Today, we saw a late season snow here in Seattle. I didn't really believe that it was actually going to snow until the white stuff started falling down in huge flakes. I remember, as a kid, snow was awesome! You'd wake up and then roll the dice on the 50/50 shot that school would be canceled and you could enjoy an extra bowl of Lucky Charms and the forbidden weekday morning game shows, like that one with Monty Hall and the people in crazy outfits or the one with the cartoon whammies! As an adult, when you wake up and the flakes are falling, you say a big, "Oh Crap," to yourself and try to figure out exactly how much productivity you're going to lose today. Snow becomes a lot less magical when you've got to drive in it.
Now, I'm from the Midwest, so when I talk about snow, I don't mean a little dropping here and there, let's freak out about some trace amounts kind of thing. That is not a "real snow" in my eyes. A real snow could contain any of the following: Pure white out while driving, at least one inch of ice under the 2-4 inches of snow that falls on top of it, 6-8 inches of snow without ice under it, WET SNOW (not that dry dusting nonsense) that sticks together enough to build stuff out of it. I would list school closures on this list as well, but up here they close the schools if it gets "too cold" so I don't think that's a fair evaluator. (Back in my day, and I'm aging rapidly as I type those very words, it was off to school with a wind chill of -20 and you had to walk. Ski Masks were not just for criminals in Northwest Kansas. I'd also say up hill both ways, but it was KS and we all know that there are no "hills" there. )
As much as I might jibe about it, for the Seattle area, snow is a bit of a nightmare. First of all, the people do NOT know how to drive in it and the seem to refuse to learn. Secondly, there are so many hills and curves in the layouts of the roads here, that one slick spot or one nasty stretch of ice, and you end up out in the Sound or Lake Washington. And last of all, they don't know what to do with it once it's here. Even 1-3 inches like we got today is enough to shut the city down sometimes, especially once it melts a little and the refreezes in to ice.
People get stressed out about snow, and though it can be rough for Seattlites, I don't think snow stress is local just to the pacific northwest. Whether they're used to it in Chicago, or it's the first time they've seen it in 30 years in Houston, a snowed morning leads to much consternation.
So we can either commiserate with our residents about how much the snow sucks, OR we can chose to mine the retention gold out of the opportunity. Which one do you think is going to retain you more leases? When Brian Williams is calling for more good news because he's tired of giving out the bad news, I think optimism and a positive attitude is going to appeal to your residents more, and a proactive team is always something inspiring to watch!
A few ways to mine snow day gold from your residents:
Snow building contests-
If you've got yard space that is usually covered in nice landscaping but is now covered in a lot of snow, and you've got a good crop of kids who are home from school for the day, you've got no excuse not to give their parents a break and a chance to telecommute for just a little bit without being bothered! Odds are that without any structure, they're going to be running around your property anyway on a day off, so if you grab the big group of kids at your community and take 20 minutes to organize them in to a competition for who can build the best snow fort, you've just saved yourself the afternoon of having to constantly respond to angry residents about the group of kids running around and out in front of cars and causing problems all day. Prizes can be anything from an extra batch of leasing cookies (you can spare 12 of the frozen dough circles for this one) or a couple of gift cards you might have held back from local vendors and stores. I always found it helpful to have at least two $25 visa gift cards in my desk in case something like this popped up at the last minute!
The Brush it /Rush It-
Some of your residents have covered parking. Most don't and anyone who has been running late for work in the morning only to come out and find they need to scrape their windshield or brush the snow off their car knows how frustrating this can be. If you have a team of 5 or more people on your property, take 20 minutes first thing in the morning and send everyone out (managers this includes you, too!) to brush the snow off of as many cars as they can. The person on your team who brushes the most cars clean can get anything from a cup of non office coffee to a half day off! It's only limited by your imagination. Most of the time, the prize workers value most is just recognition and specific praise, so don't underestimate how important it might be to congratulate the winner of the Brush it/Rush it in the next newsletter. The residents WILL remember to thank him or her themselves, because facilitating speed in someone's morning is a very personal thing. Even a button that says "Ask me about my Brush it/Rush it score!" can be a badge of pride if it's passed from team member to team member with each snow storm. 20 minutes of your team's time could equal impacting 40 or 50 residents positively and we all know what that does to our retention numbers!
Stir up some change with cocoa!-
Instead of only your usual morning coffee and cookies, why not add some hot cocoa on snow days? And ONLY on snow days! It will be something distinct and delicious that your residents will remember is a special step you take to make a cold unpleasant day a little more cozy and enjoyable. Not to mention that on snow days, the LAST thing you want is the community children buzzed on coffee. Trust me, it's just NOT a good idea to leave that combination unmonitored!
These are just the first three ideas that spring to my mind on a snow day, but I'm sure there at tons of others out there! Do you do any other things on your properties to suck some of the stress out of snow days for your residents? I'd love to hear what works where you're at!