Property Management Blog

Building A Business


Bob Preston - Monday, August 24, 2020
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The following blog post is a time-stamped, full transcript of Bob Preston’s interview of Kellie Tollifson of T-Square Properties and President of NARPM. The episode was recorded August 20, 2020 and published on the Property Management Brainstorm Podcast. The audio version of this podcast can be found at this link of the North County Property Group website, as Episode 43- Building a Solid Property Management Company: Property Management Brainstorm Show. 


Bob Preston:                     01:09                    Welcome brainstormers to the Property Management Brainstorm show. I'm Bob Preston, your host, and I am broadcasting from our studio at North County Property Group in Del Mar, California. If you're new here, please consider to subscribe because you want to have ongoing access to all of our great episodes. And if you like what you hear, pay it forward with a positive review on this episode of property management brainstorm. The focus will be on what it takes to build and grow a property management business from the ground up. And the importance of the support provided by our national organization, which is called the National Association of Residential Property Managers, otherwise known as NARPM. Today's guest on the show is none other than Kellie Tollifson owner of T-square Properties in Washington state, which has grown from the ground up and also is the national president of our industry organization, which I just mentioned NARPM. Kellie is also an addition to that, a mentor and coach for hire. So, we will get into that a bit to Kellie. Hey, I don't think any of us in the property management business said as kids, I want to be a property manager when I grow up. Right. And I got a laugh about that, but you've been on a journey yourself, and I'd love to hear that about you, your background and how you started in property management.

Kellie Tollifson:                02:25                    That is a great, great comment. I have my husband and I have three children and not one of them has said as they've watched it and grown up in it that they want to be a property manager. So, you're right. I don't think even knowing about it.

Bob Preston:                     02:38                    I sucked my son into it, by the way.

Kellie Tollifson:                02:40                    Yeah. I haven't been able to do it yet. We do have a daughter that's in the industry, but not here in our company. She's works in Idaho. So, you're right for us it started out as, just as, as a personal investment plan for us. Um, my husband decided that he would get his broker's license and work his way actually in Southern California. We lived down in Mission Viejo, how for a couple of years, right after we first got married and he found some HUD foreclosures, and that was the niche that we, we kind of logged into and, and follow that track for a while. And then as we started building a family and I became a stay at home mom, it gave us great flexibility to be able to turn properties, earn an income while my husband was working in the corporate world and build a little portfolio for ourselves. And, um, we got to know so much about it that we decided, well, we could maybe do this as a business. And so again, still staying home, you know, neighbors came over and one neighbor came over one time and said, Hey, I'm moving to Eastern Washington, I have five rentals. I know you guys have some, can you rent them? Can you manage them for me? And we kind of said, yeah, I think we can. And so that built and built and built and so brick by brick, right? Exactly. Yeah. That was a much better land. I'm a much better manager for other people than a landlord for myself. I I'm just a softy when it comes to dealing with tenants and stuff. 

Bob Preston:                     04:05                    My wife says that about me regarding maintenance of our home, like take care of all these homes. Why can't you keep ours maintained?

Kellie Tollifson:                04:12                    So, it's true. It's like the cobbler's children have no shoes. Right. 

Bob Preston:                     04:16                    Okay. So, you built properties brick by brick. I understand you guys also at T-Square, you do HOAs as well. I'm curious how you got into that and what that first step into HOA life was like.

Kellie Tollifson:                04:27                    That it was another kind of accident kind of, you know, I think a lot of us that have a management company that have gotten into this as a business, third party managers, and we got into it almost by accident. You know, like you said, nobody wakes up and says, well, there are some people who do it very intentionally. However, um, so that happened with our HOA management as well. We had a fourplex in Seattle call us and say, Hey, do you guys do management of associations? And I just had a conversation with them. And I thought to myself, well, it can't be that different than managing rental properties. And back then 15, 16 years ago, it was very different. Um, and today that we did start managing that fourplex. And then we, we actually, um, again, a funny story, we, we lost a bookkeeper at a sudden she had lost her mother suddenly and had to exit the workforce and go take care of that whole situation. And, and so I called a friend of mine that I knew through PTA and our kids played together and I said, Hey, Theresa, are you interested in coming and doing some bookkeeping for us? And, um, you know, filling in. And she said, sure. And then we got this fourplex during that period. And she really took to it, started kind of managing that. And now she's our vice president of community associations and managing it to people. And, uh, we're we manage about 86 associations, about 4,000 doors.

Bob Preston:                     05:53                    Oh my goodness. Wow. That's a, that's, that's a cool story about her and I'm sure she knows a lot about bookkeeping. And then when it comes to associations, well, Hey, what's it been like along the way? I mean, I think this has been many years since you started your company and now you're at this place in your life and your business, what were some of the hurdles you faced and what's it been like along the way?

