By: National Apartment Association (NAA), Dr. Debbie Phillips
This review will be a little different. The book is a 750+ page collaboration effort of the titans in our industry. It is an overview of the various sectors within multifamily housing as a tool for educators.
The book is long. It’s dense. It is well constructed and needs to be a reference for everyone in the apartment industry.
I am not going to write an in-depth review of this book. It should be reference material. My story around this book is a story worth telling though.
In the office of one of my mentors, Jeff Lowry, I asked if he could recommend a book to learn some good benchmarks for the various operations of our business.
In typical Jeff fashion, he set back, paused and with his slow but deliberate draw stated, “well, I helped write a book about that once.”
I laughed and shook my head and two weeks later he called me to his office. He proceeded to hand me a 750 page textbook with notes scribbled throughout it. He told me the main author, Dr. Debbie, left her mark on the book.
As I grabbed the book he said, “I’ll give you this book under one condition.”
“Yes?” I waited.
“You have to come to NAA in Chicago to meet Dr. Debbie,” Jeff smirked.
I bought my ticket.
I dove into the book and finished it over a couple of months and a couple of months later I was preparing for Chicago.
I spent time planning the days and intended on making the most of them. I planned on taking a colleague with me but a day prior his wife came down with COVID.
I was going alone. I felt a little insecure about that.
I arrived Sunday and checked into my hotel, The Palmer House, the oldest hotel in Chicago. It was absolutely gorgeous. As a joke I asked if they had any free upgrades. The clerk laughed and said, “You know, I really like your accent. And actually, yes we had several cancellations and have a suite with a city view I can put you in.”
HA! What luck! Just had to ask.
The gym had recently been finished and was fantastic.
The next day I had been invited to play in a golf tournament at the Cog Hill Number 4 Course where they used to play the PGA BMW Championship.
I played with the VP’s of business development for a top 5 property management company in the nation. We talked about family, babies, hometowns, and made fun of each other’s swings the entire day.
Of course, we talked shop. It ended with setting up some introductory calls with some of their clients who were gearing up to sell their properties.
Success. We had fun, got to know each other better, and left with a plan that was a win for both of us.
Spontaneous: They mentioned they had an extra ticket to the Maroon 5 concert that night. I was tired and didn’t really know any Maroon 5 songs. (PS my music is limited to 1980-2000 country and minimal rock that you’d hear in a 2003 high school weight room.)
I said yes.
Turns out the tickets were to a house directly next door to Wrigley field. It was 5 stories tall and had 2 rooftops where you could see into the concert.
The food was free and the company was incredible. I met with multiple vertical startups, owners, and even friends from back home unexpectedly. I set up calls for the weeks later and hit my pillow exhausted that night.
Glad I said yes.
That morning I checked into the conference and met up with my colleagues from my local association. I attended a couple of classes and wrote down some nuggets to look into further.
Pro tip: I wrote down the speaker’s info next to my notes so I can reach out to them later.
That night I met up with my friends from my association for an architectural river tour. I am fascinated by unique and storied buildings and this tour had all of that and more. These are pictures I took on my phone.
After that, we had Chicago style pizza at Lou Malnati’s.
The day I was to meet the author, Dr. Debbie.
I attended more classes that morning and took down more golden nuggets. I showed up at the meeting spot that afternoon and saw Jeff Lowry waiting for me.
“She likes to talk,” he jested as he nodded to her classroom.
I looked and saw a little lady throwing her hands in the air and screaming, “I’ll be there in a minute.”
What did Jeff get me into?
Minutes later this lady came out to meet us and stated, “Now what are we going to do together?”
Negative self talk. “What do I have to offer?”
I proceeded to watch a master of engagement at work. Debbie had misplaced her eye glasses so we walked to another classroom where she spoke earlier that day.
As we walked countless people screamed and ran up to her. She stopped them every time and said, “I’m going to make your day. You have to meet my new friend Albert. He is a rising star and you need to know him.”
After each interaction she would tell me strategically who that person was and why I needed to know them in the future.
Who is this lady? She is a force of nature.
We sat down and she asked me about my story. She was engaged and asked unique and probing questions.
She shared her story and how there are 3 stages of a career.
- Making it.
- Mastering it.
- Making it meaningful.
She told me she is in the stage of making it meaningful.
