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How to stop feeling out of control

Property managers often describe themselves as being stressed or not having enough hours in the day – but according to Debbie Palmer it doesn't have to be like that. Identifying where the problems are and fixing them will help take the pressure off your team.

Firstly, if you or your team are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, you are not alone.

As someone who has worked in the industry for more than 30 years, I know this concern has been shared often by many principals and property management team members across the nation.

The role of a property manager is extremely complex. The diversity of the day-to-day tasks and the number of different hats property management staff must wear are endless. We are working in a people business which involves dealing with personal issues, such as a tenant’s home or the landlord’s investment and income, and in some circumstances this can create increased emotions and random behaviours.

Expectations, compliance and legislation requirements are becoming more rigid. And, in addition to the complexities of the role and current industry changes, property management departments are also known to have high turnovers of team members, which affects the overall performance of the business.

If you or your property management team are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it is time to stop and take time out, even if you feel you don’t have time.

The secret to success is commitment. We all have the best intentions to better, but sometimes it can be easy to fall back into old habits.

As a principal or department manager you need to quantify what is causing the stress, and as a property management team member you need to identify what is overwhelming you.

I have learnt that feeling stressed or overwhelmed is an indicator that you are out of control. If you want to achieve different results in your business, career or personal life, you must do something different.

There are many reasons that can lead to you or the team feeling stressed and overwhelmed. It could be that there is literally not enough time in the day to complete the required tasks, or the internal operations, structure and management of the department needs to be reviewed, fine-tuned and improved.

I often receive feedback from principals and department managers that their quick-fix solution to elevate the team feeling stressed and overwhelmed is simply to recruit more team members. But this may not be the best business decision if you have not taken the time to analyse what is causing the stress.

Steps you can take to help your team stress less

  1. Take time out to quantify and identify what is causing the stress.
  2. Ensure you have clear job descriptions outlining each team member’s roles and tasks.
  3. Evaluate the skills and attitudes of the team members.
  4. Ensure that you have the right structure and team members undertaking the right tasks to complement their personality, talents, skills and abilities.
  5. Know how many properties each team member is managing.
  6. Ensure that each team member is documenting the tasks needed to be completed, or outstanding, by encouraging the use of a focused daily to-do list or tasking system.
  7. Calculate (on average) how many tasks and how long it takes for each team member to complete each one. For example: How many routine inspections need to be undertaken each year? (130 properties x two inspections = 260 inspections / 45 weeks = six inspections a week), and on average how many tenant sign-ups, final vacates and new management presentation or sign-ups are conducted each week? These four activities consume most of the working week. Also take into consideration processing maintenance, rent arrears, paperwork, tenancy renewals, returning telephone calls, emails and so on.
  8. Review each team member’s tasks and determine if there really is enough time in the day or week to complete them by establishing an ideal week calendar (schedule all tasks into time allocations). Don’t forget to allocate a minimum of one hour each day for unexpected tasks. This will clearly show if the issue is not enough time or lack of efficiency.
  9. Review the quality of the properties you are managing. Are there properties consuming too much of the team’s time, and if so, why? Make a list of these properties and work out solutions on how to reduce the time invested in managing them.
  10. Establish a landlord and property selection criteria for accepting new management properties.
  11. Engage with the team and ask them what they feel their stress concerns are, and why.
  12. Schedule a team meeting to discuss the concerns and work toward a solution.
  13. Formulate a list of the feedback, ideas and solutions and then take action.
  14. Ensure that the property management team members have the necessary tools, resources, training and systems to streamline the internal processes. The most successful property management businesses have established a turn-key style of operations. Establish a blueprint for success and a solid foundation of embracing the concept of becoming a system-dependent agency rather than a people-dependent agency. Have your systems guide your team.
  15. If you or your team start to feel stressed and overwhelmed, stop and re-evaluate what you are doing.

Change your mindset and get off the merry-go-round of just accepting that property management must be stressful and overwhelming.

As we lead into a new year, ask yourself, ‘What did we do well over the last 12 months, what were our challenges and how can we be better, smarter, more productive and profitable?’

The secret to success is commitment. We all have the best intentions to be better, but sometimes it can be easy to fall back into old habits.

I encourage you to decide now to be a solution-focused business owner and property management team. Change your mindset and get off the merry-go-round of just accepting that property management must be stressful and overwhelming.

With a few simple tweaks and changes you can transform the way you do property management and how you feel about your role.

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