Kellie Tollifson:                06:13                    Um, I think, you know, it may, some may say it's unique. I know there's a lot of business owners and a lot of property managers and maybe it's all different industries, but in our industry, working with family, my husband and I built a T-Square together. I started it while he was still working in the corporate world and putting food on the table and paying the mortgage while we kind of built up the business. But since that was only about a year, and then we took it, he came on board and that's been, one of the challenges is working with family. Um, you know, there's a definitely a fine line of communication. And when do you stop that communication at home and keep it at work? And where does that blending come into play? And that's, that's one of the unique things that I've experienced. I think the other thing in building your own business is that it needs to take on your own, your own personality. You know, everybody runs their businesses differently. You know, we talk about a portfolio style and then we talk about a departmental style. We talk about employees, our 1099 folks that work for you and, uh, or W2 or 1099 folks. And I think it all gets down to what's your true style and where can you thrive and have your business thrive in those unique opportunities? Um, you know, just in, in my experience in the last year, uh, being president elect and then this year president and talking to different people, um, you know, just learning about how people are doing it. There are so many different ways to skin a cat, if you will. That, uh, knowing, knowing what that style is that helps you get to the next level, I guess, is probably one of the things I've learned.

Bob Preston:                     07:47                    You know, I, I like to compare it to there are strategies and tactics and those things are how you price, how you do your pricing, how you show properties, uh, what you do in terms of your accounting, um, how you communicate with San Diego owners, all that's, you know, kind of your strategies and tactics, the basic blocking and tackling of property management. But I like to think that companies who have a solid foundation in some guiding principles or maybe personal values are the ones that really have that foundation that can make it through all the years and are built to last and weather the storm. And it seems like you kind of have that same philosophy.

Kellie Tollifson:                08:18                    We do. Um, and we actually went in, I guess if I had, you know, there's so many things that you, you sit back after you've had worked on your company and you've worked in your company for so long and you think, gosh, I wish I would have known this sooner. Or, you know, I wish I would have written down all the processes as I was doing them instead of like pulling my hair out, trying to do everything all at the same time, we have developed over the years, guiding what we call guiding principles. And basically for us, what it is when you, when you don't know what to do when you can't decide, or it doesn't, it's not a clear decision, what are our guiding principles? And so, we've got eight of them. I, you know, they're on our, and we actually have filled out or had our team come up with an acronym and its actually meat ribs. And so, it's, um, mutual respect. Uh, I see, I had to pull them out to get them all, um, enjoyment, accountability, transparency, let's say the B is betterment, asset selflessness, you know, responsiveness, all those kinds of things. And it's not so much the word, but it's the characteristic behind it. So, betterment is making the job and our careers better for one another while at the same time, that creates a betterment for the company. Um, you know, the integrity, the transparency, how about, you know, letting the owners and clients or clients and tenants and vendors see exactly what we're doing. We have nothing to hide.

Bob Preston:                     09:39                    Wow, that foundation sounds really similar to what we have here at my company as well. I'm a big believer in that I have a company culture chart that's up, you know, in our main office entrance area, our guiding principles are right there. And I always show it to people who come in and interview because I just tell them up front, look, if you can't, you know, if you can't live to these standards, if you work here, then maybe this isn't the place for you. You know? I mean, I think that's, that kind of has to be the way.

Kellie Tollifson:                10:01                    We got a big poster up in our lunch room kind of thing. So, everybody sees it well, pre COVID, everyone would see it every day when they were.

Bob Preston:                     10:10                    Has that been part of the challenge, finding the right people to fit within your company culture and your high standards?

Kellie Tollifson:                10:15                    Huge and for us, we had a one employee voluntarily leave for another opportunity in 2017. And it wasn't until about probably at least two years that we could write the ship. And not just that position, it just seemed, it was one person after another, after another either. Um, we weren't, uh, we weren't hiring the right person or there was somebody else looking for something else. And I don't know if it was a function of the unemployment rate because it was so low through that period of time, 2017 to 2019. But we had an, a major shift in our company benefits. We started a fund committee. We really, I really started focusing on culture because we were meeting the salary requirements of people, but there was just something I'm not sure if it was us or them or what it was, or the combination of everything, but yes, keeping the right people on the right spot, the right seat on the bus has been really difficult. And I have to say right now of all the work we've put into it as a team and myself and the, you know, the books I've read, you know, then that networking I've done within NARPM and so on. Um, I think we're in a really good spot now and have a great team and we're all rowing in the same direction and we're all seeing the same vision and it's really been hard work to get here. But I, every day I crossed my fingers, hoping that I won't, the apple cart won't get upset again.

Bob Preston:                     11:45                    You know, listening to you talk the parallels between your journey and the journey I've had here with my company are so similar because can have great guiding principles and values as a San Diego property management company, but it doesn't necessarily translate into culture unless your people are willing to take that baton and integrate it into the workplace. Right. You can't just snap your fingers and expect your team to recite these values in this company, culture at gunpoint. Right. So, yeah, I think the same thing, I think one by one, though, if you can get the right people in place, then over the course of time, whether it's by osmosis or whatever, your company will just eventually ooze and, and, uh, emit this cultural, that cultural and state of values that people can feel when they come into the company or even when they call on the phone. Right. And so, I get that now I get, I get people complimenting the company like, oh my God, your people are fantastic. How'd you find such good people. Well, not easy, right? It's a long, long haul, a long journey to get there.

