Innovation, Accountability & Good Sense: Day 2 at NAA

Day 2 of the NAA Education Conference was filled with energy, as people hustled from one session to the next and impromptu groups gathered in the wide hallways of the Mandalay Bay Exposition Center to trade observations and ideas.

Without question, the industry is facing hard times because of the difficult economic conditions. But the sentiment at NAA is that the way to respond is to roll-up our shirt sleeves and get to work. Innovation, accountability and good sense were the watchwords.

People we talked with were most impressed with the tone and approach of the CEO panel at the end of the conference session. It’s reassuring to know that the leaders in the business know what’s going on and are being realistic about what is needed to get done.

F816B96E-A38C-449A-B123-87C5D712D7CE.jpgJudy Bellack noted a common theme among the panel was that making the right decisions to retain and hire the best people who will impact the business is more important than any other single factor. Camden’s Ric Campo’s comment that “employees need to be treated like people and not equipment” was met with instant spontaneous applause from the audience. Campo is also focused on trying to make it easier for his on-site people to be successful.

Social media has been a hot topic across the board at the conference. The driver? Residents and prospects are engaged users of social media — Apartment Finder’s research shows 60% log onto their social network every day — and the platforms provide an opportunity to property managers to engage with residents and attract more prospects.

In the discussions about social media, two main threads were repeated over and over: We’re going to try to use social media to help our business, but we’re not completely defined in our approach.

Bob Faith, CEO of Greystar talked in the CEO panel about how his company is working to get their communities active in social media. Campo talked about how they are looking to drive revenues through social media strategies. He talked about creating content that focuses on the areas around the community, as well as the community itself. Two key factors in success will be a focus on speed and follo4700525E-4624-47AA-9363-19C8CB8650ED.jpgw-up, he said.

Donna Bolewitz loved the exchange that followed: Bob Faith, CEO, with Greystar suggesting to Ric Campo, CEO, with Camden, to go ahead and be the first to figure out this “Social Media” thing and Greystar would be a super fast follower.

The buzz about social media wasn’t restricted to the sessions. Observes Judy:

Coolest thing: the number of people twittering and Facebooking about their NAA experiences real time. Session highlights, hallway conversations, you name it — the level of engagement was at an all time high. And this chatter pulled in folks from across the country who couldn’t attend but who obviously had a high interest and were watching and commenting.

Patty Blum is participating in this year’s Leadership Lyceum, which met here in Vegas during NAA. Here is her report:

I attended the Leadership Lyceum with 32 other NAA members who applied for the program. It’s a series of 3 classes throughout the year at the various NAA events where candidates attend the NAA meetings and one lyceum day to strengthen their leadership skills. The first test was the 7:30 am start time in Las Vegas, NV and we all passed!

At Lyceum a fun and intense game of beach blanket volleyball started our day. 6 people holding the edges of a huge square beach towel, tossing the volleyball back and forth. Team 1 won, I would say due to underhanded manuvers and bad refs on boundry calls, and maybe a tiny bit of luck.

The power of positive thinking or maybe just actually being present: Fred Dean (Drucker and Faulk) and I ate boxed lunch together after which he stood up and announced he was headed to win the $5,000. Would you believe he actually did it? But only after 4 or 5 other non-present names were called.Really cool!

6276EA06-D0BA-480A-83C3-27350D4F16E3.jpgA lot of the Finder team were anxious to hear Lisa Trosien’s marketing panel. Lisa always has good, specific information and actionable conclusions to share.

The highlights, according to our people in the room:

Donna Bolewitz: Lisa Trosien’s noted that social media networking is up 37%. Trend for tremendous growth will continue. She suggested everyone should “Get Social” but not to treat social media like “placing an ad”. Lisa recommended apartment communities to search for a company/service that specializes social media to handle it for them.

David Arnold was struck when Lisa pointed out that Social Media sites broke the Michael Jackson news, not CNN,Fox etc. CNN said he was in a “coma” while Facebook and Twitter users were saying he had died. “Truly a sign of the times,” David commented.

We’ll have a more in-depth look at Lisa’s recommendations on all aspects of marketing from Todd Dubner in a separate post.

A final note. In the CEO Panel, an audience survey offered two encouraging findings:

  • 77% believed that they could reduce turnover by more resident engagement;
  • 65% of the attendees are happy with their current positions and companies.

The finding suggests that there are ways to improve the bottom line, even though market conditions are difficult. And, that the people responsible for making the innovations like their jobs and are ready to do it.

We’ll be posting a Day 3 re-cap later this weekend. Enjoy your Saturday!