Adaptability Is Key

Magazine ,

By Kristi Novak, CAM, CAPS

Altman Management Company

We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.

 – Unknown

When I started my multifamily career 19 years ago, one of the first things I learned was that you never know what the day might bring. It’s actually what made me so excited about this career – no day is the same as the day before. “Expect the unexpected” doesn’t begin to capture some of the days and weeks I’ve had, and the past couple of years have only confirmed what we already knew.

Two years ago, the multifamily industry was really put to a test. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we closed our offices and amenities, implemented enhanced cleaning practices, and came up with creative events for residents who were staying home. Our staff members were deemed “essential workers,” and their jobs became more stressful than ever. During those early days of dealing with the pandemic, we began rethinking how we did business. The way that we operated had changed. New employee policies had to be written, new resident protocols were put into place, and a new way to lease apartments was established. The pandemic changed so quickly that new policies and procedures needed to be written and implemented monthly, weekly, and sometimes daily. Those who were willing to change succeeded, and those who were not willing definitely struggled.

In 2022, virtual and self-guided tours, work lounges for our stay-at-home residents, and other pandemic-inspired changes have become part of the new normal. The industry continues to face challenges such as hiring deficits, maintenance supply backorders, and higher costs for just about everything. Many residents are still working from home or just spending more time at home, and we need to be responsive to their changing needs and demands. With the high rent increases we have seen over the past year, residents are looking for a lot more service.

You have probably heard the saying, “The only constant in life is change,” and that definitely applies in the multifamily housing industry. Some changes are more challenging than others, and some seem to come fast and furious. The key to keeping up and even getting ahead of the changes is to be adaptable. You must accept that things will change and keep moving forward. Adaptable people can possess elasticlike energy, a willingness to bend, to break habits, and to challenge themselves when their circumstances change. They tend to face problems, pivot among distractions, and calmly proceed forward. Adaptable people are prone to think ahead and consistently focus on improvement.

Each day I have become more and more comfortable with metaphorically taking my hands off the steering wheel, trusting my instincts, and thinking on the spot. Though adaptability may not be inherent in you, it is something anybody can learn with time. Adjusting your expectations will go a long way in helping you flow with the winds of change. I do not have a crystal ball, nor do I know what the future will bring, BUT I do know that there will be more change, and our industry will continue to shift. 

I encourage you to adapt with the shifts and changes — after all, that’s how we survive and grow.