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Property Management Brainstorm Podcast

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Episode 45: Hosting Landlord Seminars, Featuring Mike Connolly, Broker/Owner of East Bay Property Management

Bob Preston - Thursday, September 17, 2020

This episode is dedicated to property managers wanting to grown their business. Bob discusses hosting landlord seminars with Mike Connolly, Broker/Owner at East Bay Property Management of Freemont, CA. Mike's company has successfully hosted landlord seminars to bolster their business development efforts and grow their rental property portfolio.  Heading into the Fall of 2020, the market may be ripe for gaining new property management clients. Many self-managers of rental properties are not sure how to lease a property at tenant turnover within CDC measures for COVID-19 safety?  Might landlord seminars be an approach for you to bring in new clients to your property management business?

A full transcript of this podcast episode is below. 
Topics Covered

[3:25] Mike tells listeners about himself and his business at East Bay Property Management.

[7:15] Bob and Mike discuss the concept and premise of landlord seminars and why someone would want to attend.

[11:20] How frequently should landlord seminars be hosted and what is the ideal length to keep the attention of attendees?

[14:03] Mike explains his typical agenda for a landlord seminar and his “open kimono” approach to sharing everything he knows.

[15:45] Who is invited to attend and how can a property management company reach them?

[18:30] Is the market ripe for brining on new property management clients in the Fall of 2020 in the era of COVID-19?

[20:47] Take aways Mike provides to attendees upon leaving.

[24:05] If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

[26:10] Mike tells a great story about meeting his wife and the humorous irony of where the wedding was held.

Connect with Mike Connolly
East Bay Property Management Website
Mikes email:

Connect with Bob
North County Property Group

This episode is always available for listening, sharing, or download at Property Management Brainstorm. Subscribe to Property Management Brainstorm on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify,  TunedIn,  iHeart Radio and YouTube.

Bob Preston:                     01:11                    Welcome brainstormers to the property management brainstorm show. I am Bob Preston, your host broadcasting from our studio at North County Property Group in Del Mar California. If you're new here as always, I'm going to ask you to subscribe. So you have ongoing access to our great episodes. And if you like, what you hear, please, please, please pay it forward with a positive review. So today's episode is dedicated to all you property management listeners out there who are interested in continuing to grow your business early on in the COVID-19 pandemic. I will admit I was not sure what to do with our business development efforts at North County Property Group in March and April. Were property investors still going to hire property managers? I didn't have the answer to that question. Were marketing efforts going to fall on deaf ears and we're tenants even going to pay their rent? A lot of uncertainty at that time, for sure. But here we are in the fall of 2020, and it seems the market is ripe for gaining new property management clients. Many self-managers of rental properties are not sure the best practices during COVID-19, or maybe they are not sure to show and lease properties the right way, a tenant turnover with safety under CDC measures and guidelines. So, a lot of property management companies are actually throttling up again on their business development efforts and one business development effort that has always intrigued me that some property management companies are using successfully to bring in new clients is hosting landlord seminars. I have with me today as a guest on the show, a person who I saw speak about six months ago, a little more than six months ago with the California state chapter NARPM convention in Palm Springs on this very topic. And that's Mike Connolly, broker owner at East Bay Property Management of Fremont, California. A company that has successfully put on these types of landlord seminars to bolster their business development efforts and grow their portfolio. Welcome Mike to property management brainstorm. Hey, I've been excited about this episode because, you know, as we were chatting before we started, I got to see you speak at NARPM in February, and we've had a plan to do some landlord seminars ourselves. So I'm thrilled to have you on the show and I thought maybe a good starting place would be, if you can start off by just telling our listeners about yourself, how you got into property management. I know you do it with your brother and maybe a bit about your company East Bay Property Management.

