You’ve thought about starting your own property management business, but then the fear has crippled you that voice in your head that has whispered who are you to do this or worse? You can’t do this, or you’ll never make this work. Now I’ll let you in on a little secret. We all have that inner mean voice. And it’s designed to protect us from feeling any form of discomfort. But if you are brave enough to stand up to that little voice and build the business you’ve been dreaming of, I promise you, you won’t regret it.
I want to dive into my backstory for just a minute. I started my property management business over 13 years ago, after leaving my job as a TV sports journalist, I was tired of working weekends and late nights, and I was missing out on way too much. And it really wasn’t fitting in or allowing me to be the kind of mum that I really wanted to be. So, off the back of the 2011 floods here in Australia, which was the worst possible real estate market in my area ever, we were decimated by the floods. We started a real estate business from scratch with zero experience. Now was I fearful? Absolutely. Did we struggle financially? Hell yes. We lived on pasta bank three nights a week because it was the cheapest thing to feed a family of six.
At the time we struggled personally and physically as well, sitting up all hours of the day and night sending out prospecting letters. My hand was cramping from writing on so many envelopes. My tongue saw from licking stamps and envelopes when that was still a thing. And my liver was screaming at me from the copious amounts of red wine that we had consumed. Now, do I regret it for one minute? Absolutely not. You see, we have built a thriving business across multiple office locations. We have a base of long-term loyal clients and a team of dedicated property managers who I’m fairly confident would tell you that they love their jobs. Now I hit rock bottom a few times along the way. I’m going to be completely transparent, suffering, burnout, adrenal fatigue, and a heart condition. But at the end of the day, there’s been some amazing life and business achievements, growth and lessons I’ve learned.
One of the biggest lessons that I have learnt is that you will always fear anything new. It’s just the way we are intrinsically wired as humans, but you have to go ahead and do it anyway. I sat down and interviews Villi Tosi who after a career, as a rugby union player in New Zealand and overseas, decided to work in Property Management. After years of working for someone else, he felt the calling like so many of us to go into business for himself. Despite having a young family to feed and starting a new business in an already saturated property market. Villi was full of self-doubt and fear, but he overcame his fears. Today he has one of the fastest-growing property management businesses in his region and is passionate about helping other property managers to take the plunge and start their own businesses.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN PROPERTY MANAGEMENT?
‘Property management for me, probably like most people I fell into it. My passion was, was sports and I know you come from a pretty passionate sporting family as well, I wanted to pursue that. I sort of fell into it after many injuries playing rugby. When my wife and I returned back from the UK, I saw an ad for a property manager assistant role, and I’d always had a bit of an interest in property, but I thought, you know, let’s give it a go. And I was pretty lucky enough to get the role. And that’s sort of where property management really kickstarted for me.’
‘I sort of was thrown in the deep end a little bit, because after three months of being an assistant, my senior property manager left. And so, I was given 130 properties to manage on my own with no support
and no experience. And so it was sort of sink or swim for me and looking back and reflecting, you know, when, when we’re talking about this today is I guess if I wasn’t thrown into that deep end all those years ago, I don’t think I’d be where I am today. I’m thankful and lucky that, you know, I was able to use my personal experience with dealing with and helping people. And then also put that into practice with being able to manage 130 properties. For me getting started in property management, it wasn’t a career that I sort of set out to do, but I’m certainly thankful that I was given that opportunity. I guess look where it’s got me today.’
That is such a typical property management story. You’ve told the story of so many property managers and obviously, you’re in New Zealand. So it’s great to hear property management happens exactly the same over there as it does over here. Um, so, you’ve had a long career as a property manager. Now you’ve recently launched your own property management business. So let’s start at the beginning and talk us through, um, why you decided to start your own business and go out on your own.
HOW HARD WAS IT STARTING YOUR OWN PROPERTY MANAGEMENT BUSINESS?
