What Belong Learned from the Best Restaurants, Hotels - and Ferrari

Written By
Adam on Apr 28, 2021
You absorb – and become - your influences.

It’s true for individuals, and it’s true for companies.

It’s safe to say that at Belong, we have not been influenced by the “property management industry ” – other than by learning what not to do!   That’s because this $96 billion dollar category is built on friction, that frustrates those who own houses, and those who rent them.

The core of the problem is that property managers treat houses as commodities.  House A and House B and House C might as well be the same. Read more about how to deal with a bad property manager here .

Not us.

For Belong, a house is precious and much-loved dwelling that unites the homeowner and the resident.  By the way, that’s how we described the two sides we bring together.  We  never use the ugly, medieval words “landlord” and “tenant.”

The other fundamentally broken piece of property management is that they view the world as zero-sum game.  In other words, if they let a leaky pipe leak, they’re saving the owner the cost of repair. The lack of transparency in property management fees is alarming .

That’s a massive miscalculation.

In reality, a run-down house benefits no one, and a well-run house benefits everyone.

If we reject the unfriendly norms of property management, what are we replacing them with? That’s where the headline of our article wanders into the story.  We have studied and absorbed the best from those who are brilliant at serving both sides of the service equation – from restaurants, and hotels, and the elevated values of Ferrari.

What we seek to create at Belong is a welcoming experience that is a completely new manifestation of hospitality in our industry.  Indeed, the very use of that word when it comes to property management feels odd and unexpected, which precisely captures how seismically different we are.

One of the leading and most profound voices in hospitality today is the restauranter Danny Meyer, who is probably best known for the Union Square Cafe in New York.  Danny’s book “Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business”   inspired us in many ways.   We seek to create a “Belong experience” for homeowners restaurants that lives up to this definition:

“Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. Those two simple prepositions - for and to - express it all.”

We built Belong to make things happen “for” those in our community, which involves removing friction, anticipating problems, and solving them in ways that bring  instant joy. So, if a homeowner in our community is moving out, we handle the logistics for them, and we do it painlessly.   We also make any necessary repairs, and make their home Instagrammable.  Then we show it and find someone to love it.

That’s how we bring hospitality to what has been the dreary and delight-free world of property management.  After all, the word “hospitality” is derived from the  Latin word “hospitalitis” – which refers to the special relationship between guest and host.  
Our homeowners are hosts, are residents are guests, and we elevate the relationship!

Or, as Danny Meyer puts it”  “Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side.”  That’s exactly what we strive to create at Belong; our concierges are on the side of both our homeowners and residents.  We believe, as we said, that when you are are focused on creating a home that is is gracious, inviting and brilliantly run, everyone wins.

Our influences also extend to hotels, and specifically, the Four Seasons, who have raised hospitality to an art form,  We think about them accomplishments every day.  Service sits at the core of what they do, which they define as “a repeated set of behaviors…a promise of a great quality of life that only dedicated staff can deliver, without any script.”

We love the idea of consistency and no script; it sounds counter-intuitive but really isn’t, because that’s what is possible when your people are “embedded” into the culture of an enterprise.

That’s what Four Season’s is relentlessly focused on, and it represents the same principles by which we are building our service culture.  By giving our residents and homeowners Four-Seasons-like service, we will redefine property management for the future, and forever.

  Another important dimension of Four Seasons that is at the very core of our belief system is that role that  “connection” plays in their mission.  As Heather Jacobs, their Senior Vice President of People & Culture elegantly states: 

“Whether you work with us, stay with us, live with us or discover with us, 
we believe our purpose is to create impressions that will stay with you for a lifetime. It comes from our belief that life is richer when we truly connect to the people
and the world around us.”

We can say the same – whether a resident stays with us for 10 years or one year, we seek to create memorable impressions through the connections we make:   between residents and their homes; residents and homeowners; and between residents and the community. 

The last profound influence on us that we want to share is Ferrari.  Everyone knows them for their impeccable engineering and craftsmanship – which creates vehicles of monumental affection, and enduring value. 

Yet when they describe themselves , they don’t mention their cars, but celebrate their people:  

“Our individual people are our strongest asset and can reach excellency only when working together as a team, with strong communication, sharing and improving together for best results.  We live our company with enthusiasm, with a strong sense of pride and with emotion: Ferrari is lived with the heart.”

That language could describe what gets us up in the morning.    They also say, in perfect symmetry to our company, “We all have a strong sense of belonging…”

Wow, we got goosebumps when we read that.  

So now you know our influences, who we admire, and who we measure ourselves against.  That doesn’t mean we get it right all the time.  On the contrary.  But we are a learning culture and, to reference the endlessly quotable Danny Meyer one more time, “A great restaurant doesn’t distinguish itself by how few mistakes it makes, but how it handles those mistakes.”

Houses are complicated machines to run, there is always something about to go wrong, and you’re not going to get an email from your roof when it decides to leak.  (Although sensors are not far away, and we will be the first to property management company to install them.)

But when we hold fast to the principles of hospitality and commitment, even when things go wrong, we intend to be measured by our homeowners and residents saying “Belong did right by me.”
About the author
Adam Hanft
Editor in Chief
Adam is a futurist - co-author of "Dictionary of the Future" - brand strategist, public-company board member, former comedy-writer (but he hasn't stopped being vaguely amusing), and an investor in Belong.