Mike Connolly:                03:26                    Sure. Bob, well, basically this is my third career. I got to property management just a little over four years ago. I'm 61. So I'm not a spring chicken. And I, um, uh, am kind of a serial entrepreneur. Basically when I got into this business, I purchased a franchise. And when you, uh, and that only lasted about 18 months before myself and the franchise or parted ways, but one thing about buying a franchise is that once you write a check for quite a bit of money to get a particular territory, and then you make, uh, all the, uh, initial investments, you are in property management, you're not dabbling in it, you're you jumped in the water. So I can say that from the very beginning, I was a hundred percent committed to this business. And so that kind of makes me a little different than most property managers who kind of fall into it accidentally or out of, you know, a few properties here and there. I just dove into it four and a half years ago. And I'm in the Bay area of Northern California town called Fremont. And it's one of the largest in terms of square miles cities in the state. I cover eight cities besides Fremont, all within 20, 25 minutes of my office. And I currently manage right about 500 properties. Most of them single family homes, average rant, right around $3,000 a month. That is my business. In a nutshell.

Bob Preston:                     05:05                    That's an amazing growth trajectory in just four years. I mean, that's very, very impressive. Yeah.

Mike Connolly:                05:11                    Well, uh, as I mentioned, Bob, I didn't start this at 28. I was 58. So everything's been kind of on work speed since I started.

Bob Preston:                     05:20                    Good for you. Hey, I'm just out of curiosity, if you're willing to share, what were your previous two careers?

Mike Connolly:                05:25                    Well, I, um, am a fifth generation furniture guy, really like my great, great grandfather had a retail furniture store here in the Bay area. Then my, uh, great grandfather, grandfather father. And so when I got out of college, I went to school at Berkeley. I, uh, it was destined, I had to go into furniture. So I had a wholesale furniture business for 15 years. Grew that, sold it to a fortune 500 company and then went into full time Christian ministry for over 10 years. So that was my second career. I actually was a pastor of a church here in the Bay area.

Bob Preston:                     06:03                    No kidding. Yeah. I noticed that in your background. I think it might've been a LinkedIn or someplace. I noticed you have a degree in theology, right? Correct. Wow. Interesting.

Mike Connolly:                06:12                    So in property management, you need God on your side, right? It was a natural.

Bob Preston:                     06:19                    Okay. So you've already alluded to the fact that you have a robust business development program at East Bay Property Management. In fact, you know, you put on classes about it, right. For PMs, as I understood.

Mike Connolly:                06:30                    Not actually class does, I've done a, I did the national conference in, uh, 2019. I did a state conference, um, uh, earlier this year. So I've done some conferences, but not actual classes for property managers and some one-on-one training.

Bob Preston:                     06:45                    Okay. Available, I guess, as a mentor, somebody wanted to reach out to you. Yeah. I've listened to a couple of your videos. I've seen some of your materials. Like I said, I went to that state chapter conference out in NARPM and Palm Springs have lots of great ideas on how to build a business development program today. I'd like to focus on that one concept though, that we've been kicking around here and that's the hosting of landlord seminars. I am eager to hear more, seems like a lot of work and effort to put on an event like this, but I'd like to get your input on dart at the high level. How does it work?

Mike Connolly:                07:16                    Let me give you a little history of how I got into landlord seminars, because it seems like every property manager would like to put on landlord seminars, but none do. And it's, it's so simple to get started. I was a, I'd been in business just a little over a year and I was starting to advertise in an apartment magazine, the AOA magazine here in California, trying to see if I could get some apartment business going and the advertising manager for the magazine, because I was running a full page ad, decided to throw me a bone. And he said, Mike, how would you like to speak at one of our monthly apartment owner gatherings? We have one every month in Oakland and one every month in San Jose. And you could speak to them for two hours on just some basics of property managers.

Bob Preston:                     08:10                    Good way to get your feet wet, I guess, right. Have someone put you in front of a bunch of people

Mike Connolly:                08:14                    I said, I'd love to do it. So here I'd only been in business a little over a year and I'm in front of 80 apartment owners in Oakland who had been managing their apartments for decades. And I just simply in a very systematic way presented how to manage a property properly, how to properly do the rehab, how to advertise it, how to screen for tenants, how to do inspections. We talked about tax deductions, 1031 and all in a two-hour seminar and they just ate it up. And here I am just a rookie kind of just winging it. It was the problem was that both of those cities, Oakland and in San Jose were out of my trade area. In addition, a lot of these landlords were cheapskates and they were just do it yourself as they weren't going to go with my services. So after doing a couple of seminars in each location, I said to myself, you know what? I got to do these in my own office in Fremont for landlords, that own rental homes. So that's how I kind of fell into doing the seminars immediately started incorporating the seminars into my regular postcard mailings cause I'm mailing postcards four times a year to 17,000 absentee owners in my eight cities. And they started coming to my seminars.

