Kaycee Miller of Rentec Direct: “Build relationships without an agenda”

Build relationships without an agenda. At a conference workshop one year, a presenter shared that once a month he asked someone to lunch to get to know them and expand his network. It could be a fellow professional in the industry, a local business owner, someone you met at the bank, or a friend-of-a-friend. I […]

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Build relationships without an agenda. At a conference workshop one year, a presenter shared that once a month he asked someone to lunch to get to know them and expand his network. It could be a fellow professional in the industry, a local business owner, someone you met at the bank, or a friend-of-a-friend. I love this advice! What an easy way to meet new people and talk about your career or life, in a non-threatening way. Pandemic aside, I can’t wait to go through the member list of the local chamber of commerce and do this very thing. I want to meet more people and build my network with no other motive than to learn something about someone along the way.

As a part of my series about strong women leaders of the Real Estate industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kaycee Miller.

In addition to owning and managing investment properties in Oregon, Kaycee Miller is the Marketing Director for Rentec Direct, a property management software and tenant screening solutions company. She specializes in real estate investments and property management and enjoys sharing industry insights, rental trends and advice for landlords, property managers and renters as a real estate writer. Outside of Rentec Direct, Kaycee is currently working on a multifamily development project that will add valuable workforce housing to her community.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?

Thanks so much for the opportunity to share my story, what an honor! I am a real estate writer and content creator, specializing in property management and real estate investments. But that wasn’t always the case. In fact, the first article I ever wrote when I joined the Rentec Direct marketing team was titled “From Wine to Real Estate,” which touched on this very topic.

I started working in wine marketing in college and thought it would be a “sexy” industry to pursue. But the glamour of wine events gets old quickly when you work from 6am-4am every single weekend during wedding season. Like so many professionals before me, it took a burnout in my career path to find a new passion. I am very grateful it happened early in my career, giving me a long future ahead to continue to build success in real estate.

I started as the primary writer responsible for Rentec Direct’s content at the time, and I quickly became an expert in almost every property management-related topic in order to create helpful and informative articles. Our audience reaches a huge range of real estate professionals, from property managers and investors to brokers and agents, along with landlords, vendors, and renters. At one point, I was writing over 7 articles a week, on topics like “How to Set Fair Market Rent” and “Tips for Buying a Renter Occupied Home.”

Our company has grown over the years, and I now work with an incredibly powerful team. We help thousands of real estate professionals streamline their workflow with our products, and engage with millions of people who benefit from our free and valuable content.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occured to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

When I first started making sales calls out of college, I wanted to sound professional and like I was the expert. I remember hating my name, because I thought it made me seem so young. I was also told to stop using the word “awesome” so much, for the same reason. I thought if I appeared too young, people wouldn’t take me seriously as a business professional.

I now look back on that experience and laugh at the idea that I couldn’t take ownership of my own name and was afraid of letting my personality shine through in my communication.

The reality is, we will constantly work with people of every age and every demographic. Age doesn’t equal “expert” or “experience”. It’s about what I have to say, my work ethic, my follow-through, my self-improvement, and my drive to continue to learn and grow that will compel others to want to work with me.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Rentec Direct is always looking for ways to enhance our property management software. Our number one goal with any new development is to help our clients and the industry be more efficient. We are currently working on a complete redesign of our property management software. All of the features will work better and faster for our clients, who will be able to find the tools they need quickly, streamlining their workflow. The redesign will work beautifully on any device, giving landlords and property managers the power to work effectively in the field and remotely. These tools are vital for modern property management, helping not only our clients but the property owners and the renters they serve.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think what makes Rentec truly stand out from our competitors is our customer service. Our software is consistently the highest-rated and easiest to learn solution on the market and this is largely thanks to our amazing Client Success team. They are wholly focused on building lasting relationships with clients and addressing their unique business needs instead of adhering to traditional call-center metrics like quotas and call times. Real-time customer feedback and requests are continually translated into updates to our software platform to improve user experience and make life easier for our clients.

