MRI Software recently held a livestream together with Real Estate Uncut on the topic of navigating property management post COVID-19. Hosted by Kevin Turner of Real Estate Uncut with Josh Symons, Strategic Industry Principal at MRI Software, the session was joined by Directors of leading property management agencies who shared their valuable ideas and best practices that helped them lead to thrive during the COVID-19 crisis and the lessons it has taught them along the way to continue moving forward. Here are key takeaways from the Open for Business livestream.
Flexible work will be the future of property management
Maria Carlino, National Head of Property Management at The Agency reflects how her team is using this period to test the efficiency and flexibility of their systems and workflows.
Social distancing measures have created more flexible working arrangements for property managers during this crisis, with many working from home for the first time. This current reality has brought into the forefront that flexibility is where the industry is headed in the future
“This period of uncertainty forces us to be stronger and better in our craft,” says Maria Carlino, National Director at The Agency. “Flexibility is a huge thing. We’ve got a lot of mothers working in the industry, as well as those with families. And working in the hours that suit them provided our business an increase in productivity.” Maria noted that following work from home best practices ensures that everyone is maximising their productivity.
And it’s not just providing property managers more room for productivity that comes from flexible schedules, as noted by host Josh Symons. “Flexibility is one of the key things that attract good talent to businesses. Businesses retain talent through that as well,” says Symons, adding that this period has certainly proven that businesses can still operate efficiently even without that physical presence.
Innovation is the new norm, not the exception
Cathie Crampton, Director of Property Management at Place Real Estate Agents explains how COVID-19 crisis has catapulted innovation in her teams to futureproof processes.
For Cathie Crampton, these times of uncertainty bring to light opportunities for the property management sector. “This period has been the best opportunity for us in property management,” she declares adding that this situation has shown how important innovation is for property managers to stay effective and for businesses to remain viable.
“Even though it's been challenging at first for many in the industry to move in the pace we needed to move, we are now finding that you can look into something like a virtual inspection and realise that it's possible with the technology/software we have available.”
This ability to innovate quickly will be an ongoing theme for businesses to be relevant in the many years ahead according to Cathie, “When you embrace doing something differently, then you continue to move forward.”
Transparency and innovative technology will build stronger customer relationships
Cassandra Lantry, Director at Leah Jay encourages communication and embracing technology to enhance customer service.
“Reassuring tenants and landlords that our service isn't compromised during this time is crucial,” says Cassandra Lantry. With a primary focus in property management, Cassandra has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to liaising between owners and tenants. It’s this specialised skill that’s being put to test now where queries revolve around rent relief and conducting routine inspections.
“It’s challenging because everybody's circumstance varies greatly – landlord or tenant,” says Cassandra on the topic of rent relief. “Our overarching message to owners is to try and negotiate rent relief that’s sustainable.” Aside from having sustainable arrangements, Cassandra also recommend having regular review periods “where we can come back review and make adjustments that we need to.” She also believes that tenants have a bigger role to play for rent negotiations to go smoothly, mentioning that when tenants are transparent and raise concerns early on, property managers will be more proactive in getting the assistance they need.
Routine inspections is also another area that has seen tenants participating more actively, with virtual inspections being mostly tenant-led with assistance from the property manager. Cassandra believes that this solution has presented a great opportunity that will continue on as we move out of this period, and that taking embracing PropTech and property management software is important: “As long as it doesn’t compromise our service but enhance it, then we should be open to embracing it. And as always, making sure that you have the right systems, procedures and policies in place behind it.”
Rapid adaptation through careful execution is key to leading healthy and productive teams
John Cunningham, Managing Director of Cunninghams speaks about the importance of maintaining culture and staff engagement amid massive changes.
In this virtual environment we are all navigating at the moment, engaging employees will be a bit of a challenge but not impossible. To John Cunningham, adapting quickly to the situation through open communication and careful planning is important in ensuring teamwork is alive and well in his agency.
“From a leadership perspective, the direction and the messaging have to be crystal clear. There can be no room for ambiguity,” says John. How does this look like for his team? He shares a 3-tier structure for team meetings during remote work:
- Full team Friday Zoom call (updates & Q&A)
- Weekly department meetings
- Smaller team meetings in each department
John also recognizes the importance of wellness in ensuring everyone in his team feels connected and not alone. “We have a program that looks after the wellness and mental health of our team, their fitness and professional development” adding that their internal Facebook group has been a great way to engage team members with exercise programs and other activities that develop their creativity while practicing social distancing.
“This rapid adaptation opportunity is for us to bring accountability that will provide the disciplines that people need. Self-discipline to be accountable to your body and accountability to the business and accountability in self.”
Taking responsibility of your own health and well-being should be top priority
Jet Xavier, Managing Director at Real Estate Mastermind talks about how one's attitude can affect productivity and mental well-being during times of crisis.
Navigating work and life amid unknown and changing circumstances can be stressful and can take a toll on your overall health if you’re not mindful. All of guest speakers agree that for all the strategies they are implementing to thrive and move on, it is the mental health and wellness of their team that is of utmost importance. Mental health coach Jet Xavier seconds this, “I am not surprised that business owners are putting focus on health and well-being. Particularly with isolation – people are not used to that in their lives.”
“Communications around this time has to be around optimism, perspective and resilience,” says Jet adding that “If we don’t deal with our mental health that’s going to have a lot of impact on what we do.”
To Jet, managing stress during this time means focusing on things that you can control, “A lot of stress and anxiety comes from people trying to control this new experience. You have to realise that the only thing in your control is how you see things and the actions you can take - exercise, get into a routine, practice social distancing, have your own time to yourself, create and work.”
What we learned
Property management leaders agree that for all the challenges that the industry is facing now, there are opportunities that awaits those who actively look for solutions and remain optimistic about the future.
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