Bob Preston:                     09:47                    Fantastic. So it sounds like your typical practice, I guess, pre COVID was to host them there in your office. You must have an open space where you can do that. Or maybe by now you've graduated to hosting them at a larger facility or something, but post COVID, I mean, are you still doing them in person or are you still doing the events? And if so, have they gone virtual? What's the current state of the, the landlord seminar?

Mike Connolly:                10:06                    It was interesting, Bob, is it? My last seminar was March 14th. It was a Saturday and I anticipated to have over a hundred there. And this is right before the Bay area shut down. And I had about 35 show up instead of a hundred and most of them were elderly. And so here I had 35 people in kind of close quarters. My office lobby is not that large. I can pack in maybe 80. I was splitting the seminar into an morning and an afternoon session. And, uh, so that, that was the last seminar that I had. Now, what I've done is put together a condensed 30 minute version of each of my two seminars. I get into my second seminar shortly and put them, posted them on my website. So any landlord that would be interested in, uh, getting kind of an appetizer of my seminar can see it on my website.

Bob Preston:                     11:07                    Attempted. Or have you thought about doing a virtual live event?

Mike Connolly:                11:11                    I have, I have kicked it around and I'm looking at January. 

Bob Preston:                     11:16                    Fantastic. Good for you. So how often, I guess, pre COVID where you were you planning and hosting these events?

Mike Connolly:                11:22                    So here's how it worked. Bob. I have been mailing for the last two years, every quarter, a four page newsletter to 17,000 absentee owners that I'm not doing business with the owner rental home in eight cities. And in the newsletter, I give them all kinds of tips on how to, uh, uh, manage their home better than they are now. And these are almost all do it yourself owners. And throughout the newsletter, I advertise my 12 basics, the property management seminar, it's $59. It's not free. The first couple of seminars I did, it was free, but guess what? People there was more of a value to something you can charge a little bit. And in my opinion, that seminar, if I had to put a price tag on it, it's worth $2,000 to a do it yourself.

Bob Preston:                     12:15                    I bet. And I think that if you charge for it, then they're more likely to show up. Whereas if it's for free, it's kind of like, well, you know, Hey, I don't need to go tonight. Or they put that beer glass of wine or whatever I got, I never make it over. Right. Yeah.

Mike Connolly:                12:28                    And I've, I've had, uh, owners say, well, I've got another friend. Who's a landlord. Can he come for free? And I say, absolutely not. Please bring them, but no, it's, you got to bring a check for $59. However, if you have an adult son or daughter or a spouse, bring them, uh, they're, they're complimentary. And, uh, then of course, I also advertise this to my existing owners. So my, uh, I, I have some owners that have nothing better to do than to come to a Saturday morning seminar and hear me speak for two hours on how I'm managing their house and this, uh, just, you know, it just builds credibility with your existing owners.

Bob Preston:                     13:11                    Absolutely. I mean, it may, it builds in further confidence that they're with the right property management company. Now you can only keep people's attention for so long. Now you mentioned you have sometimes a morning and an afternoon. What is the typical length of one of your seminars?

Mike Connolly:                13:24                    My seminars are always Saturday mornings from 10 to 12. I ask people to come 15 minutes early cause I have a nice brunch. I host it. As I mentioned in the lobby here at my office. And prior to having it in my office, I was actually renting a room down the street, but now I love having it here in my own office because people can see my business. They can see where my staff work. They can come into my office after the seminar and exchange cards. Talk a little bit about their property. So two hours, that is the perfect amount of time. I covered 12 points, 12 to 12 basics of property management. And uh, each one is about 10 minutes long. When I allow a little time for questions.

Bob Preston:                     14:14                    This is open kimono, right? You share all your tips and secrets. I mean, you don't hold anything back. I gather.

