Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 249

The Top Ten Ways To Gain Accountability From Your Manager

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America has lost its focus on accountability and the results have been astoundingly awful. If you want your mobile home park to hit your budget and even exceed your expectations, it’s imperative that you hold your manager accountable. But how do you do that? In this Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast we’re going to review the top ten ways to gain accountability with your manager. Most of these methods rely on technology and not on heavy investments of time and money. That being said, at the end of the day, the person who is truly accountable for your mobile home park’s performance is the owner and the application of these management tools is a vital part of that success.

Episode 249: The Top Ten Ways To Gain Accountability From Your Manager Transcript

Webster's Dictionary defines accountability as the fact or condition of being responsible. This is Frank Rolfe, the Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast. We're gonna be talking about The Top 10 Ways To Gain Accountability With Your Manager. Now, why do we need accountability with mobile home parks? Well, just as we need it in the rest of America today, no one wants to take responsibility. Everyone wants to blame everything onto everybody else, whether it's inflation, high gas prices. It's not enough to say, "Yeah, I screwed up. I should have done something different." Instead, we always have to come up with some other group or party that is actually the basis of the problem, when it's simply not true.

And the danger with the mobile home park is if you go around letting the manager not be accountable, if you let them blame everything on other market forces like people just... They don't wanna buy homes anymore. People don't wanna pay rent anymore. Pretty soon you will find that your mobile home park that you invested your money with and have such great dreams and desires for is not going to perform at all. So how do we make mobile home park managers accountable? Well, here are my top 10 thoughts.

Number one, you've gotta take control of your telephone. Every mobile home park, without exception, should have the phone number line ported through a service like Who's Calling, so that every incoming call is fully recorded, the number is transcribed, the length of the call is timed, and that way every park owner can look back on the call registry from Who's Calling or a similar service, and they will know such things as if the manager is actually even answering the phone. They will also have a lengthy list of people they can do exit interviews with, and most importantly, they can hear what's actually being said. If you do not have your phone line right now being recorded, being transcribed, you're making a terrible error. Most mobile home parks that fail regarding occupancy and consumer retention, it always ties back to bad phone habits.

Number two, mystery shopping. It's not that hard to call star 67 and call your manager posing as a customer, nor is it all that hard to pay someone that you find on Craigslist to go over to your mobile home park pretending to be a customer. And through mystery shopping, you'll know the real truth of what happens when people come by. So it's not enough just to guess, to say to yourself, "Well, I'm sure my manager is doing a great job. I don't know for certain 'cause I'm not there, but I just have to have faith that they are." You probably recall one of our greatest presidents of all time, Ronald Reagan's famous quote, "Trust, but verify." It's no different with your managers. You've got to verify what happens. What is that customer experience like when they go out to the mobile home park? 

Number three, exit interviews. If you have a mobile home park and you are not selling the number of homes that you hope to, originally in your budget, it would behoove you to take all those phone numbers you collected off Who's Calling or a similar service, and call those people up and say, "Hey, how come you didn't buy the home? What happened? We wanted you as a customer." You'll be amazed at some of the things you will be told. We've heard everything from, "Well, I got to the property, but the manager didn't show up." To, "Oh, yeah, that home, well, I looked at one just like it in the park two doors down, and it was 30% less." This is the kind of information that you have got to have. There's no greater way to tell the truth behind why you're not hitting your sales targets, than exit interviews. You will get an education like no other.

Number four, what we call the sales scope reports. These are reports that we started several years ago in our endeavor to try and sell more homes than we even thought was humanly possible. In the sales scope report, what you have is, you have the manager on a weekly basis, doing such items as, sending you photographs of the signage that they have on the street, photographs of the signage they have in the yard, the window of the home for sale, photographs of the home itself, both inside and out and in the yard, telling you what the home costs, various items such as what are the actual office hours of the property. And we're doing this to make sure that they are in the ready position. You probably have seen a tennis match. You'll note when the tennis match begins the person holds the racket in a certain manner before the serve, because they know based on experience, that's the right position to be in to try and succeed at returning the serve. That's what the sales scope report is on a sales perspective. It's making sure that your park manager is in the game. If they can't get you the sales scope report then they probably aren't gonna be able to deliver any sales at all.

Number five, HD videos of your park, full drive-through HD videos either monthly or quarterly based on the system you wanna utilize. All you need is a GoPro camera, or one of the old Polaroid cubes, a suction cup mount, place it on the roof, not the hood of your car, pointed straight forward. Have the manager start from outside the property, start out the camera, hold up a sheet of paper in front of it saying the day they're shooting the video, and then just start driving. You will see exactly what it looks like to your customers when they go out to the park, both the entry, all of the streets, and you know what? You can take that video and go to a GoToMeeting webinar, and you can drive literally, visually, virtually in a car with your manager. Have them get on there with you. You can go forward, you can reverse, you can stop the car, all virtually, and it will show you exactly what it looked like if you were in the car with them yourself. Those HD videos have become an extremely important part of any smart park owner's management style and you should be doing those at least quarterly, but in many cases, monthly.

