Enhancing Digital Marketing for Property Management Companies with a Proprietary Tech Stack, with Mike Whaling

How embracing remote work can enhance company culture virtually?

In this episode, Mike Whaling, founder of 30 Lines, shares how his digital marketing agency transitioned to being fully remote during the pandemic. After shutting down their office in early 2020, Mike realized they needed to be more intentional about communication and collaboration.


To foster connection among employees, 30 Lines holds annual in-person retreats focused on relationship building. They also encourage casual interactions through pets and kids making cameo appearances on video calls.

On the process side, the agency sets guidelines around meeting-free focus time as well as designated collaboration days. Mike is constantly looking for new ways to build culture in a distributed environment, like highlighting wins and milestones virtually.

Though managing a remote team presents challenges, 30 Lines has expanded well beyond their Ohio headquarters. Mike sees opportunities to leverage AI and other technologies to work smarter. He remains driven by serving client needs above all else.

LISTEN TO THE FULL EPISODE HERE

Transcript

Anthony (host): 

Welcome to another episode of the inspired stories podcast where leaders share their experiences so we can learn from their successes, how they’ve overcome adversity, and explore current challenges they’re facing. My name is Anthony Codispoti, and today’s guest is Mike Whaling, founder, and president of 30 lines. They are a digital marketing agency that takes a holistic approach to online marketing and brand presence. While they’ve helped a whole variety of companies, including the Bob Evans Restaurant group. Their specialty is in the area of property management, where they have built a suite of tech tools. He’s also on the board for the housing and shelter for Central Ohio, for Y.M.C.A. Which is something he’s very passionate about, and I look forward to digging more into that.

 

Anthony (host): 

Before we get to the good stuff, today’s episode is brought to you by my company, AddBack Benefits Agency, where we offer very specific and unique employee benefits that are both great for your team and fiscally optimized for your bottom line. One recent client was able to save over $900 per employee per year by implementing one of our proprietary programs. Another client is going to save over $1,200 per employee per year by implementing a patented construct that we offer. Results vary for each company, and some organizations may not be eligible to find out if your company qualifies contact us today at addbackbenefitsagency.com

 

Anthony (host): 

Now back to our guest today, the founder of 30 lines. Mike, I appreciate you making the time to share your story today.

 

Michael (guest): 

Thanks for having me on the show.

 

Anthony (host):

So tell us in simple language what does 30 lines do, and what was the original inspiration behind it.

 

Mike (guest): 

My, my dad used to say, and I he 30 lines manipulates the Internet. I don’t know that I would go that far, but that’s kind of the idea. Right? So 30 lines is a is a digital marketing studio. We were our core, and our foundation is around content marketing and everything that you need to build a holistic online presence. Our goal is, you know, no matter where somebody is looking, we want them to find the message that you want them to see about your business, whether that’s from you or from your customers, probably better from your customers. But we and we really look at. How do you create the content that people are looking for today? How do you be the best answer to their questions? And and how do you build a presence that is you know your online storefront in in the best way possible.

 

Anthony (host):

So what would be a good. So first step that you would take with a new client, and in terms of trying to determine what is the content that people are looking for in their particular niche.

 

Mike (guest): 

Talk to their sales team talk to their support team. You know. Really, you already know the questions that people ask the most if you don’t, the people on the front lines, do you know, for we do a lot of work with departments, and the folks that know the answers know what people are asking about are the leasing agents that are handling the questions the maintenance guys that are out on out on site and in people’s homes? You know, helping them, you know, get things fixed. Those are the folks that are on the front lines and really understand what people are looking for and how they’re act how you know how they put things in their own language. And I think that that really applies to to any business. You know, if you’re just getting started. I would just pay attention to what people are talking about in your industry, whether that’s going to conferences or paying attention to online communities or forums or those kinds of things. Other podcasts like this. It’s really it’s. It’s not too difficult to hone in on what people are focused on right now, and then, you know, and I’m not necessarily talking about just the latest buzz words. It’s more. What are the deep things that people are really, really asking about and and want to get to, so that they can really understand how to run their business better, how to make better decisions for for themselves or for their family, or whatever it is they’re looking to. Do.

 

Anthony (host):

You know, as a tech company, I kind of expected your first answer to be something like, Oh, we use Google trends, or, you know, different keyword tools to find that. And I’m gonna guess that’s part of your arsenal as well, but it was fascinating that the first thing that you came up with was kind of old school offline talk to the people who are out there, you know, bumping into customers every day.

