Tend to Your Low Hanging Fruit

In the Pacific Northwest, if you pay for blackberries, you are either:

  1. really lazy
  2. not too bright
  3. a person who never leaves the metro area for ANYTHING at all.

I can make this statement with the utmost confidence because, this time of year, you can’t drive more than three blocks without passing enough wild blackberry canes to choke an entire herd of goats.  Every year, I go out to pick berries and return with 10-15 pounds of delicious, finger staining fruit…and a ton of cuts and scratches on my arms and legs.  For those of you who’ve never picked blackberries or any of their close cousins before, the thorns can be quite tricky to deal with – but the berries are worth the annoyance.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from picking berries for the last 8 years, it is this:  People who complain about those that go after the “low hanging fruit” have never been balanced precariously over the thorns of a blackberry bush.Blackberries2014

It’s one of those business cliches that we hear all the time in the world of marketing and sales – “Don’t go for the low hanging fruit” – and the fact that it’s now become a piece of somewhat conventional wisdom, I think, does us all a great disservice.  Looking past the low hanging fruit is the mentality that tells us that our current customers matter less than the new potential leases coming in the door, or makes us think that everything we do must be bigger and better than the way we did it last time.  It’s the root of the idea that when something is easy, we must be doing it the wrong way, or it’s okay to just ignore it because it really must not matter that much.

Before you try to harvest the treetops, make sure you’ve tended to your low hanging fruit:

  • Are your residents happy?  Do you know if they are?
  • Is your staff happy?  What’s one thing you can do right now to solve a problem for them?
  • Are the basic traffic generation strategies being executed well?  Is the Craigslist being handled? Are your ILS listings in the best possible shape they can be in?  Is any and all trash and pet litter on the grounds picked up?
  • Are all maintenance work orders being followed up on within 12-24 hours?
  • Are all residential issues and contact emails being addressed with in 2 hours of arrival during the business day?
  • Is every piece of communication that leaves your office with aim to your residents clear, concise, and with a tone of gratitude for their current residency choice?
  • Did you want to come to work this morning?  (and if you don’t think that this is a big piece of low hanging fruit, you’ve possibly been at your property too long or may be suffering from burnout.  Happiness in our jobs isn’t an optional berry – it’s a “must pick!”)

Look, I’m all for reaching for the treetops.  I love people that look to those high hanging ideas – the ones that innovate and pull forward.  But I don’t value those ideas and “game changers” more than the concepts that I know work.  And, to carry the metaphor further,  just because I am willing to risk a few scratches and cuts to reach the berries at the top of the cane, that doesn’t mean that I’m going to forgo picking the ones that are easily in my reach.  From experience, I can tell you that” fruit” – from blackberries to business basics, from peaches to people, –  usually tastes the same, no matter where it grows on the plant.