Tony Souza, regional property manager at Embrey Management Services, dives into the importance of knowing when to let go and trust your teams to identify opportunities on providing a better resident experience.
Connect with Tony: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tonysousa/
Here’s the show’s transcript in case you’re a visual learner, or just hate podcasts:
Jude Chiy 00:00:30 Welcome to the latest episode of apartment of rebel’s podcast. We are all about resident and staff experience. And in most situations, I say the staff experience is actually more important than the resident experience. So, um, our call today, uh, we have Tony Souza. I didn’t actually ask you how you pronounce your last name. So, you can say it incorrect.
Let me know right away,
Tony Souza 00:01:00 That’s close enough. That’s close enough. It sues up, but I think you were pretty darn close to that. So, it’s all good. It’s all good.
Jude Chiy 00:01:06 Perfect. So, Tony Souza. So that’s how much, you know, I come from. Okay. So, I’m really excited to have you on the podcast. I’m so excited for a couple of reasons. I love your LinkedIn posts, so I’ve seen a bunch of them. And, uh, he’s someone that I think is you have, you have really good perspective on one of the topics that we are going to talk about wishes, sites, experience, but I think really overall, uh, insight into property management as a whole and the multi-family industry as a whole. So really excited to have Tony on and our lofts for Tony to kind of go into detail about, uh, Tony, your background, how you got into property management. And one of the reasons I’m so excited to have you on is because you have a really, really interesting background in journalism. You wear a t-shirt, um, just a lot, and also talk about USC as a whole. So, uh, California native living in Texas world now. So welcome phony. Tony Souza 00:02:03 Yeah. Hey, thanks for having me, Jude. Uh, and uh, the feeling is mutual. I see what you’re doing out there on the LinkedIn platform as well. I think you’re really trying to spur conversation about things that maybe in our business we sometimes aren’t really thinking about, or maybe aren’t are not on our radar and, uh, it’s awesome what you’re putting out as well. So again, it’s an honor to be here.
Jude Chiy 00:02:24 Oh, awesome. We’ll walk up. So, I always start these podcasts to learn more about your background. So how did you get into property management?
Tony Souza 00:02:34 Well, I, you know, I think I have a story like everybody else we sort of have, you know, we fall into it, uh, in a lot of ways. Uh, truthfully, I’ll give you sort of the color behind my first job. Uh, in property management, I was sharing a room, uh, with another acting buddy, uh, and, uh, actually three roommates to one apartment. And, um, and I wanted to some rents and I had an upcoming wedding coming up. Uh, and I, and my current wife who was, I was engaged with at the time. And I said, you know what? I can save some rents by working at the company I currently live at. And, um, and so I applied once didn’t hear back, uh, I applied twice, uh, set up an interview. And when I arrived for that interview that the, um, the office was closed, they were out to lunch and they forgot about my interview.
Tony Souza 00:03:27 Uh, it didn’t make me too happy. I thought, oh, they’re really missing out on a special guy. Uh, but I really was pretty discouraged at that time. They did call me back. We set up a third interview. They showed up this time and, uh, they told me they didn’t like my resume because I had no property management experience. Um, but they were willing to give me a shot and, uh, I got the shot and I got a chance. And I think like most in this business that have been able to work their way up and through, uh, I worked really hard. I was ambitious. I wanted to learn everything about sales and property management and multifamily and my market. And I just worked really hard. I also had, you know, an upcoming wedding, so I’m like, I need to contribute to this household income and grow my career and all sorts of things.
Tony Souza 00:04:19 So there’s a lot of motivators there, but, but I do, um, you know, looking back on it now, I’m glad I didn’t just sort of leave and never come back after that second interview when the doors were closed. And so that’s, you know, that’s how I got my first opportunity and, and it’s been great since I’ve had a chance to work in, uh, quite a few metropolitan markets, suburban markets, uh, from California and Los Angeles, San Francisco, of course now here in Texas. And, uh, do some work in Houston. Of course, now I’m in San Antonio as well. So, um, yeah, so, you know, you’re, I am, as I say,
Jude Chiy 00:04:49 No, I locked that. I found it so interestingbecause I have yet to meet someone that will say yeah. When I was a kid, all my Tony Souza 00:04:59 Property manager.
Jude Chiy 00:05:00 Yeah. So why do you think that is? Like, why is property management not something that a lot of people think about asset courier, it’s something that a lot of people just fall into.
Tony Souza 00:05:11 Yeah. You know, it’s a good question. I, I interview a lot of people and sometimes you all interview some people that tell me that their mom or their father, you know, their dad was in maintenance role. Mom was a property manager. And so, there are some folks that I think have seen it in their family and thought it was a pretty cool job. Um, but a lot of people just don’t know a lot about it. And for what reason, I’m not sure exactly. Uh, I don’t think it’s perceived to be glamorous. Uh, I don’t, you know, I don’t think a lot of the rules are glamorous, um, sometimes, but there’s some really bright components. And truthfully, the cool thing about this career Jude is although it may not be perceived as glamorous or get a lot of pubs, there’s not college majors, although that I think that’s changing, uh, around property managements.