 

Mike (guest): 

It’s I mean, it really is. It’s things haven’t changed much. It’s just kind of the places where those conversations are happening. But but yeah, I mean, all of those tools are available and they make sense. But you want to get to. What is it that your people are hearing, and how do you? You know? How do you put it in your customers? Language as easy as possible?

 

Anthony (host):

You know there are a lot of great marketing agencies out there. I’ve even had the privilege to interview some for this show, but what I think is really interesting about what your company does is the suite of software tools that you’ve built. Tell me more about that, and how it separates you from your competitors.

 

Anthony (host): 

Yeah. So we, we? We do a lot of business with the property management industry and multifamily real estate, multifamily housing, commercial real estate. We that industry is, you know, like many others, they have their own set of software solutions that are industry specific. They call it property management software. And there’s all kinds of different flavors of that and different things that it needs to do.

 

Anthony (host): 

What we’ve seen is that those tools are really good at helping people run their property. They’re not necessarily the best tools out there for modern digital marketing or modern marketing period. And so, as we were growing our agency, you know, we’ve had that we have the agency side of the business we’ve identified.

 

Anthony (host): 

Hey? This is what we want to be able to do as a marketing agency, and those tools weren’t available. So we went out. And we, we basically are sent. We’re essentially building the bridge between property management software and the tools that our clients use every day.

 

Anthony (host): 

And the tools that we wanna use like website platforms and local listings and online advertising platforms and email marketing. And those kinds of things. That’s what we know works. And we needed the tools to make it work for us. And so we’re building some of them.

 

Michael (guest): 

So you’re sort of like a super fancy customized version of like a Zapier where you’re getting one platform to talk to another.

 

Michael (guest): 

Yeah, in a lot of ways, right. And we’re but we’re trying to add some insights and recommendations. And, add our own layer of thought on top of it, right? So we don’t just wanna move the data. We wanna help our customers understand what’s happening. And where do we think that their money is best invested? When they’re implementing their marketing plan.

 

Michael (guest): 

You know, when we look at the numbers for us, you know, another industry that’s really similar to apartments is like the auto industry and auto dealers.

 

Michael (guest): 

People wanna see the apartment that they wanna live in. People wanna drive the car that they wanna test drive the car that they’re gonna drive off a lot. And so that typically means that you’re not making a sale online, you know. Certainly people can lease an apartment online. They can buy a car through Carvana that those are there. But most people today still wanna take that test drive or they still wanna come, see the apartment. And so what we see is that it’s a very different environment from like an e-commerce right? Which? You know, you don’t have that instant gratification.

 

Michael (guest): 

Of Hey! People clicked my ad. They came to the website and they bought. And I can see the purchase. There’s a whole set of nurturing that has to happen. We got a lead. Now we need to talk them through. We need to show them what we have to offer. We need to find the right solution, and then we need to get them to an application or sit down for financing, or whatever that looks like. And what we see is you end up with this whole big, you know, marketing machine.

 

Michael (guest): 

And there are certain touch points there, certain places where, if you optimize those and really take care of the customers that are right in front of you. You’re it’s going to be a far more efficient system, and you’re not going to need to spend as much to acquire the next lead.

 

Michael (guest): 

Do you find that in your environment it’s more difficult to tie attribution to the final transaction than it would be for e-commerce. You’re you’re laughing. Is that? Right? Like you know, there’s a hundred year old quote about. You know. I half my advertising works and the other half the other half doesn’t. The problem is, I don’t know which half.

 

Michael (guest): 

I think that we have a little more detail than that today. But the idea of attribution is is really it’s it’s kind of a fool’s errand in my mind, and I don’t like, you know there’s plenty of tools out there, and there’s a lot that we can gain from looking at how people buy and how they behave. But if if I if I ask somebody, hey, how did you hear about 30 lines? The best answer that someone could give is jeez. Everybody knows you guys, everybody knows you and I hear about you every time I talk to a peer. They say you gotta talk 30 lines, and you know that’s the best answer. But who do I attribute that to?

 

Michael (guest): 

Right? And it’s the same kind of thing with apartments, with, you know anything where there’s a pretty significant buying journey.

 

Michael (guest): 

You know, I’m sure, with you there’s a lot of touch points when you’re talking with another business of all the different people you have to talk to, and the different ways you have to get in front of them, and you know lots of different avenues for you to create content like a podcast like this. And it’s hard to say which one of those really is, the one that got someone over the home to make the decision.