Number six, you've gotta have a helpline. What is a helpline? A helpline is a phone number and an email address. It's freely given to every resident in your mobile home park, giving them an outlet to call in the case of a problem. And give them a refrigerator magnet to remind them that says, problem, question mark, then the phone number and email of the helpline. Even reinforce that in your invoices to your customers, or your newsletter. You want them utilize the helpline because that, once again, gains accountability. I'm sure you've seen on the back of 18-wheelers things that say, "How's my driving?" and an 800 number to call. They're not doing that expecting you to call and say, "Wow, the driver of that truck stays in his lane better than any I've ever seen before." No, they wanna know that information in case it's weaving or cutting people off or driving too fast. So that's what the helpline does. Frequently, it gives accountability to you of what's really going out on the property. If you get a lot of calls with people complaining about the manager, more than likely there is a manager problem.

Number seven, unannounced park visits. Every park owner should visit their mobile home park at least once or twice a year. Even the perfectly run park that has perfect collections and full occupancy still needs the owner to drop by at least once every 12 months. Why would that be? Well, you wanna see what's going on. You never can really fully know through any of these virtual techniques, what really happens. Only you can tell being there yourself. And while you're there, it gives you great idea to learn more about the market. How are things doing? How's the occupancy at the mall? Are the big factories hiring or are they laying off? These are also little bits of information that will help you when it comes time to decide whether to sell your park or not. So unannounced park visits, again, a great way to get accountability from the manager, and since they don't know when you'll drop by, they never know when you'll be coming again, and that will definitely keep them on their toes.

Number eight, having a regular monthly process of budget actual indifference. What you do is you take the budget for your mobile home park, and all the various line items, you add a second column of the actual results, line item by line item, and then a third column tells you the difference. Economically, are you ahead? Are you making more money than you thought? Or are you behind? Are you losing money on certain line items? Then just simply take two highlighters. One that's green, one that's orange. Everything that you're ahead of the game, cross through with a green highlighter and ignore it. Anything you're not doing as well on, take an orange highlighter and then have a session with yourself, an honest session, brainstorming why. Why is it worse than I thought? You might say, "Well, my water/sewer cost is higher than what my budget was. Is it a leak? No, wait a minute, I remember I filled five more lots recently, and that's where the water is going, and that's why my occupancy revenue is actually higher than what I budgeted." Every orange stripe needs to have an answer, and that goes back to accountability by the owner.

Number nine, you need to have an additional gauge cluster that we haven't talked about. One gauge should be, collections. How are your collections? Every mobile home park should have perfect collections, 'cause we all should be working under a no pay, no stay philosophy. You're free not to pay the rent, but if you don't pay the rent, you can't live there. You cannot allow people to live in your property unpaid. If a manager is doing a good job, that collections meter will show perfect collections. Occupancy meter. That's the actual meter showing for everything we just talked about, whether or not you are filling and staying full. You'd never want that meter to be declining. And then, number three, your water and sewer gauge, and that tells you what your water/sewer cost is because that's, in most mobile home parks, the single largest line item. If your manager is doing a poor job or if you're doing a poor job, that gauge will never be where you thought it would be.

And then finally, number ten, you gotta keep all interactions with your manager focused on accountability. You need to constantly be talking about the numerical basis of your business. Don't gloss over it. If you're talking about sales with your manager, you wanna know how many calls you got, how many showings you had, how many applications were made, how many homes were sold? You gotta be more like a car dealer. You ever been in a car dealership, and sometimes you'll see these boards. Maybe you see a glimpse of it through the open door to the break room, and it shows every person's name and how many units they sold. They don't care about anything else, they simply care about performance. That's how you have to be with your manager. If you really want accountability, you have to force it by requesting accountability of your people. It's not that hard. In fact, I think good managers prefer a system based on accountability. It shouldn't be a popularity contest, being the manager of a mobile home park. All that should matter is the performance, and a manager who is good at performance and loves being measured by performance is typically someone who really enjoys accountability.

The bottom line to it is, James Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan, recently said, "We are entering an economic tsunami." We don't exactly know what is going to happen or how severe it will be. But it would behoove every mobile home park owner to take steps right now to gain accountability because that will ensure your success no matter what happens in the American economy. This is Frank Rolfe from the Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.