Did you ever notice how Olympic gymnasts often smile at key moments as they execute those difficult maneuvers? I sincerely doubt that it is because they are relaxed and having fun. I suspect it is because they are marketing to their “customers”—the judges and the public. Even though they are doing something that is exceedingly taxing, that takes all their skill and ability pushing themselves to their very limits and beyond, they are dedicated and aware enough to go for that extra bit that can make the difference between gold and bronze, or even a no-medal placement.

The Collier Companies specializes in university housing. We provide apartments for students, faculty, and staff; only 20% of our portfolio is market rate. A vital key to success in university housing is successful execution of “turn,” which is the every-August process of turning (inspecting, repairing, cleaning, painting, carpet and furniture replacement as needed) about 60% of your units in the very few days you have between the former and incoming residents.

Turn is an annual challenge, requiring a great deal of logistical preparation, surge effort, and a LOT of extra hours. People are pushed to the max. Some get overwhelmed, where just getting the basics done seems like a monumental task, much less maintaining spit and polish. It is easy to allow things to get messy or descend into chaos, for move-out debris to accumulate around the dumpsters, for the hallways and grounds to become sub-standard.

Nonetheless, we insist that even during turn appearances be maintained, that curb appeal stay sharp, litter patrols continue, and that the community and clubhouse stay neat and crisp, that standards don’t slip. That we plan and prepare and budget (such as outside vendors to do hallway or dumpster cleaning or even litter pick up that might normally be done by in-house staff) at a deep enough level, that we have contingency plans and reserves that let us get the job done AND look smart while we do it.

Why is it important, even mission critical, that communities stay clean and crisp even in the depths of turn? Several reasons:

1. We want to make a good first impression. Many of our new residents and their parents are seeing our communities for the first time or for the first time in a long time. We know that making a good first impression is an important start to a great relationship.

2. We are still leasing! People continue looking for places even after school starts, all the way through drop/add and beyond. We want their business, and looking sharp (especially when others do not) is a great way to earn their trust.

3. It is who we are. We take great care of our communities and our Customers and we take pride in being good at what we do. We have been in this business for more than 30 years; we are the professionals. We provide homes, and homes are one of the most important things in people’s lives. We take that responsibility seriously. We know that we provide shelter not just for the body (four walls and a roof) but for the spirit as well (a friendly atmosphere, a welcome place to be).

Frequently, the importance of doing a task well is followed by the importance of looking good while you do it.

The applications are universal:
•  the persuasiveness of the best legal brief can be undermined by glaring grammatical or spelling errors
•  the best job interviewee can be undercut by a slovenly appearance
•  the most dependable of products sell better when attractively styled

This is a classic from the NSC Blog archive, originally posted July 21, 2008.