Tony Souza 00:06:00 Um, the cool thing is though, and I’ve never really thought about it up until this point is many people end up staying in this business once they’re involved. And so, some may argue is sort of the dark hole, the pit you can’t get out of. Uh, I would argue, I think people get involved. They realize it’s multifaceted and there’s a lot to it. Um, there’s office component, obviously that we’re in now, but also you get out and kick the tires as they say, and get out and walk your properties and meet with people and residents. And it was big for me as a former journalist, I enjoyed people’s stories. And so, as a sale, uh, sales consultant, I got to learn their stories and I got to empathize with them and connect with them in that way, as I did a journalist, uh, obviously as, as a journalist, the goal was something different to get a story or put a story together or put pieces of the story together, uh, as a sales consultant, uh, similar but different. And my goal was to convince them that wherever I may have worked at the time was the best place to live. And, uh, but regardless it’s about relationship, it’s about stories and it’s about really connecting people with maybe the information, uh, and the, in our business, the amenities or specifics they may need for the next stage of their life. Yeah.
Jude Chiy 00:07:12 My thing, you mentioned that very interesting point where she actually also touches on a lot of what we are going to talk about, because it’s ironic that in the property management industry, the three parts to it, like one people don’t really plan to get into it, but when they do, they end up staying for a really long time. But ironically there is a very high turnover in property management, but the people that started over sales stick within the industry either are still on the property management side, or they go over to just apply a site or something. So, in the industry. So, there’s really something upon the industry that keeps people within that industry.
Tony Souza 00:07:53 Yeah, there is. I think we touched on a little bit of it. I mean, I think this industry provides a couple of different things, the variety of life every day, uh, as well as I think there’s different, uh, avenues and channels, they can go within the property management multifamily industry, right. You can go training and go marketing. You can even go sort of developing coordinator routes. You can go operations and management, regional management. So, there are a lot of different avenues. And I think people pretty early on realize, okay, there are a lot of different options here. And I think people like to have options in their career more than ever.
And, uh, I think the exciting thing with property management as well is that it’s becoming more sophisticated, uh, with both technologies. And I think our colleagues around us are becoming more sophisticated, smarter, uh, and I think, um, many of us, I know me personally love to be around that environment that only makes us better.
Jude Chiy 00:08:44 Yeah, that’s awesome. So, when you kind of think about Korea so hard with all those different avenues, uh, what has made you kind of stick to the operation side?
Tony Souza 00:08:57 Uh, you know, I’ve had a chance. That’s a good question too. I’ve had a chance in my career to work. Obviously, we talked about the sales side and, and, um, but that’s conventionally and the operation side. So, sales and work my way up as an assistant manager and of course a community property manager, but I also have the privilege. I was identified fairly early in my career that I had some unique training skill ability, as well as some marketing skills and ability. And so, I was brought into the training and marketing department, uh, pretty early on in my career, probably five, six years in maybe, uh, you know, I had a chance to really, this was when my social media was becoming a thing and they weren’t sure if like social media manager was like, you know, a big title or paid a lot or didn’t pay a lot.
Tony Souza 00:09:42 I think we’ve all kind of figured out, you know, it’s maybe a combination of those things. Uh, and then training. I have a background also as a teacher. And so, I love teaching and training and coaching, and that’s what I love in my day job currently. And so, I spent a couple of years in the training and marketing departments and I learned a whole bunch and learned a whole bunch from lots smarter people than me, incredible trainers and great marketers. And, but I realized while being there that I think my, my best skill set and my greatest gift probably is, um, my ability to lead people. And I think oftentimes lead them in the, um, the, the messiness that is operations at times. And so, I, I did transition from marketing and training into what I used to call sort of a professional storm chaser.
Tony Souza 00:10:33 So I became sort of this operation manager that give me your nastiest tornado, and I love to go in there and try to improve it. And, you know, at the time I was very confident in, in many of those projects, definitely humbled me because sometimes, you know, it takes longer than you might think to turn things around. But, uh, you learn a lot about the fundamentals. You learn a lot about people and how important people are to the process of turning round, uh, you know, maybe a, an asset under duress or a struggling property. And so, and then probably his on a lot of things that you focus on is, is the people, the onsite relationships you have and how to really support them in the best way you possibly can as a leader.
Jude Chiy 00:11:14 Perfect. And then, so lots of, kind of dig a little bit deeper into that. So, you have kind of touch on a few things like experience with, on the value of having like a marketing background, operational background sales background, and then kind of how your experience as a teacher. And then also as an access kind of translated into a lot of success and being, identifying us as someone that has a real value added. So, kind of advice to you how whole up and coming like Elise in new lease leasing consultant that you started, or property manager that is looking to get to that next level.
