A Word From Our Owner, John McKenzie…
March 8, 2017
I have been thinking for some time that it might be interesting for me, as an owner of McKenzie Apartment Company, to let you know more about us as a company, and give you some background about the apartment business. Some topics I have in mind include trends in the industry, where your rent dollar goes, why costs go up, new projects, and maybe what is involved in developing a project. I also want to know what you want to know, so if you are interested in anything in particular please just email me or let your manager know your idea and they can pass it on to me. For this first blog, I want to tell you a little bit about our company, how we got here, and why we think we are different.
My father Richard got into real estate in the 1950’s. He had a law degree from the University of Wisconsin but made almost nothing in his first year out of school. Since he had a baby at home (me) he started working as an insurance claims adjuster. That didn’t pay particularly well either, but he learned a lot about what was happening in the city and different businesses while he was adjusting claims. That opened his eyes to real estate. The first deal he got involved with was to buy two vacant lots with a friend from the insurance agency. They used one of the lots as a down payment on a little office building, which they expanded and rented to his employer, Mutual Service Insurance company. Later he developed 5 small office buildings in Hilldale while still working as a claims adjuster. That is also where I got started in real estate. My job was to pick up gum and cigarette butts for 25 cents an hour, and later I thankfully graduated to lawn mowing for $3 per lawn. The first foray into residential real estate for Richard was to buy the 34 unit Whispering Hills townhouses in the 1970’s. This was the beginning of the McKenzie Apartment Company.
Since that time much has happened, but we have remained very much a family business. I got involved in 1990 after returning from California. Within a couple of years Richard, my brother Tim, and I developed the 128 unit Highland Ridge Apartments in Middleton, and the Blackhawk subdivision in Madison that included 514 apartments, 58 condominiums, and 479 homesites. Since then, Tim and I have done projects separately. Both companies have had an impact on the West Side of Madison and Verona. Although technically we compete, we operate with mutual respect and a similar mission.
Just as I was inspired by my father’s success in real estate, my children have shown that they want to carry on the legacy. My son, Jack, has been working with me for 6 years, initially in property management and now in construction of new properties. My daughter, Taylor, is in Denver working for another real estate firm so she is not a part of the McKenzie Apartment Company now, but since these properties will stay in the family she will be involved in our future. In addition, my wife Jo Ellen has been involved in our architecture and design decisions. She integrates with the architecture on new projects and directs renovations and upgrades of existing properties.
I am convinced that this family perspective makes us different. My father stressed to me that it is important to fix up properties so that you are proud of them and to show those that rent from you that you are earning their trust. I believe in that and I stress that to my kids who will be the eventual owners of the properties. I believe that you must regularly reinvest in a property for it to stand out. My kids have bought into the commitment that we will never sell and therefore it makes sense to stay ahead of repairs and maintenance. Our reputation is our life’s blood and we only earn a good one by taking care of our properties and treating people with the respect they deserve.
We have built a business that makes me proud and we are continuing to add new and exciting properties to the portfolio. I must say that the buildings are nothing without the people to operate them and provide the great service that must compliment the bricks and mortar. I think that our staff of property managers and all of the service people they oversee are the best in the business. They are our family too. I believe that is a big point of difference for our company. I respect and trust our staff and I feel it goes both ways. I am extremely proud of all of them.
We all believe in the same mission of service and quality. Together we are determined to be the best we can be.
Although we feel we are offering a great product we are always aware that we are not the ones that pass the final verdict. We will not survive in this business without earning the trust of our residents. That is why we want feedback. Our managers are there to help make your experience of living in our communities the best it can be. Let us know what we can do to best meet your needs. We are doing more community events like Taco Tuesdays, pizza nights, Badger and Packer parties, and of course the big the summer party. Please come and give us your feedback. We want you to enjoy your home, tell your friends about us, and most importantly be happy that you made the choice to live in one of our McKenzie Apartment Company communities.