Erin Rauch Career Background
What is your biggest career achievement?
- There are many ways to define success, but the most important definition to me includes leading ethically, creating a positive culture, and inspiring personal and professional excellence. Throughout my career in property management, I have quickly and organically risen to a leadership role without prior industry experience, been entrusted with the responsibility of revitalizing the systems, policies, and processes that our company relies on, and have become an active member in the industry community, all while going to school full time to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Each of these achievements can be attributed to my relentless pursuance of the aforementioned definition of success.
On a September evening in 2017, I had the pleasure of serving a group of real estate and property management professionals at the restaurant I worked for at the time. They were impressed with my anticipation of their needs, attention to detail, genuine enjoyment of the task, and systematic yet personal delivery of a seemingly simple occupation. I ended up going to work for that group of people, and the same skills that impressed them over dinner allowed me to flourish in the property management environment. The food & beverage industry (and the management I encountered there) is so ensconced in doing things the way they have always been done. Inefficient, illogical processes are preached, even when the people in the trenches (the servers, hosts, & bartenders) complain time and again that the systems are failing. Turnover is high because systems fail to change and employees are not heard.
To my pleasure, I found my new occupation could not be more highly contrasted. My ideas were received, and I was encouraged to find new ways of creating success. I gained popularity among my peers because I listened to their concerns, constructed a plan, and then lobbied for change. My passion for problem solving and efficiency was being rewarded by happier and more productive coworkers, and that fueled a fire to create change on a larger scale. Rapidly, my coworkers began coming to me when a problem arose, whether personal or professional. Moving into a position where my thoughts and ideas were highly respected was humbling, and I immediately recognized the responsibility I had to inspire my coworkers to own their work in the same way I did. By showing them that change can be made in a constructive, positive way, our work environment began to improve with greater acceleration each day. Crafting a better culture by solving problems and building relationships has been immensely rewarding.
As I continued to produce effective solutions, I was handed more and more trust and responsibility to reevaluate every aspect of how we do business. I knew that continuing to use my strong sense of logic, empathy, and justice to lead me towards the right solutions would only strengthen the trust rewarded to me, and in turn I could continue to advance the company in the right direction. Knowing that my owner and manager truly value my opinion and turn to me when solutions aren’t easy is a high achievement because it is a reflection of my character and dedication to greatness. I take so much pride in my work and my company, and being such an integral part of the business is a great accomplishment.
I am always looking to grow, change, and evolve, and I knew that learning as much as possible about the property management and real estate industries was hugely important in order to do so. After obtaining my real estate license, I began going to local housing commission meetings, joined a committee at the Property Management Association of West Michigan (PMAWM), started attending as many PMAWM events as possible, and started networking with professionals in the industry. I reached out to the director of the Rental Property Owners Association (RPOA), and after meeting over coffee he asked if I would teach a continuing education class on marketing and screening. Learning as much as possible and being able to share that knowledge is a passion of mine, and I am sure there is only more these rewarding industry opportunities to come.
What is your ultimate career goal within the rental housing industry?
- Housing is a fundamental human need. Without it, we struggle to lead fulfilling, productive lives. Without a safe place to call home, society cannot expect its citizens to hold a steady job, maintain their health, or develop and nurture meaningful relationships. Because of this, the property management industry plays a paramount role in impacting the lives of millions of people in the United States. Providing equal access to adequate housing, successfully managing owner assets, and navigating gritty, real-life situations (that are unavoidable in our industry) with integrity takes a special kind of person, or a special group of people. In order to truly be the best in our line of work, we must find a balance between compassion and fairness, subjectivity and rigidity, optimism and realism. My ultimate career goal is to cultivate the best professionals possible in order to positively impact the 35% of Americans who are renters and, as an industry, become an example of responsible business. This is achieved by supportive and inclusive culture; healthy and balanced professionals; refined systems and processes; and, superior education, training, and experience.
