FAA Keynote Speaker Tells Industry to ‘Celebrate Change’

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorChampionsGate, Fla.–The opening session at the Florida Apartment Association (FAA) Education Conference & Trade Show in ChampionsGate, Fla. addressed the theme of the show, “Celebrating Change.”The keynote speaker, Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE, discussed the importance of embracing change within the apartment industry. However, she asserted, to truly embrace such change, managers must look outside the industry itself. In the context of the housing downturn, for example, people are turning away from homeownership, creating a shift towards multifamily housing, she said. With that in mind, she encourages managers to avail themselves to think differently.McDargh noted three general trends which she believes are significant for the industry to take note. The first, “experience economy—and now the authentic economy,” she explains as paying for the experience. In terms of the industry, it is not enough to have quality multifamily housing, she said, but rather that housing needs to translate into an experience for residents. Price alone will not give a property a competitive edge, but services and value are what will influence target demographics.McDargh pointed to the digital explosion and the movement towards green as two other major trends. She warned, however, that while it is important to “tend to trends, don’t change for the sake of change.” In terms of the increasing technological trend, she noted the importance of online communities and social networks, particularly when targeting a younger market who is much more likely to go online when apartment hunting for the first time. As an example of integrating the “authentic economy” with the digital explosion, McDargh discussed the possibility of creating a YouTube video of a property for a younger market, which can also provide a sense of authenticity if current residents are involved with its production and can offer a more real feeling of the property. Again, however, she cautioned that managers should not rely strictly on digital contact for their businesses.McDargh noted three skills she believes are necessary for change: adaptability, agility and alignment. With these abilities, apartment mangers have the chance to open themselves up to more business opportunities. In closing, she pointed out a need for fun within business, as well as a sense of teamwork, both of which will help to make change a distinct possibility. She said, “When you join with colleagues, then you can celebrate change.”