I have a great example from one of our long-time clients. This remarkable individual has increased her property management portfolio from 56 to 734 properties while using our software. She recently found herself struggling with paying property owner proceeds. Her existing method was confusing and extremely time-consuming. Within a week of contacting our team, we were able to build the client a custom tool that she could use to increase efficiency. She was so thrilled to solve a problem she had been dealing with for years. Not only did our team help this client, but the tool they created is now available for all of our clients to use, saving them time and money.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Courtney Stuekerjuergen. My older sister, and my biggest inspiration. Courtney is brilliant, fun, and powerful. Throughout my life, she pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and be a leader. It wasn’t just about going out for a sports team, it was, “Kaycee, you should be captain of the team.” It wasn’t just “join a club,” it was, “Kaycee, you should be president of the club.

These experiences carried on throughout my life, pushing for me to always reach high. Don’t just join a team, be the leader of the team. And that’s one of the reasons I attribute my current position as the Director of Marketing for a top-performing company to Courtney. She helped me understand my value and to constantly work towards greatness.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. The Real Estate industry, like the Veterinarian, Nursing and Public Relations fields, is a women dominated industry. Yet despite this, less than 20 percent of senior positions in Real Estate companies are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what do you think is the cause of this imbalance?

I think we are making big strides by having conversations, like this, about gender inequality in the workplace, but it is clearly still an issue. I have spent a lot of time studying communication styles, and it is a fact that women and men communicate differently. I believe that the discrepancy between communication styles is one of the reasons why we still see an imbalance in women holding senior positions in the workplace, including the real estate industry.

Research on gendered communication examines these differences and it is supported by research on the gender gap in negotiation. In general, men will be assertive and dominant in conversation, while women use rapport and focus on relationship-building. These tactics alone can lead towards a man asking for and asserting himself into opportunities that lead to senior positions in the workforce more often than their female counterparts.

What 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender balance going forward?

Supportive and inclusive policies. Communication. And consequences.

For any customer-service focused company, there is an adage constantly re-playing at our core, “the customer is always right.” This is not always the case, however. If a customer is rude, if they use degrogitory communication, or communication that showcases inequality, we, as a company, need to have policies in place that protect our employees and support equality. This might mean letting a client know that we won’t tolerate inappropriate behavior or language, and that their business would be better suited somewhere else, if a change is not made. We can still have a customer-friendly company that doesn’t tolerate bad client behavior. It needs to come from leadership. Leadership needs to take ownership of it’s cultural values, communicate these values to employees and clients, and have policies in place for what to do if company values are not met. Additionally, there needs to be follow-through on consequences outlined in the policies, so people can learn and grow.

I use client interactions for my example, but this framework can relate to individual relationships, social groups, and communities as a whole. I believe it’s about taking ownership of equality and then taking a stand to enforce your beliefs.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Communication styles. I mentioned it before, but I strongly believe in the importance of understanding the role communication plays in our society. Women and men communicate differently. While a man can be seen as smart and powerful for using direct and forceful language, a woman could be labeled negatively for using the exact same language and delivery. As a result, I think women have to spend more time thinking about what they say, how they say it, and how it will be received, compared to men.

Parenting duties, specifically when it comes to childbirth. Let’s face it, it is a woman’s body that has a baby. Growing a human and delivering that human into the world is emotionally, mentally, and physically demanding. And women do it all the time while working and not missing a beat. But it is a challenge that men do not have to deal with in the same way. When I was pumping it would take me an hour each session to set up my equipment, pump, and then clean and store everything. I had to do that multiple times during the work day and it was so inefficient, it was frustrating.

Another challenge, specific to female parents, is breastfeeding as a professional! If you are a breastfeeding woman, you have to pump for each feeding you are not with your baby. Even if you have a designated space to pump, it takes time, equipment and it’s uncomfortable. There are a lot of women who work in an environment that is not conducive to pumping, whether it’s lack of support from the company, or not having a clean, private space to complete the task. It can become even more difficult.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry?

One thing that excites me about Real Estate is the cyclical nature of the industry. We can see huge highs and significant lows over and over again. Every time the market gets hot, we know that something could cause it to flatten or drop and vice versa. There is dependability amongst the chaos of the unknown.

Another thing that excites me about Real Estate is how many people it involves. When one thinks about Real Estate we first think of agents, buyers, sellers. But there are so many individuals that we can actually include in this list. Bankers, lenders, advisors, accountants, property managers, landlords, tenants, law-makers, advocates, lawyers, contractors, vendors, etc. And that doesn’t even touch on people like myself, software providers and all the people we employ to help the real estate industry do its job more effectively.