She had spent her career teaching real estate to those that didn’t think it was attainable. And now she wants to reach out to Historical Black Colleges and facilitate education in real estate.
Wow. What a mission.
She abruptly stood up and said, “Come with me. There is a reception you need to be at.”
We followed a small crowd and minutes later we walked into a “Hall of Fame” reception. It was a small reception of past NAA head Chairmen. The elite of the elite. The actual top leaders of our industry.
She walked up to the first person. She’s not going to say that over the top intro is she…
“I AM GOING TO MAKE YOUR DAY! YOU HAVE TO MEET MY NEW FRIEND ALBERT! HE IS THE FUTURE AND I HAVE ADOPTED HIM!”
I’m sweating at this point but this room has so much experience and knowledge and this is awesome. Go!
I proceeded to pull the life story out of half a dozen legends in my industry. I shared the cliff notes of mine and showed them pictures of my wife and kids. A lot of small talk but several cell phone numbers were exchanged.
That was laying more foundation for the future.
Debbie found me later at this reception talking to a legend and said she had to leave.
Three hours had passed. Huh?
I left with my head spinning and running late to my dinner reservation.
As I stood outside waiting for my Uber, I looked over my shoulder and saw a familiar face. The Regional VP for Costar in our area.
“Man it’s good to see a handsome face from Texas!” I awkwardly screamed.
We briefly caught up and as I was getting in the car he said, “hey you wanna go to a Cubs game with me tomorrow?”
“Umm yes. 100%! I’m in!”
At dinner, I met with a new key vendor for our local association. A tech startup that is looking to scale. Again, we talked about their story, how they started, what they did before, how that led them to what they love. The good stuff. Hearing people’s journey and story is fascinating and you learn so much while breaking down barriers with them. Plus, I got to have a good old fashioned Chicago steak in the basement of an old historic building.
What. A. Day.
The last day of the conference. Again, soaked up the last couple of classes. Then hit the tradeshow floor to say goodbye to some friends.
That afternoon I hit up the Shedd Aquarium. I downloaded a book about a serial killer from Chicago during the world’s fair at the turn of the century. I listened to it and checked out every exhibit.
On my walk back to my hotel I walked through a couple of parks that just happened to be part of the setting of the current chapter…about a serial killer. I walked fast.
That evening I met up with the Costar group at the front gate at Wrigley.
“You’re going to love this,” they said walking into the stadium.
I had no idea where our seats were so I just followed. Turns out they had the entire club level suite in left field. HA. What in the world? I soaked it up. Wrigley is iconic and full of history. I crushed a couple of hot dogs and then met half a dozen people.
One guy in particular was running around making sure everyone was set up with tickets, food, and drinks. I liked that.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“I’m Fred,” he said.
We made small talk about our kids. He has two boys and so do I. I asked about the early stages and we watched the game while talking about our boys.
“I’ve got seats behind home plate. You wanna go check them out?” he subtly asked.
“Umm yes. I would love that!”
Turns out Fred is the President of Costar the company that owns apartments.com among others.
We went and set 9 rows up directly behind home plate. The start of that inning the Cubs were down 3-0. We saw 2 home runs that inning and all of a sudden the Cubs were up 5-3. The 7th inning stretch began and we belted “Take me out to the ball game” together like a couple little league players.
We walked back up to the club level. I told him how thankful I was. I told him we may be a small shop now but that won’t always be the case.
He said, “I know. I can see that.”
Sometimes a compliment or acknowledgment from someone you respect can carry you through some rough patches. I’m going to hang onto that one for a while.
Don’t be afraid to encourage others. They’ll need it when things get tough.
I ordered an Uber and packed for home.
Wow. What a week. I honestly felt that I squeezed every ounce that I am capable of out of it.
I told myself that if I am going to be away from my wife and kids for 5 nights, I am going to make my time worth it.
Why tell this story?
I wanted to share the great adventure life can be when you find where your unique ability, passion, and opportunity intersect.
God has his fingers all over my business. He is using it and using me.
I had to commit.
I bought that ticket to get to Chicago.
I asked for people’s time that I wanted to get to know better.
I had courage and said yes to things even when I felt insecure or tired.
It resulted in a great adventure that will have a great impact on my business.
What a life. What an adventure. I am grateful and energized. I hope this inspires you.
We all feel insecure at times but having a few seconds of courage can make for a big adventure.