Mike Connolly:                14:18                    Don't hold anything back. I share them, share with them how to do the proper rehab, how to price a home, how to market it properly, how to get it on all the sites. We talk about a tenant screening because most of them are. They all think they know more about that than they do. And a home inspections. We talk about insurance, the move out and we talk about tax deductions, 10 31. I always begin the seminar with about 10 minutes of forecast of real estate here in the Bay area. Over the next 12 to 24 months, doesn't come from me. I use experts guys like Bruce Norris from ignores group down in Southern California. Who's, who's a real timing expert because I want to, to share, uh, with my owners that I know a little bit about the real estate market and, uh, you know, that, that kind of transcends into my, uh, tips and techniques. I also put on my website a couple of days before the seminar, all my forms, my leases, my attendant handbook, and I make that available for, uh, the $59 charge there. They're able to go to my website and download all those forms.

Bob Preston:                     15:39                    Wow. That's really generous to provide all that. Now you mentioned earlier, I heard you talk about out of area owners. So you have, I guess, access to some sort of a list. I mean, I think that's who you're inviting or mailing to. How do you acquire that list? Where do you get that?

Mike Connolly:                15:54                    I get that from my title company. Now I'm a broker. I don't sell real estate. I only manage it. My brother, Tom, who works in my office, he sells real estate. So he has a title company that he's been working with for a number of years. And the representative it's real simple. They just pull out on an Excel spreadsheet, every single name of an owner of a property that doesn't recite at that property that tells you it's a rental. So in Fremont, for instance, there are over 8,000 apps and fields that, that tells me there's 8,000 landlords that are rentals. Then I provide it to a mailing company, but put together my newsletter and have it printed. I do that out of state and the newsletter is ship right to the mailing company where they have fixed the label and mail it out.

Bob Preston:                     16:46                    I'm curious when you get people attending or maybe if you bring on new business as a result of your seminars, how many are people that are already with other property management companies and how many are, you know, maybe do it yourself, people, or, you know, from a percentage aspect or maybe even owners who have a second home, you know, who've never thought about renting it, but then they meet you. And they're like, so they're kind of three categories, right?

Mike Connolly:                17:06                    Well, I would say all those 100% are self-managing owners. Now we're not feeling out 17,000 newsletters. I'm getting right around 100 attendees at my seminar, my property management seminar, I'd say of those hundred attendees. You've got one bringing spouses and a daughter or son. So maybe you've got 60 to 70 actual property owners. And almost all of them are self-managing owners. You're going to get at the end of the seminar, in my case, four or five, who are going to immediately say, Mike, you take over my house. I've seen what you do it. It's not even close to what I can do. You, you go ahead and take it over. Let's talk next week. So that is going to happen immediately. But as we know, a lot of owners don't call us until they've got a vacancy. So owners that attended my seminar last year or the year before they now get a seat, they're calling me saying, I went to your seminar 18 months ago, Mike, it was great. You were great. I've now got a vacancy. I want to turn my house over to you.

Bob Preston:                     18:19                    It keeps giving, right? I mean, you sort of have this investment in them and they've appreciated your information. They keep coming back for more. I'm wondering if we've seen this, where we have had a steady flow of new business opportunities with property owners who have been self-managing, but now we've got COVID and they're saying things like, I don't know how to show this property safely. I don't want to have a bunch of people that I don't know coming into my house and I've got to meet them there. You guys have the CDC guidelines and the safety measures already in place. Can you take this for me? Right. I got to imagine that it would be prime time to start doing these seminars and maybe even do them virtually. I don't know. So, I'm just kind of brainstorming with you here now, but it seems like God, there's got to be a really great opportunity.

Mike Connolly:                19:06                    Yeah. I believe there is bond. I have, uh, since, uh, that the, uh, shelter in place bird started, I immediately thought I've got to do a postcard mailing. And matter of fact, the first postcard I did actually says shelter in place. Now you need property management more than ever for your rental home. And so I've, uh, mailed out a couple of subsequent, uh, postcards, not newsletter. I put those on the shelf for this year, but, um, you are just adding more complexity to the management process with COVID-19.

Bob Preston:                     19:43                    I remember in the early days of the pandemic, in fact, I've been suspended my podcast for a period of time because I felt I wasn't being real with myself to present myself as an expert in this industry when there was so much unknown about COVID-19 and what was going to happen and how to be safe and all these things. So I actually suspended my podcast for about, I think, 30 days, but now, you know, I think we all have our practices that we've implemented. We've done a lot of change at our company, and I know some of those changes will never go back, right? Because they're just such great ways to get people, to see the property virtually, to get them into properties virtually and do this sort of what we call the no touch lease. Right. Lisa move in. So those things I think would appeal to a lot of do it yourself. Landlords. Absolutely. I agree. If you have an agenda slide that you show in your PowerPoint, the very first thing, what are the items you have on that agenda?

