stuff. And I’m always like, when they tell me the team that’s playing, I’m trying to guess the sport that it’s related to. Like, I just don’t know sports whatsoever, right? Like, is that hockey and they’re like, “No, more on baseball.” I’m like, “Oh, I don’t know.” But, you know, it’s just, it’s still finding commonality. And, like I said, there’s, you know, we can be kind and I think when we go into negotiations too. I’ve saved some deals because you get the attorneys all doing there, and not to, I love man. I’m not trying to diss on any guys, but sometimes, guys can get a little heated with each other in the ego–
Rod: Ego. Yeah, ego. That needs to be significant and comes into play, sure.
Maureen: Yeah. But, when we come approach, there’s just like a different approach sometimes. Like, I’ve just gone sometimes, right to the seller. We get rid of the attorneys. We get rid of the brokers, and just say, Hey, you know, you wanna sell this and I wanna buy it. What’s the real problem here? Like, let’s figure out a solution and, I think they’re not as combative sometime with us, like it’s not an ego thing. It’s just like, it’s and it’s sincere too. I just wanna get the deal done, like, you know, let’s forget about all this other stuff, so. And, I don’t know, as a guy, if they can maybe–
Rod: No, you have a definite advantage. A woman has a definite amount advantage in that scenario that you just described. No question.
Maureen: I just wanna do it. I mean, there’s no trickery involved, right?
Rod: No. But it’s an inherent advantage. It just is. I mean, and that’s what my female listeners need to hear, is that, they think, they may think the deck is stacked against them. It’s really not. That’s just perception, that’s just truly, that’s just mindset. So, let me ask you this. Yeah?
Maureen: One other thing I just wanna mention, Rod is that, that deal I call that “Unicorn Deal”, that we still have out in Atlanta? It’s just an awesome deal we bought, but we bought that from the original developers. A lot of people were gonna see it and kind of like, circling around it, like vultures when we knew it might come up for sale, right? And I went out there with my daughter, and we happened to meet. It was a lady. Her husband had passed away, and that’s the reason like, it was we all thought it might come up for sale. And it’s like, when he did pass away, the next call was to the broker to say, “Hey, can I meet that nice lady that came out with her daughter?” Like–
Maureen: I’m sure she probably didn’t remember the 10 sets of dudes that all kind of looked the same, in the same suit.
Maureen: They remembered us. So, we do it, you know, in every situation, it might not give you the edge, but it does work. You just, there’s benefits to it as well.
Rod: No question. I think the benefits outweigh the negative, if there are any negative. So, let me ask you this. What is the most challenging part of what you do right now? Or maybe what has it been? What was it when you started and maybe what is it now? Let’s do it that way. Because I wanna talk to the people that haven’t started yet.
Maureen: From a female angle or just the business itself?
Rod: Whatever you, wherever you wanna go with it.
Maureen: I guess, right now, the struggle is growing fast enough but maintaining that stable foundation, right? So, you wanna grow. It’s always like, do you hire more people than you need? Do you pull back? And, one of the reasons I restructure, just going back to the management companies, just for a second is, I wanted to do the third-party and not because I like to torture myself and deal with other people’s problems.
Rod: Right. I was wondering. Yeah.
Maureen: I wanted to have that corporate support for my properties that I can’t necessarily afford, you know, running 2,000 units or whatever number we’re at now.
Rod: But we needed scale. Scale to be able to–
Maureen: Yeah. You want that marketing expert. You want that person that can stay focused on different aspects of it. You know, the accounting in-house like all that stuff was important. And so, that’s it, it’s like, we wanna grow but you almost can’t grow until you get certain things in place, but you can’t really afford to get those things in place until you grow. So, there’s constantly that like, that push–
Rod: You know, it’s fascinating that you’re talking about this, is because, you know, I told you about those four titans. I called them that I interviewed, and that is the exact same situation that three of them had. The fourth one, and I’ll just tell you what we discussed on that call was, the EOS system with “Traction”, you know the book, “Traction”.
Maureen: We’ve done that.
Rod: Yeah. And that has really helped. And Albert Berrez, one of those four guys, was actually in that book. He was one of the companies that got him, that was in that book. Anyway, it’s just interesting to hear you having the same issues, you know, as these larger groups had. So, what do you think, well, what’s your favorite part of what you do? The challenge, you talked about the challenge. Did you bring up the challenge? Well, did you answer that?
