Tips for Award-Winning Performance

By Teresa O’Dea Hein, Managing EditorMills Properties Inc. recently took home a total of seven prizes at this year’s “Rising Star of the Year Awards” banquet, organized by the St. Louis Apartment Association (SLAA). Among Mills’ honors is the prestigious title of Management Company of the Year, which it has won a total of five times since 1998. Plus, six Mills staffers earned SLAA honors. Mills individual award winners were Jill Wittenauer, Groundsperson of the Year, 1-200 Units; Thomas Johnson, as Marketing Director of the Year; Porsche Kemp as Maintenance Tech of the Year, 1–200 Units; Melissa Preusser, Housekeeper of the Year; Robert O’Brien, Maintenance Supervisor of the Year, 201–400 Units; and West End Terrace, Property of the Year (Market), Post-1990, 1–200 Units.To learn how this property management company consistently achieves top-notch results, Multi-Housing News spoke with Jan Wiesler (pictured), senior vice president of operations for Mills Management. MHN: How does the company maintain this topnotch performance on an ongoing basis?Jan Wiesler: I attribute our winning tradition to the high standards and dedication of our associates. They are the faces and the reputation of our organization. We invest time and training in making sure every associate feels their value to the company and knows this is not just a job, it is a great career path and the future of our company. Everyone knows the four key P’s of property management are People, Product, Price and Promotion. At Mills, we foster the attitude that the People “P” is what sets us apart. MHN: How can other property managers emulate Mills’ award-winning results?Wiesler: Our successful performance in 2007 is due to consistent demonstration of some basic fundamentals that we strive to achieve every day, such as setting goals and explaining what success looks like, great service, execution of standards, educating our associates to help them realize the best results and promotion from within the organization. Every associate knows that we have three customers–our owners, our residents and our fellow associates. And this is not only for the folks on site, our Accounting team, Human Resources team, Executive management team and all departments have a true “all hands on deck” attitude toward helping everyone achieve their highest potential and making all of our customers happy. Keeping this philosophy in the front of everyone’s mind goes a long way in covering all the bases in property management. I think it has resulted in the most extraordinary group of property management professionals in St. Louis. MHN: What advice could you share with other multifamily property managers?Wiesler: My advice to anyone in business would be to ask your people what they need to reach the goals. We did this with a survey when I first came to Mills, and I was surprised and very pleased with what they wanted. It was simple and achievable. They wanted more education initiatives and training in order to do their jobs better. Mills responded with several programs including on-line training classes, the development of classes taught in person by company associates who excel in certain areas and we also outsourced some of the training classes through IREM and the St. Louis Apartment Association (SLAA). It resulted in our being able to advance many people’s careers and a greater feeling of satisfaction the associates have for what they do. Our ROI shows in the organization’s results for the year!Mills currently owns and manages over 6,000 rental units in the St. Louis and Columbia, Mo. markets as well as in Carbondale, Ill. It was founded in 1979 to develop, own and manage real estate in the St. Louis market. In the mid 1990s, Mills Properties made the strategic decision to focus solely on its core competency–multifamily properties—and over time sold more than $65 million of office buildings, shopping centers and hotels. It has since purchased or developed in excess of $190 million in apartment communities.