Tony Souza 00:11:57 You know, everyone’s different. And, and I take a lot of pride. I still interview leasing consultants in my current role, especially when a property manager wants to get my thoughts on them. And any advice I would say to anyone entering the business is to be, uh, completely open-minded, but at the same time, learn as much as you possibly can and allow that, that experience that you have working with the team and the property that you’re at to organically allow you to sort of navigate what you like, what you’re good at, which you’re not good at, um, and allow that to rear, to sort of evolve on its own. Now, you know, we’ve all grown up and like have your goals and have your pursuits and follow them and don’t let anyone get in your way. Uh, and those are all good things to have some sort of, I think short-term mid-term and long-term goals to some extent, but I think you also, the advice I would give and the vice I to
give is to be flexible and be willing to adapt to the circumstances that’s in front of you. Uh, I’ve been in situations and circumstances in my career that, you know, you have to pivot, or you have to kind of move out of, for example, marketing or training. And I felt I was there utilized and operations, and I really enjoy that today. So, the best advice I can really give is just continue to learn, grow, but be adaptable. And I think if we’ve learned anything, post pandemic is adaptability is one of the best skills that you can have both in
life personally and professionally.
Jude Chiy 00:13:23 So imagine I’m like pretty new to property management. I don’t really know much. Can you kind of explain the different roles? So, what is exactly is the trainer or what’s what happens on the training side, in the marketing side, what I’m sort of oppression side.
Tony Souza 00:13:38 So what I offer you the options. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s a good question. Obviously, it’s, you know, there’s a lot of components to all of those facets, but ultimately, we’re here to serve customers. And I think that’s where it starts in our customer base is residents who live in our communities. And on the operation side, we get to have more of a hands-on role with that on the, on the sales side and leasing consultant side, you’ll be interacting with both your residents and of course, new prospects that are interested, um, and you’ll be establishing relationships, um, for retention to keep them at your property. And of course, you’ll be establishing relationships to convince them that this property is the best place to live and trying
to convince them on the sales side to do that. Uh, if you do an incredible job of that, and you’ll be able to navigate your way, uh, and, and earn, you know, managerial opportunities, assistant manager opportunities, community mans, or opportunities there, you can make a great impact in both, um, uh, creating processes and procedures and policies that help, uh, help create your operation to be more efficient.
Tony Souza 00:14:38 Uh, and so, and you’ll also be able to exercise, you know, a muscle of leadership in those different capacities. So, so as an operator, you’re really in charge of a lot of different components. You also interact with a couple of different departments that we just mentioned, training and marketing. And I think it’s important that operators, especially if the community manager level and above fully understand really how training and marketing play into any business, but specifically multifamily training is there to provide an absolute support, right?
Uh, if you don’t have a great training department that are teaching every level of your associate, how to do their job best both through systems and software, but also through the soft skills of customer service and leadership, then that company really, I think, is going to struggle for some time. And I’ve been a part of all different sorts of companies and all the companies, fortunately, that I’ve been a part of understand the training is, is, is vital, uh, to the success of the operation, which ultimately is, is connected to the success ultimately of the property and how happy residents are, of course, how happy employees are now marketing.
Tony Souza 00:15:43 That’s a whole another thing. And I think, uh, and I think a lot of, uh, individuals get scared about the use of that word and what is branding. Um, you know, and, and I probably was a little nervous about it early on until I fully understood. And it’s not as complicated as you might think. Marketing obviously is telling the world, uh, that you have a property here at this location, and it’s an amazing one, right? And, but there’s different, there’s different platforms that can help you, uh, tell a customer that maybe hasn’t experienced, uh, your property, how amazing it is. Obviously, we know about the internet listing sites. And we also know about social media. We know about, um, also, um, the ratings and review sites as well.
Those are all components of marketing, of course, and branding plays a big part in that. What is branding in its simplest form?
Tony Souza 00:16:27 It’s, it’s really, you know, I’ve always been told and sort of what people talk about, whether it be a property or a person when they’re not in the room. Right. Uh, what do they think about them? What, what, what is, what is their core values? How are they seen in the marketplace? Both people were product, um, and that’s, you know, what your brand is known for. When I, when I say Coca Cola to somebody, or if I say, you know, uh, Southwest airlines, I mean, there was a brand reaction, emotional reaction to those companies. You either initially, or drawn to that word, or if you’ve had a bad customer experience, you don’t like that soda, or you don’t like that airline. Um, and so it’s really important that people are aware of how important the branding component plays into operations and of course, training as we talked about. So, um, that was just sort of an off the top dude. Uh, I didn’t have any good notes on that, but hopefully that sort of provides some, some context for anybody new to the business.