Kellie Tollifson:                12:38                    It's an upward spiral, you know, when, when it just like the word spiral habit, it's contagious, both, both directions. And I think, um, one of the things I've noticed even recently with, you know, our big concern when COVID happened was people, you know, working from home and what was that going to look like? Cause this company owners and property managers, I'm a self-admitted control person, right. I don't like to necessarily freak, but I like to have control of things. And, um, whenever now that everybody's home, there's so much more communication going on. Um, like a leasing agent might be out doing a move in and she'll find something that's not going right or move out and sees it. She sent a picture the other day of this skanky looking shower floor and we could all chime in and she could feel a part of a team with our chat, with the teams chat that we use. And, um, you know, there's a lot of humor going on. There's just the support. And I feel like now our team culture is so much stronger because we have this ongoing communication that wasn't there pre COVID.

Bob Preston:                     13:38                    But you have the people in place now and the culture in place before COVID hit to allow that to flourish. Right. And I was really nervous about it as well. In fact, when COVID hit, I started having daily zoom calls, you know, talk about being a control freak every morning at nine o'clock. Right. And then I'm realizing, okay, wait a minute. You know, these people are super motivated. They're all doing their job. Let's go to twice a week. You know, now it's kind of back to our norm, which is a once a week staff meeting. Hey, that was a really great snapshot into your background and your perspective on property management. I'd like to shift gears here and talk a little bit about NARPM. So, you're kind of the big cohune I hear. Right? You got the, you know, the President of NARPM I'm in the house and we're so glad you're on the Brainstorm. I would just love to hear what your take is on NARPM. And maybe you can just tell our listeners in the nutshell, what NARPM is all about.

Kellie Tollifson:                14:26                    So NARPM the national association of residential property managers, for those of you that aren't members, I have a girlfriend that thinks it sounds like a disease, NARPM, but it isn't a disease. If it is. I hope everyone catches it because it's, it's one of the best organizations that I stumbled upon. I'll never forget, you know, actually it was in this very room before we had an office outside of the house. When I had a tenant, I didn't know what to deal with. I, you know, back, I think this was pre-Google. I, I don't, it was 15 years ago. I don't even know what search engine it was. And looking on the internet for how, how do I get rid of a tenant or how do I find support as a landlord? And there were all of these tenant advocacy groups, and I stumbled across an NARPM at that time. And it was 2005. And I said, wow, this looks like a great organization. It's a landlord or management company support organization. Right. And so, I was able to get some information. I was able to get plugged into my local King County, Seattle chapter. And it was almost like, um, uh, like the sky, the clouds parted, and the sun came down and the rays were on me and.

Bob Preston:                     15:36                    The veil was lifted or whatever the analogy is.

Kellie Tollifson:                15:39                    Oh my gosh, look at this wealth of information, not only the wealth of information, that was so fascinating to me. Um, but it was the amount, the, the level of sharing that people were willing to do. My background is at Ford motor company. When I got out of college, I started working at, um, within the sales and marketing division in California, in the San Francisco Bay area for Ford motor company. That is not a company that shares secrets, nobody shares there's, you know, I would call on the dealerships and, you know, that was my, I was the factory rep, you know, sending shipping cars to them and so on, and they don't share secrets. So, I'll never forget my very first convention. It was in Salt Lake City. And I was, um, there, and I was thinking, I think this, I got the feeling that maybe this might be kind of similar to a used car salesman kind of group. And, uh, it was one of the most professional organizations and professional group of people that I'd ever been exposed to. And I felt like, um, they call it the, we call it in North on the firehose experience where you go to a meeting or a convention, or even sometimes a chapter meeting, but our conference, the state conference or something, you get so much information that you just, it's almost overwhelming. And, and that to me is what NARPM is. There's just a plethora of information and it's just, it's almost difficult to pare it down to what am I looking for over the years now. Um, you know, there's the Facebook groups and there's all kinds of different ways of getting the information. And then the website has really come a long way. And that time that, that was my NARPM journey. And the minute I started meeting people, I was hooked. I just, they, they were so helpful. Everyone was like, Oh, you need this. Oh, you don't know how to handle this. Oh, you're having an audit. Let me help you. You know, those, everything. And it has continued this way. It hasn't waned at all.

Bob Preston:                     17:38                    And you've been in NARPM now for 15 years or so you said.

Kellie Tollifson:                17:41                    Yeah, this year, it was 15 years.

Bob Preston:                     17:43                    I’m always able to regardless of the event where there'd be a chapter meeting or a call where I jump in, you may be something you guys have done through national, always able to pull several what I call nuggets. Right. Like, huh. That is really interesting. You know, that's something I've got to try to do either, you know, maybe I'd try to do it right then quickly, or maybe it's something I might not be able to do until our company kind of reaches the next step, but it always plants these really cool seeds and ideas.