Culture affects the wellness of an organization and the wellness of whom the organization interacts with. Cultivating a positive, efficient, and diverse culture is every single person’s responsibility in the workplace. As a leader, it is my job to inspire personal responsibility and purpose in my team members. How we show up as individuals everyday compounds over time and results in how we show up with clients, customers, residents, owners, and so on. Whether it’s being empathetic towards a disgruntled applicant or handling a hoarding case with grace and dignity, these daily situations are the footprints we leave behind. Creating an infectiously positive culture means chasing greatness in all areas of life. It means listening to your peers and admitting when you’re wrong. It means creating a space for discussion, authenticity, and rawness. It means giving a voice to those who would not otherwise have one. I strive every day to not only lead by these examples but inspire others to do the same – to be their best selves.
Healthy culture leads to healthy professionals. Belonging is an understated human need. When we create organizations where people truly feel like they’re accepted, they flourish. And when they flourish, they help others flourish. Physically and mentally healthy people are more self-aware, more emotionally intelligent, and better at solving difficult problems in real time. This leads to forceful, genuine impact in the communities we work and live in.
A large portion of my current position has been to fine-tune our internal processes and overhaul the systems our employees rely on to successfully perform their jobs. This has been such a rewarding position, as I have had the pleasure of studying and experiencing every facet of this business, and have been able to collaborate with my peers to produce systems and processes that actually work. System analysis is not just manipulation of the physical system, but of how employees interact with it. Are skill sets aligned? Are the tasks involved tedious and mind-numbing? Is miscommunication likely? By listening to the needs of the individuals who are entrenched in the systems, we can specialize processes to increase efficiency and productivity. Improving systems means improving quality and quantity of service. Dedicating the resources to system refinement results in producing industry benchmarks, and therefore, a higher caliber industry.
Finally, providing access to education and training for both personal and professional development is one of my greatest passions. By providing these opportunities to industry professionals, a culture of lifelong learning is sustained. There is much virtue in being a learner – humility, curiosity, perseverance, etc. Instilling these values in our organizations changes the fundamental nature of our industry. I want to lead the way as an industry – to be an example for other industries, that we must take responsibility for how our action and inaction affects not just our employees, communities, or residents, but humanity. We absolutely have the power to infuse our workplaces with integrity, compassion, and unique problem-solving capabilities, and those infusions trickle out into society as a whole.
When all is said and done, I want to inspire the professionals around me to be their best selves and to live their purpose, so that those professionals create palpable change in the world. I want to help create an organization that extends its wellness to the huge portion of the population that we work so closely with. As an industry, we have the power to create real change, and my ultimate goal is to be a part of that.
What's one rental housing trend you have your eye on?
- While property management software isn’t necessarily “emerging,” it is certainly growing and evolving faster than ever. Software systems like Appfolio, Rentmanager, and Yardi offer property managers so many options for automation, removing a lot of the human error from being a landlord. In the near future, I imagine that property management software will begin to expand to include things like sophisticated project management tracking, data tracking for leasing agent performance over the life of the lease, and integrative maintenance systems that allow for comprehensive property and vendor reports. The more systems we can integrate under one umbrella (which is the ultimate goal of the software program), the better.
As a leasing manager, I currently track lease volume, proficiency, and delinquency rates for each of my agents (by hand) so that when we have a review, we can discuss what needs to be improved and what is going well in quantified detail. Being able to automatically run those reports for each agent would save me a huge amount of time and energy and most likely give me additional insight in a format that I could easily send to the agents each month.
If our maintenance team had a project management tool within the software, larger property rehabs and projects could be better conducted, saving everyone time and money. Owners could be sent automated reports on the status of the rehab and track how much is being spent at each step. This would differentiate day-to-day maintenance from larger scale projects in a way that led to better communication and efficiency.
The possibilities are nearly endless for changing the way we digitally track, manage, and report rental property. If organizations are not currently utilizing these programs (or not to their fullest potential), they will have to start in order to survive in the industry.