Jude Chiy 00:17:22 Yeah, no, it definitely did. Um, you touched on a couple of things that I hadn’t even like considered a thought about, especially on like the marketing side of things, because it’s so, so critical and so important. And I think sometimes they get left out of the conversation, even though it’s so critical. So, what for one department doesn’t exist, I think should exist in property management?
Tony Souza 00:17:45 Well, I think, um, I think what’s happening, uh, which I’m excited to see, uh, both in our company and other companies is, uh, culture committees and, and culture departments are starting to grow, uh, in importance and, and, and what I, what I see that is what I envision that is taking sort of what the core mission of the company is combining it with sort of business and property performance or overall business performance and connecting the two and merging those two and having a group of people that are dedicated to seeing and making every business decision through the prison of our four values. And that is not something that, uh, you know, if a business decision is made, not in line with our core values, that decision should be reconsidered. Uh, and I think that will help, um, you know, executives as well as, uh, mid-level managers, lower-level managers understand that every decision that we make is through the prism of these values. And that’s both with staff residents, um, and ultimately, you know, supply partners or vendors, so everything.
Tony Souza 00:18:55 So it’s great to see, I think companies like ours and others really sort of, uh, understand how important that is, especially post pandemic. There’s been a lot of things that have happened over the last 16, 17, 18 months. That’s, uh, I think smart businesses are kind of bringing everyone together recalibrating and saying, who are we, uh, in this post pandemic, uh, economy. And so that’s what I’m excited about. Uh, that’s what I see happening out there. Um, there’s a lot we can really get into in, in other things, more nuanced, uh, um, ways and property managers, I think, big picture, I think that’s exciting. And I think that will help the bottom line. And also overall, I think employee experience, ultimately, if you have someone overseeing this process,
Jude Chiy 00:19:39 So then Tyrus case then is that something that Embry is looking at on how are you guys approaching that like culture committee on, how has that shine slated into how you all serve your site teams though, how you serve residents?
Tony Souza 00:19:55 Yeah. It affects everything. And every recently has gone through a process of this culture committee and bringing, uh, I think key strategic thinkers to the table to talk about who are we post pandemic? Right. We know who we were, we knew, but who are we today is as the economy changes and as we grow, uh, so absolutely, I think he’s fully committed to that process and, and has already made your choices and, uh, set up meetings and other sort of visionary steps to, uh, to progress that. Um, and so, yeah, ultimately that’s to affect every interaction at every level, whether it be with residents, supply partners, clients, owners, um, you name it, those will all be affected in, in a and I hope, and I trust in a very positive way.
Jude Chiy 00:20:39 Yeah. So then one thing that’s so interesting about all the things you’ve mentioned is within property management, it’s not just one group or one company. So, when you go about creating like culture come and see, you can see it. Like we didn’t ever, but, uh, for most properties you have, if it’s a third-party manager, you have the older group or the asset managers go, the suppliers, all of which are so critical to that overall resident experience. So how do you kind of coalesce all of those different parties to create something very, um, re streamlined? Oh, that’s like, that has like an actual feel to it. So how do you do co-ops doing that?
Tony Souza 00:21:16 Well, I think, I think the key attribute there is going to be patience and, and agreement upon core foundational principles of how we operate our business. Uh, and if you get all parties on board and agree to ultimately the core principles of all those things, then you can operate, I think, with some consistency, um, and efficiency, uh, in, in being in line with your mission. And of course, your core values. So, but every situation is different. And I think you present sort of our business in a nutshell, it can be a can of worms and, and, and, and, and there’s so many components to our business and so many people that are connected to our business. Um, but ultimately, I think if you have an ownership group and divisions within your company that are committed to the core values and the mission of the company and what we’re trying to do, uh, ultimately, I think you can progress on down the road, not in a straight arrow, but you can progress ultimately in the direction you’re trying to go. Uh, and this is, you know, it’s, it’s an art and a science, uh, this type of, uh, activity. And, um, and we know art and sciences can be sort of a very delicate process to merge.
Jude Chiy 00:22:30 Yeah. So, lens, you think it’s realistic, obviously in companies do this, where if the principals don’t match up against like an owner, they refused that contract or refuse that this new business
Tony Souza 00:22:46 Run that question by me one more time.
Jude Chiy 00:22:48 So I’m thinking about a scenario where a property management company has like specific principles for how they operate. If those principles are not aligned with a suppliers, principals, or owners of principle, but then for new deal, do you see property management companies starting to like turn down opportunities to get a new asset?
Tony Souza 00:23:11 Well, you know, yeah. And that’s, and that’s where the rubber hits the road. I think it’s a really good question. Uh, ultimately, I think what’s important for, for, for management companies, uh, to be sure that they’re very up front with their core values or in those pitch, uh, pitch rooms and those pitch meetings, to be sure that, and also provide examples when situations arise. This is how we as a group operate, uh, and reorder in favor of our employees and in favor of our residents. And we’ll, we’ll often give them the benefit of the doubt. And this is where our core culture is. Uh, you know, I can’t make the recommendation to turn down business or to not take business, obviously, businesses, business. Um, but I do think it’s really important to have that early conversation about how we do business here at this particular group.