 

Michael (guest): 

So we kinda look at it as, what can the software tell us? What can you know? Tools like trends and Google analytics and advertising and those kinds of things. But then we also ask, you know, hey, how did you hear about us? And the really interesting thing is that what is in your Crm system. That the software says is where the lead came from, is often more often than not completely different from what the customer tells you.

 

Michael (guest): 

If you just ask them and leave them, you know. Make it an open-ended question.

 

Michael (guest): 

And you know we see this all the time. I get leads coming in through our website. And our website says the lead came from Google and the and the the prospect says, I heard about you at a conference, or I heard you on a podcast. Or I found you on ChatGPT.

 

Michael (guest): 

All of those are things, and it’s like. who do I give the credit to kind of all of the above but that’s I’m much more interested in understanding how people behave, and where people go to get their answers than I am to say, hey, this one specific source is the source that made that sale.

 

Anthony (host):

How does that come into play as you’re trying to justify to your clients that, hey, you should renew your service because we’re generating so much in sales for you? We’ve sent so many leads to you. Doesn’t that come into play, and them sort of having to justify internally that you’re you’re a worthwhile expense.

 

Mike (guest): 

Absolutely. And that’s one of the things that we hammer home with our team all the time: make sure that customers see the value and can communicate the value to their team because, you know, marketing is a lot of art and a lot of science, and a lot of people don’t necessarily appreciate the art side. They want it to be all science. But what we see is because we take that holistic view that you mentioned, and because we look at, you know, are we helping in B2B marketing, people will call it like sales enablement. Are we helping people with their nurturing emails? Are we helping with follow up? What are the things that we’re doing to help salespeople create more appointments and close more deals? If we can see those numbers, and we have a benchmark, and then we can say, Hey, after we implemented our solutions, here’s how much better we are than your benchmark. I can start to show that not only are we generating more leads, but we are turning more of those leads into sales, and that’s really what we’re trying to do in any business: get to I want to get as close to the money as possible because that’s what talks, right? So if I can get to how many leads do we generate? What’s the what’s your cost per lead, or how many tours, or how many appointments, or how many calls did we generate? And then, after that, you know, for apartments. That’s if somebody toured. Can I get those tours to then fill out an application to rent in the building? You know, in the restaurant it’s a little bit different restaurant, you know. We have a little more. We can send an email, and we see that people click on that, we see that they redeem the coupon in the store. Our goal there is, you know, understanding that customer, your, our client. Their goal is, get that person back in the store one more time this month or three more times this year, whatever those metrics are so. A lot of what we do is really take some time to understand our customers’ goals. What are the metrics that they care about? And how do we make sure that what we’re putting together aligns with where they’re trying to go so that when we come back in 6 months or 12 months and sit and have that review to go. Hey, how are we doing? Let’s renew. It’s a much easier conversation because we have the benchmarks we know where they started. We’re all on the same page about what success looks like. And then we can have a have a same-page conversation. That makes it a lot easier.

 

Anthony (host):

So rather than trying to show that, hey, this Google ad campaign is what drove sales for you guys. It’s more of, hey, here were the benchmarks that we had before we started working with you. Occupancy rates were here. I don’t know, click-throughs were here. Conversions were here. Applications were here. And now look! All those benchmarks are trending upwards. That the apartment industry is a fascinating one, just that so many nuances. But it’s it’s one of the only industries that I know of where like there’s not more widgets to be made, right? It’s not like once I figure out my return on my advertising. I can just crank, crank up that formula and just crank out more widgets and push more ads. It’s, you know, for any given apartment building. There’s a hundred, two hundred, three hundred people in the world that can only be a customer at any one time. Once you’re full, you’re done, right? Especially right now, because housing supply is, you know, we’re building more apartments right now, you know, right now, in this very moment, but we are behind in terms of housing supply. So it’s a really interesting industry to do marketing for because it’s not necessarily how do I get to that formula of maximizing my, my, my ROAS or my ROI? It’s really more, how do I create the most cost-effective machine to lease these two hundred, three hundred apartments? And once I find that then we just start getting more and more efficient. And look at. You know, I love when I can go to a client and say, hey, we’re on track. We’re trending ahead of pace. I don’t think we need to spend as much on Google as we originally budgeted. Here’s some money back. That’s one of my favorite conversations to have.

 

Anthony (host):

That’s an unusual conversation for a marketing agency to initiate in my experience.

 

Mike (guest): 

It’s one that sets us apart.

 

Anthony (host):

Did I hear you say that you’ve had folks find you using ChatGPT?

 

Mike (guest): 

We have actually, I did have somebody in our contact form. They said, I found you on GPT and I checked your website and it checked out. So we wanna talk.

