Thursday, December 18, 2014

A reminder of the season.

This time of year, I inevitably feel stressed out: work is ridiculously hectic, I have a mile-long To Do list, and too many places to go and people to see. I am constantly running from one place to another, and have no feeling of "holiday joy." Truthfully, I feel like I am *thisclose* to dropping six balls at once, at any given moment. 

Last night, C came home from school with a letter marked 4th notice. "Fourth notice?! I sent this form back to school in October. And we never received a second, or third notice!" I spit out through clenched teeth. Then I listened to my voicemail, only to hear my dentist's assistant say that I had two cavities that needed to be filled. She had a slot open at 2 PM the next day, or 10:30 the following Tuesday...neither of which worked, thanks to a business trip and meetings. 

I looked around our messy kitchen, where we were trying to figure out what to make for dinner (and coming up clueless), and my head started pounding, and my blood pressure went up about 300%. 

And I.Just.Shut.Down. I didn't start shouting, or crying; just closed in on myself. My husband thankfully took over and made C something to eat (cereal, for the record), and helped her get ready for bed. I kissed her sweet face goodnight, and then got myself ready for bed, because let's face it: the day just needed to be over. I woke up to catch an early flight to Baltimore (my last business trip of the year - yippee!), and as I was driving to Logan at 5:30 this morning, cursing the rain and sleet mix that was falling, it occurred to me that I should really just be thankful.

Thankful that my dentist is catching what are likely tiny cavities early on, and that my family has dental insurance.
Thankful that I have an amazing job, with coworkers and a manager that I adore, and that I have a flexible enough schedule that I can likely carve out some time next week to go get the fillings addressed.
Thankful that my endlessly supportive husband also has a good job, and that he is an involved partner and parent. 
Thankful that we have plenty of healthy food to eat. 
Thankful for the fact that we have a house, in a great neighborhood, with great schools that care enough to send four notices home.
Thankful for my beautiful little girl, who made me a card that said, "I hope you feel better tomorrow, Mommy."
Thankful for the fact that I have wonderful parents and sisters and in-laws, and that we will get to see them all over the course of the next few weeks.

And as I sit here on the plane this morning, writing this post with tears in my eyes, I remember that THIS is what the holiday season is all about. 

Whatever holiday you celebrate, whatever hardships you might be facing, I hope you will take a moment to just breathe, and appreciate all the good things about your life. Because there ARE plenty of good things, I promise you. 

Merry Christmas, everyone. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Secret projects = fun projects.

Just a few short weeks ago, my manager and mentor, Tom Beaton, was installed as the Chairman of the National Apartment Association. As a tribute, Team Dolben made him a video, which was shown to approximately 500 industry professionals. In order to pull this off, we had to sneak around like fiends for weeks, but had SO much fun putting this together. I'd like to extend a huge thank you to our fabulous video company, Capture The Market, for their help in making our vision come to life.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New routines don't come easy...or do they?

After essentially (and unintentionally...oops) taking the summer off from blogging, I am happy to be jumping back in. C just started kindergarten a few weeks ago, and she is LOVING it so far. (Cue Major Sigh of Relief.) What I thought would be a massive nightmare of a new routine is actually going quite smoothly. Yes, she's wiped out at the end of the day, but she's making new friends, learning tons, and adapting as well as any almost-six year old could possibly be expected to. Even the bus ride has been great: on the first day of school, C gave me and my husband each a big hug, and skipped to the bus like she'd been doing it for years. My eyes welled up with proud tears as I waved goodbye to my big girl — she was more than ready, and excited for her new routine. I credit her readiness in part to our incredibly well-prepared school district; over the last several months, we've attended multiple events, including a bus run where all of the incoming kindergarteners get on school buses and ride around the block, several weeks before school starts. We also talked extensively at home about how things would be different, set up play dates with new friends, went school-supply shopping together, and tried to help C get ready as best as we could.

