Brock Fisher: prior experience or client experience?

Job churn has long been an issue in property management, but is the solution to set higher standards for entry into the profession or to provide better training once property managers are in the role? Brock Fisher examines the conundrum and posits that what occurs after a PM starts is far more important than what they had to do to get in the door.

Ever-present downward pressure on management fees and industry frustration with low fee offerings often leads us to lament how we perceive that owner’s view our profession, and why they don’t value our services more highly.

Should educational qualifications be more extensive to become a property manager, and would this elevate industry standards?

Overall, fee levels across the property management industry are a classic ‘lag’ indicator.

And like all lagging indicators, they are fairly easy to measure but quite hard to change ‘en masse’.

There’s no doubt our industry is in a perception of value challenge with our paying clientele, but how do we move the needle in an upward direction?

Unfortunately, simply having a more impressive qualification will mean little to a client if their experience doesn’t change.

When was the last time you checked your accountant’s qualifications?

Or your hairdresser? Or even your doctor?

There’s a prevailing presumption that they are all appropriately qualified.

What really counts is the experience you have when you are there.

There’s also the real risk that increasing barriers to entry exacerbates an already dire recruiting situation.

Property management has always been a transient profession, and finding and retaining staff is the number one challenge in many businesses.

Requiring a potential candidate to invest more of their own time, effort, and cost upfront, before they can commence the role, almost certainly results in fewer people considering property management as a career option.

Vacant portfolios place a huge strain on businesses, and property manager churn remains one of the highest causes of client dissatisfaction.

Anything that potentially amplifies and extends portfolio or general role vacancy is difficult to climb back from, even if it has the most honourable intentions.

In addition, I’ve long held the view that the challenge is not with “technical” skills in property management, so an enhanced qualification just teaching more of that still lands wide of the mark.

The key gap has always been around the human side, managing people and relationships, and developing high-level interpersonal skills.

Soft skills are much harder to define, more difficult to teach, take longer to learn and are more difficult to assess competency when compared to traditional technical skills.

As a result, they are usually either completely absent or severely under-represented in many course units.

Can anyone honestly look you in the eye and say that the course they did to get their certificate was great preparation for their role, and had them job-ready?

It’s unlikely because it’s what you learn on the job that really counts.

It’s also worth noting that a candidate with a higher level of technical base knowledge has no better chance of navigating their way out of a portfolio mess if they are handed a disorganised rabble as their starting point.

If we continue to serve up those situations as new team members onboard, the chances of moving that value needle and elevating service delivery to clients remains a distant hope.

I am a huge advocate for ongoing professional development, upskilling and support once people begin, rather than making it harder for them to start in the first place.

What happens after they start is way more impactful than what they had to do to get in the door.

It also shouldn’t be up to a government department to try and increase the standards in property management, our destiny really should be in our own hands.

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Brock Fisher

Brock Fisher is Executive Manager, Industry & Partnerships at Kolmeo, a property management software business focused on solving for all the people in property – the renters, the owners and the property managers.