Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 190

Why Managers Fail And How Can You Minimize That

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Every mobile home park must have a manager, and not all of those work out. So what are the key reasons why mobile home park managers fail and what can be done to mitigate these issues? In this Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast we’re going to review our lessons learned from hundreds of managers and how to improve your odds of success. Since firing a manager is never fun and can be costly in time and money, it’s important to do your best in hiring and managing your “eyes and ears in the field”.

Episode 190: Why Managers Fail And How Can You Minimize That Transcript

Every mobile home park needs a manager, but not all of them work out. This is Frank Rolfe from the Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast. We're going to talk about why managers fail and what you can do to minimize the odds that they'll fail.

Let's start off with the first fail for most managers and that's not getting the job done. Basically, in any mobile home park you've got some key drivers to profitability: collections, occupancy, water and sewer, and property condition. And many managers are going to fail in these four very vital missions. One big many will have might be for example embezzlement. They're supposed to be collecting money that goes to you but instead let's say they collected money and they divert that, either into their own account interesting he form of cash, or by even opening a second account and depositing checks for the park into that account. How do you get around these issues? Systems. Systems are absolutely key at any mobile home park to succeed. You cannot just leave it up to the manager like they did in the old days where they would give the manager a checkbook, tell them to make deposits in the account, pay the bills in the account, and then send the owner the difference. Those days are long gone. That's a practice that pretty much ended all the way back in the 1970s at least for the smart owners.

Today, everyone takes and applies their systems constantly. They look at those as a dashboard, and just like on your car if you can follow the dials on your car, you can follow the dials on the mobile home park. So if you want the manager to succeed to get the job done, you have to create very visible measures of performance, and you have to track those constantly. Those are what help keep the manager on the road to success. If you don't do that, if you do not give them basic systems to track their progress, just like your GPS system they'll veer far, far off the road and they'll never be able to find the road ever again. So that's something that you actually control. When a manager fails on the basics of the job, it comes in either two categories. Either they elected not to do the job, or more than likely you failed in your role in training them in what the systems are, and then what you expect them to do. So that's one that you kind of control their success or failure.

The next one is poor adherence to the basics of running a business. For example, if the office hours for the mobile home park are they open at 9:00 and they close at 5:00, and they show up every day at 11:00 and they leave at 3:00, well you have a very serious problem and anyone would agree that's a manager fail. However, you get around these basic fails in just general business once again through training, and creating systems. So you let the manager know these are the hours of operation and what is acceptable and what is not. Maybe they still fail. Maybe despite you telling them over and over well you've got to be here by 9:00 and they still keep showing up at 11:00 or noon, but many times they don't really know the full expectation. So you've got to train them and let them know what the expectations are.

Now, to me it's kind of troubling when someone doesn't understand the necessity in an office to actually be there. That's kind of strange. Or how to follow the company policies. That maybe harkens back to maybe this person just isn't cut out to be a manager, because there's nothing wrong with that. Being a manager is a demanding job and some people just aren't cut out for it. So it's possible they just can't meet that deadline.

Now if you read a book, there's a paperback book years ago from Dave Thomas. Dave Thomas was the founder of Wendy's and he offered for a while a paperback book called Dave's Way. It was $1 if you bought something at Wendy's. I'm talking back in I think the 80s. I bought that book, I read it from cover to cover. I found it to be a phenomenal book, one of the best ever written, but it never got any credit. In the book he describes the fact that the really good managers understand how to ride the wave. And the wave to a Wendy's franchise is lunch hour. So a good manager could think ahead. A good manager could say, "Ah, we're approaching rush hour. We need to make sure I've got all the ingredients, get those burgers on the grill because the drive in window will be jamming up soon." That was a good manager.

A bad manager wouldn't check out anything in advance, and when it came to rush hour they would find they didn't have enough buns or didn't have enough pickles, and there would be a disaster because they'd have to leave the franchise to go in search of this ingredient. Meanwhile, the employees go down the drain because there's no one managing them and they still don't have any of the ingredients for the hamburger. So some of this can't be taught. Some of it is just basic skills, basic intelligence, basic knowledge of the essentials of running a business. And some managers don't have it. But again you can help get people who are on the edge over onto the good side if you have good proper training. So systems is vital, but training is also vital.

We put a big push in our company over the last several years to really, really improve our training. We have someone who is just the director of training, always putting up new training videos, articles, all kinds of items. It's done us a world of good. Our productivity has never been higher, so training again a very essential item for you and your mobile home park managers.