Kellie Tollifson:                18:07                    And that's, that's the, that's the thing Bob is, um, like right now I might need, um, the special just to use this, you know, pre or post COVID experience. I might need some sort of an inspection app that maybe I didn't need a year ago because I had this great system that was working really well. I didn't need to change it. Things were working. So now I've got this, something I need to do because of the circumstances are changing and the market is changing, and our world is changing. I know I can find it at NARPM. I know I can either find someone that's doing it, or I can find the company that's doing it, or several companies that are doing it that I can reach out to. Um, you know, I get, there's all kinds. I reach out and people reach out to me about different things I'm doing and what, what are they doing? And it's just, um, I don't know. It's a beautiful synergy of knowledge, I guess, is probably the best way to put it.

Bob Preston:                     19:01                    Yeah. San Diego property management businesses have a lot of systems in it, right. Systems and processes. And over time I found that my company, as the company's grown, those tend to break because the legacy way of doing things, maybe isn't keeping up with the pace of your company growth, or as you said, the market changes, or maybe the responsiveness people expect. So, you know, having access to all these cool solutions from our affiliate partners and from people's experience in implementing them has been really fantastic for me. I know it's a big benefit. So, look, you've been involved now at NARPM for many years, and you've now kind of come up through leadership. I guess the question is what motivated you to get involved in NARPM leadership? And now how has it been as the national president? I mean, that's a pretty big role.

Kellie Tollifson:                19:41                    It is. And, uh, what motivated me, it was almost like, um, the more I got, the more I wanted to give back and the more I gave back, the more I received. So it was this, you know, uh, spiral, the more I wanted to get involved, the more I wanted to show others and be a part of the demonstration of how beneficial this organization can be. And it's not a perfect organization, but most everyone gains something from it. And, and I, I contend, I've always been a believer that what you put into it is what you're going to get out of it, but I wanted to be able to give back. And as more I gave back, the more again I received. And so, it just kept spiraling and spiraling. And so, I, um, just continued on through the journey. I actually applied for the Northwest RVP five, four times, five times, I think I was approved. I was appointed or nominated the fifth time. So, I was really very set on being able to give back and to learn and take that knowledge and pass it on.

Bob Preston:                     20:45                    That's interesting. Cause you know, I got more interested. I will tell you when I first started my business and I heard about NARPM, I was so busy and so consumed with my business that I didn't have time to really even join. I think I joined for a while and then I sort of dropped out and I never really got involved. And then it wasn't until a few years ago that I really started embracing it. And part of that was because I had, I had the ability to do that because I built a, uh, you know, we kind of talked about our team building had a better team that allowed me some headroom to be able to go, go do that. So, I guess what would you say to those people like I used to be? The people were like, well, Hey, I don't have time. Why would I want to do NARPM? And what's your plea to them, I guess, for joining

Kellie Tollifson:                21:26                    To be Frank, I think people, you can't, you are spending more time not joining because you're not learning about the more efficient ways, the more, um, effective ways to do things, or even just getting the knowledge. You know, one of the things I'll, I will never forget. And maybe you recall this in your early career is oftentimes when you're building your business, you're doing it. You're by yourself. You don't have anybody else on your team and you feel like you're this lone person without a life jacket in the middle of this stormy sea and going to the meetings. And just even now, you know, just talking to my NARPM friends and people that I've, I've become really good friends with I've I don't feel alone. And I think that feeling alone or that not feeling having that kind of a, um, a solution of not feeling alone helps you trajected further. It helps you move forward and gives you the confidence that, Hey, somebody else has been on this in this boat and I'm not here by myself and someone's traveled this road. I know I can do it because I can see these people doing it and maybe they could pull me along or maybe I can offer them something. So, I think, I think it costs someone more not to join, even though there's a financial implication and a time implication. But I do, I hear that a lot. I don't have time. I bet if you were to carve out an hour a month or two hours a month, you could find it. And, and I would challenge people to look at that and say, you're missing out on so much and so much rich content by not joining that you're, it's a disservice not to join. Does that make sense? 

Bob Preston:                     23:05                    Totally. I mean, I think the, you hit on it a little bit earlier, the networking aspects of NARPM and just listening to other people and how they've approached things has been so beneficial for me. And look, let's face it. You find people in NARPM that you can relate to and you can admire, and you want to maybe model your company the way they have, or maybe it's their philosophies. And then there's some others that, Hey, well, not so much. Right. But I mean, I think being able to find that path and, and to see, okay, that's someone who I could aspire to be, or that's a company that I would like to consider myself in that class of an organization. I mean, having those kinds of comparatives is a really important, and I think a great outcome of certainly being an, being in NARPM. So COVID is obviously hurt some of the networking aspects. I've one thing I've noticed from national is you guys seem to be, maybe this is part of your leadership, but I've seen you national being much more communicative this year. Is that part of the strategy? And has that changed, I guess during the COVID-19?