 

Anthony (host):

So I wanna know what that looked like. They were typing some sort of a query into ChatGPT and ChatGPT came back with your company as the recommendation.

 

Mike (guest): 

Here’s the thing. You go back to your question about attribution. I’m never going to be able to directly attribute that to GPT. Other than the fact that somebody put it in a form and typed it in because I don’t get any tracking, and there is nothing from Google that says you know, most of the time ChatGPT doesn’t even give you a link to the website. It’s just spitting out words. So there’s not a direct link from ChatGPT into your website so that your website can track it and see, right? There’s actually a whole little kind of cottage. I mean, it’s more than a cottage industry at this point. But it’s, you know, oop changing things for Google and manipulating your website or adding content, or whatever you want to call it, for search engines, a search engine optimization. There’s kind of a new budding segment of that called called answer engine optimization.

 

Mike (guest): 

Because that’s what these chat engines, you know. That’s what GPT and Bard and Claude, all these systems are. They are you type in a chat? And it gives you the answer, or it gives you a set of words that it thinks is the answer. So it becomes really difficult to track directly. But we have that anecdotal evidence. And you know we’re looking at what are the things that people are typing into some of these engines. What are the questions that they’re asking? And how do we create content that can be the best answer that then gets crawled at some point, not only for Google, but also for ChatGPT and other systems like that.

 

Anthony Codispoti:

Is there some sort of a tool that shows you what kind of queries are being generated inside of these large-level language models?

 

Mike (guest): 

Not directly. Yet. I mean, there are certainly like there are tools out there like, answer the public, that will tell you what kind of questions people are asking. There are some keyword tools where you can really get specific around questions. How to and how do I get to? Or you know, what are, what are what are the best blank for me. There’s lots of those kinds of things out there that you can, that you can pull those tools from Google and from other other sources like that. And then you can kind of guess that people are having similar conversations in other platforms.

 

Anthony (host):

Do you? Did you talk with that one lead? Do you have any idea what it was they typed in the ChatGPT that led to you?

 

Mike (guest): 

I did talk with him. We didn’t get specifically into what their exact query was. But, but yeah, it’s been. It’s fun to see. It’s definitely it’s definitely fun to see that people are, you know, people are always gonna be looking for answers to their questions. It’s part of the shopping journey behavior, whatever you want to call it. It’s fun to watch how that behavior changes in terms of where people go to get their answers.

 

Anthony (host):

As we think about the property management part of the business that you guys service? Who’s your ideal client? Is it somebody really small? Do you need to have a certain number of units to make sense to use your services?

 

Mike (guest): 

My ideal client is somebody who is sophisticated enough to appreciate digital marketing and some of the things that we’re able to do with it. But also not necessarily big enough that they have their own team to execute it on their own. So you know, sometimes that’s somebody who has 1,500 units, which is a pretty good size portfolio. But in the institutional side of business, it’s pretty small. Our bread and butter clients are probably in the 3,000 to 10,000 unit portfolios. Which you know. That’s typically anywhere from 20 properties to 80 or a hundred. And you know a lot of times they’ll have multiple ownership groups. Ideally, the folks that we have are somewhat connected to the ownership because it’s such. It’s honestly easier for me to talk money with the owners than it is with a third-party fee manager. There’s just there’s some different incentives there. But like I said, a good customer for us is someone who understands where the market’s going wants to be a little ahead of the game, you know. At least a little ahead of the game they want. They want to be ahead of the game. They don’t want to just use, you know, off the shelf templates but they know they can’t do it all themselves.

 

Anthony (host):

And what separates you then from a competitor? Say, I’m a property management company that’s in that sort of sweet spot, and I’m shopping around. I’m talking to different providers and 30 lines. One that I’m looking at. Why am I ultimately deciding to go with you guys?

 

Mike (guest): 

I’m not really beholden to anyone, anyone, channel any one platform. We’ve purposely built our our system to be independent.

 

Mike (guest): 

So you know, we can take in data from a lot of different systems we can connect with multiple different CRMs. It doesn’t bother me if you say, Hey, I already have a chatbot that we need to put on our website. I don’t need yours. That’s fine, because I have plenty of other things that I can sell that client besides a chatbot like. I told you before, we love those scenarios where we can cut back on things like advertising, because we know that that means that our other services are doing what they’re supposed to do. And most of the time our other services are actually more profitable for us anyways. So you know the fact that we have that really deep knowledge of how people shop, you know we’ve got over a decade of research at this point of how people shop and how those behaviors are changing. And that’s not just from us. That’s from from from third parties. and we’re able to take that and and turn it into marketing campaigns that really makes sense for the customer. You know our goal in my head. Somebody hires me. you know, I’m doing business with with another business. B, 2 B. But really, the way that things are gonna work. The best is if we do the best thing for their customer, their shopper, because if it’s easier for their shopper to do business with my client. Then my client wins, and we end up. be in the sidekick to their hero’s story.