Tony Souza 00:24:00 Um, and if you support that and you believe in that we would ask for your support as we, uh, encounter, um, situations in the future, uh, that we will still make decisions out of this prison or out of this viewpoint. And we would ask for your support in that situation. Um, it won’t always happen. You will have differences of opinions and certain situations, and you’ll have to just cross those fridges as you get to them. Uh, but I think ultimately, you know, with, with companies that are committed to supporting their teams and their residents, um, they will, you know, in time continue to gravitate in the owners groups as well, that really believe in that mission as well. So, and, and, and I want to believe also the ownership groups, you know, across the world, across the country, uh, ultimately understand how important people are, both residents. Of course, I think they understand that, but also employees, how important they are to the, to the, to the core of what you do in this business.
Jude Chiy 00:25:02 Yeah. I love that. So, when you kind of look at all those core functions that you mentioned, who do you think has the most difficult job? Is it marketing? Are they operations? Are they sales?
Tony Souza 00:25:15 You know, if I say you need department, if I say you need a department, they’re going to say, oh, come on. You know, it’s my department. Um, I, you know, truthfully being a part of all these departments, I have some unique experience having been in a marketing department, having been obviously an operation being in training. What I will say is every department feels they have the toughest job, uh, and, uh, they always feel under appreciated. Um, and, but ultimately, I think if a company is, is, is, uh, utilizing their key players well, and their divisions are working well together. I think everybody in a perfect sort of utopian sort of environment, uh, feels appreciated and, um, and they feel sort of, uh, altogether as one. Um, so I can’t speak to who has the toughest job. I mean,
ultimately, I may argue that our leasing professionals have the toughest job face to face with our customers, uh, post pandemic. There’s a lot of unorthodox things that are happening here on sites, um, that are, you know, we’re not always prepared for. We’re seeing a lot of unique situations happen, uh, good and bad. Um, but I think as our country and our world sort of emerges from, from this pandemic, hopefully, um, you know, our teams are encountering a lot of unique experiences and so, so, uh, I’m going to vote for them. Uh, our onsite teams, uh, are probably have the toughest job
Jude Chiy 00:26:38 And that’s a really good transition to what I think is like the core quantified discussion wishes that how do we get to the point where the site seems really to feel appreciated? And what do you think that appreciation looks like?
Tony Souza 00:26:55 You know, appreciation is an interesting word. And truthfully, I think I’ve found, uh, as a professional, as a husband, as a dad, everyone defines appreciation a little differently. Uh, you know, I hear a book referenced quite often and I’ve read it early on as a new husband, uh, you know, the five love languages, right? Make sure, you know, your spouse’s love languages. Um, and I think that goes to the point that I, that I’m making is that appreciation is defined differently for, for everyone differently. And I think that’s important for us as leaders at whatever level that you may be is to understand what means the most to each person and what means the most, each person goes out of your way to try to make them feel, um, that they are valued the most. Uh, and that takes work. Um, that is the work, uh, in my opinion, that we need to be doing as leaders and as managers and supervisors is to really know our people and what means a lot to them. For example, some people want accolades and they want shout outs and some people just want a quiet, thank you. Uh, I know you’ve been working hard and sometimes your job is thankless. And I want to say, thank you. And that means the world to them. Whereas, you know, maybe your top sales consultant wants the world to know about that, and that means the world to them. So, um, so it’s, it’s maybe not as sort of a direct, easy answer, but I don’t think appreciation and taking care of your employees is an easy answer.
Jude Chiy 00:28:24 Yeah. And then when you come to think about sites seems like one thing, guys speak with a lot of sites, team members on a very, very consistent basis. One thing that has definitely come across is that for many of them, they don’t feel like they are really provided decision making capacity or given like them are empowered to make a lot of decisions that actually impact the property, especially given the fact that they are really on the front lines, they see what’s happening, they know. Yup. Yup. So why do you think it is in problem management? That’s it with, uh, that decision making capacity? Well, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they are trusted with an opposition to give her,
Tony Souza 00:29:10 Um, well I think a couple of things, it’s a trust issue ultimately. Uh, and I think your question is why is it that management companies or executives or supervisors, why don’t they trust their team? And I think it’s a couple of reasons. Um, I’m not saying that it’s necessarily right, and I’ll give you an example of what we do here and what I do with my Thompson, um, a mini site team member, especially on the leasing floor have not been in the industry and extended period of time. So, so there’s an experience trust issue, right? Do you know how to make these decisions? Uh, and unfortunately in my type of capacity, you just get emails and calls about decisions that were made in correctly. And so, you can sort of live in this bubble of, well, there’s nothing but mistakes happening because that’s usually often the reason I get called in as a regional manager is because Tony, we have a fire or a bad decision was made, please help us.