Kellie Tollifson:                24:00                    We'll take a little credit for that, because when we first, when COVID-19 first hit, the first thing, you know, why was, um, communicating with Gail Phillips, our CEO and Scott Abernathy, our president elect quite a bit and the, the rest of the board as much as, as we could. Um, but my first thing was, I don't want to just be a talking head out there. It seemed like everyone, you know, a whole, uh, vacuum was filled on the zoom platform and everyone was talking, and we strategically said, let's not do just everything everyone else is doing. Let's find an, I was, I don't know about you or your listeners, overwhelmed with the amount of information coming at me. And so, what we talked about was let's have a COVID-19 landing page, resource page on the website and it's right there. Anyone can get to it. Um, and let's have members send their stuff in, or we'll, we'll grab it and links from here and there that, you know, there were podcasts and Facebook lives everywhere and forms flying everywhere and conversations everywhere. And to me, it was overwhelming. And part of it, part of what I strive for, with my own organization and with NARPM is, um, transparency. There's a lot of fear out there about what's going on. And yes, we do pride ourselves on the networking, but we also pride ourselves on the professionalism of the organization and all the other, you know, the ethics of the organization and, um, you know, the education part of it offering, we're offering all of the classes online now, live zoom courses. So, it's not a webinar, it's a live zoom class. And, um, that's something I'm really proud of that we were able to pivot really quickly with a whole like 20 instructors that were available, became available as soon as they could to go from the classroom to the virtual classroom, the live classroom to virtual. And, um, the education is something I think that we've done a really good job with, and we're looking at maybe redesigning those courses to make them more interactive so that when they are virtual, we can still continue that platform moving forward, even when we can start meeting in person.

Bob Preston:                     26:07                    Yeah. It's interesting. I mean, I, I think, you know, this, um, uh, just took office as the Cal NARPM president. Right. And, uh, that was one of my goals was to communicate more and I just have noticed that National's doing such a great job. I'm not sure how much room there is for me to improve upon.

Kellie Tollifson:                26:23                    You got to be really strategic. Right? You want to say what everybody else is saying, you want to have content. And so, it's, it's a tough call sometimes. And I've tried to do it maybe just with one- or two-minute videos, because I think that's kind of what people are responding to and what they'll hear. 

Bob Preston:                     26:44                    So I think that's great. I mean, uh, and I think the education aspects of NARPM too, I mean, let's face it, there aren't that many educational opportunities for property managers. There certainly aren't here in California through our department of real estate, not to knock them. I mean, they're focused more on brokers, you know, sell lane, listing properties, all that kind of stuff. And while property management does fall under that regulation, there's this, you know, there's no place to really go. It's very, very basic. So that is a place where an NARPM really stands out.

Kellie Tollifson:                27:09                    And that's one of the reasons why a lot of people join is to, well, you don't have to be a member to take the education classes, but a lot of States will offer it as CE continuing education, especially, you know, pre-COVID. A lot of the States would offer it, um, the live classes. And we're still looking into how we can get those virtually approved for virtual classes for continuing ed as well.

Bob Preston:                     27:30                    Right. So, one of the areas in California where I feel we can really help our membership stay educated is on legislative and legal updates and things like that. I mean, state of California is this incredibly diverse state. I mean, I know most States are, but I mean, these kind of micro markets of real estate and, uh, economies. And so, yeah, that's one of my goals for the year, but what about nationally? How do you, how do you, you know, what, what role does NARPM play and keeping people updated on legislation if a national level? And that's got to be all encompassing.

Kellie Tollifson:                28:02                    And a great, a great progression of involvement with NARPM at the national level. And you know, one of the, well, our, our mission, our vision, excuse me, is to be the recognized leader in the property management, residential property management industry. And so, in order to do that, we have to have a seat at the table at any legislative table, right. Especially nationally. So, we, over the years, we've hired a full-time lobbyist, and now he has an assistant. And, um, we are, you know, we've created our PAC, our political action committee and we're making donations to different, um, campaigns that way. And, um, I think we're making headway, we're being recognized, um, with, with other large organizations to partner with. So, for example, NAA is now, you know, recognizing NARPM man has been for a little while as part of that fabric of, uh, or the landscape of residential management. It's not just all apartments, there's, you know, millions and millions of single-family home rentals out there. And we represent as property managers, managers, we represent it. Um, and our goal is to, is to understand what's going on to advocate for the property rights that we believe in as property managers and, um, you know, to make sure that we're educated as managers as well on, on the legislative items going on.

Bob Preston:                     29:20                    So is HUD a big point of contact? You guys, have you met Ben, do you know Ben?

Kellie Tollifson:                29:25                    And actually last year we didn't get to have a live legislative conference this year, but last year, yeah. We sat down with, uh, one of the secretaries of HUD and were able to talk about, uh, service animals with them and how it's been affecting our businesses and how it's taken for granted or taken advantage of in some markets. And they were well aware of it, but maybe not to the extent and a little shout out to pet screening.com, John Bradford has done a great job in developing statistics that HUD can use in that arena. So, it's been, it's been great.

Bob Preston:                     29:57                    You're at the national level, you have, you know, the association, uh, across the country where exactly, I mean, I kind of let a leak on the president of Cal NARPM, but where does the local chapters, you know, kind of the regional city chapters, if you will fit in as well as the state chapters within NARPM.

