Property management reimagined

Getting the team to feel at home with digital documents, file sharing, and e-signatures helped this San Francisco Bay Area property manager cut down on paperwork while scaling up their growth and service.

Dec 11, 2020

By Brooks Baskin, founder and CEO of 2B Living.

 

Property management is a hands-on, face-to-face type of business with a lot of physical components to it—showing apartments to clients, signing contracts, and maintaining buildings with tasks like repainting after a tenant moves out or repairing a leak. That being said, we’ve discovered that digital tools can significantly simplify and streamline a lot of what we do.

 

In 2011, I started 2B Living, a commercial and residential property management firm in the San Francisco Bay Area. We recently made it to #26 on the San Francisco Business Times' Fast 100 list, which denotes the fastest-growing private companies in the Bay Area. 

 

We have certainly grown. Today we manage and maintain more than 250 buildings and 1,500 units in a 7,000 square mile area that’s home to nearly eight million people. Our properties and employees are spread across the entire Bay Area but instead of opening expensive offices in all our communities, we rely on our tablets, smartphones, and laptops to streamline our operations and keep overhead down.

An industry ripe for disruption

 

Before starting 2B Living, I wanted to learn everything I could about property management, so I set up a meeting with an established, highly respected property manager in the Bay Area. “What would you say has been the key to your success?” I asked him.

 

He pointed at a massive filing cabinet in his office, got up and opened it to reveal thousands of paper files. 

 

“Files, my friend,” he said, “Tenant files and forms. That’s the key to this business!”

 

I thought he was joking, I was waiting for the punchline.

 

He wasn’t joking. And at that moment I knew there was no way I was going to let mountains of physical paperwork burden down my business. As an entrepreneur in the heart of Silicon Valley, I knew that technology was going to be the key to the success of 2B Living.

2B Living on working with Dropbox
“I could keep everyone up to date by creating a workflow around a cloud-based file sharing and synchronization platform. Which is exactly what we did with Dropbox—a digital solution that was as simple as opening and closing a drawer on the physical filing cabinet I was replacing.”
Brooks Baskin, founder and CEO of 2B Living

Reinvent for success

 
The truth is, property managers can't bypass paperwork entirely. But I could digitize it, saving my company a lot of physical space and avoiding the need to anchor my business to an enormous filing cabinet. What’s more, I recognized that I could keep everyone in my organization up to date by creating a workflow around a cloud-based file sharing and synchronization platform. Which is exactly what we did with Dropbox.

The interface is as minimal as it gets, but the platform itself packs a big punch.

Then we looked at Google Drive and encountered the same problems. No go there, too.

 

The Dropbox logo was the first clue I had landed on the right product. At the time, the image of a bottomless box drew me in, and the platform lived up to my expectations. 

 

Dropbox is a small but mighty app that solves the big problem of storing and sharing files across multiple locations and among a diverse group of people with varying levels of technical expertise. I couldn't have asked for a better, tidier solution.

How I do more with Dropbox

 

A lot of companies overpromise and underdeliver, but that wasn't the case with Dropbox. The company delivered the exact product they pitched, and we replaced our employees' separate document drives with a collective Dropbox repository.

When a property owner signs a management contract, it goes into Dropbox. The same thing happens when a tenant signs a lease. When we need to hire a plumber or need a quote from a contractor for a renovation, we access and share all of the forms we need from Dropbox. When we're working with a real estate broker, passing deeds and titles from one stakeholder to another, we archive everything in Dropbox.

It's our digital filing cabinet that has no physical footprint and never runs out of space.

As our company has continued to grow—we now employ 37 full-time staff as well as a number of part-time, contract, and on-site—we’ve added processes and adjusted our workflows. Dropbox remains an elegant solution that has kept pace with our growth every step of the way. While our systems and paperwork may have evolved over nearly a decade, we still use Dropbox to keep everything organized and accessible.

Better processes lead to outstanding service

 

While our internal processes have improved using Dropbox so, too, has our ability to deliver outstanding service to our renters and improve business outcomes. 

 

One such example is how Dropbox has helped us vastly improve response times for our tenants. When a tenant contacts us with an issue, our goal is to respond within 12 hours and perform needed repairs within the next day or two, depending on severity.

Tenants send us pictures of the problem, but with multiple properties to manage, organizing the thousands of maintenance images is crucial. Dropbox makes it easy to archive these images and their related documentation to better manage any recurring or future issues. We know exactly where to look, plus we can access the files from anywhere, making communication and resolution workflows seamless. 

 

When our area’s shelter-in-place order took effect in March, our leasing team shifted from in-person to virtual property tours, and we used Dropbox in conjunction with a number of other tools, such as FaceTime, to share photos and videos with prospective tenants. 

 

Not only did we keep our tenants and teams safe, but we’ve also keep operations running, renting, on average, one apartment every two days, even throughout the pandemic.

Streamlined onboarding accelerates ROI

 

Dropbox sits at the center of our onboarding process and helps accelerate ROI when we sign property management contracts with new properties and their accompanying tenants. Dropbox has reduced the number of person-hours required to onboard a new property. This means we have fewer costs to recoup.

We embraced electronic signatures from Day One and were an early adopter of HelloSign, because it had a less “corporate” feel than some other eSig companies, which appealed to our customers. And when Dropbox acquired the company in 2019, it made our work that much more streamlined, shaving significant time from signing and archiving contracts.

How we anticipate our customers' needs

 
The Bay Area is the epicenter of tech and startup culture, and yet, most property management firms have been slow to embrace technology. But people today do everything on their phones and they don’t want to start filling out forms, not even to rent a property. We can’t afford to be slow in meeting our customers’ needs, nor do we want to be.

Rather than looking for a single solution to solve every business problem, find a single solution that solves your biggest problem, and does it well.

While Dropbox doesn't solve all of our business problems, it does one thing, and does it well—at an affordable cost. That one thing, however, has been a big part of our operational backbone. We've leveraged its document sharing and file synchronization features to empower a team that serves the entire Bay Area.

 

2B Living uses tech to reimagine property management and Dropbox is helping us reshape the industry. What’s more, our talented team has all the tools they need to help our customers feel the way they want to feel: at home.

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