Maureen: Well, that was it. Just that conflict on push through how fast you grow. My favorite part is, like, it’s not, people say, “Oh. I do this, so I could leave my own life.” And I’m just, I’ve realized, I’m just a workaholic. No matter what I’m doing, I’m gonna work a lot, but my favorite part of this is actually the people that I get to meet and interact with. So, this is a huge point of connection with me and like getting to know you, Rod. Right? And getting to know all these fabulous people, because I think the people that get to the upper ranks of this business, like, are really good people. Like, a lot of them are good to, like, their soul. I think, when you’re beginning in real estate, you have to really be careful and be alert because there’s a lot, it’s a low barrier entry type of job, right? So, there’s a lot of people trying to make fast bucks or, you know, they’re just out for themselves. They’re just trying to, they don’t care if they screw a couple people along the way, like, in business because they just, you know, that’s just the way they are. They’re just aggressive and it’s me and me. So, those people only get so far. Eventually, they’re gonna step on the wrong person, they’re gonna take advantage of the wrong person, or do the wrong deal. But, once you get up into kind of this upper layer where things are really happening, just the people are freaking awesome. Like, they really–
Rod: I love the way you described it. Good to their soul. I love that. And, you know, I think I find that they’re more elegant too, don’t you?
Maureen: Yeah. And trustworthy. Like, I’ve done a lot of deals like, I just was talking with the guys like, I haven’t signed a CA in 15 years. He’s like, if somebody needs me sign these CAs goes, I don’t do it. He goes, because, he goes, I just don’t want that energy into it, and they’re just like, you know, and he goes, if they won’t do the deal without a CA, then that’s fine. He goes, but I never go back on my word and if they don’t take my word, like, if they don’t trust me, I get it.
Rod: I love it.
Maureen: And so, just meeting these different people with those great attitudes, that really, things are done on a handshake sometimes, you know? and just seeing–
Rod: A CA, guys, is a confidentiality or non-circumvention agreement depending upon what it is. Just so you know. So, what words of wisdom would you give aspiring investors, male or female, we’ll get off the female thing. I think you’ve proven that that’s not a hindrance, it’s a plus. What words of advice would you give people that are thinking about this business, haven’t taken action yet, maybe bought a house or a duplex, but they know they want more. What would you tell them?
Maureen: Yeah. I’d say, you know, with the market too there, I’ve gotten asked a lot of questions and just saying like, “Oh, you know, should I wait? Is the, you know, thing gonna collapse? What’s gonna happen?” And, of course, nobody has a crystal ball. But, my opinion and kind of the consensus of some other people I know, dude it’s like, we do think there’ll be some opportunities, probably. I think it’s gonna take a little bit for things to shake out, probably the next 12 to 24 months. I think it’s gonna take a little while for some of these notes to come due and stuff like that. And I think the people that, maybe, will get in trouble are the people that either didn’t have the correct amount of reserves and, you know, are in one of the markets where there was more of an impact, like Atlanta, rents just keep going up. It’s counterintuitive, but like Santa’s still on fire, right? In a good way. So, but I think some of those properties where maybe, they really bought stretched out and, you know, they say when the tide goes out, you see you swimming naked, right? So, I think you’re gonna, some people are gonna get caught swimming naked coming up. And then, also, never, you know, people are scared, sometimes they say, Oh, they say, I shouldn’t invest in a city with less than “x” amount of people, or, you know, they get so caught up on these certain– Yeah. Just these criteria of what they hear from, you know, you, Rod, or whoever they’re listening to, right? Or people like me. But, you know, never lose sight of just your own backyard too. If that’s where you’re comfortable starting, then start there. There could be a really good deal that would never be on my radar, or Rod’s radar, because we’re not used to this, you know, we don’t know this little city in Nevada, or Oklahoma, or wherever you’re from that. But you can find some really juicy deals in these little markets, you know?
Rod: Your backyard’s your best place to ever consider buying and to start for sure.
Rod: Let’s talk about some of your favorite stories. You have some of my favorite stories in the business. So, let’s talk about some of your favorite stories in this business because some of them are comical. So, you pick. I mean, you know which ones I love, but you take it wherever you wanna take it.