Kellie Tollifson:                30:13                    So we've got a 60, I think, 63 state or local and state chapters. And, um, we are developing other state what we call state chapters or chapters in formation. We have some chapters that just can't survive based on the standards of a nonprofit. And then we have others that are thriving. So right now, um, well, Washington state has a new chapter. It, it became out of its chapter information and became a state chapter. You have to be a chapter in formation for two to four years. Colorado is one I know Arizona is working on it. Um, and there's other States that are taking that. And mostly the local chapters that I see them as a, um, an avenue of knowledge and networking for the local property manager. This state is more of what we might consider the at large members who don't have a local chapter nearby. Well, now the boundaries are all gone. I mean, you don't have to travel to make a chapter meeting now because most everybody's doing it on zoom. So even if you live three hours away, you can still attend that chapter meeting. Um, so to me, there's no boundaries, which I think is really cool. So those at large members that we serve, who don't have an affiliation to a local chapter can now participate a little bit easier and get that knowledge and that networking going on.

Bob Preston:                     31:33                    That's interesting. You know, I have noticed that in California, because you get above the Bay San Francisco Bay area, there's no local NARPM chapters. Right. And there, so yeah, there's Sonoma and Santa Rosa, I think in there, but you get above kind of that area and, uh, up further and there is no, there's no central Valley. So yeah, I think there's a big need.

Kellie Tollifson:                31:52                    I see it as a great advantage, uh, this, you know, if you're looking for silver lining is that we can take these, uh, this information that we, and our platform like our networking and our education and our professionalism and all that stuff. And it is just can go anywhere. Now

Bob Preston:                     32:08                    I have to ask this because I've noticed a difference between being the leader of a volunteer group and managing my own company. Right. I mean, look, NARPM is a bunch of volunteers. So how have you found that to be, and what are the subtle differences you've found?

Kellie Tollifson:                32:24                    You know, um, I think, well, first of all, a volunteer can just walk away without any repercussions, right? Your, your, your employees can too, I guess, or your team on with your company can too. I just, I think that I really honestly, haven't had much of a difference with the volunteers that I work with. And maybe it's because the ones I'm in touch with are so committed, right? It's all, I don't know. It's like you drank the Kool-Aid and you wanted the best for the organization. And, you know, that's why you get a salary as you do your best for the company you're working for. The return on the NARPM side, and maybe I've got rose colored glasses on, and I'm not seeing everything, but I do see a lot of people that are really committed that are dedicated to making NARPM as best as it can be. And not even just on a global level, but those that come in contact with right, that you're, you know, you're moving into this position because you want to affect as many people as possible to have the knowledge that you have so that they can make their lives better, right. And easier, and more fun. Property management is way more fun with NARPM then it’s not. 

Bob Preston:                     33:34                    Interesting. I, I find myself in preparing for our meetings and whatnot. I find myself being almost more organized for the NARPM organization and our meetings. And I am for within my own company. Right. I mean, I could, I could do our own company almost blindfolded. And so, I find myself just wanting to be really respectful of people's time. I think that's one aspect and being super organized when I bring them all together. So I don't, I don't, you know, waste a bunch of their time, but, you know, sometimes like, like we've talked about people are there for the social aspect and the networking, and you've got to kind of got to let that fly to where it may be within my company I wouldn’t.

Kellie Tollifson:                34:08                    I think there are some, some diff I guess I was looking at it as how I, how I see the people I work with on both sides, you know, the nonprofit or the volunteers versus the employees. And I, I, I'm seeing a lot of volunteers that are just ready, willing, and able to give back. And it's, it's really inspiring for me. 

Bob Preston:                     34:27                    That's amazing. Now what about community service or giving back? You just kind of mentioned giving back to NARPM, but NARPM is doing some things as well, right? Can you tell us about that?

Kellie Tollifson:                34:36                    Yeah. So, every year it's about, I think about 10 years ago, the past presidents came up with an idea to do a charity and golf outing to pick a past president charity and golf outing. Two years ago, it started with Eric Weatherington, our immediate past president, where he actually got to pick the charity because he was the one going around the country, talking about it. And rather than the past presidents picking it, let's let the president pick it. So I got to pick the Alexander Hamilton Scholars, and that's an organization that bridges the gap between, um, college or high school and college for kids that are, you know, outstanding achievement, community service and giving back to their communities, but don't have the means to necessarily get to college. And it's not a scholarship program. It's more of a mentor and education program. And they, they join a cohort right out of high school. And they go with this cohort all through college and into career. So, it's, uh, it's really been a, it's just like Alexander Hamilton started from nothing and built his himself from nothing. And this is just a little step up and, and instead of a handout to these kids.

Bob Preston:                     35:41                    That's incredible, um, really great charity and worthy cause maybe some future property managers in that mix.

