The following originally appeared in an AIR Commercial Real Estate Association feature called “AIR CREators: David Crown of LAPMG on the Realities of Property Management.” You can view that post here.
David Crown is the CEO of Los Angeles Property Management Group (LAPMG), and has over twenty-five years of experience managing all types of income properties. He has been a member of AIR CRE since 2015 and has been asked to serve as an expert witness in property management matters, and currently serves on the Forbes Real Estate Council.
Q. At what moment did you know you achieved career success in the industry?
A: It’s hard to say, because there’s never been a moment we’ve felt we could sit back or rest on our laurels. Success in property management most often means acquiring more business, which means more work for the team. We’re constantly expanding and improving. But I had some idea of how far we’d come as a company when my eldest son, Kyle, left a job with KTR Capital in Philadelphia six years ago to come back to California and work with me. Kyle’s a Wharton School of Business graduate, and I knew that if anybody as sharp and ambitious as him wanted to work here, we were a fine organization. Kyle is now our company President, and has helped us usher in a period of growth like nothing we had ever experienced before.
To top all that off, two more of my sons, Trevor and Andy, now work as our Marketing Coordinator and Account Manager, respectively. Their ideas are helping LAPMG evolve even further, and having built a company that my sons are excited to work for is an achievement I consider among my highest.
Q. What are some misconceptions about your profession?
A. The most common misconception about property management is that it’s easy. New property owners tend to think that if they manage their own property, they’ll learn the necessary skills as they go, and eventually get the hang of it. By the time they realize how rigorous and involved the process actually is, they might already be in legal trouble. It’s certainly possible to self-manage successfully, but only if you know what you’re getting yourself into. In nine cases out of ten, hiring professionals will better benefit your bottom line and your sanity.
Q. Where do you imagine yourself in five years’ time?
A. I hope that five years from now, our emphasis has shifted even further toward the management of commercial property. We want to prioritize commercial to the extent that it becomes our majority operation.
Aside from that, it’s important to me that I never stop learning new skills. After a short break of about forty years, I recently took up the saxophone again, and I’ve been taking lessons and jamming with friends—we’ve even played a few live gigs. I hope that five years from now I can improvise a bit better.
Q. What horror story do you have from a job you’ve had or deal you’ve done that taught you a valuable lesson?
A. Two stories here: (1) The very first house I owned, after I moved out, I kept as a rental, thinking I would manage it myself. Since I wasn’t in the management industry professionally yet back then, I didn’t truly know the responsibilities and challenges that entailed. Sure enough, things went south in a hurry, and I ended up with an eviction lawsuit on my hands. I learned a lot from that experience about how not to manage, and I let that failure motivate me. Clearly I haven’t forgotten it.
And (2) after I got my degree from Cal State Northridge, I was certain there would be an esteemed company waiting around to hire me so I could tell them how to run their organization. Instead, I ended up climbing a pyramid of frozen potatoes every day. That’s not an exaggeration. I worked for a food broker. And, frozen potatoes aside, I learned a valuable lesson from that job as well: sales and service are synonymous. The quality of your product will determine how much of it you move, plain and simple.
Q. What do you think you do better than 90% of people in your field?
A. I mentioned above that it’s important to me as a person to never stop learning. I apply that in my professional life as well, and it has become one of LAPMG’s guiding principles: we fly in a consultant from out-of-town once a month to make sure we never stop learning new skills and improving our processes.
If I may include another more concrete answer, it’s maintenance. Licensed as general contractors, we have an in-house maintenance branch that’s second to none, comprised of expertly skilled technicians and supervisors.
Q. What’s your favorite simple pleasure?
A. For alone time, I love a good cigar on my back porch with an old blues record on the turntable, or a morning out in the water at County Line on my stand-up paddle surfboard. For family time, it’s hard to beat our annual summer trip to Big Sur, where I’ve been camping every year since my own childhood, and where I proposed to my wife thirty-one years ago.
Q. What sage advice would you have for anyone starting out in the industry?
A. Nail down exactly what it is that each and every one of your unique clients expects from you, and see to it that you exceed that expectation. I cannot overstate the importance of going above and beyond in real estate. We’ve taken on the task of making stress disappear from one key area of our clients’ lives, delivering them peace of mind. If you go all out to impress clients and truly earn their trust, the rest will follow.
Q. What topic could you spend hours talking about?
A. I’m a Teddy Roosevelt fanatic—I’ve read the biographies, watched the documentaries, and I can’t get enough. We’ve got Teddy Roosevelt quotes on posters in the office, and my four sons get me Teddy Roosevelt shirts for Father’s Day. Roosevelt was an insatiable learner, never content with what he already knew. I’ve learned a great deal about leadership from his philosophies, one of which is the principle of the leader-as-servant. It’s crucial that an effective leader acknowledges that he is a servant of those he leads, and property management is no exception. We seek to serve our owners and our tenants with everything we’ve got.
Q. Who do you go out of your way to be nice to?
A. When I was in college, a friend and mentor told me, “You can’t rightly judge anybody, but you can tell a whole lot about someone by the way they treat homeless people.” That resonated with me and still does. There’s a kind, intelligent, and funny homeless gentleman named Todd who spends a lot of time around the block from our office in Studio City. He’s become a friend to my son and me over the past year, and we spend a few minutes talking with him whenever we see him. A few minutes of caring conversation can go a long way in the life of a person who many others treat as something less than that.
Q. Do you have a particular business or life motto?
A. It will come as no surprise that the words of wisdom I return to most often in business come from Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech. I’ll spare you the full monologue, but here’s a pertinent bit: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.”
Essentially: roll up your sleeves. Do the work that needs doing.