Corporate convergence

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High-tech firms usually take one of two paths to sustained growth: develop innovative solutions not available on the market or acquire firms who have developed those solutions.

Cincinnati-based Domin-8 Enterprise Solutions™, a provider of property management software and services for the multifamily housing industry, is pursuing both paths simultaneously.

Through three major acquisitions this year, Domin-8 has quickly moved from starting point four years ago to holding significant ground with notable rivals Yardi, RealPage, MRI-Intuit, TenantPro and First American-Realeum.

This year Domin-8 acquired three providers of advanced property management solutions that expands the company’s family of property management applications, brings greater depth to its services and solutions, and adds diversity to the range of properties it serves.

In June, Domin-8 acquired Logicbuilt Inc. of Vista, California, a company that provides a set of applications for real estate, construction, maintenance and many other service-based industries ranging from small user to industry professional. Last January, Domin-8 snatched up Madison, Wisconsin-based American Computer Software (ACS) and in March added Rockville, Maryland-based PMAS.

“Domin-8’s recent acquisitions represent more than the growth of a company,” says David Cardwell, Vice President of Capital Markets & Technology for the National Multi Housing Council. “It represents the fact that the apartment industry is moving to web enabled systems and a growing desire for integrated business software.”

The Logicbuilt-Manage-IT product fits well within the Domin-8 portfolio of solutions. Domin-8’s Paradigm™ Residential Property Management (RPM) delivers a breakthrough solution for apartment property management, allowing real estate companies, through the use of advanced web-based software and services, to achieve the full potential of their property investment. Paradigm RPM provides support for large scale market rate and tax credit multifamily housing.

Domin-8’s Management PLUS, from ACS, delivers a comprehensive Windows-based solution for small to midsize market rate, tax credit and HUD housing, as well as student, senior, and military housing. A Wisconsin-based provider of property management software and a trusted brand name in the industry, ACS is a strong addition to Domin-8’s portfolio of property management solutions.

ACS has been a popular choice for property owners since 1968 when it was founded by Timothy Schaefer and became a privately held company in 1982. The company’s applications are known for its ease of use and a simplicity that belies its comprehensive array of tools. In 2004 ACS received the prestigious Journal of Property Management Readers’ Choice Award and has won numerous other industry awards. More than one million units have been computerized with ACS’ Management Plus™ software.

“Domin-8 has proven to be the new industry leader in property management software,” said Tim Schaefer, ACS president. “The company’s vision and strategic direction will provide ACS customers an upgrade path to a robust solution, but also will allow them to take advantage of a set of powerful value-added services.”

Schaefer, an industry icon with broad experience in many facets of the multihousing business, will continue to be involved as a consultant in the evolution of ACS at Domin-8 which includes development of a web-based version.

Domin-8’s RealProperty PLUS, from PMAS, offers a fully integrated front and back office Windows-based solution for the midsize market rate, tax credit and HUD multifamily market. It also includes commercial and retail capabilities and a comprehensive integrated accounting solution.

According to Greg McGrath, President of Domin-8, the company’s rapid growth has been a key part of his strategic vision: “We’ve always been driven from the perspective of our customer. To that end, we’ve long sought to add services that complement our offering, but most importantly meet the expanding needs of our multihousing customers.”

Leadership with vision

Domin-8 founder Greg McGrath is a strong believer in the vision mapped out for the growing software firm. Following a 20-year career owning and managing properties, McGrath felt technology solutions available to owners and managers were a decade behind. In 2002, he launched Domin-8 to bring new solutions to market.

The dissatisfaction on many levels with the property management solutions available are borne out by user surveys conducted by the National Multi-Housing Council and the Journal of Property Management. Those surveys show dissatisfaction with existing solutions among a number of users, particularly with integration and customization functions.

McGrath sees Domin-8’s mission to change that perception by delivering advanced products built from the ground up to integrate newer technologies and key services while automating and streamlining the processes that are fundamental to property management.

Looking forward, McGrath says, “Much of our revenue growth over the next few months, even years, will be from the crossover value of the services we’ve added by virtue of our newest acquisitions. Each acquisition has added services that are of benefit to our existing customers. In turn, our newer customers can benefit as well.”

“We’ve been around the multifamily industry for decades. That’s not a history or alliance that one gives up. On the other hand, there’s a good chance that our expansion through acquisition is not finished. The industry is made up of our customers, but they are also our partners and friends. In continuing to build this partnership, we look to our customers’ needs and build from there.”

The market

Since the evolution from rent roll and back office accounting systems, property management software has been lead by a handful of companies providing advanced solutions to their customers. These firms include Yardi Systems, Realpage, MRI-Intuit, TenantPro, and Realeum. All offer Windows and web-based applications and integrated modules for tenant screening, electronic payment and other automated processes.

An important development in property management software has been the Multifamily Information and Transactions Standards (MITS) initiative, the apartment industry’s collective effort to create common data standards so various apartment-related software programs can “talk to each other.” Early feedback indicates that with MITS-compliant software, firms can reduce data transfer costs by as much as 95 percent under certain scenarios.

The Domin-8 approach

“Talk to nearly any property manager and they’ll tell you less is always more when finding the right property management software,” says Denis Clark, vice president of sales and marketing for Domin-8. “Any-thing that requires less hassle and offers more integrated services is getting more attention these days — a result being that managers now often find themselves with a patchwork of inefficient solutions.”

Clark sees the trend toward integrated management systems driven by three primary needs:

First, is the need to integrate a variety of standalone applications and provide a single point of control within a business. Many solutions in the industry fall short of this goal, leaving end-users with the task of patching together their separate systems, without any management controls.

Second, is a need for accurate and timely information. A single version of the truth! It is difficult to get results when unshared business information sits in separate applications and databases.

Third, is the need for management to enforce their business rules across a growing, changing and distributed organization. It is difficult for management to guarantee compliance to industry and governmental policies, especially without integrated systems and data.

The founders of Ohio-based Domin-8 Enterprise Solutions boast extensive experience in the property management industry, and so when it comes to developing a property management software solution to address the needs of the industry, they’re uniquely positioned to understand these integration problems.

Domin-8 offers unique combination of property management products and services for small, medium and large owners and managers, and across a wide variety of segments including market rate, Tax Credit, HUD, commercial and retail. In addition, Domin-8 offers value added services such as background screening and electronic payments as an integral part of their total solution.

Domin-8’s products and services are fully integrated into a single solution, with a common data entry point, and a single database of information. With this approach, managers can count on accurate and timely information with ensured compliance to corporate and industry rules and policies across all systems.

“We pursue a two-prong strategy,” says Clark. “We develop and sell property management software and we offer our growing customer base a wide range of integrated services.”

“There’s no question that the market is ripe for consolidation,” adds Clark. “We see acquisitions as a valuable tool to broaden our customer base which serves to expand the value of our customers’ investment in our solutions. There is an ongoing demand from other sub-markets and we want to be able to enter and serve a wider marketplace.”

Clark says Domin-8 plans to introduce a number of new services to its customer base, including resident mail, an application that will automate production and formatting of postal-delivered letters housed in a database and a new application to facilitate activating services and utilities such as phone, cable, etc,. for new residents and will provide a mechanism for owners to generate ancillary revenue opportunities.