Kellie Tollifson:                35:46                    Yeah. Um, there may be, are company owners or I'm not sure. Um, you know, one of the other things I'm seeing a lot of Bob with the local chapters is they're doing their own local charities. You know whether it be a food bank or habitat for humanity, um, those kinds of things, a lot of the local charity, local chapters, we'll pick a charity for the year and focus on it. Um, and that's been really impactful across the country. We don't hear about those as often as we do, obviously the national charity.

Bob Preston:                     36:12                    So, I want to talk, if we can shift here a little bit, I want to talk about a couple of events that are coming up that are, that are brought to us as part of the membership through, through NARPM. One of them is the national convention that's coming up. Now you, one of the big events of the year is the broker owner conference it's intended for the owners or the people who are running their businesses that got canceled. Right. That was early on, I think, in April within the pandemic and, you know, good on national for count canceling that I don't, I don't think there was any choice on that one, but we have another one coming up, I believe in October. Right. Which is the national convention scheduled for Amelia Island in Florida, Florida is one of the hotspots. I know you've done a virtual alternative to that. Maybe you can tell us about what's, what's going to happen, what your expectations are. How do you think it's going to go? I'm just kind of curious to hear. 

Kellie Tollifson:                36:56                    You know, I'm sure like many organizations out there, uh, we're, we're planning for what we're calling a hybrid event, um, where we would have those that want to travel and participate, be there in person. And then those that don't and can't, or, you know, it isn't possible, you know, not just because of the disease necessarily of COVID-19, but maybe it's because their kids are having to stay home and be, um, schooled at home. And so, they can't get away and so on. So, there's all kinds of repercussions as to why. However, we're really excited about offering the virtual component of the convention. Um, we're working with all of the speakers that we were planning on having at the convention. We actually have been in touch with Daymond John, who had agreed to move his appearance from the broker owner to the convention. So, we're working with that. Um, and we're looking at, we've invested quite a bit, um, in finding a platform that will facilitate an optimal experience and give us the everything that we look for. And I am not going to sugar coat it and say, it's going to be, it's just the same as being there in person. It's not just a way we can. I wish we could make that happen. And as far as the virtual component, isn't going to feel the same as being there, but we're going to do our best. And we're working with, uh, different, uh, vendors to make that happen as best we can highest level.

Bob Preston:                     38:19                    What’s registration been like so far and what's the split between, you know, in person attendance and virtual, do you know yet?

Kellie Tollifson:                38:25                    I don't have specific numbers on that. Um, we are actually having a board meeting on Thursday and I will have those details of, then I know there's been lots of registrations on both sides. I just don't have those numbers for you today. I'm sorry.

Bob Preston:                     38:38                    Well, I can tell you, Cal NARPM is eagerly watching because we have our, our conference, our state conference at the end of March in 2021. And we're trying to figure out what to do. It's scheduled for Napa Valley, California, but, you know, gosh, are we going to be able to pull that off live or do we go all virtual or hybrid? I mean, these are all questions we have to answer. So, we're eagerly awaiting kind of to follow hopefully the lead of national. Hey, there's also this cool event coming up in just about a week on the 24th and 25th of August, which NARPM is sponsoring and hosting the PM Leadership Exchange. Tell us about that. And why should people think about attending?

Kellie Tollifson:                39:13                    The PM? Leadership exchange is a kind of the second, I don't know how many of your listeners have been on any of the Second Nature, um, leadership or PM Exchange events. They started right in April and they did about three of them. And then they've done a couple other, uh, mini events, but they are taking this one to the next level. Um, I was actually on a Facebook live this morning where onsite pros were giving away some tickets to the PM Leadership Exchange, and Andrew was there and he, Andrew Smallwood from Second Nature talking about it.

Bob Preston:                     39:48                    Yes, he was. He was on the show last week.

Kellie Tollifson:                39:51                    So, so your listeners probably know a little bit about what going on. Um, but we, I am super excited that then he, uh, that Second Nature asked us to sponsor it because it gives us an opportunity to move that Hamilton scholars, uh, charity to the next level. And they've committed to quite a bit of attention there. And they've got some great surprises coming in to that event, um, for that, but also the amount of networking that they've, they're working on and putting together, it's not going to be your typical zoom, small rooms from what I understand, I haven't seen it, but, um, I'm super excited about it. And I think it'll be a really great way to elevate the vision of what property management looks like and what NARPM can participate in going forward. Yeah.

Bob Preston:                     40:34                    I'm excited to attend to, I'm going to attend. And I'm a, again, you know, in the, in the spirit of wanting to see what other people are doing with their, I wouldn't call this a convention, but it's a really great educational opportunity I'm excited to, to attend and kind of see what it's like. Okay. So, let's shift gears again. You also have kind of a personal coaching and mentorship business going as a, as a side hustle, I think. Right. Can you tell us about that? 

Kellie Tollifson:                40:56                    Well, no, I wouldn't. I wouldn't necessarily say it's a business. It's certainly something that I gravitate towards and I feel really strongly about, and it's where my theme for the year elevate the vision is my, I do this with my team is just trying to elevate those around me. Um, anytime I can offer some, uh, feedback, advice, information, experience, whatever it is that somebody comes to me or I see me as a need, I don't hesitate to jump in and I'm, I'm happy to, to give, you know, my advice and my knowledge. It's something that I've, I've thought about when I saw that question or when we talked about earlier, I thought, well, he's reading my mind because I'm thinking that's something I'm going to do post NARPM career. 