 

Anthony (host):

Tell me more about your commitment to affordable housing, and the time you’ve spent with this Y.M.C.A. Board.

 

Mike (guest): 

Yeah. you know, I think it’s come from working in the housing industry and understanding some of the things, some of the some of the misconceptions about the housing industry and seeing it from both sides. You know I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the biggest management companies in the country, and and and what they do. And I love being the parts about housing of like using it as a vehicle to create wealth for your family. But at the other the other end of the stick. There, you know. we don’t have enough housing in this country we’re behind and in a lot of places. We’re making it harder for developers and real estate operators and and landlords, making it harder for them to do business. and some of that is, you know, legislative. Some of that’s insurance, some of that is, you know, utilities. There’s just a lot of different things that are pressing on this. But what what’s happening is it’s making it more difficult for us to develop housing when we need it most. We’re. you know, a decade behind in a lot of areas you look at here in Central Ohio. you know we last I saw we are somewhere. If you look at the numbers of housing that we need in 2050, 70% of that housing doesn’t exist yet. And we’re we’re not necessarily incentivizing more development, you know, and like I said, some of it’s legislative. Some of it is other expenses. Some of it is, you know, the not in my backyard, the Nimby crowd that says, you know. No, no new growth. I like things the way that they were and that’s just not realistic right. And what what ends up happening is all of that trickles down. If you look, you know, across the history of this country, all of that you look at redlining and some of the things of you know, some of the racial racial legislation that have really held people back from having the opportunity to to live in the neighborhoods they wanna live in or buy homes. There’s a lot of work that has to be done, and you know, I’ve had the privilege to work on a board. That’s we are one of the largest providers affordable housing in Columbus. Well, in in the central Ohio area and there’s a lot more to do.

 

Anthony (host):

So what exactly gets done there when you say that you’re one of the largest providers. Does that mean like you own some section 8 housing, or are. I mean, we’re. We’re developing properties. Now we’ve we’ve we’ve successfully opened a few buildings, and we’re we’re we’re helping people out. We are helping with supportive services at at some of the community shelters. We’re very involved in a lot of the supportive services that go around transitional housing. What we found is that having a roof over your head makes a huge difference. If you’re trying to find a job, or just trying to get back on your feet. But that’s not the only thing like there’s you can’t just put somebody into a kind of a traditional apartment building with no support and no help and no services, and expect them to succeed. especially in a place like Columbus, where. you know, we don’t have any mass transit. You have to take the bus to get over to whatever agency you have to get to to make sure that you continue to keep your benefits so that you’re your kids can go to school, and you can get fed and those kinds of things. We don’t make it easy on these people. And so, you know, we really look at what are not only what are the steps that we have to do to provide housing for people and transition them into sustainable long-term housing. But what are the services that we need to provide along the way to help them make sure that they can build a life.

 

Anthony (host):

That’s great. You know, Mike, most business leaders I met have at least one story where they overcame a big challenge, something that looked like it was gonna wipe them out. Maybe it was a lawsuit or a fire, or a big accounting mistake some something that almost did them in. You have any stories like that to share?

 

Mike (guest): 

You know II don’t have anything that scary, but you know we’ve definitely I I’ve had a few times along the way, where, you know I wasn’t quite sure if we were going to make payroll that kind of thing, and we were looking for what are the things that we need to do to to really keep this thing afloat? I think the probably the biggest one that hit me was we really took on 2 huge initiatives at once. Kind of but we were do. Company was doing really well. This was about 2017. Ish Company was doing great. We had some money in the bank and you know II pulled the trigger on 2 big initiatives at the same time. And for a Bootstrap company that can kill you. And it almost did. You know, we just if it was one of those things where we just didn’t keep our focus on. We? We didn’t. We didn’t have focus. We went in 2 different directions and invested in 2 different in 2 different places. And it really it. It really slowed us down a lot more than if we had just picked one of those and went all in on that one thing so but we made it through we made it through Covid. You know we that one was a big one for us. We shut down the office. I was flying home from Spring Break, and got the news that the Nba. Had shut down their league. And you know, I sent a message to the team just to say, Hey, you know we’re not going to the office for for the foreseeable future, and turns out we haven’t been back since. We shut down the office and and have been fully remote ever since. But II you know we’ve like, I said. We’ve we’ve Bootstrap, II bootstrap this. We’ve we’ve built the whole thing without taking on any kind of any outside money and when you do that you gotta stay focused. You gotta make sure that you. You keep your eye on the ball and kind of really do one thing well before you jump to the next one.