Tony Souza 00:30:07 What do we do? And so, I think if, if you, if you get stuck in that as a supervisor and think, well, my, you know, my teams are making all these bad decisions or they can’t handle issues, you know, in your own mind, if you’ve convinced yourself of that trust to give your teams trust, uh, sometimes will maybe be hard for you to do that, uh, as well. And so, I think that’s a big factor of why many don’t feel comfortable giving, uh, sometimes site level associates or leasing professionals that, uh, ability to solve problems. And I think what we’re talking about is monetarily oftentimes, uh, right. And so sometimes certain companies I’ve been a part of legislate, certain dollar amounts that they allow for $250 for a manager or a site team to, to make something go, go away or solve a problem, $500.
Tony Souza 00:30:58 In some cases, maybe it’s a hundred dollars in some properties, but, um, for me, it’s really important. My staff knows that when I hire you a trust, you, uh, but I take a lot of time and effort in the recruiting and the interview process, multiple rounds that I try to vet every potential issue, especially character issue, the best I possibly can and experience issues before I essentially hand them the keys to the car. Right. Um, and so, um, they will be responsible with the keys to the car and ultimately one side aside, and my managers we’ve worked together and say, yes, they’re approved. Let’s give him the keys to the car. Ultimately, we’re going to trust them that they can drive right. Safely cautiously with their seatbelts, um, those sorts of things. So, so, so it’s a culture of trust that we try to start from the very beginning. Tony Souza 00:31:50 And I often give trust freely early. Uh, instead of the old adage, you have to earn my trust. Um, I give it first and, and in time if individuals, uh, diminish that trust or reach that relationship or that touch trust it. And it happens Jude. I mean, I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t happen. Decisions are made to work, then trust is compromised, but I, but I, I empower my teams and I’ll all sort of conclude my comment with this is if I’m not available where you have to make a decision in the moment and you’re on the fence, um, I want you to fall on the side of customer service as opposed to potential black and white policy, right? We, we, we manage some of the most beautiful in San Antonio. And so, I tell you, I tell them that if you have to make a decision, you know, be mindful of the dollar amount or concession or any sort of gift, you can give them be really careful about that.
Tony Souza 00:32:51 If you have to make a decision fall on the side of customer service, um, I can always come back to you and say you were too nice, right? Um, uh, which, which isn’t always, you know, the conversation I always have sometimes it’s, hey, you were a little maybe rigid there. We need to try to figure out how to solve this problem for them a little bit better, because I think some companies in our industry as a whole sort of lives, um, you know, there’s nothing we can do. The policy says this, well, the reality is usually most situations, Oregon, the gray right there, they’re really kind of like policy says this, but, you know, we can do a lot of this to really show you, we’re trying to help. And, and so I really challenged a lot of my managers, especially new to, to Emory and to myself that there’s a lot of gray area that we can say yes to, uh, don’t be so quick to say no.
Tony Souza 00:33:44 Um, and that’s both to employees and residents, right. Be quick to say yes, and how I can try to make something work. And I, and I tell residents, I tell employees, listen, I’m committed to doing everything I possibly can, uh, in this situation, but I won’t be able to do what I can’t do, but I promise you I’ll do everything I can with within the limits that I can. So, um, I think that sets sort of a continue sort of, uh, atmosphere of trust and a willingness to go above and beyond which we try to train here. And I learned a lot about that and every continues to really support, you know, how we can go above and get what we call surprise and delight both our employees. And of course, our residents, as much as,
Jude Chiy 00:34:25 Yeah, I like how a wall you released summarize that it comes on to an issue of communication and then ultimately Charleston every way. So, a fact that I was re um, really surprised to learn recently is that in the industry that’s turnover rate is about 30% in other industries. It’s just like under 15%. So why do you think there’s so much turn over into industry? Is it stress? Is it the lack of empowerment? Are they just a lot of opportunities available? Like why do you think the turnover rate is so high in the industry?
Tony Souza 00:35:06 I may say something here that maybe, you know, sort of property management controversial. Um, but I think it has much —
— to do with, with at times on-site leadership and potential, um, leadership of the onsite teams. Um, I think we are in a transitional period of understanding how important it is to support them, um, and what great leaders do to support them. Um, we often have decisions to make on a daily basis. Do I support my team members or do I, um, you know, do I write them up or do I, you know, and sometimes you have to do what you have to do based on, based on, you know, whatever activity was done or, or whatever breach in policy that was done? But I do think that we are as an industry, getting better at learning how to really support our site team members. And, and I think that has much to do with mid-level to on-site level leadership and understanding that many issues can be worked through with open lines of communication and allowing your teams to be honest and transparent with you.
