We didn’t set out to be a technology company — we just wanted to solve our scaling problems as a property management company.
A trend has been brewing in the property management industry, says Moshe Crane, host of The Curious Wire Podcast. That trend is owners/operators being pushed to create problem-specific technology solutions without the intent of entering the tech space.
“I have a feeling there are very few property management companies that really want to get into the tech business — especially when you're talking about building a core property management solution, which is no small lift,” she said. “We were wanting to scale, and we did over the course of seven years. Elmington Property Management grew from 5,000 units to 35,000 and doing that with a core software ecosystem that doesn't work well for you or that doesn't help you scale is a huge reason for a company to try to build their own solution.”
To allow for scaling, Kerri said she knew she’d have to come up with something completely new — a “one stop shop for everyone who's invested in the operational success of the asset”.
“Over the past 10 years, I've really fallen in love with property management. It's a really hard industry, because it's very decentralized,” she said. “We sat down and tried to figure out what would set us apart — what would really help us become better, more efficient, more loved, and in a successful property management company. We identified our top 10 boxes of metrics that we wanted to see every single day when we looked at an asset. It's about taking those 10 indicators and then putting them each into their own little snapshot so you can very quickly see them and ascertain which you need to start to problem solve for. Our database was structured in a way that allows us to create centralization and specialization of workflows in a way that I think is going to be transformative to the property management industry.”
For Moshe, companies like Peloton are successful because they take the time to teach users how to get the most out of the bike. They don’t just provide the equipment; they provide everything the user needs to reap all the benefits. So why aren’t property management software companies doing the same for their users?
In Kerri’s view, proptech has focused too much on creating “very specific solutions in a very structured and process-driven way”, rather than thinking holistically. To truly help those in property management, she says it became necessary to leave behind the fractured approach and draw attention to an all-encompassing solution.
“I think we are starting to realize these things as property management companies become more sophisticated,” she explained. “The current industry approach is doing it from the outside in — there are so many very specific point solutions or ancillary services out there today and now they are struggling really heavily with adoption. I think a lot of people today would say those things should actually be a part of your core system, whether it's the CRM that helps you communicate with your resident, or the maintenance app that allows you to manage centralized mobile work orders.”
When it was time for Fortress to sit down and assess what property management companies needed to become more “efficient, structured, and informed,” Kerri said they realized the answer was including point solutions in the core system.
“We needed to be able to proactively problem solve for our assets, for our users or our employees,” she said. “If you don't dive in and have an understanding of what is really driving your problems, you won't be able to solve them. I tried to come up with indicators that reveal those issues — we created a better experience with more clarity of information and an easier user interface.”
Kerri Davis is a die-hard problem solver
Some people and companies are skilled at problem solving, and some … not so much. Moshe wanted to know — does Kerri consider herself a problem solver?
The short answer — a resounding “yes”.
“I am by education and experience an accountant and attorney,” Kerri explained. “My husband would tell you I'm never the life of the party, but I am a diehard problem solver. It’s who I've always been and that can be great.”
It’s also what keeps her endlessly motivated, she said, equating her relentless drive to solve any problem to being “a dog with a bone”. Her advice to other would-be problem solvers? Delve deeper.
“One thing that I would always recommend to anyone who is trying to solve a problem — especially a property management company —is do your research and identify what your problem really is and then do your research on how you solve it,” said Kerri. “It might be that there is a point solution or an ancillary service that completely solves your problem, and you're not worried about adoption or complete integration or anything like that. After you've identified your problem — and you have done your research and try a few things out — a lot of the smaller point solutions will allow you to beta. Figure out what your best approach is and how large your problem is, and then how large the solution needs to be.”