Anthony (host):Do you feel like you’ve fully embraced that lesson? Or is that a mistake that you’ve repeated? Because what you’re describing is really common for business owners. You have all these ideas out there, and you wanna go after them all at the same time. It’s it’s tolerating itself in

 

Mike (guest): 

it, really, is it really is? And you know, I imagine you probably feel the same way, right like where other people see challenges. I see opportunities. And my I it takes a lot of of restraint and filtering to hold back and go. Hey, we wanna go after this. I have a long list of roadmap. What are the things we want to get to? Right? I just kind of look at as job security. But but yeah, it takes a lot of restraint. And you know, it is one of those things where I have a operations manager on the company, and one of their main jobs is to be my filter to S. Take this stuff in and then make sure that you know we’re prioritizing the right things. Hey? Here’s all of Mike’s ideas here. The things that our customers are asking for here are the other things that are that the rest of our team wants to do, because they have awesome ideas, too. How do we then order those and prioritize them and and create a plan of attack? But you know, I think that’s the beautiful thing about being an entrepreneur and being being in business for yourself is that there’s opportunities everywhere. And as technology expands as as things evolve. That’s not stopping anytime soon. Lots of ways to make money right now.

 

Anthony (host):

coming out of Covid. You guys like everybody else. You shut down the office. And it’s interesting to hear you guys haven’t gone back. How has that transition worked out? Do you think you’re full time remote now, like this is how it is.

 

Mike (guest): 

Yeah, I mean, we’ve gone from. We’ve gone from 90% of our employees were within 20 miles of Columbus, Ohio to. We’re now in 10 states and 2 countries. And it’s a very different way to run a business. I haven’t decided which one’s better yet. I think that most people enjoy the the freedom and the flexibility of being able to work from home. But you know, we’ve we definitely have to force some communication where we didn’t have to before. We do a team retreat at least once a year, where we get everybody together, and you know we spend a couple of days, and most most of those most of that time is really just fun. It’s just getting to know each other. You, when you’re fully remote. You don’t have that opportunity to go grab lunch with somebody or go out for a drink after after work. So you have to create those opportunities for people. being fully remote, you don’t have those water cooler moments. You don’t have that like, hey? You got a minute so I can run this by you before I put it in front of the boss. So you have to. You have to be much more communicative. I think I think being fully remote is. you know, the communication requirements are probably 30% greater of how you have to change checkpoints and milestones for your projects. Let’s let’s make sure that we’re on the right track. If you don’t have those, it’s really easy. It’s up, you know. It’s very. It’s harder to tap somebody on the shoulder and slack, or in teams, and say, Hey, can I borrow you for a minute? People wanna put their head down and get deep work done, and we try and create an environment for that? But at the same time we, we have to force those issues where people communicate and collaborate.

 

Anthony (host):

How do you do that. What’s something you’ve tried that’s actually worked.

 

Mike (guest): 

So so one thing is, we, we’ve kind of built our schedule around creating those environments in both ways. We did not. We just we looked at doing a 4 day work week and we decided against it. We’ve we got some feedback from our clients that just said, Hey, we work 5 days a week, and we expect our partners to as well. And we took that really seriously. But we also want to offer some flexibility to our team. So we said, Mondays and Fridays, I want 40% of your time. I want that to be deep focused work. So we do not allow internal meetings on Mondays and Fridays. If you have to meet with the client, that’s fine. If you have to take a call understood. but no internal meetings on Mondays and Fridays. Those are your days to put your head down and get work done. and then Tues Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, are the days where we meet with each other. We collaborate. We create some of those signs to to check check in with each other. And and you know, Foster, that communication that you need. I was gonna say, the other thing that we’re doing. I wish we probably did more is, we’re doing a lot more with audio messages and video messages. There’s a lot that you can get done if you can just record a message really quickly, or a loom video, or something like that, and just go, hey, here’s what I’m seeing, or here’s what I’m thinking. Take a look at it. Let me know what you think. There’s so much that you can get done through through audio and through video that you can’t do in chat.

