Re-engineering Property Management

I think we need to face the reality of our environment. In most cases and most areas, fee discounting is here to stay whether we like it or not and to remain profitable, we’re going to have to operate on reduced margins and therefore find other ways to keep a healthy bottom line.

If you and I have ever talked, you’ll know I’m a very strong advocate for profitability, and that just because you’ve got a big rent roll doesn’t mean that it’s a profitable one.

So let’s start to look at the rent roll as a separate business unit and treat it as a profit centre within your overall agency rather than as an add on to your sales division; I’ve said it in earlier pieces I’ve written – volume is vanity, profit is sanity… And cashflow is king.

In any healthy organisation or industry, there needs to be evolution. I said a couple of weeks ago that the old way of managing property needs to be reimagined, and this is our time to reflect and re-engineer our practices.

In fact, it’s well overdue – it’s been happening in the more evolved businesses for a while, and covid has seen to it that we need to do this, now…

We need to examine in detail how we can adapt our businesses to profitably cater for a new mentality and expectations from clients and our present teams and also future staff.

In my last article, I talked about adopting new technologies to support your Property Management team and today, I’m hopefully going to get you to start thinking about a different way to run a Property Management business to resolve the staffing crisis which is sweeping a lot of very good people out of the industry.

So how do we retain our teams, keep them happy as well as protect our profitability and our asset in the rent roll?

Property Managers are, by nature, a very detail-oriented bunch. They deal with onerous pieces of legislation and balance competing needs from both sets of clients and as a result, like processes – it keeps both them and the businesses they work in out of trouble. However, Property Managers are not jacks of all trades, and need to have lower workloads and levels of stress if they are to continue to provide excellence in client satisfaction.

In every business unit, there are people who have differing skills and can specialize in differing areas of the business – to use a sales analogy, you’ve got admin, accounts, reception and your sales team; some of whom will be outstanding listers, others who are better at selling.

A high functioning Property Management division needs to be seen in the same light – not everyone will have the same skills and shouldn’t be expected to have, and the structure of the division should take this into account and be playing to the variety of strengths – you’ll be creating a fertile ground to add to individual skillsets, be able to recruit different skills and therefore fill different roles, and in doing so create a career path for junior team members.

To do this, the team might well operate better if the various tasks of the job are split into different roles (whether that’s as a portfolio or pod structure) to better accommodate both their skills, level of experience and the business needs.

This would extend to business growth, leasing operations, inspections, maintenance and managing the client experience – our teams different skillsets will ready adapt to and accommodate this divisionalising of the roles, it also gives a business a training ground to bring newer members in and skill them up in terms of their own professional growth and allow the senior members of the team to develop as mentors and future leaders within the business. This will help attract and retain good staff to the business.

Add to this the stated desire by a lot of Property Managers to have flexibility in their working arrangements, and work from home at least for part of the week. The refusal by employers to allow this is felt to be a display of a lack of trust by Property Managers, and creates a tension within the workplace and just adds to the feeling that they’re not being appreciated or supported adequately – most of the database packages come with enough reporting tools to highlight where work isn’t being done, and this can then be used as part of a discussion over whether work from home is appropriate in a particular team member’s circumstance, so let’s start to open our minds to allowing some flexibility with our teams, you might actually find morale and team happiness lifts, contributing to the office being seen as an employer of choice when recruiting time comes.

I discussed the benefits of harnessing available and emerging tech last week so let’s park that; there’s a further way to ease the pressure on the team, and that’s to look at the outsourcing of any of the routine functions of the division, virtually every office admin function (and some operational ones) can be done remotely of the office and there are plenty of organisations both inside and outside the country who can handle these.

Virtually any activity that you can name is being offered as an externally provided service to agents, the result of which is to ease the “busyness” of the office environment and therefore take pressure away from it. Activities such as

answering the phone,
checking tenancy applications (there’s an app for that!),
preparation of management and leasing paperwork (and for this)
organising compliance inspections
scheduling appointments,
trust accounting, or
the conduct of routine inspections

Many of these tasks are routine and repetitive, imagine an office where all these functions are undertaken away from key staff – offices I’ve assisted to put strategies such as this in place and have reported higher rates of landlord and tenant satisfaction, greater efficiency, productivity and profitability and perhaps most importantly, higher rates of staff retention.

So, how are you going to reimagine the inner workings of your Property Management division?

If you need a hand, let’s have a chat.