Mike Connolly:                20:34                    No, when it's like bond, it's like making a listing presentation, not to just one potential owner, but to a room full.

Bob Preston:                     20:43                    Yeah. We all have our pitch kits, right? So that's probably not much different. What about takeaways? Do you, do you give them a kit to take away with them that has all this stuff in it or posted online where people who attend can log in and download things that they want?

Mike Connolly:                20:57                    Well, everybody gets, when they walk in a handout that they were going to fill in to keep them awake during the two hours. So they fill in the blank, the 12 steps. So they're walking away with a nice, some nice information and I give them a free coffee mug, a few other little, uh, knickknacks and of course brunch. And then they, uh, again, when I bring up my lease, that's, that's one of the 12 tiers. I, uh, let them know this lease is available on my website. Go ahead and download it. It's in a word document so you can change it to your format. And then I, uh, give them, uh, a copy of my tenant handbook, which is about 60 pages long that's on my website. Then a number of other forms, a security deposit return form, a move out form, an inspection form, a pet addendum. I put post them all on my website. So they're logging out with, like I said, in my opinion, the $2,000 price tag.

Bob Preston:                     22:03                    That's brilliant though, Mike, because, you know, if you're the typical kind of do it yourself, landlord, and you get home and you sort of spread all this stuff out on your coffee table, they're probably saying to themselves, yikes man, there's no way that I know enough to be able to work with all these documents and have the time to implement them. This guy though, Mike, you know, or Bob or whoever, he's got the team of people who are already doing it this way. So what, what am I thinking? Right. I think it's brilliant to share that much detail. How about competitors? Have you ever had a competitor try to crash one of your seminars and then, you know, you're kind of like, Hey dude, busted. I know you, you're not welcome here or do you let them come?

Mike Connolly:                22:42                    I have Bob, but you know, I've had a couple come in. They're right here in the Bay area. I've had a number of property managers outside of the Bay area, come to my seminars that have heard me speak either at the Narbonne convention or online that want to see it firsthand. And

Bob Preston:                     22:59                    That's different. That's cool. Right?

Mike Connolly:                23:02                    They're more than welcome. But to be honest with you, Bob, my competition are not other property managers here in the Bay area. It's the self-managing owner, you know, we're, I would say 80% of the 17,000 rental homes in the East Bay are managed by the owner and the other 20% girls split up between myself and some other property managers. We're all in this together. It's, it's, we're in the trenches. It's not easy. So I have no problem having a property manager come and visit. Yeah. I'm of that same belief.

Bob Preston:                     23:38                    I, you know, I put, I'm kind of open Komodo and transparent on our website. You can go and see our pricing. I don't care. You know, if people to secret shop us, they will. And my attitude towards this as well, you know what catch me if you can. Cause I think we have a pretty good program in place and I think we're ahead of the curve on most aspects. And uh, if another property management company wants to learn from us at North County property group or do something that we're doing or emulate us, that's just in its own way, kind of a compliment to the company. Right. So I heard you say, I think it was in one of your videos about kind of the, do it yourself, landlords, if you can't beat them, join them. And so I'm just curious what you meant by that.

Mike Connolly:                24:13                    I would say Bob, that I make about one prospective owner presentation a day, either on the phone or in person, I close about 1 of 3. Okay. The other two out of three, take my information and continue to do it themselves. Very rarely do I lose it to another property management company. They're just see if they can do it themselves. And so that's frustrating, but uh, my feeling is if they're not going to let me manage their property, then let me Reese show them how to do it. Right. Okay. Let me charge him $59 and have them come and see how to do it, right? Because you know, you're rising tide, lifts all boats. And if I give a, a self-managing landlord, how does to screen a tenant properly, how to run a credit score for crying out loud and which he's probably never done before. We're all better for it.