Maureen: Well. I’ll say I’m gonna be going through Atlanta next week, and I really miss my police friends. I haven’t seen them in a while.
Rod: There you go. Tell that story. How that came about.
Maureen: That was a deal. Yeah, the police originally, the way we bonded was over a big 280 unit project we were doing in Austell, Georgia that, we bought it 40% occupied. And man, it wasn’t just that it was vacant, I mean, those units were, I look back on that, Rod, and I’m like, I don’t know what else things–
Rod: Right. Guys, there’s things called heavy lifts. This would be beyond a heavy lift. Anyway. So, talk about what you did and the benefits of what you did.
Maureen: Yeah. So, we went, we bought another property near this one and I had gone to, like a safety meeting that the city had. I just happened to be in town and I don’t even know how I caught wind of it, but a safety committee meeting. Like, “Oh, let me go see what they’re doing in the area. This was a new area for me.” So, I wanted to go understand it more and I met, I believe he was the major and the captain at the time, in charge of that precinct for those properties. And I introduced myself, and I think my daughter might have been with me, and one of the managers. And, you know, we introduced ourselves and just said, “Hey, if there’s anything we can do, we wanna team up with you guys. We have some properties. We’re cleaning up here. There’s a little bit of trouble, but they’re good properties.” I look at the bones, you know, what they’re doing in the area. Things like that. And so, we exchanged cards and stuff and we just became really good friends and they said, “You know, they’ve had a bunch of owners come in and say they’re gonna clean it up.” But they don’t do it. And we did it within 60 days. I remember the mail person coming through and saying, “I never–”, they said, “I’ve been doing this route for eight years or whatever.” And they said, “I cannot believe the difference in 60 days that you’ve made.”
Rod: Now, talk about, I wanna stop you there. What did you do in those 60 days? What took place? I know, but I want my listeners to hear it.
Maureen: Sure. So, basically, in order to secure a property, and this is with the police input too, you know, it’s number one holes in the fence. We use something called expanded metal where it’s actually metal cut and pulled. So, they can’t just cut it with anything, right? And then, I mean, some people are really aggressive. They try to go under it, so we’re banging and re-routing the ground and, you know, it’s like, yeah, trying to keep that. So, it’s number one, the perimeter. So, they have a type of fence called six and one. Six feet and then one foot for barbed wire. So, you gotta keep the right people in and the right people out, right? So, that’s not necessarily in, I guess, unless they’re not paying their rent. But no, you gotta keep the people out just from cutting through. That’s what you wanna avoid.
Maureen: And then, cameras. The cameras, the perimeter was a huge impact and then the cameras were giant too. So, every property we buy, we put a camera system in. And, I mean, it’s really saved our butts a few times, residents’ butts, just conflicts with police, car sometimes.
Rod: I remember you had fire and you figured out who it was, and yes. Yeah. Okay. And obviously, you put in a front gate that people had to go through as well.
Maureen: Sometimes, we’ll do the front gate. There’s some pros and cons of front gates, but lighting too, you know, show up at night on, or have your construction measure whatever you have. Drive that sucker at night because we put in LED lights. We had, it was like, daylight on this one property but man, between camera’s perimeter and lighting, those are the three that’ll make the biggest difference.
Rod: All right. Let’s continue with your police story. Continue with your police story. I just wanted to dig in for a second.
Maureen: We had all kinds of stuff. I mean, I used to have them, you know, there’s a canine unit, so, you know, that comes from my story. Another one in Atlanta where we had–
Rod: Well, you didn’t finish. You didn’t finish this one. So, you met these guys, you ended up paying for their Christmas dinner, which like, was nothing. I mean, it was a couple grand or something, if I recall, but then you really needed them. Talk about that. I love that. I mean, we may have done this on a previous podcast, but I just love the story. So, talk about that.