And my favorite part about Real Estate, is that at its core, we are helping people with one of their most important needs, housing. Rentec Direct was created to help landlords and property managers do their job better, so they can provide great service and great places to live for their residents. It feels good to be part of that equation.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?

Housing availability, the bureaucratic challenges involved in building houses, and the current materials cost for new building is currently concerning me. To give you an example, I am currently working on a project to build an 8 unit multifamily residential rental property in Oregon. We purchased the land in late 2019 and we only just broke ground in March of 2021. It took over a year to get all the approval and permits from the city to finally start building the project. This extra year means we are building at a time when materials, specifically lumber, are exponentially more expensive, and labor is scarce. If the permitting process was faster and easier to find information, we could have started earlier. The faster the project is completed, the sooner the inventory would be on the market for renters in need.

My solution is streamlined approval processes for new construction, incentives to build workforce housing to help with availability, and a simple way to find information and talk with the right people, so projects like mine can move along efficiently.

What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?

Always evolve and look at your processes to see how they can adapt. If something is working, don’t let it get stagnant over the years. Check in with your team and see if anything needs to be adjusted. Maybe nothing needs to change, but at least you will be talking about it. Give individuals a chance to share their ideas in an encouraging format, outside of an annual review.

Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?

Build relationships without an agenda. At a conference workshop one year, a presenter shared that once a month he asked someone to lunch to get to know them and expand his network. It could be a fellow professional in the industry, a local business owner, someone you met at the bank, or a friend-of-a-friend. I love this advice! What an easy way to meet new people and talk about your career or life, in a non-threatening way. Pandemic aside, I can’t wait to go through the member list of the local chamber of commerce and do this very thing. I want to meet more people and build my network with no other motive than to learn something about someone along the way.

Be responsive. Answer your phone. Respond to emails. Text back. Even if you don’t have time to give it your full attention right away, acknowledge the message and let them know you’ll get back to them with more information soon.

Engage with your community. Follow your local government to see what type of projects are going on in your community. Maybe someone is applying for a business license or a permit for an event or wants to build something new. If it sounds cool, write a letter of support. These letters are tremendously helpful for the person working on the project to get approval from local officials, and it can take only a few minutes of your time. In fact, we started working with our current real estate agent because he took 5 minutes to write an email in support of one of our projects. You never know what type of relationship you can establish by getting involved in your community.

Set boundaries. Along the same lines of being responsive and engaged in your community, realize that it is ok to set boundaries. Actually, it’s vital to your well being to set boundaries. It’s ok to say no to something that you don’t have the time or capacity to perform. The caveat is to communicate your boundaries. For example, iIf you don’t answer the phone after 5pm on weekdays, let people know. If you get asked to host or attend an event, and you aren’t able to, let people know right away. I think there is a lot of pressure on people to say yes and be accommodating, and that can come at the expense of our enjoyment of life.

You don’t always need the most expensive tools or programs for your business. There are a lot of fancy software programs out there that help people perform every task imaginable. When it comes to business and marketing, a lot of people think the most expensive can be the best. This is the case with web hosting, printed materials, photo-editing software, video-editing software, and graphic design. Do your research and find which affordable tools can do the same tasks at equal quality. They are out there, trust me.

Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

After facing the COVID-19 pandemic, I think we were all reminded how important it is for businesses to come together and support the greater good of the entire industry whenever possible. Working in marketing during this time, my main goal was to use our company’s skills and expertise to help the real estate industry adapt and change to the new normal. We worked with our industry partners to upgrade virtual management features, provided free educational resources to clients surrounding pandemic-related business advice, created a dedicated COVID-19 resource center that was available for anyone in the industry to access, and published aggregated data collected from our software platform in an attempt to determine how the industry was being impacted by the pandemic. Doing what we can to help the entire real estate industry get back on track is a big opportunity for us to inspire hope and change for so many.

How can our readers follow you online?

Visit us at RentecDirect.com, on social media @rentecdirect, or follow me on Twitter @thatrentergirl!

Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights!

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