I promise we aren’t going to keep talking about burnout in property management. Instead, we are going to be talking about how to prevent it. like any business. It all starts with having solid foundations: the systems, the procedures, the training, and the support. But why have we gotten it all so wrong in property management for so long? I want to start with a little saying that’s not always popular, but I personally believe it is true. Property management is not that hard. And if you are screaming at me right now, yes, it bloody well is, then you need to hear this episode. Property management is hard if you do not have the foundations of the business set up properly. And what do I mean by the foundations? I am talking about the systems, the procedures, the workflows, the training, and the support.
So how do I know this statement to be true? Well, I ran my business in literal chaos in the early days. I have never worked in such a systems- and procedure-based business. Before I was a journalist, my procedure was to find a good story, get someone to comment, write the story, publish the story, and go home. So, starting in property management was a shock to the system. Let me say, and I say this all the time, but I feel sorry for the property managers who worked for us in the early days. They were literally thrown in the deep end, and it was a sink or swim situation. Eventually, I could not keep a property manager in my office. It was like a revolving door of property managers. I knew then that I had to make some changes and address the foundations, which were nonexistent. And if you are thinking, “I don’t have any solid foundations in my business,” they’re pretty shaky. Well, that’s okay. You can start again, and they can be fixed. But it will take hard work, commitment, or even better, the support of someone who has walked the path before you and has come out the other side with a streamlined and systemized business.
And if I can do it, honestly, anyone can. Now that your business is set up properly, you and your team will have the time and mental space to deal with major issues or challenges. You are free to focus on customer service, which is the core of any business but especially property management. And what happens when you keep your clients happy and are on the offensive in a situation?Your business simply flows. There is no blaming; there is no scarcity; and there is little conflict.You get referrals, and your team is not stressed and wanting to quit. But do not just take my word for it. My guest today is Casey Lawrence, and she is living proof that getting the foundations right leads to successful businesses, happy teams, and clients who are raving fans. After spending two decades in the trenches as a property manager, department head, and team leader, Casey started her own consulting and training business. This was after having two little kids, mind you. And she is still sane. In fact, she is thriving. MPM Consultants offers a number of services and training for property managers and businesses. Her passion, though, is helping newcomers to the industry get the core skills right so that they can have a successful, long-lasting career in property management.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN PROPERTY MANAGEMENT?
‘I have almost two decades of experience in the property management industry. So, I started when I was not long out of school. I have done 10 years of property management, and then I wanted a bit more of a challenge. So I moved up to senior management and became the manager of the rental department before starting a new rental department from scratch. I was approached by a new agency that had been dealing with a developer, and they suddenly had 85 properties on their rental list for lease at one time, with no structure set up and staff in place to be able to manage the leasing and all the management of all those listings at once. So, I went in there and structured their entire department, staffed their department, and trained the department. So, from there, I moved on to manage a very well-known agency’s rental department down here in Melbourne with only a team of 11 property managers and administrative staff. Toward the end, it was almost 2,000 rental properties. And again, we restructured the entire department, trained the staff, mentored the staff, um, to the point where we had almost no turnover for four years there. So, that is where I found my passion in training, mentoring, and structuring rental departments to be able to get the best out of the property managers and support them to be able to deliver the highest level of customer service, which is the industry that we are in. So, from there, I went on to have a couple of babies, and it was during my second stint of maternity leave that we were going through COVID.’
‘I was seeing all of the struggles and distress that property managers were in and the industry as a whole and thought, “How can I help and, I guess, protect the integrity of the industry, which was going down fast?” Property managers were leaving the industry in large numbers. I think a third of property managers left during COVID. So, that is where I started my own property management consulting and training business. So I could give back to the industry that has given so much to me over almost 20 years to support those new recruits that are coming through who do not have the experience or knowledge to be able to begin their career and thrive, or to be confident enough to deal with the clientele and the multimillion-dollar portfolios that they are given. That’s where we’re at.’
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES IN PROPERTY MANAGEMENT RIGHT NOW?
‘The biggest one is the lack of property managers with experience who have not been replaced since COVID.” So, we are seeing a lot of new property managers come in because there is no staff with all that experience there. And then the biggest challenge there is that they are not trained enough, or well enough, to be able to confidently step into the portfolio and manage it. There have also been a lot of legislation changes in many states, and it has been stressful for the property managers to try and keep up with it all. So, being able to train them and support them through that, but also, out of respect for the clients, being able to have a property manager that knows what they are doing and is confident with the legislation and everyday property management, They are the biggest challenges that I am seeing. the lack of experienced property managers, but also the lack of training or time to train them, which is where I come in and why I started my business. The systems and procedures that should be in place to be able to help their everyday property management’
WHAT ARE THE CORE FOUNDATIONS OF A PROPERTY MANAGEMNT BUSINESS?
