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Do you want to Dance?

Middle school dances and starting a business…

Starting the announcement of our first property management brokerage acquisition by revisiting middle school angst may be an unusual entry point. However, in many ways, creating a business is  really like attending your first middle school dance. There is a foreign, awkward excitement that is hard to put into words. Many thoughts and actions lead up to the day. And then suddenly you are there–back against the wall, surveying the landscape–looking for anyone eager to give you a shot.  

I’ve often struggled to describe the powerful combination of anxiety and elation of entrepreneurship but maybe I was not tapping into the right middle school memories, buried beneath braces and rejection.   

When you start a business, and as you begin to realize people are not beating down the door to engage with you, a certain real pragmatism sets in. You have to be open to anyone! Anyone who is ultimately willing to look past your inexperience; anyone who is willing to prioritize your enthusiasm over your core competency. And so you work with/for (or dance) with whomever will have you. Friends, family, less-than-ideal prospects, any and all are welcome as long as they can help to get you out of the corner and off the proverbial wall. 

If you are lucky and/or fortunate as I have been in business (and dancing–as anyone who has seen my wife dance can attest), you survive long enough to get another shot, another chance to show maybe, just maybe, you can learn a thing or two. You may never become Steve Jobs (or Fred Astaire), but, if you play your cards right, you get enough reps to get that innate awareness of your own frequency and rhythm and you begin to find music (and prospects) that suit your speed. 

With this awareness, you understand that you will also never be on Dancing with the Stars but perhaps you can find a beat and venue that leads to real competency and proficiency. Maybe, just maybe, you can hang around long enough to say no to enough songs, to enough opportunities, you reach the rare air of becoming expert in a certain niche, industry, market and skill. 

So as we seek the beginnings of a strategic expansion to 10,000 SFR homes under management over the next 3 years, we are seeking the SFR equivalent of middle school dance veterans. The recent acquisition of Voepel property management is our first new veteran to join Auben.

It is a major milestone for the Auben Capital Partners team who has been diligently working to complete this deal for the last year, and it positions us as one of the 10 largest property management companies in the country, while also allowing us to align ourselves with a strong, veteran strategic partner. 

As we celebrate welcoming the Kansas City-based Voepel Property management brokerage and their team members into the Auben ecosystem this week, we are thankful that we have all been dancing long enough to know our rhythms and what we are looking for in strategic partners. 

I first met Brent Voepel, owner and founder of Voepel Property Management and the Canopy brokerage, around 2013/2014 when I went to Kansas City to screen and interview property management companies and brokerages for Conrex, now Maymont Homes–owned by Brookfield. What I recognized in Brent a decade ago was that entrepreneurial spirit and the desire to grow his operations to meet new and unique business opportunities. Over a working partnership formed over the past decade, I came to understand Brent as a business-growth guy to his core. With a marketing background and also motivated, hardworking, ambitious and personable, Brent has built Voepel into a large vertically-integrated organization in the greater Kansas City area offering sales, project management, maintenance and property management with clients ranging from local to institutional investors. 

From small beginnings, Brent harnessed a lot of vision into a big business. Like a lot of entrepreneurial visionaries, as the business grew Brent sought to hire, form and build complementary pieces to his equation. 

Similar to my own journey, Brent learned the importance (and difficulty) of finding the right integrator(s) to execute his vision. So several years ago, as we were both retooling operational pieces, we began to share ideas and best practices with no thought of any merger and/or acquisition, just a true information share from two people trying to scale their organizations. Truth be told, up until a couple of years ago, I was opposed to growth by acquisition–believing firmly that we should only be as big as we deserve to be. I preferred the path of entering into new markets via a slow organic build. 

What I underestimated with my plan for Auben’s growth was even if the slow build approach would get us the solid foundation I am seeking, getting the true depth of true local experts (which is core to our model) is really, really challenging. 

It takes time to enter and navigate a new market and gain true depth and nuance in a market, from all angles: knowledge, relationships, presence, etc. No matter how much data and tech you throw at it, residential real estate, especially single family, is still real local. Scatter-site single family, in particular, always manifests as way more inefficient and micro-marketed than you would expect it to be.  

So, when Brent approached us a year ago about exploring a way to more closely work together, we were interested in listening, having experienced a slow burn with some of our organic expansion which had not been as impactful in our communities as we hoped to be. 

Over the course of many conversations and negotiations with Brent and the Voepel team, we found a strong synergy between his desire to grow and our ability to provide Brent the operational backbone he needed. Equally important, Brent’s business is in a fundamentally sound market (Kansas City) which we intend to be in for the next 30 years. We are excited by the immediate economies of scale we have both already achieved and the opportunities we are now able to immediately, collectively pursue. If you are looking for SFR investment assistance in KC, we are now open for business.  

As the song says….”Going to Kansas City, Kansas City here we come!”

If you are interested in learning more on how you can partner with Auben to focus on what you do best, please reach out to Auben Capital Partners principal, Alex Becker at abecker@aubenrealty.com.