‘The challenge of starting up a property management business, I don’t think there’s a bigger challenge than going out and doing it on your own. I guess there was a bit of anxiousness around it, especially starting up a property management business, in the middle of a pandemic, not knowing how it was going to go. I was moving away from the structure, you know, a really good salary and walking away from a successful company was massive and it was a huge risk. But it is something that I believed in for myself and I guess through the support of my close, inner circle, I really took that leap of faith and decided to really pursue it. I’m thankful for that inner circle and the close networks that I have, because, that is what it has got me through that first initial stages of setting up Homely.’
CHALLENGES OF STARTING YOUR OWN PROPERTY MANAGEMENT BUSINESS IN NEW ZEALAND
‘So, it was a little bit tough to start with, as you could imagine. But I certainly wouldn’t change it for the world. I love doing what I’m doing and being able to break that glass ceiling around property management and look at ways that I believe things need to change. Certainly here in New Zealand, when we sort of talk about Australia and New Zealand and property management, I feel like New Zealand’s, you know, behind the eight ball quite a bit. For me, it’s really pushing that boundary around, we need to be getting to the same level as some property measurement agencies in Australia and, you know, I really want to push those boundaries. I really want to be able to provide something unique to clients as well. So that’s kind of why I wanted to get out and start homely. Certainly, with the clients that I have at the moment and the people that I’m helping and talking to about that unique experience, they’re really enjoying it.
POINTS OF DIFFERENCE
‘My point of difference I think is a more personable approach. I think sometimes some agencies or some property managers can get too transactional. And what I mean by that, it’s doing the day-to-day tasks, I feel like people, want an experience no. I think owners and tenants more so, you know,
gone are the days where you pay for a service, you get what you get on a piece of paper that you’ve outlined, these are the things I’m going to do, and this is what you’re going to pay for. They want more of an experience and people are willing to pay for that. Certainly, you know, when you go out or I go out to a restaurant, you know, you’re willing to pay more for the experience that you have within that restaurant.’
‘I wanted to be more personable. I don’t have an office I’m on mobile and remote, which forces me to get out and meet people and sit and be interactive. So face-to-face interaction and that personal approach are what people are enjoying. It’s a case of a little bit more than just your normal day-to-day tasks. Like I see myself as a property manager, a business owner, but also, someone who is really invested in making sure that their asset is actually performing to its maximum. So, I offer a property performance review for every single owner in their property. So they understand how their property is performing, what expenses they’ve incurred, and what effectively they’re yielding, either gross or net yield on their property and working out trends around, well, actually, you know, this is costing you way too much money and your yield is way below where it should be. Maybe it might be time to think about selling it, using that to buy something else. That’s going to be more sustainable for you long term. So, it’s becoming more proactive around giving the right advice to clients in particular owners when it comes to their property and how it’s really performing.’
OVERCOMING YOUR FEARS AND DOPING IT ANYWAY
‘Having a very supportive wife to start with was, was a good tick in the box. Certainly, you know, there were a lot of fears to start with. Financially you’re definitely moving away from something that is fairly certain to something that is very uncertain. It’s hard to know whether or not people are actually going to buy into what your, what you’re passionate about, and what your points of difference are. So, in my home city, there are a lot of property management agencies it’s quite saturated the market. But everyone does property management differently. Everyone charges differently. It’s an unregulated industry, and therefore my fear was, me being a new person in town, a new business, and how would I be received by property investors?’
‘How are they going to perceive me in terms of being a new startup company? So that was pretty fearful. But I guess I reverted back to having the confidence, and believing in myself to be able to do what I know is not only right but also the difference I can provide. Very quickly, one management turns into two and so on, and once you start getting that momentum things, just start to start to take effect. I was pretty lucky that with the business networks that I’d formed, I was able to rekindle and ignite those networks again. Soon enough I was getting referrals from all types of different businesses, and all types of different people, and my inner circle of people grew. That just created momentum for me. So I think the biggest fear was actually just doing it.’