And that brings me to a work-related thought: if a new project or process is presented to you, and discussed in detail multiple times before it's actually ever implemented, it suddenly becomes much less "scary." I just came back from the Property Solutions Summit in Park City, Utah, where three of my colleagues and I attended in-depth training sessions, picked the brains of product developers/managers, absorbed the wisdom of industry peers, and networked the heck out of a jam-packed three days. After all of that, I am recharged, informed, and incredibly excited about making some possible changes to our existing marketing/technology mix.

Change can be scary, but it doesn't have to be. Ask good questions, test things out, and suddenly, you find yourself not only ready for change, but welcoming it with open arms. (Though nothing is final at this point, we are certainly making progress, and that is always a good thing in my book!)

PS: The Summit was absolutely amazing: location, content, networking — everything you hope for in a conference. Check out #PSsummit for the highlights.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Changing Landscape of Lease-Ups

I was recently featured in the September issue of Multi-Housing News, along with my friends Josh McDonald and Greg Benson, on the changing landscape of lease-ups. If you're interested in reading the article, click here.

What trends are you seeing in technology? I'd love to hear more about what innovations are impacting your leasing efforts.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

There is gold in brevity.

I recently started reading "Never Eat Alone," and it got me to thinking about how we describe ourselves when meeting new people. I decided to ask my friends how they'd distill their roles down to just five words or less, and got some FABULOUS responses via Facebook. (Note: apparently multifamily is synonymous with Crazy Town for a large percentage of my friends.)
  • Nerdy facilitator.
  • Rent More Apartments.
  • Cut through multifamily velvet rope.
  • Spotlight Operator.
  • A blessing for my family.
  • That's easy, it's the same for everyone. "Mayor of Crazy Town." Done and done.
  • Ambassador of innovative technology.
  • Assistant Mayor of Crazy Town.
  • Teach 'em & Lease 'em.
  • When's my next call again?
  • I Rent in Crazy Town.
  • Capturing markets with video.
  • Making a difference!
  • Orchestrating the built environment creatively!
  • Fun!
  • Tell him to stop talking!

I'm still torn between dubbing myself Chief Marketer of Crazy Town and Jill of All Trades, but it's amazing how much you can portray in just five little words. (If I were to throw a bit of my personal life into the mix, Marketing Maven + Caffeinated Ballerina Wrangler is pretty darn accurate). Sometimes you need some flowery language to help paint a picture...and other times, getting rid of the fluff makes the most impact.

How would you describe yourself? Is it the same personally as professionally? And would your friends say the same? I challenge you to try it out: what you learn might just surprise you.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The best laid plans...

Have you ever had one of those days where things just get more bizarre by the minute? That happened to me yesterday — what should've been a fairly normal, straightforward travel day turned into a parade of craziness.