Bob Preston:                     25:09                    You know, that's interesting because I clearly, the, the benefit of the seminars for your company is bringing in new clients. I think that's the primary benefits you're looking for. But what I'm getting from you is that there's this also sort of intrinsic benefit of help a landlord, you know, and those things are all the karma aspects where these people might call you back or refer others to you that are kind of in tangent.

Mike Connolly:                25:34                    Absolutely. I've had people attend my seminar that have referred friends of theirs that are also landlords to use my services, but they still manage their property themselves. That's got Mike, I've got somebody that wants to talk to you about your services. What would about, you know, Mike? No, I'm fine. I've been doing it so long as I laugh.

Bob Preston:                     26:00                    I think that's a fun exchange. Like, Oh, we'll get you over here someday. You know, you can kind of almost poke fun at them or have like you say, laugh at the conversation. But I think that's terrific. Mike, I always like my guests to tell a brief story about themselves. So if you're willing and you've got maybe something that's been impactful on your life, maybe the way you run your business, I don't know. You can share with us, whatever you like, you have something for us today. That's a cool story.

Mike Connolly:                26:23                    Yeah. Bob, I've been married 27 years. Wow. Congratulations. Most people meet their wife in a bar and get married in the church. Okay. I met my wife in a church. I got married in a bar. That's awesome. So here's how it happened. Um, basically 27 and a half years ago, my wife got invited to a church that I was one of the pastors at. And, uh, I met her and, uh, 30 days later I proposed to her and four months later we were married. So we met in a church and we were getting married at a winery in Sonoma County outside, but it rained that day on our wedding day. So we had to get married in the tasting room. Okay. So here we are here we are in this tasting room getting married and I can see in the background behind all the guests, people tasting mine. So we were literally in a bar and people were screaming out, you know, Hey, go for it. Get married.

Bob Preston:                     27:31                    Cheers. Yeah, I can. It's a great visual mic. I can just sort of envision like people in the background, uh, you know, sipping their wine. And while you guys were trying to get married and barrel, you know, maybe wood barrels kind of standing around on the floor. It's a great visual. Yeah,

Mike Connolly:                27:45                    Exactly. So, and then I always let people know, you know, what the most difficult year of marriage is, right? Whatever one you're in. It's supposed to say that.

Bob Preston:                     27:58                    Yeah. I was one of the ones who met my wife in a bar. In fact, it was in Mexico and Rosarito Beach. And the very first thing you do when you go into these bars, this has been years ago, you know, over 20 years ago, myself is a, in Mexico, you buy one of these buckets of Coronas, right? So I get there. A bunch of friends are hanging out and I walk up to my wife and I say, would you like a Corona? And those were first words to my wife. And we still laugh about this to this, to this day. Hey Mike, this is really good stuff. I can't thank you enough for coming on the show. Super great information. And I'd love to continue. But in the interest of time, we have to wrap things up today. Any last words, tips, or if someone wanted to get in touch with you and ask you for advice, how would they?

Mike Connolly:                28:36                    Well, the last tip I want to give is don't give up. Okay? So you, you make a mailing, you have maybe three or four people show up at your seminar. That's a great start, do another mailing 90 days later. And it's just going to grow. And people will notice that, Hey, this person, this man or woman that's doing property management is really the expert in my area. And, uh, the business will come to you if you stay with it. So that's what I'd recommend. If anybody at all wants my PowerPoint slides or my, uh, any information at all regarding my landlord marketing or anything else that I do, they can email me and I gladly send it to them. That's Mike at East Bay, P C Peter, Mary

Bob Preston:                     29:32                    I'll put that if it's okay with you in the episode notes too. So people can have reference to that. Mike, this has been a great episode. I can't thank you enough for coming on the show we got to wrap up. So I'd like to make another quick plug to our listeners to click on the subscribe button and please give us a like Mike, that goes for you too. You got to subscribe and give us a, like, by the way, you're an official brainstormer. Now that's what I say to everybody who comes on the show, right? You get this little badge of honor as a, as a brainstormer, please click on subscribe, give us a, like, pay it forward with a positive review. So that helps encourage more great guests like Mike to come on our show. And that concludes today's episode. Thank you for joining the property management brainstorm show. Until next time we will be in the field, working hard for our clients to keep their properties properly, managed and maintain top tenant relations. And we will catch you next time.

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