Squeak Up! It’s the Squeaky Wheel That Gets the Grease

We've all heard before that "it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease". It's good to be reminded of that truism once in a while. Squeaking brings attention to your complaint and helps to focus others on solving your problem. Squeaking is often a form of managing a situation, communicating, and/or negotiating.

In July of this year a friend of mine was feeling badly used when he noticed that his property taxes on his office building had increased 17% while over the last several years his rents had been declining on a steep curve. Taxes were skyrocketing. He couldn't understand how the county could do this to him in the middle of an economic depression. The county was netting more from his building than he was. This wasn't the first time either.

He decided that even though he believed it would probably do no good, he would appeal the new appraised value. He appealed on the basis of a market capitalization valuation based on a trailing 12-month net operating income divided by an 8% Cap rate. This valuation approach did not square with the comparison appraisal approach or the cost to build comparison appraisal approach. However, he was convinced that this approach needed to be added to the mix in order to determine a realistic valuation for tax purposes.

As he entered the room where the County Board of Equalization sat he shook hands with each individual and smiled at them. He did not want to alienate anyone and he knew they were doing their job. He had already determined that although he was going to be a squeaky wheel he was going to try to not be an angry wheel or an obnoxious wheel or an accusing wheel; rather he wanted to be a polite and respectful squeaky wheel. He laid out his case. The Board listened.

Then the county appraiser started to talk. My friend was amazed to find that there was agreement from the county appraiser and the county assessor with his overall assessment of valuation. After a little more negotiation the two sides reached an accommodation that worked for everyone. He walked out of the room with a $3,400 annual reduction in his property taxes. It was worth the effort it took to squeak.

As often as not, if you will take the time to put your case together, gather facts and data, gather witnesses, prepare and practice the presentation of your case, put a plan or strategy together, and then execute your "planned squeaking" you will see value recognized because of the effort expended. Often that value will be far out of proportion to the time, money or effort that you put into the squeaking.

I notice it works that way with my apartment tenants. Some will sit in their apartments and grouse about the things that are wrong with the apartment. Others will fill out a work request, turn it in to the apartment manager, and watch as something gets done. It's the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. If you don't "squeak" those who can give you the grease may not even know you have a problem. Don't be silent, squeak up! Squeaking often brings progress and solutions.

Politics, business, personal relationships, and other relationships all need a mechanism for listening to and responding to the squeaky wheel. In every arena of endeavor it is the squeaky wheel that inevitably gets the grease. Pick out a legitimate concern you have today, put a plan together and start squeaking. Be polite, be respectful, be prepared, and be persistent. You might be pleasantly surprised about what can happen in your favor.


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