4:45 AM: Alarm goes off. I stagger to the shower and proceed to get ready for my trip to Baltimore.
5:28 AM: Creep downstairs (so as not to wake my sleeping family) and grab my suitcase.
5:30 AM: Walk outside to see SNOW on the ground.
5:31 AM: Curse Mother Nature, repeatedly. Did she not get the memo that winter is over?
6:10 AM: Arrive at Logan Airport, after a white-knuckled drive through snow/sleet.
6:15 AM: Stand in the longest security line I've ever seen at Southwest. Start mentally calculating whether I will be able to grab breakfast before my 7 AM departure.
6:25 AM: See my coworker through the glass, sitting calmly in the gate area. I smile and wave, and consider asking him to go buy me some breakfast. (I refrain.)
6:31 AM: Get through security, after being patted down, and bolt to get some breakfast. Run to gate.
6:40 AM: Flight is delayed.
6:50 AM: Boarding! Yippee. We will only be a few minutes delayed.
7:15 AM: Flight should be airborne, but instead, we are sitting at the gate, because a light is out. Maintenance is called. Everyone starts talking and/or checking email.
7:55 AM: Twenty people in shorts and tee shirts get off the plane, because they are not going to make their connection to Cancun.
8:15 AM: I decide to go sit in the cockpit, after the pilot comes on the PA system to announce that we are welcome to visit. I become friends with the pilot and first officer. The pilot eagerly shows me a picture of his Pride and Joy...which turns out to be a photo of Pride furniture polish, and Joy dish soap. 
8:30 AM: Maintenance actually arrives. (Of note: On a normal travel morning, this would mark our arrival time in Baltimore.)
8:35 AM: My coworker debates whether to get off the plane and cancel his trip altogether.
8:40 AM: Receive automated phone call from Southwest that our flight is now scheduled to leave at 9 o'clock. Coworker decides to stick it out.
9:00 AM: Plane fills with smoke. The entire plane is evacuated.
9:20 AM: I call my manager, and note that we might not be making it to Baltimore.
9:27 AM: My coworker officially decides to cancel his trip, and cheerfully wishes me good luck as he leaves the airport.
9:30 AM: Strange man in the gate area asks me if I am a model, or a dancer. (That would be no, and no.)
9:45 AM: Airline employee announces that every other Southwest flight to BWI is sold out, and there are no additional planes that they can use for our trip. Employee continues on to say that we cannot get back on the plane, but that they will retrieve our belongings if we tell them where we were sitting.
9:46 AM: I am first in line to get my bags.
10:00 AM: Call my husband, my manager, and my coworkers, to let them know that I am not going to be traveling after all. 
10:20 AM: Leave the airport, go home to get my laptop, and drive to the office.
11:40 AM: FINALLY arrive at the office.
11:50 AM: Team decides to go out to lunch. Hooray!
12:15 PM: Check my phone and learn that our scheduled flight was (shockingly) canceled.
1:45 PM: Back at my desk.
2:00 PM: Attempt to get through the nine zillion emails in my inbox.
3:47 PM: Hit the wall, since I have been up for what feels like approximately 100 hours. There is no work being accomplished today.

Whoever said business travel was glamorous either lived 50 years ago, or was not actually a business traveler.

What's the nuttiest travel situation you've ever encountered? This is for sure one of my top 5 trips.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Just Don't Go: an ode to winter travel.

This has been a long, cold, and very snowy winter, and like most everyone else, I'm more than ready for spring. This video, which is from a traffic reporter in Cincinnati, completely made my day, though — it manages to poke fun at all of the crazy delays/closings/poor commutes that winter inevitably brings, and combines it with a song that is on Auto Replay at the Graham house.

Inspired by Let It Go, we have Just Don't Go: an ode to winter travel. Brilliant.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Q&A: Social media on the Hot Seat

I recently received an email from my friend Tamela Coval, asking for my thoughts on four questions regarding social media:

Just because a multifamily company is using the latest social media application, how do we know that it translates into a respectable ROI? Just using social media doesn’t guarantee a respectable ROI. Before you launch any program, you need to develop a plan: what are your goals? From there, you can begin to develop and identify what “success” means.

Is there any evidence that shows prospects using Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. for apartment search actually converts to a lease? Yes. While we didn’t necessarily intend for our social sites to serve as lead gen channels, we have had prospects contact us through social media that have later leased.

Content generation is invaluable for brand reach and to create brand advocates. Do properties have the time and knowledge to create fresh and topical content or should they outsource it?  We have more than 50 properties using Facebook, and there are a small handful (six, to be exact) that use a content tool. However, these properties do also post their own content, and the bulk of our properties do not outsource any of their social efforts at all. When done right, social provides a great opportunity to connect with residents, prospects, and people in the greater community – but in order for it to work, it needs to look and sound authentic. Speaking from my own experience, it’s difficult to achieve that if you’re outsourcing efforts.

If content generation is outsourced, can the person(s) creating the content be trusted to create and post the correct content that reinforces the brand? Yes, I think so, but only if the on-site team is involved. Again, it goes back to that point of authenticity: someone sitting in Seattle probably doesn’t know much about Baltimore.

How would you respond to these questions? I'd love to hear your take.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Aim high.

I have a difficult time coming up with New Year's resolutions: I work out regularly, don't smoke, and am absolutely unwilling to give up caffeine. But on New Year's Eve, we ordered Chinese takeout, and I got the below fortune, which just seems...perfect. Though I am a bit of a worrywart, I am also an eternal optimist, and I believe that those who work hard are recognized accordingly.

So let us all aim high in hope and work in 2014. I have a feeling this will be an amazing year. Cheers!