The Next Level
November 1, 2004
We all get stuck in a rut sometimes. Real estate investors are no different. Lots of reasons come into play, all of them different, but all of them the same. They are all different because different things happen to us that interfere with our paying close attention to our business. All of them are the same, because they distract us from our goal of creating additional wealth by investing in real estate.
As we get stuck the mole hills get bigger. What would have been a minor annoyance before takes on the power and size of at least a good-sized hill. We lose sight of what got us where we are. Fact is, we know how to deal with just about every situation some crazy tenant can throw at us, or some bizarre new ordinance the city dreams up to stick it to rental property owners. Or do we?
Many of our annoyances come from frustration at our lack of competence to control our businesses as well as we believe we should be able to.
Some frustration results from everyday events and challenges, other frustration results from not knowing what to do in a given circumstance. The key to the latter frustration is finding out what you don’t know. Easier said than done, isn’t it?
If you don’t know what you don’t know, how will you know what you are supposed to know? It sounds like a Yogi Berraism, but makes sense, if you think about it. I will share a couple of techniques with you that might help. They come from the needs-assessment techniques of instructional designers.
Instructional designers do a “competency assessment” when they design any curriculum. In that “competency assessment” they attempt to isolate characteristics of ideal or exemplary performance in a given field. That is difficult, if not impossible, for someone who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. But the assessors ask experts in the field how they judge ideal performance and try to get a set of common answers. We do the same sort of thing at the Rental Property Reporter, scouring the rental property industry for the tools and techniques of the experts in our business.
There are things you can do on your own, though. Assessors of training gaps use several tools to figure out what training needs to be done. W. Rothwell and H.C. Kazanas report in their book Instructional Design that those include (1) interviews, (2) direct observation of work, (3) indirect examination of performance or productivity measures, (4) questionnaires, (5) task analysis. In addition they might try the “critical incident method,” which means you pick out a critical or special situation and break it down into steps that enable someone to handle it.
You can do a lot of this assessment yourself by using three of these techniques, direct observation of work (your own), task analysis, and the critical incident method. Here’s how.
Think of a situation where you didn’t feel you had the competence to handle it effectively. That could include any management issue, such as a tenant trying to put off paying the rent, or constant repair complaints over essentially nothing.
Then break down what needs to be done into as many small tasks as you can: answering the phone, fielding questions, attitude toward not receiving the rent, etc. Obviously there are many more steps, but you can figure them out.
Once the list is done, check off the tasks you felt competent to handle. Put a star next to the tasks that you believe you need more training with. Those are the competencies where you need assistance. Now you know what you didn’t know before and can find the information you need.
Make a plan for next year to figure out what you don’t know, then find a way to learn about it. You will get a lot more enthusiasm for the rental property business, because you will give yourself infinitely more control and take yourself to the next level of competence in the rental property business.