“I always knew it was going to be real estate. I did work experience in years nine and ten at a local real estate office,” says Ms Walsh.
From reception to leasing to new business, Ms Walsh’s initial foray into real estate took her through all roles, then into sales at 20 years old. She purchased her own office at just 21.
“Like any principal having to keep their head above water, I did a bit of everything. We grew the portfolio from 31 properties to 485 organically. It was very boutique, good quality property management.”
After selling her ofﬁce in 2007, Ms Walsh moved to a corporate role at Elders Limited, overseeing the Queensland real estate division for the group, then back to Sydney to oversee New South Wales and the ACT, before taking on the National Operations role. Finally, after a four-year stint at LJ Hooker Corporate, came the move into the GM role at Di Jones in April 2014.
“One of the hardest things in our industry, when companies get big, is to have a brand that doesn’t connote something negative. I loved the brand because it was so clean; it had a really formidable reputation and I thought, ‘We can really do something here’.”
This career path through real estate, with the experience she has gained in all aspects of the industry, has led to Ms Walsh wanting to change the way PMs are managed in the business. She will be speaking at the 2018 PPM Conference to address some of the issues in maintaining staff in real estate offices. It’s why she’s so passionate about training in property management, and the crossover from sales.
“We need to be mindful that in property management they don’t have the natural ability to sell that salespeople do.”
“I think industry leaders and managers are particularly bad at fostering relationship-building with property managers. Traditionally, property managers are very good at dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s. We need to be more mindful when we’re onboarding that in property management they don’t have the natural ability to sell like salespeople do.”
Ms Walsh uses the example of an upcoming client night as a method to train property managers in sales. After listening to their calls with clients, and realising that the numbers were dismally poor, she decided it was time to take a different tactic.
“The way the team were promoting it on the phone, I wouldn’t come. So I did a scripts and dialogues night. We do it with salespeople, but how common is that with our PM team? Creating a competition for our guys to fill seats for the client night and encouraging them like our sales team, changing the behaviour and the outcome, we’ve now got 50 people coming to a night where we had nobody,” she says.
“I don’t think we spend enough time with our property management people. In our business a lot of profit comes from our PM team, but so many resources go to the sales team. I think sitting down with the property management guys every week and going over arrears, routines, lease renewals is so antiquated, so 1985; our guys know how to do that, or we wouldn’t employ them or keep them.”
It’s having a shared vision for the business that keeps property managers and principals on the same page, says Ms Walsh. Businesses would benefit from sitting down with all their employees, not just the sales team, and formulating plans for career development.
“In our business a lot of profit comes from our PM team, but so many resources go to sales.”
“We’ve got one really great girl at the moment who was a finalist for Support Person of the Year at the PPM Awards, and that’s exactly what we’ve done for her – she’s come in, she’s been a cadet, she’s just about to transition into leasing. We know on the 30th of June next year that she’ll go into a BDM role; two years in there and she’ll go into a sales associate role.
“It keeps us accountable – it’s not just for her. The meetings have been made, she knows she’s got a four-year plan with us, she knows what the commission will look like, she knows what the remuneration looks like; so when other people try to approach her she can say ‘No, I’ve got a plan’. I know about her family; I know what drives her.”
At her upcoming PPM Conference keynote, Ms Walsh will touch on the importance of building these relationships in a team. She said she hoped that asking both PMs and principals to look at their visions and goals for their team would encourage some “tough conversations”, but ultimately make the industry better for the property managers working in it.
If these relationships don’t develop, the industry is at risk of churning over PMs and failing to hold on to good team players, she says. Especially in tough markets, putting an emphasis on PMs to be good relationship-builders, and helping them uncover their inner salesperson with tailored training sessions, was the only way for profitable rent rolls to survive.
“At the end of the day, this industry is about relationships, and if you don’t have the relationships and you’re not providing value then be very frightened. Simple as that.”
“If you don’t have the relationships and you’re not providing value then be very frightened. Simple as that.”