 

Anthony (host):

love loom been using it for years. It’s a great tool. Any other little tools like that. You guys use that pretty critical to your success.

 

Mike (guest): 

I mean, you mentioned Zapier. We we do use Zapier quite a bit to, you know. One of our company values is connect the dots we we really think that there’s a lot of value in understanding how things work together and the impact that it has on other systems. But we we love looking for, hey? Once we have a checklist, once we have a template for a project. how do we find the things that we can automate? How do we? How do we find the things that we can connect? And you know Zapier is a great tool for that. Another one that’s a little more recent for me that I really like is a tool called Sunsama. Sonsama, is, it connects your email and your project management system. So for me, we use Asana. and you know, if we have tasks in Asana. I don’t necessarily see those tasks in my calendar. but what some salma does is it takes all of your. It takes your your email and it takes your project management. And it takes some other systems. And it says, Here’s the work you have to get done. We’re gonna put it all on your calendar. We’re gonna pull it from multiple systems and put it all on your calendar. And we’re gonna force you to prioritize and make time to get all of this stuff done. So it’s been. It’s been a a really nice tool for me, because whether it’s in slack or in our project management system or in email, I can organize all of those things and pull them together and go. Okay, here are the things that I need to do. Where am I gonna find time to do this? And it helps me do that.

 

Anthony (host):And based on the name Sonsana. I’m gonna guess it connects specifically with Asana and probably not other projects.

 

Mike (guest): So and I think it does. No, it’s definitely not definitely not.

 

Anthony (host):Mike, what’s something you wish you could teach the 20 year old version of yourself something that’s pretty clear to you now that you wish had been a little bit earlier in life.

 

Mike (guest): you know, I think probably 2 different things. One is. do you? It’s okay to not know what you want to be when you grow up. You know, I at 20, very few of us actually know. But I think that that’s fine. And it’s it’s okay to try things and and discover what you don’t like, because I think that that’s a really easy way to find, you know roll things out and get to what you do like. But the other side of that is, I think that it’s I would say, swim bigger. swing bigger like we’re all gonna it takes the same amount of time to work on a I’ve I’ve heard this from our client, from some of our clients. It takes the same amount of time to work on a small deal as it does to work on a 100 million dollar deal. So swing bigger and and go after bigger deals go after bigger clients, try bigger things, especially when you’re 20, right like when you’re 20 years old, you there’s there’s hardly any risk you could fall in your face and fail miserably and and walk. Go out and get another job somewhere else. And you’re you learned a ton at, you know, worst case, and if everything works out, then you’re way ahead of everybody else who’s still in college for the next few years.

 

Anthony (host):

When you’re shopping for hats, it’s just as important to find out which ones don’t fit as it is to find out which ones do.

 

Mike (guest): 

Yep. Same kind of thing in in real life.

 

Anthony (host):Mike, what’s a challenge that you’re currently working through in your business? And maybe something that you’re not even successfully working through quite yet. 

 

Anthony (host):

Man. I am. I’m one of those people like II think I always have more to do right, like everything feels like a challenge to be, to be to be tackled. So there’s there’s a number of them. One that comes to mind, is we? I’m really looking for better ways to to build a company culture. And you know, with some some of the things we talked about before remote. we we do a lot to share our pets and share our favorite meals, and we’re not afraid to have our kids jump on a zoom call. And and those kinds of things. And you know we’re looking for. What are the ways that we can build some of that that culture? In a remote, in a, in a remote environment, and at the big part of that is, making sure that we are celebrating all the winds. big and small. And so it’s a very concerted effort. And that’s one of those things you have to be very intentional about, to understand what people are working on. What are they happy with? What are the things that they feel good about? And how do we make sure that we identify those? And you know, and and when appropriate, celebrate it with everybody else, so that people can see what their teammates do, and what they’re working on, and what they’re good at, and what they’re passionate about and and what they can go to them, for if they have a question about something down the road? But that’s something that we. or trying to navigate trying to figure out. And you know we’ve we’ve done okay. But I think there’s a lot more that we can do there. And then, you know, I think the other piece of it for us is is is really trying to identify where new technology fits in. You know, we did. We? We actually we wrote a book last year about Chat Gp and AI, and how how our clients can use it. And you know, I know that there’s more opportunities for us to incorporate that into how we’re working so that we can work smarter and not harder. but it’s one of those things where it takes some time to work through that stuff and and incorporate it, and make people feel comfortable with it, and give them some understanding of how they can use the technology to to make their jobs and make their lives a little bit easier. So I think those are 2 of the big ones that we’re working on right now.