Tony Souza 00:36:25 I invite all of my teams all the time. If they disagree with me, that’s okay. If you’ve got a legitimate point of view, it’s really thoughtful. Let’s talk about it. And that’s an atmosphere that I think, uh, you know, here at Emory and within my portfolio, they really appreciate is their ability to sort of speak, frankly. Um, and I always asked it as constructive and professional, but you can always speak honestly about what your perspective is. And to be honest in today’s world and environment, um, having that free gift of being able to speak honestly about what they may feel about certain things, um, even if you don’t do what they ask or follow through with their request, there’s a lot of credit that you get as a leader by just simply listening and willing to hear them out. And then if you have a legitimate reason why maybe you have to disagree convey that, in an empathetic way, in a thoughtful reply, and they still will leave your office, maybe disagreeing with you, but at least still respecting you.
Tony Souza 00:37:34 And I think if that’s not being done consistently, and I think at times over the last couple of decades, you know, based on kind of what I said initially, um, uh, employees don’t feel heard and they don’t feel appreciated. And when, uh, employees don’t feel heard or appreciated they leave. Um, and, and I don’t think we need to overcomplicate this. We’re all humans. We all kind of have some basic needs as professionals is to be respected, um, heard and appreciated. And if you do that, uh, your, your, your, your probability of turnover in my opinion, reduces pretty dramatically
Jude Chiy 00:38:10 A really solid answer. I really do think it comes down to being heard and knowing that you’ve been like she did like very professionally and I have some autonomy to make really basic or impactful decisions based on like your knowledge and skillset.
Tony Souza 00:38:26 And I’ll add something to that. Jude, um, you know, we talked about trusting your onsite team members to make decisions, um, as a part of the culture that you have on site or within your region or within your company, is that if mistakes are made and depends on the severity, right? I mean, there’s always a variable, severe mistakes were egregious ones, or puts the company in complete sort of liability situation. You know, that’s a whole another sort of box, but if they’re just sort of well-intentioned mistakes that you know was handled, sort of were fumbled. Um, if you, as leader on site or at the regional level or higher up, give them grace and use it as a teaching and coaching moment that in my opinion, just further supports the morale in the atmosphere, in the office that it’s okay to make mistakes. Um, as long as, you know, you, don’t sort of put the company in jeopardy or hurt somebody, but, but if you make these little mistakes, but you learn from them and don’t make them on, you know, consistently.
Tony Souza 00:39:32 And that’s where I think my training background comes in, that I really try to support my managers to say, listen, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt in the situation. They were trying to make it work, right. They fill on the side of customer service, but were they all a little too customers, customer service, right? Or, you know, whatever we want to say, but their intention was good and let’s, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s coach them. Let’s let them know that, hey, maybe you offer it a little too much next time you maybe want to offer a little less, but ultimately the customer’s happy and because the customer is happy, I’m happy. And I appreciate you making that decision. So, so, you know, there’s a lot to that trust component, right? You can buy someone’s head off and chop their head off and try to make a point out of them to the rest of the team. And, and in some situations, you have to take severe Ash and don’t get me wrong, but, but in most gray situations that happen on a daily basis here on site, it’s more opportunities to coach and learn and support the culture than it is to hand slap and provide discipline at every turn.
Jude Chiy 00:40:31 Yeah. Solon come out and sit down for your last few, um, courage transitions. My, what motivated me to leave? Was it just a better opportunity or was it something that happened, lady wants to say, hey, maybe it’s the grass is greener somewhere else?
Tony Souza 00:40:51 Sure. I’m sure. Well, you know, I, I do subscribe to, uh, I try not to be cliche in any way, but the grass is greener where you water it. Okay. So, I strongly believe is true, whether it be personally or professionally, so put in the work before use or make any ill-advised rash decisions. Um, and, but ultimately, you know, for me, um, I think like most it was opportunity. It was growth. Uh, I try to, in every role that I’m ever in, you know, speak frankly with my supervisors about what I’m looking to do and grow. And for the most recent sort of transition was really a to get me to Texas. Uh, my wife’s from Texas. And so, and I knew the market was, and opportunities were thriving here in Texas. So, you know, seven years ago moved from California to Texas and it’s really been one of the best decisions I’ve made professionally and personally, we really enjoy it here as well.
Tony Souza 00:41:43 So, um, so that was the driving force. I think, you know, a lot of us that do make transitions and, and, and make career changes are doing it in large part for bigger, more personal reasons than we are, um, almost professional in some ways, meaning you’re unhappy or whatever the case is. I think most of us for the most part is pretty patient and understanding, even if you know, things of the company, don’t go your way, you know, to, to kind of work through that. But there’s often bigger picture, and that’s what I try to get to the bottom of, you know, on occasion. I all get a notice as well as we all do. And, you know, we try to ask them more probing questions and get to the root of why they’re moving or what’s happening. And we often find, um, you know, it’s a lot of personal things happening that maybe we were unaware of some things we can control and try to help with and try to keep them.