‘Structure and system support, in my opinion, should have been the core values and characteristics of successful property management. With all those things, you should be able to have a thriving property management team and culture. Referrals from the results of having all those systems and procedures in place will naturally come once the certified level of service is there. So having the directors or management support the property managers by putting systems and structures in place to help them eliminate the guessing game or human error, and if they have procedures and checklists to follow, it also eliminates the stress that they experience from worrying that they will forget something or needing to remember things all the time. So having all those procedures in place, the focus can then be on customer service, focusing on their customers, and helping the customers and clients.’
WHY ARE SYSTEMS AND PROCEDURES SO IMPORTANT?
‘I think having the systems and procedures that you do implement should not make their lives any harder or more stressful. Speaking to the staff as well as to the problems that they are facing and what they need to make their day-to-day lives a little bit more efficient But essentially, all the procedures that you should have in place should be the normal steps that you are taking. Your best practise for each vacant property, or your tenants who are vacating, your routine inspections, your arrears, or your rent reviews, all should have a set procedure that you are following to make sure that it is done correctly and things aren’t missed. and that there is no liability that can come back to the property manager or the agency. That is all there is to it. So, it is not the procedures put in place that are making their lives harder. It’s to protect them and the agency, and to make their lives easier and less stressful.’
HOW DO YOU HELP A PROPERTY MANAGEMNT BUSINESS?
‘So, there are two arms to business.” With the consulting and training with the consulting sign, I would go into an agency on foot and do a full audit on their rental department. I would spend a couple of days in there just noting how things are currently running, observing, and getting right in to see what systems and procedures they currently have in place. I then put together a plan moving forward as to how to structure and streamline it a little bit or a lot better to just make everything run smoothly. And having all of those in place will help retain your staff as well, because they will feel like there’s structure. There will be a lot less turnover because they do not feel as frazzled or stressed. There are fewer chances for clients to come back and request compensation for something that has gone wrong or has been missed. Just dive in, set everything up, and follow all the procedures. The best practise is to train staff along the way on the new systems and procedures that have been set up. And then I might come back in once a week, once a fortnight, or once a month, depending on what the client needs or requests, just to make sure that things are still going smoothly. If anything else needs to be implemented or changed, depending on how they work or how they are finding it to have worked, and then go from there.’
WHAT ARE THE TRAINING PROGRAMS TO SUPPORT PROPERTY MANAGEMENT NEWCOMMERS?
‘I am so passionate about this subject.” I could talk about it for hours, but it is just so important to be nurturing these new entrants that are coming into the industry and giving them the confidence and knowledge to empower them in their career and property management. So I now have a short course in the fundamentals of property management, which is ideal for property managers with zero to three years of experience. I guess anyone who has come into the industry since COVID would really benefit from the course. And it goes through the fundamentals, which are your time management, your communication, preventing complaints, your best practises for your day-to-day tasks, managing clients’ expectations, educating your clients, and the legislation within everyday property management so that there is a solid foundation for them to begin their career or to continue their career. Just to have that confidence as they work with their clients, they have that foundation of knowledge that they need to be able to start or thrive in their career. So there’s the course, and then there are the workshops that I do. So, there are workshops on complaint prevention, and there’s a lot of training or information on how to deal with complaints, but I thought let’s just stop them from coming in altogether. So, I created that little workshop, which has been well received. The most recent one is dealing with all of the tribunal delays that we are experiencing in many states. This one is about preventing or avoiding VCAT and how to preempt and prevent potential bond issues throughout your agency. I’ve got the next sessions for those coming up next week, if anyone’s interested in coming along. “It’s a very cost-effective, short training session, and yet I guess you can get a feel for how I train.’
WHAT ARE YOUR BEST PERSONAL DEVELOPEMENT TIPS?
‘The connections that I have made in the industry and the colleagues that I have worked with through the years have been my best resource and best learning tool.” I have learned a lot from people I have worked with in the past. A good piece of advice for younger or older, but newer people coming through who do not have much experience is to listen to those around you. You can really learn a lot from other people’s phone calls and conversations, and how they handle certain situations. A little piece of advice that stuck with me many years ago in my career was that there is always a better way to communicate something. If one route fails, try another because how you react to and treat your clients will have a direct impact on your day-to-day life in property management. So if you can always go in with a “glass half full” approach, the outcome will always be better. And you are often the middleman. You are the middleman between the owner and the tenant. So, you do often find yourself on the other end of their frustration, whether it be with the neighbor, a tradesperson, or the owner, but do not ever let the frustration be with you as the property manager, and that is in your control. So, you know, if you are responding to their requests or whatever they need from you, you are their only point of contact, and it is in your control to not let their frustration be with you. “Um, I think that is another valuable piece of advice as well.’
Building solid foundations in your business is the key to literally all of your success. Without them, you will be unable to grow because your managements will leave as quickly as you bring them in, you will have a revolving door of unhappy property managers, and, most importantly, your health will suffer as a result of the stress of working in chaos.
If you would like to work with us on your business systems and procedures, click on the link here to find out more.