 

Anthony (host):

Are you guys currently hiring?

 

Mike (guest): 

We are.

 

Anthony (host):

What positions are you looking to fill?

 

Mike (guest): 

Client services, so account managers. We are looking for some folks in data analysis and reporting. We’re looking for a, we’re looking for actually looking for an email marketing expert. We like a product specialist for email marketing. That’s been a big one for us. And then, probably by the end of the year, we’ll be looking for a couple more engineers.

 

Anthony (host):

Frankly.

 

Anthony (host):

Where do you see AI and Chat GPT going specifically in your industry?

 

Mike (guest): 

How can you leverage that in a lot of different ways? So we see AI as kind of a spice rack. It’s, you know, there’s not like one AI that you just go, hey? We’re gonna plug this in. And it’s gonna solve all our problems. It’s really what are the things that are tedious, repetitive tasks, or what are the things that would take a human a long time to do. And how can we then apply some intelligence to that and make it better? So the places where we’re using it, the places where our clients are using it, are on a lot of marketing automation. A lot of, you know, things like, Hey, you wanna schedule a tour to come see an apartment building. We can have some AI go back and forth with that person over email or over text message and figure out a way to schedule a time for them to come in. Another big one for us is data analysis. We do a lot of competitor analysis, and you know we’ll pull data from Google Reviews, and then we’ll go out and we’ll look at their top 10 competitors. and we’ll compare. Here’s all of your reviews here your competitor reviews. Here are the things you know, based on the negative reviews. Here are the things that you need to go improve. Here’s where you need to train your team based on your competitors’ reviews. Here are the opportunities. Here are the gaps. Here are the things that we’re gonna shift around in your marketing so that you, you know, can attack their weaknesses. So you know, those are 2 fairly simple examples of where we’re applying it. And there’s a lot more.

 

Anthony (host):

If I recall correctly, you’ve actually presented on this very topic at some large industry conferences. Is that right?

 

Mike (guest): 

I have. Yes, yeah. And what specifically have you shared there?

 

Mike (guest): 

It’s very similar to what we will just mentioned. You know, it’s kind of really understanding. With our clients, we work with smaller marketing shops. and in a lot of cases, you know, bandwidth is is an issue, and resources are an issue. But when you can take that and say rather than have one campaign, if I can say, All right, who are my top? 5 audiences? Okay, now create marketing campaigns for each one of those audiences and create Google headlines, create email subjects, create social media calendars. Now I can start to create all of that content, and things that used to take us hours, if not days, to to put together. We can have done in, you know, 30 min to an hour and have that. Have that ready to go.

 

Anthony (host):

Mike. I just one more question for you. But before I ask it, I wanna point people to your website. So they know how to get in touch with you, whether it’s a client that may want to work with you or an employee looking for a new career opportunity so best place for them to go is 30lines.com. Is that the best place?

 

Mike (guest): 

Thirtylines.com. If you want to reach out to me directly. I’m most active on Linkedin.

 

Anthony (host):

Right?

 

Anthony (host):

Okay. Last question, Mike. Aside from AI and chat GPT, where do you see the property management industry evolving in the next 5 to 10 years?

 

Mike (guest): 

Man, that’s such a great question. III think there’s gonna be more emphasis on Brand. because once you start to identify opportunities to centralize, to plug in some technology to You know, here’s one thing that I’ll say if you look at the market conditions right now with interest rates where they are and where with investors where they are, there’s a lot of call it dry powder out there of people ready to buy and people who are excited to build given the right opportunities. So I think we’re gonna see some growth. You know, there’s we’ve had record apartment growth over the past couple of years. It’s gonna taper down a little bit. But I think that’s gonna come back then, in 20 twenty-sevenish but as we do that. you’re gonna see more opportunities for apartments to look more like hotels. You’re gonna see brands pop up. You’re gonna see some some loyalty programs pop up and you’re gonna see more. Not necessarily like resort-style living. But I think you’re gonna see more. Hey? If you if you know our brand here, we also have 5 other locations around town that you might wanna check out if you need to move across town, or if you need to move to Chicago or whatever we, I think we’re gonna start to see the more of that, and that’s something that the apartment industry has never seen. You know hotels are hotels and airlines, and travel are much more consolidated, whereas the apartment industry and housing is is far more fragmented. But I think that we’re gonna see a shift in in that over the next 5 to 10 years.

 

Anthony (host):

Thank you, Mike. That’s a wrap on another episode of the inspired stories, podcast thanks for learning with me today.