Tony Souza 00:42:31 And some things are just completely out of our control and we wish them well. And sometimes it’s, you know, just promotional opportunities and, and, uh, you know, a salary we just can’t match and we wish them well and congratulate them on their opportunities. So, um, but you never know when they’ll be back. And I, you know, it’s definitely a culture thing within Embry and my portfolio for sure, to, um, you know, wish them well, whether in termination or in resignation, uh, we hope that they land on their feet and find what they’re looking for. Um, and obviously with formations and different, different set of cards and conversations per se, but, you know, with resignations, especially if it’s a, if it’s a great associate, we hope to see them back one day, maybe in a different capacity.
Jude Chiy 00:43:11 Uh, and then, um, so looking at the things that really drive or lower retention, whether it’s the trust, coaching or appreciation, uh, what companies do you think do this really well?
Tony Souza 00:43:26 You know, I, I think there’s a lot of companies that do a lot of things, but the reality is I don’t think anyone really knows unless you actually worked for those companies. I mean, I think you could probably look at statistics and different things like that. Cause you have, you know, you have companies that have great brands, but then you hear sort of horror stories about with the culture, uh, as well. So, um, you know, I think probably as an outsider at all, if I can probably give you the most sort of, uh, best answer for here, I only know Embry and, you know, the companies that I’ve been a part of of course. Um, so it’s really hard to say, I think, you know what they’re doing, but I think ultimately, uh, —
— Greek cultures, uh, always produce less turnover. And, um, and I think there, those cultures are very resolute and very clear on what their core values are and operating out of those.
Tony Souza 00:44:14 Um, so that essentially there’s no sort of subjective decisions being made by one-off manager. That’s just a beast. Um, you know, like this is not how we act as a company and this is not the type of decisions we make. And, you know, if you have a road manager at any level, you know, HR should be aware of those folks and recommend that they operate more in line with company values. And, um, you know, I think that’s how you resolve some of those things, but ultimately, I think, you know, the best companies are the ones with the greatest cultures. Um, and I think those companies that really focus and put resources into those cultures, uh, it will pay off from an ROI standpoint in the long run.
Jude Chiy 00:44:52 Okay. And then, so last grace yen, and this one is a little bit always strict here, but what do you think is more important precedent experience or employee experience?
Tony Souza 00:45:05 I actually think one leads to the other. Uh I truly think that the employee experience leads to great resident experiences. And so, if I was to prioritize and I think you maybe support this point too, because this is a lot of, I think we were focused consistently is if you’re taking care of your employees, they’re going to take care of your customers and for us in our business, the residents. So, if we’re doing a phenomenal job as a company doing that, um, our residents, our customers, at least here in property management are going to be happy residents. And I know firsthand even within my portfolio that this teams that have great cultures and very supportive with one another, um, they have some of the best, worst scores. They have some of the best online review scores by far. And so, it, it’s hard to give great customer service when you’re frustrated or bitter, um, on a daily basis with where you work or who we work for or whatever the case is.
Tony Souza 00:45:59 So I, I think, I think companies need to recognize first and foremost, take care of your employee base. And if you do that, you’re creating a great environment for them to work in and feel supported. They then will it turn love to take care of their customers, um, and give great customer service. And I think ultimately bottom line, you’ll see great revenues come from that because retention will be higher in our business. Uh, great sales, um, resident referrals will be very high. All those components of our business, uh, will benefit from great customer service that that is at the core, um, what we do here on site, but it all starts with great employees, service, uh, and customer service internally.
Jude Chiy 00:46:41 Yeah, no, I love it. And I think you hit it right on the head. That one leads to the other one. It’s hard one,
Tony Souza 00:46:48 Uh, yeah, I’ve never seen a, uh, or a score from, from, uh, you know, a property that, you know, they hated each other and had a terrible culture.
Jude Chiy 00:47:04 This was super helpful for me, Tony and I’m sure the listeners also loft audit perspective. So, thank you so much for being on our latest podcast. Uh, any closing?
Tony Souza 00:47:16 No, I just, uh, I love our industry’s going. I love that. We’re really, uh, I think embracing multimedia. I love that you’re doing that as well. I love your voice out there. I tried to reach here some of your stuff. That’s really, I think, challenging our leaders in our business to kind of rethink some, uh, and, and really innovate and think differently. Um, and, uh, I think that’s a great thing, man. So, so I’m, I’m, I’m just super grateful that you, you thought of me and happy on today and it’s great to take a little time out of my day to speak with you.
Jude Chiy 00:47:43 Oh, awesome though. Super honored to have you on a podcast. So thank you so much.
Tony Souza 00:47:48 Awesome. Awesome. All right, thanks.