HOW TO GET THAT EARLY MOMENTUM AND WINS WITH YOUR NEW BUSINESS
‘For me, I knew social media was going to play a big part. I knew that people are more engaged in social media now more than ever. So for me, I wanted to make that prevalent with Homely. I want to be able to show up for those people that are property owners or tenants or whoever, I wanted them to understand what we’re actually doing and how we’re doing it. Because what that does is that reach then gets out into the community in a wider field. And without even knowing about it, you’re organically creating this hub of people knowing, or potentially thinking they know who you are, what you do so that when that conversation around property management or having their property managed by someone, comes up in a conversation, they organically think of Homely, or really you need to go see this person.’
‘I hit the ground running with social media and that’s something that my business partner Amanda and I are really strict on. We try and provide, not only useful advice and tips but also share our journey in how we’re doing it. So that was pretty key to start with, and also business referral networks. There are so many people out there that are willing to help you, but you need to actually go out there and, and sit with them and talk through what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. So that first month, God, I don’t know how many meetings I was having with business owners from different sort of industries and, you know, providing information and contact numbers. And although you don’t see results straight away, you know, I’m now very quickly starting to get referrals from those companies just through having the ability to sit down with them and be personable and sort of open up to them about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.’
‘Those, those were probably the two key things. You know, when I hit the ground running that really allowed me to gain that momentum and new managements and just igniting those business networks in industries where they deal with property investors and property owners more frequently. It was a case of let’s get in there and see if I can assist your clients, if you have the trust in me, certainly I’ll take care of them on your behalf as well. At the moment we are getting anywhere from sort of 10 to 12 properties per month, which I’m, you know, really happy with those results.’
‘I’m very happy with where we’re sitting, not only from a growth perspective but also from a, um, a manageable aspect as well. We want to have the point of difference of not having too many properties to manage per person, because we know that, there’s that magic number, if you go beyond that, the first thing that starts to take effect is the service and the experience that your clients are having. So, we don’t want to compromise that in, in any way. We want to make sure that the growth that we’re achieving is manageable.’
‘I know there are property managers out there who manage significantly more. I guess when you break it down for me being in the industry, you know, for as long as I have, I know that when it gets to, you know, 150 properties that are being managed, it’s like looking at, okay, well, what is being missed? Because you’re so busy, and you and I both know that managing 150 properties in today’s modern society, especially here in New Zealand, there’s a lot involved and potentially that service or that personable approach that you want to give, you just can’t, because you don’t have the time to do it.’
PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT TOOL
‘Constantly learning is, is key. And I think the minute that you stop learning is probably the minute that you get found out. I’m very much someone who will always be listening to podcasts. And there are so many podcasts now, which is awesome, you might take one little gold nugget away from, and that podcast and it changes the whole dynamic in terms of your approach within your role or your business. So, just reach out to people and connect with other people. I think when I first started as a property manager, it was very taboo to talk to other people or property managers about, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it and ideas.’
‘I think today we sort of realise that people are a bit more open and are willing to share ideas, which is fantastic. I’m certainly one to sit down with other property managers, agencies, and, and talk about what’s working for them, what isn’t, and vice versa for me. I sat down with an owner of a small property management business here about a month ago. We chewed the fat about what’s working for them, what isn’t, and what we are doing and how we’re doing it. And although we are competing against each other it’s sort of like, we’re there for each other as well. More and more of that needs that needs to happen. I read a really awesome book, which I think your audience will really enjoy. And it’s sort of based around what we are as a company at Homely are all about. I’ve taken so many gold nuggets out of that book and implemented them within my business, because I guess my core is building positive long-lasting relationships with customers and, that’s owners, tenants, suppliers, and business referral networks. The book’s called ‘Hug your Customers’. It’s a fantastic book that talks about how you can go above and beyond for your clients, you know, knowing what sort of hot drink they like, or what they do on the weekend or how many kids they have, or things like that. So, when you are actually speaking to them or you’re in front of them, you’re not just talking about business, you’re talking about something that you are invested in, which is personable to them. In return, what that does obviously creates trust. When you build trust with someone, in particular in this industry, you know, it goes a long, long way and it will allow you to hold onto clients a lot longer, and it also assists with growth as well. If you’ve got promoters within your business because of the strategies you can take to be more personable, they’re going to refer business through to you organically.’