EPMEPM: Best Practice & Legislation

Kylie Maxwell: The Wisdom of Hindsight

For many, starting a career in property management can be a steep learning curve, with poor training and lack of experience making for a difficult introduction to the industry. Transform Masters 2017 Champion Kylie Maxwell looks back over her 25 years and tells us what she wishes she knew when she first started out in property management.

Some 25 years ago I embarked on my property management career. Fresh from school and still wet behind the ears, I was green, young and naive. I still lived at home with my parents and I didn’t know the difference between a washer and an O-ring.

The comprehension that I was entrusted with millions of dollars in property assets (not mine, unfortunately) was all but a blur. These are some of the things I wish I knew when I started out.

1. DON’T BE FOOLED BY A BLEEDING HEART
When you’re young you hold onto everyone’s word. So when there is a client in front of you who should be given an Oscar for an award-winning performance as to why they can’t pay their rent, you naturally feel sorry for them and believe them.

Well, don’t be fooled. I might be generalising here, but those of us who have been in the industry for some time know this is all untrue because we learnt it the hard way. The poor tenant you felt sorry for, whom you told, ‘Oh, that’s okay, just fix it up next week’, has just wrapped you around their little finger and started on the slippery slope to permanent rental arrears.

My advice is to show empathy, but tell them you will need to follow through with procedure as per legislation and if that means sending a termination notice so be it. Take the emotion out of it. Just do your job.

The tenant you felt sorry for has just wrapped you around their little finger and started on the slippery slope to permanent rental arrears.

2. NOTHING CAN REALLY BE DONE AFTER 6.00 PM
The sleepless nights I used to have, the bottles of wine and blocks of chocolate I used to consume on a regular basis, because I was stressed about something that was left unfinished as I walked out the door! Seriously, people, leave this stuff in the office.

Nothing can be done after 6.00 pm, let alone at three o’clock in the morning when you’ve woken in a cold sweat. Tradespeople won’t accept calls, and if they do they won’t go until the following day and your clients have already signed off for the night.

No amount of worry you do in the wee hours of the morning is going to fix the issue. Roll over, go to sleep and avoid bags under your eyes.

I can guarantee the problem will still be there in the morning and you will look much better for the sleep.

3. CHOOSE YOUR WORDS WISELY AND DON’T GET TOO BIG FOR YOUR BOOTS
I worked for one gentleman who was well-respected in the community, a rugged man who didn’t mince words; ‘a spade is a spade’ type of bloke. One day I heard him say to a client, “Mate, if you think your property is that good, why don’t you take it down brick by brick and shove it up your A#$?”.

At the time I thought to myself, “This is awesome; I’m going to find a client to say it to one day”. Well, let’s just say that coming from a 25-year-old it isn’t received as well as when it comes from a 60-year-old. Lesson learnt. Choose your words and audience wisely. Pretend you’re always talking to your Nanna and show respect.

4. COMMUNICATION IS KING
When you’re starting out, having conversations with clients sometimes 10 to 15 years your senior is daunting. I used to avoid it like the plague and, believe it or not, email was not an option. It was either the telephone or snail mail. Guess which one I used to choose? Yep, snail mail. The only problem was by the time the mail arrived the issue had escalated. If only I had picked up the phone!

Don’t be afraid to talk to your clients. Write down the main points you want to convey prior to dialling the number and then get on the phone. Forget the email and forget the text messages. This old-fashioned method is still the best and most efficient way to get a quick response and resolve a situation. The phone is now my best friend.

5. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER AND CONFIDENCE
You know that saying, ‘Fake it till you make it’? Well, sometimes that’s just what you’ve got to do. We all start out not really having a clue, and some of us really get thrown into the deep end when we first hit the industry. You need to be prepared to learn and continue to learn; the more knowledge you have, the more confidence you will have in your position.

Now, I am not suggesting you go to bed and read the legislation and the Tenancy Act every night, but I am suggesting you need to know it to be able to do your job. Your clients will have more confidence in your ability if you can confidently speak to them about situations that arise and provide proactive suggestions.

Don’t sit back and wait for your department head or business owner to send you to some fantastic industry conference; be responsible for your own knowledge bank. Get on to chatrooms, subscribe to newsletters and magazines, talk to other industry professionals and don’t limit yourself to your own office. Property management is so much more than your Certificate of Registration.

Be responsible for your own knowledge bank. Property management is so much more than your Certificate of Registration.

6. CHECK AND DOUBLE-CHECK THE ADDRESS OR YOU’LL LOOK LIKE A FOOL
True story: I live in a fairly small town and know every street like the back of my hand. However, it didn’t help me one day when I turned up to a rental appraisal. The client’s daughter let me in, and I walked into the kitchen and introduced myself. The ‘client’ had the same name as the person I was to meet. It was only when I was confronted with a lady in a less than tidy home, bra-less in the kitchen unpacking the dishwasher, that I thought, ‘I think I’m in the wrong house’. A few questions later and, red-faced, I politely let myself out and went around the corner to the correct house.

Pay attention to the detail; it will save you a lot of embarrassment.

7. NOT ALL BOSSES ARE CREATED EQUAL, AND NEITHER ARE ALL PROPERTY MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENTS
Over the years I have worked for some great bosses and some not so great bosses. When I started out, I had very little training; I was sat at a desk and told to go for it. What ‘go for it’ was I have no idea.

Some businesses are very sales-based and the business owners have very little knowledge of property management, let alone systems and procedures in place. Some property management departments can be a stressful train wreck. Everybody has the ability to lead and make the changes; you’ve just got to have the courage to do it. If that doesn’t work, find a business that is more aligned with your vision of property management.

It’s a great career and I’ve seen too many good people leave the industry because they are untrained, overworked and stressed out – all of which is totally avoidable and unnecessary. There are some great property management businesses out there and some great property management leaders; if this is the career path for you, search them out.

8. NOBODY’S PERFECT AND WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES
One of my best learning methods is making a mistake, owning it and not repeating it. God knows I’ve made many over the years; let’s be honest, we all do. Don’t get into knots about it, learn from it and move on.

I always say to my team, ‘If we are not making mistakes we are not growing and we are not learning’. Make the same mistake twice, though, and you may not have a job!

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