Start with these basic questions, and give yourself very honest answers:
- What kind of mobile home park operator do you want to be?
- What are you trying to achieve by owning the park?
- What are your goals and vision for the property?
The answers to these questions will help you understand how you should operate your park, and will guide the majority of short and long-term decisions.
At 52TEN, we aim to be the best operator of mobile home parks in Arizona, without exception. To be the best, requires a process for operating capable of propelling our mobile home parks past the competition. We’ve adopted a proven system for operations, based on a foundational philosophy called Traction, and it has transformed our business.
Traction is built on a handful of foundational pieces that make it a powerful tool for achieving your operational goals.
Establishing the Vision: Your End Goal for the Property
How do you know which road to take if you’re not clear where you’re going? If you lack vision and direction, you’re likely to take the wrong road. That seems like an obvious idea, but it’s one that’s often overlooked by mobile home park operators.
At 52TEN, we start by establishing both company-level and property-level vision. We have a clear vision for what we want to do as a company overall, and we also have particular, unique goals for each property we operate.
Establishing a vision starts with answering these questions:
- What are our core values?
- What is our core focus?
- What is our 10-year target?
- What is our marketing strategy?
- What does the three-year picture look like?
- What’s the one-year plan?
- What are our quarterly goals?
- What issues do we have to deal with to get there?
Overkill? Maybe. But we are long-term holders of our properties, and establishing this foundational structure for all our properties will inevitably help us make better decisions about people, processes, finances, strategies, and customers over the long haul.
If the end goal is a short-term hold, the principles of this process still apply, however. You just need to make your own adjustments to fit your needs.
Putting the Right People in the Right Seat
We’re not talking here just about the physical ability of the people you put into operational roles. It’s also about having an underlying belief in your team members and finding the right people to support your vision of the park you want to operate. You wouldn’t hire someone with terrible people skills to answer the phone and show prospective residents around the park, would you?
By establishing your vision, you’ve created a filter you can use to hire everyone on your team. You know what you want from your team members, so you know if a particular person fits the bill. If you surround yourself with great people and put them in the right seats, you will be successful.
Establishing the Metrics that Matter
The income, expense, and NOI numbers are important, but they’re not all that we’re talking about here. Those numbers give you a rearview-mirror view of how your park is operating, and I’d rather be looking through the windshield.
I mean that everyone on your team should have a number. Establish your team members’ most important weekly tasks, then apply a number to each of the tasks. When you review the numbers, you’ll be able to react and make adjustments before it’s too late. When everyone from your maintenance team to your high level managers have metrics they’re accountable for, you’ll have buy-in from everyone and the data you need to make good decisions.
The Real Issues That Halt Progress
Your park will have issues. Every park does. But the important issue is not that the toilet is leaking. The important issues are the ones that hold the team back from getting to their weekly, quarterly, and one-year goals.
If you’re working toward your goals like we are, you expect issues, because you’re always pushing the property forward. How you identify the issues, discuss them, and solve them is what will separate your park from the competition.
Find a place where these issues can be written down by everyone (I prefer a central location online). Everyone must feel comfortable discussing the real issue, so encourage a good open line of discussion. On your weekly calls with the team, talk through the issues and solve them. The biggest takeaway from this process is that you must be prepared to make the decision that will solve each issue as it arises. Procrastination will kill progress.
Having Core Processes
Every park has a set of core processes, whether you recognize it or not. It’s the steps you take to hire your manager, how you like the pool cleaned, or what you do when a rental or pad becomes vacant.
Having simple written processes for each task gets everyone on the same page, streamlines tasks, saves time, and delivers predictable results for both your team members and your customers. Most importantly, defining and writing down processes allows you to think through how you want things done.
Putting the Plan into Action
After all that work, all you really have is a plan. It’s time to put that plan in action. That happens in annual meetings, quarterly meetings, and weekly meetings (I like to use Basecamp as the online task management/pivot point for my team). From those meetings, you generate tasks that are actionable and measurable. Everyone is accountable and focused on the goals, which can only create a better park.
The Foundation at Work
After you’ve developed your park’s vision, hired the right people, determined your key metrics, determined how to tackle key issues, documented your processes, and scheduled meetings to ensure the most important tasks are getting done, your park will be aimed at your goals, no matter what they are.
I need to give a special thank you to Gino Wickman for his teachings in the EOS. It is, in my opinion, the most comprehensive approach to running a business and property.