But then you also have another ingredient where a manager can go bad, and that's bad people skills. They just can't solve problems. You send them over to try and go and help mitigate the argument between two residents, they only make it worse. They seem to somehow offend almost everyone. They just have no people skills whatsoever. And on top of that they can't sell or rent, because without people skills they can't properly greet a customer, show a home, or close a sale. Now how do you fix that one? Well that one is going to fall down to hiring. It's really hard to teach people skills, and you can't teach people skills fast enough to solve the issue. Your park only has one manager. That manager has to work. So if that manager is not going to be able to get the job done, if they can't actually foster good relations between residents, if they can't problem solve, if you can't send them in like the quarterback to solve issues and disputes among your residents, then that's not going to work.

So that one to me is a hiring fail. So that's not something you can fix with systems, not something you can fix with training. That's something you can only fix with hiring. In your interview process, you have to make sure among the skills that a manager has, one of the most vital is that they have good people skills. Ask them "what if" questions. What if a resident comes to the office and says, "Hey, my neighbor has got something over on my property line." Given the fact that mobile home parks have no property lines there's no delineated line between one person's yard and the next. Ask them how they would solve that. Ask them "what if" questions like that. See what kind of people skills they have. And you in the interview know if they have people skills yourself because hey, they have people skills in interacting with you. Are they any good? Can they look at you squarely in the eye? When you met them did they seem honest and upright, and courteous, and all the good things you want to see in people? Or did they have no people skills, they couldn't even look you in the eye when you went into the interview. So that's a hiring fail if you don't get good people with good people skills, because that's very, very hard to teach. Its' not hard to teach someone to be there at 9:00 in the morning. It's nearly impossible to teach somebody how to rent or sell a home if they just do not have the ability to interact with others to get people to do what they need them to do, well that's a huge fail and that's one you cannot solve later.

The same with a  bad attitude. Even the people who has people skills can just come to life every day with a terrible attitude. In fact, you're not even sure whose team they're on. They don't seem to be on your team. All they give you is constant criticism. All they'll say is, "Oh well, you can't raise the rents. This place isn't any good anyway." We had a manager once who called us every week with complaints about their house that came with the job. We had a little frame house that came with the mobile home park. Oh my gosh, it was the most important thing in the world to them was when were we going to replace the vinyl in the kitchen, I don't like it, I want something new and different. Or I don't like the colors the home is painted. This is not the right attitude. We're trying to run a business. They should understand that, yet they didn't. they saw their job as being the official criticizer. They were a one person complaint department. There's no money, there's no success, no satisfaction for the owner when your own manager is the most critical person in the world who hates absolutely everything that you do. Hates their job with a passion, hates the residents with a passion. So sometimes a manager just has a bad attitude. They have the skills, but at the end of the day they are just very sour and very dour.

Again, that's a  hiring mistake. You should not hire somebody who has got that bad attitude. You need someone with a positive attitude, because a positive attitude in a mobile home park is infectious. Your manager is kind of your mayor, kind of your entire chamber of commerce, your cruise ship director. You can't have it where they're the biggest downer in the whole property because that spreads among the residents. If they're unhappy, if they hate everything, well next thing you know all the residents are equally unhappy and they hate everything too.

So now what do you do when these things don't work out? Well, one of the first things I was ever told by a mobile home park owner is it's easier to change people than to change people. So if the manager isn't working out, if they have a bad attitude, bad people skills, cannot follow any directives, and can't hit any of the things you need done well you can't cling to them. You only have one manager. This isn't like a plane that has a large crew with a pilot and a copilot, and a navigator, and all of them know how to fly the plane and if the pilot suddenly goes rogue the copilot can take over. You only have one pilot. If that pilot isn't doing a good job, your whole mobile home park is going to crash, and that's probably not what you budgeted for when you bought the property. So when someone can't get the job done you've got to move and you've got to move quickly.

But at the same time don't forget that every time you change over managers, not only is it unpleasant, it can also be costly. They might sue you, they might file for unemployment. And just the loss of momentum of having the manager change, because it's going to take you a while to get a replacement, and can't get rid of them until you have a replacement in hand. That's going to really hurt your business. So better yet, let's try to do really good hiring. Let's try to build really effective systems. Let's try and train people on how to follow those systems. That's the key. But if you do all of those things and they still don't succeed, don't wait. Stanley Marcus once said, "Take your markdowns in people and merchandise as quickly as possible." He was the founder of Neiman Marcus, and they used that postulate constantly in the store. It's not a bad postulate to follow. Do your best, hire the right people, build good systems, do good training, but if that doesn't work don't be afraid to move on. This is Frank Rolfe of the Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.