Satisfying renters is the North Star in the multifamily sector. That is the mundane matter that must be mastered.

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An entrepreneur named Jeff Olson wrote the book The Slight Edge, in which he emphasized how important it is in business (and, really, life) to master the mundane, in 2005. His point continues to resonate all these years later.

Jon Cheplak, a real estate broker/agent — as well as a coach and consultant in the field — is among those who subscribe to this notion. As he recently told a young interviewer, “Everything big is built on a series of micro-commitments, so just do the little things, over and over and over.”

And yes, he added Olson’s long-ago three-word mantra.

I would have to agree. From my vantage point, many of us in the field have a tendency to get caught up in a strategic direction and the big-picture stuff. That is obviously important. But true success really does come down to the nitty-gritty, to establishing the day-to-day habits that can often spell the difference between success and failure. 

Olson went so far as to assert that only 5 percent of people really achieve their full potential, personally or professionally, and that those who do so address the small things, knowing full well that if they do, the big things will take care of themselves.

Acting with urgency

They also act with urgency, understanding that there’s no time like the present — especially given how quickly the business world evolves. Olson cites a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote as being particularly apt: “Do the thing, and you shall have the power.” 

Whatever the true percentage might be, it is safe to say that the fundamentals of executing day-to-day in the real estate business lead to short- and long-term success. In the apartment sector the mundane fundamentals, if you had to rank the top three, would be leasing, leasing and leasing. That’s really the key to everything:

Keeping existing tenants happy in order to get renewals when leases come up each year, as well as being very proactive and aggressive in positioning the property rights and selling it right to prospects for new leases.

There’s nothing better and more important in the real estate/apartment business than maintaining occupancy and not having vacancies. And the key to that is just to be on top of the game, always, of leasing and getting a property fully leased up.

Maximizing the human experience

Cheplak also said in a 2020 interview that those involved in real estate are “not in a transactional business,” but rather the “human-experience business” or the “moment-creation business” or, he added, the “enrollment business.” It’s hard to view it any other way. It’s hard not to agree with one of Olson’s other points, that the most important habit is developing the right habits.

Mastering the mundane extends to other facets of the multifamily space as well. Consider the matter of development, something with which our firm is deeply involved. You’re really working from a blank canvas and must paint the picture of what the property should look like. That means staying on top of innovations and trends and delivering a product renters want today.

That might not sound mundane, since there are so many aspects to it. There has been in recent years an influx of smart devices (lights, thermostats, window coverings, etc). There has been the rise of virtual tours and resident portals, the use of which became especially pronounced at the height of the pandemic, when the accent was on social distancing. There has been the need for a package room, a result of the online shopping explosion.

But all of this is done in service to the earlier point about leasing. How can a property be made more appealing to prospects and existing renters? How can their experience be maximized? That’s the bottom line, and it’s a relatively recent development. For many years, apartments were apartments, and there was little focus on adapting. Things were pretty static in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s. Then it started to change.

Caring for the self

One more seemingly small detail that needs to be addressed when discussing seemingly small details is the matter of self-care. No matter your line of work, you need to take care of yourself and your personal life: Eat right, get enough sleep and exercise, minimize distractions.

It’s essential to your health, obviously, but also essential to doing your best work. That is something that has evolved over the years. Certainly, more and more people recognize how those things impact longevity, happiness and overall performance.

But it again gets back to satisfying renters’ needs. That is the North Star in the multifamily sector. That is the mundane matter that must be mastered.

Michael H. Zaransky is the founder and managing principal of MZ Capital Partners in Northbrook, Illinois. Founded in 2005, the company deals in multifamily properties.

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