Maureen: Well, that was way before even the Christmas dinner. They were just so impressed with what we made and the difference in that area, because it really was the source of a lot of crime. They used to call it the “Bandos”. I found out later like, the abandoned units, because there were so many abandoned units. So, I went in and I had a contractor right before we closed on the second deal there. I went in and we kind of looked at, yeah, this is a good sample apartment for us. So, I wanted contractors to come through to do some bidding for me to get prices. So, I went the day before, looked at the units, particular unit we’re gonna use, and then I showed up. I had a contractor and the manager with me the next day, and we go to open the door, and we walk into like, eight or nine like, really big dudes, like, and they, you know, they weren’t supposed to be there. It was abandoned. We didn’t know what the hell was going on. I looked at the manager, who was the same kind of demographic as everybody else there. I kind of stood out, I was a little different, right? But I looked at the manager and he looked scared, and I was like, “Oh” like, it just hit me all of a sudden and all the years of doing this, I never was really scared and I was like, “Huh, this could be a very interesting situation.” So, I like, I stepped back and the guy, like, one guy got, he just like walked past us and left. And like the other guy rumors kind of like, just like it was like, frozen for a second. And I just texted the, one of the majors that I knew. He gave me a cell phone number and I’m like, “Hey, I said, are you around town? Like, are you in the area?” And he’s like, “No, you know, what do you need?” And I said, “We just stumbled on a bunch of squatters.” And I said, he goes, “Are you okay?” And I just sent back a question mark, like, we weren’t quite sure and man, and he said, I’m just walking into a meeting, but he goes, “Hang on.” And we heard the sirens like, it was that quick. It wasn’t even 10 seconds and we heard the sirens. They had every friggin’ car in that precinct, like 10 cars came in and showed up, and they ended up making like, two arrests, a couple people had little bits of pot on them or something. But it was, like, the reaction was that the manager looked at me and he said, “Did you do that?” And I was like, “Yeah.” Like, I did that. So, I was like, so, it’s having that back of it to know you’re serious, and you’re in it for them. And he told me, he goes, Maureen, he’s like, don’t tell my wife or the, what do you say, or the mayor, he’s like, or the governor, or not what it was. Yeah, the mayor there. He goes, “But you are the most important person in this county to me. So, your safety is number one to me.”
Rod: I love it. And guys, just to circle back on this. You know, when you buy an asset, one of those first calls you should make is to the non-emergency police number and find out what the history has been at that asset. What, you know, who you connect with in the case of problems and any suggestions that they have and on and on. You build that relationship. It’s a critical relationship. Talk about for a minute, you know, you had that asset where, you know, females would rent a unit, but then the boyfriends would come in and they would be dealing the drugs and that’s almost impossible to screen for. Talk about what you did in that situation. Just to land the plane on this, just because it’s so funny.
Maureen: Yeah. So, that was a property we had in, that was in Decatur, Georgia. Also, in Atlanta MSA, but we went into this property, originally, and, you know, we had to go through and kind of clean out some of the bad apples, things like that. And I’ve also learned in this business, usually just a handful, there’s two or three people. Once you get rid of those core people in a, like, I’d say, like a bad property or a property that has some violent issues or something like that. You get rid of those couple people, a lot of that stuff goes away. Because it’s their friends, it’s their visitors, it’s things like that. So, you got to find those people. So, we had this one in Atlanta where we got good control of it really fast. I have some managers that are so good at this. So, they went in, they got rid of those people. It was running really smooth. Then all of a sudden, we’re having these problems and like, we were trying to figure out what it was, so we screen right. That’s usually a big criteria. If you have problems like, are we screening correctly? You know, who are we letting in? What kind of stuff we’re doing? So, and I was telling, Rod, it’s not like the people that we’re allowing in. It’s like the lady that might have a couple kids, and all of a sudden she gets a loser boyfriend, or another common one is like the grandmother, who now, the son that kind of nobody will or the grandson that nobody will deal with, or just got out of jail, or whatever the heck it is. All of a sudden, moves in with grandma, right? So, those are like the two scenarios where we get troubled units again.
