It was 2008 when Jack Fontana experienced a critical epiphany in his career and personal life.
He’d been in real estate since 1999, first in property management and then sales, but without listings on the books and with a baby on the way things were looking dire.
“I was at a point where I had a daughter due in about six weeks’ time; I had no listings; I had some savings, but I was thinking, ‘My wife is not going to be working for 12 months – what do I do’?
“Do I hopefully get a listing in the next two weeks and wait a further six weeks to get a commission, or do I do something else?”
At a time when the Global Financial Crisis was was still impacting businesses all over the world, Jack decided to go down a path to give his new family some stability.
“I decided to go back to my roots; I joined a small independent agency and ran the full portfolio.”
Familiarity proved key for Jack, drawing on his strengths and passion for customer service to make the best out of the situation.
Now he’s sitting in what some property managers might call a dream role, managing high-value properties in Sydney, with some attracting as much as $6,000 rent per week.
But regardless of the type of clientele or the level of rent being paid, Jack says everyone who is a client of Black Diamondz deserves – and gets – the best.
Prospecting is a must in our industry; no matter where you are, if you’re not doing it someone else will.
Jack manages a rent roll of just 80 or so properties but he is a one-stop-shop, from the listing presentation to leasing the property, looking after ongoing maintenance and communicating with owners.
He still dabbles in the sales side of the business, where he says he has learnt a lot of valuable lessons about adapting to the changing market.
With the sales team a key point of referral, most of Jack’s clientele are located overseas, which has advantages and disadvantages for a property manager who needs to regularly communicate with owners.
Jack enjoys prospecting for growth, but with his sales experience has a head start on most property managers.
“Prospecting is a must in our industry; no matter where you are, if you’re not doing it someone else will,” he says.
Jack says he schedules one hour every day, without interruption, to hit the phones – although most of his clients come from referrals and past service.
Even though prospecting may seem like a trivial task at times, Jack admits you never know what a potential client will remember.
“It could be as simple as a ‘Just Leased’ letter being delivered to the neighbouring properties when completing the condition report,” Jack says.
He says all related business partners are welcomed as their referrals, with current and past clients ranging from accountants, brokers and lawyers to immigration agents and bankers.
Keeping up with the times
Even though the Black Diamondz local referral network is strong, Jack and the company leverage social media to generate leads and communicate with customers – particularly through a strong presence on WeChat.
As the main social network in China, WeChat has been designed to easily allow users to list, manage, buy and sell products at the click of a button.
The app is equipped with a secure financial system, which acts as a virtual wallet for people to transfer, buy and pay. So Black Diamondz uses the power of WeChat not just for networking, but also to list, manage and sell properties digitally in one portal.
Currently the company has more than 30,000 followers on the network and harnesses that presence for their own business in both sales and property management.
Communicating across borders
This international factor means two-way communications can be slightly delayed.
However, by being a bit more discerning about when to press the ‘urgent’ button, time spent in getting repairs authorised becomes more efficient and builds trust.
That aside, cultural differences can also present challenges. When you speak different languages, Jack says, the slightest slip can offend the other person and ruin the relationship from the beginning.
To avoid this Black Diamondz employ professional translators who can better portray and understand cultural cues, making everyone more comfortable from the start.
“It’s definitely a key factor as to why we have been leaders in this particular niche,” Jack says.
“It shows clients we are more than qualified to handle their properties, which gives us a big vote of confidence.”
Room to negotiate
With today’s more educated consumers comes the need to be a good negotiator, and it can yield a great result for all parties, particularly for those that are willing to think outside the box.
“We obviously like to set ourselves apart, so we offer our clients incentives; this can include a discount if the tenant wants to pay the rent, say a year in advance,” Jack says.
“All you really need to do is start the negotiation and put a few cards on the table. It’s another way you can demonstrate that you genuinely care and want to give them personal service.”
Technology aside, Black Diamondz Concierge Service is an all-encompassing service for overseas buyers and sellers, and has gained a world-class reputation for service.
Directors Monika Tu and Jad Khattar personally take international clients to visit various Australian neighbourhoods and present the best restaurants, shops and activities on offer.
“At the end of the day, clients just want you to treat the property as if it were your own,” Jack says.
“Service in this industry is everything.”
Learn from the luxury specialist
While Jack says the luxury properties he leases often speak for themselves, there are several takeaways for all property managers.
- Referral networks are everything – “start small and you’ll soon find the network will build itself.”
- Sales and property management can learn a lot from each other – “after all, we are under the same roof. It’s about shaking up an idea and using it in your own role.”
- Being number one in the niche is a good place to be – “you won’t be comparing every little thing to competitors; the brand will speak for itself.”
- Do as the Romans do – “If your clients are using a type of technology, look into it and learn as much as you can. Prioritise tasks around [those] which may be more time consuming than productive.”