Bob Preston:                     41:40                    Well, good for you. So, hold that thought, I guess if you're interested. Well, actually, Kellie, you've been pretty forthcoming and like, Hey, if anybody wants some help, you know, approach, Kellie seems pretty open to that and got your background and your knowledge and everything you've been through in building your business. I mean, you've got this great DNA and this great fabric of your culture, so I'm sure you could help companies in that regard. Well, listen, I, we, we talked about this before we started the episode. I'm a, I'm a storyteller. I, when I meet with new clients, I always like to tell a personal story about myself. What do you get for us today? Is there a, is there a defining story that you could share with our listeners about Kellie and maybe how your life was shaped by maybe your business career by something that's happened?

Kellie Tollifson:                42:19                    Actually, there is. Yeah, and I don't, I don't get into it very often, at least the origin of it. But, um, but when I was a young girl, um, and this won't take that long, I'm not going to go through all the years of my life. So, when I was, uh, 12 years old, my father passed away from bone cancer. And I guess in today's world, maybe there would have been a better treatment and so on, but this was in the early mid-seventies. And of course, it was shocking. And then a year later, my, my father had been sick for a year. So, it wasn't unexpected that he would pass, but at age 11 and 12, yeah, it was, you didn't understand that. A year later I had a sister, a younger sister who went to school one day and never came home. And she had passed away from an aneurysm that burst and the base of her neck. So within a year I'd lost my father and my younger sister, that was a pivotal point in developing who I became and what I felt when I realized as you know, fast forward into my forties. I realized that I was living with fear waiting for the other shoe to drop. Like when was the next tragic event going to happen in all these years, I've been living with this. So, um, had the opportunity to, uh, see some skydivers one afternoon. And I thought to myself, that would be really fun. I'm more of a winter and a water.

Bob Preston:                     47:21                    Well, it's a cool story and I love your go-forward attitude. And I can tell, you know, it's done a lot for you in terms of your willingness to put yourself out there. That's a hard thing to do, you know, uh, to put yourself out there. And like you said, shoot on goal multiple times to the NARPM organization to say, Hey, I'm here. You know, what do you think? Could I do this? And then look what you've done now. So, we're eager to learn more about NARPM under your presidency. I can't wait to go to the exchange leadership exchange next week and also NARPM national. I'll be doing it virtually just because I'm all the way in California and can't leave home that week. But, um, Kellie, I can't thank you enough for coming on the show today. I've really enjoyed meeting you and learning more about you and your interesting background. I would love to continue, but just in the interest of time, we have to kind of wrap things up. So, any last words for our listeners about NARPM, about, you know, your thoughts on NARPM or the PM leadership exchange and how can they reach you or get ahold of you.

Kellie Tollifson:                48:17                    Right. So, you can reach me at president@narpm.org. That's probably the easiest email to get to me. Um, and I, like I said, I'm really open and I'm willing to share with people at one of the last, um, uh, PM Exchange, things that, um, Second Nature did. There were two people in the small group, and we were exchanging ideas and we've been meeting every Monday ever since. So, you know, I am certainly willing to talk to people. I'm not, I, I people say, Oh, you're so busy. You're so busy. I think we're all busy. And I have to say, since I'm not traveling and, um, you know, I'm, I, those that you can't see I'm wearing my NARPM president name tag today because I get to wear it when I can, cause I'm not wearing it at the meetings. Um, so I'm not as busy as necessarily as I would be had. I've been traveling. And so, I would just encourage people to reach out the other thing I want to encourage. I want to encourage all of us as property managers and in the industry and landlords that we can do hard things. And this year hasn't been easy and every day we get up and we come back at it again. And I posted on a, uh, I think PM exchange has a Facebook group. I had three contacts with people, tenants that were so pleasant last week that I keep holding onto that because I know it's going to shift and there's been weeks when we have really difficult conversations with people and people are not kind. And I just want to encourage everybody that we can do hard things and to keep at it. And don't, don't give up, just keep at it and reach out to your colleagues, whether they're NARPM or not, and just say, Hey, I'm having a tough day. Um, and I just need a vote of encouragement.

Bob Preston:                     49:54                    Well, gosh, I, it's really inspiring to me to hear you, you know, hear you speak. Can't wait to hear more from you. And I hope we can maintain this connection that we've made here today. I look forward to and Hey, another, another, uh, kudos to you. You're now a brainstormer. You're an efficient brain. You've been, you've been on the brainstorm show. So, thank you so much for joining today. Really appreciate you coming on. And as we wrap up today, I'd like to make another quick plug to our listeners, to please click on the subscribe button and give us a like, and pay it forward with a positive review, because that helps encourage more great guests like Kellie to come on the 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 maximize their property value and income and maintain top tenant relations. And we'll catch you next time.




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