Maureen: And so, we had this one 250-unit asset, and there were three of them. All of a sudden, like, we’re getting these calls from three, like, a lot of visitors, people hanging out like, “da da da”. And so, even if you go through the eviction process and saying, “Oh, you have an unregistered occupant.” Or whatever that is, it takes like 60 days. It’s not a quick thing. You have to give notice and all the legal stuff. So, you know, this was one guy, he kept showing up with guns, like we see guns on the camera. They would, you know, they would scare other residents. It was getting really bad. And, you know, in this particular area, the police are not as cooperative. So now, all the police, this is a, those police in that county were awesome, not all the police are as helpful. And in this county, it’s one of the ones that, they’re just not helpful. It’s not good. So, we, yeah, I was so frustrated and we had like, one of our tenants that’s been there a long time and had ours, so she had some running with them and like, really scared her, and I’m like, that’s a huge thing for me is keeping these properties safe. So, I was like, “This is bullshit. Enough is enough.” And so, just like, I said, you know what, I said, send a freaking letter. We happen to have a security guard that had a German Shepherd at the time, and so, that’s what gave me the idea is, I said, send a letter out and tell people that when they see the German Shepherd dogs on the property with the state police, tell them that we just offered our property for training purposes and not to be alarmed, but we just wanted to let them know, so that they’re–
Rod: The drug sniffing training, right? Drug sniffing.
Maureen: Yes. The DA. Yeah, exactly. To train them for drug sniffing and if they’re gonna plant stuff around and just not to be alarmed, when they see this. So, that was what the note they sent out. I said, don’t just send it to those people. It’s like, Oh, we’ll send it to those units. I’m like, No, no. You gotta send it to everybody, like, we gotta own this story, right? So, as they sent it out to everybody, the next day they were gone. They moved out and everything was quiet again.
Rod: I love that story. So, the shifting gears, because I’m bumping up against time here, but shifting gears, talk about sacrifice. What did you, you know, because everything, all success requires some sacrifice. So, talk about what sacrifices you made, you know, building this business, and, you know, speak to that a little bit.
Maureen: Yes. I mean, you do have choices, right? Anybody involved in any level of multifamily know about those choices. Whether you’re painting a unit on the weekend and your friends are watching the game, or going camping, or whatever, and there is always that choices, or I should say that, inner turmoil, a little bit on, am I, is what I’m doing the right thing, right? So, I think one of the things is you have to make sure that you’re happy doing it and you’re that, you know, you could see the big picture and, you know, looking back on the kind of my journey from starting with the smaller things to the larger ones now. When I was dealing with the smaller things with the two and three families and we were doing renovations ourselves, that was like some of the most fun times with our family like, it sounds kind of weird, but I really missed that. I realized that the other day. You know, now it’s a business. I have, both my kids are in the business. My daughter’s in Atlanta. My son’s in Indiana. They’re doing their things. They’re helping us with CapEx or, you know, managing the properties at times and they’re awesome, because they’re getting trained in everything, but like, I really miss those times when we’re all sweaty on the summers and freaking, you know, doing demo and trying to get the units cleaned up, like because we’re all working as a team. My brother was there, my nephew was there, my husband was there, like, everybody was pitching in and trying to like, see how fast we could turn a unit or lay flooring, and I really missed those times. But I think sacrifices, yeah, you just, you know, I got a lot out of it because the family is all part of it. So, for me, it’s fulfilling that way and now that the kids are older, even though I don’t get to see them as much as I did when they’re little, because they’re moved out, they’re in their 20s now. But I do love that I get to interact with them. So–
Rod: It’s a blessing.
Maureen: Yeah, it really is. And you know, it’s nice, you have to be careful about supporting your family, because I ran into that for a little while in the beginning where you have like, I had all these people on payroll and you realized it was causing a lot of stress and not everybody thought they had to perform like other people. So, it took a little while to kind of balance that out, but we’re good now and I love that part of it, but yeah, sacrifice, but you got to do what you feel, like, I could have said, well, if I just stayed at my normal corporate job, I would have worked 40 hours a week and, you know, life would have been okay. I would have, you know, just been like everybody else, you know, there was a lot of sacrifice in the beginning. Again, the weekends were into this and I think the people that are successful at it, you get a little obsessed with it. Like if you think about it constantly, day and night it’s in your head, you know, even when you’re talking to people, you’re thinking about deals or whatever and I think we go through that, a lot of us do. Where it becomes like an obsession and, you know, there are sacrifices to that, but if you could put a few years into, what’s the saying about an entrepreneur?
Rod: Yeah. You know, grind, you know, live a few years like most people want so you can live the rest of your life like most people can’t. And I mean, you’re a testament to that for sure. Let me shift gears because we’re almost out of time and I wanna ask you another question about leadership. You have certainly evolved as a leader, you know, I know I’ve been, I’ve known you for a while now. You’ve had a big partnership break up and, you know, you’ve had issues like, you described with family members that weren’t cut holding their weight and, you know, that’s painful when it’s family and you have to deal with it. I remember talking about it. How have you evolved as a leader and what do you think are some of the best qualities a leader should have? Can you speak to that for a moment? And we have to end with that, unfortunately. I’m almost out of time.
Maureen: Yeah, sure. I think it’s just knowing that our job is making sure the company’s successful, right? Because we have a lot of people depending on us, we employ, I think it’s pretty close to 100 people now between the property management, the asset management, the construction. And so, that, you know, you have to realize your decisions not only impacted them, but, you know, they have families, they have wives, or husbands, and kids. And so, I mean, my decisions every day impact, probably 500 people. I don’t know what the numbers would be. And then, you also have to make sure that the company is surviving and thriving, right? That’s important. You want them to know that it’s consistent and you’re growing. You have to grow. You’re either growing or dying all the time, right? And I don’t ever wanna be pulling back. I like to continue to grow, but it gives them the confidence to just, to stay on with you, and to believe in your vision when they when they see it come through. And I do think we, you know, sometimes I have to step back and be like, Okay. Am I like, emotionally reacting to this? Or is this the sense? Well, sometimes I do step back. You have to have your core people you trust that you can run stuff by. That’s important, because not any one of us is good at every single part of this, right? We have our parts that we really excel at, but then, we all have weaknesses, you know, left brain, right brain, however you wanna look at it, but, you know, know who is good on your team too and who you can trust and I have people like, Rod, and, you know, sometimes we do call each other and bounce stuff off each other. Right, Rod? Or I have other, you know, some of the other, just people, in my position in other companies. We’re friends, we’re not enemies and foes. But, you know, because we can help each other. I’ll reach out to Ivan once in a while, or I’ll call Ferris, or, you know–
Rod: Yeah. Maureen is part of my multifamily boardroom mastermind. And Ivan and Ferris are a couple of the members and, you know, you wanna be around people that have a similar vision, you know, Napoleon Hill calls a mastermind anytime. Two like-minded people get together with a definiteness of same definition as a purpose. They both have the same, you know, vision for, you know, visions for their futures. It creates this third intangible mind that’s greater than the sum of the parts and you need people to bounce things off of and, you know, there are people in that organization. I just, in fact, we just added all four of those people, those titans. So, we just literally added eight and a half billion dollars and represented by the new members of the mastermind, so it’s just becoming something pretty amazing, because you wanna be around people that think what you think is hard, is easy. And so, so blessed to get these four guys in but–
Maureen: Exactly. And like, with like, so you know William, right? So, William is my business partner, and what William brings is, he comes from Ernst & Young. He’s a Master’s Degree in Accounting. And so, he has that structure and that analytical side that can keep, so some things like I have to know as a leader of when this isn’t the best thing for me to run with and to ask William to take the lead on something. And sometimes it’s hard, because we’re so used to controlling every freaking thing to get to where we got, but we do have to let go and know the people and have confidence in the people that can take over those things. And, the last thing I’d probably wanted to share is, anybody you get involved in, this is a big thing with my company and our company, I should say, and just anybody I deal with is, I have to be able to trust them.
Maureen: Like, once I find I can’t trust somebody, they could lie about this stupidest little thing.
Rod: It’s over. It’s over.
Maureen: Yeah. Because it’s like, you can’t jeopardize 500 people. Maybe you like this person, you can’t really trust them, like, and then how much energy are you wasting on like, that worrying about what they’re doing or checking or like, leading up. It’s just not worth it. Even if it’s like a fast way. I’d rather miss out making a million dollars than work with somebody that I don’t trust or I’m not having a pleasant time.
Rod: No, you can’t. Once that trust is gone, it’s gone forever, unfortunately. Listen, I could talk to you for another three hours and I wish I could. Unfortunately, they booked me back to back today, but it’s such a treat to see you and come visit again soon and, you know, bring your daughter or anybody.
Maureen: I will. Tell Tiffany I said hi and get my room ready. I’m gonna
Rod: It’s great to see you. I have to literally go right now. Anyway, thank you for coming on. Hope I see you soon. Take care. Bye.