EPMEPM: Feature Interview

Learning to fly: Tameka Smith

PM Transform 2018 brought together more than 100 property management professionals from around Australia looking to learn from the best in the business. In a challenging 30 days, participants won points for completing challenges, with Tameka Smith of Key2 Property taking the title. She spoke with Hannah Blackiston about her journey and passion for property management.

Taking out the number one spot in PM Transform 2018 wasn’t the goal for Tameka Smith when she decided to enrol. The director of Key2 Property in Launceston didn’t even realise the program had a competitive aspect, just entering because of her love of training. But her dedication to betterment in both herself and the industry saw her top the leaderboard.

“I’ve been in the industry now for fourteen years, always in property management. I started out as a receptionist, moved into property management, became a property manager and then a department manager. Then I started my own property management business.”

One thing that’s quickly apparent about Tameka is her dedication. From her passion for training and raising the standards in the industry to how important staff retention is in her business, Tameka is always striving to do more and be better.

Opening the doors at Key2 Property two years ago, Tameka and her team have grown the business organically from zero rentals to 300, with 60 per cent of the business coming from repeat and referral clients. In the first six months the business doubled their targets, and in 12 months they had tripled them. Surprisingly, with such an impressive track record, Tameka also finds time to serve on the board for the REIT and works for the body as a trainer.

The clients are obviously number one at Key2 Property, which goes a long way to explaining why Tameka choose to pursue her career in property management.

“I like the reward of it and that you have clients for life. I have a client with me that was my very first sign-up four years ago. I have lifelong friends that are also my clients and I like that it’s a relationship-building industry.

You still need to pick up the phone and talk to people; it’s still a personal relationship.

“It’s super-rewarding – you help people on their investment journey, help finance their properties and fill their superannuation fund, or whatever it may be. Or you’re working with a tenant to find a mortgage broker and buy their first investment property. I like the human side of it.”

Over her 14 years in property management, Tameka has seen a lot of changes. She highlights particularly the introduction of tech and how it’s systemised the industry. But she firmly believes that real estate still needs a human touch, which is what makes boutique management businesses like Key2 Property so important.

“I think the principles of property management still remain very much the same. You still need to pick up the phone and talk to people; it’s still a personal relationship. You talk to people, you know what’s going on in their lives, whether they’re having kids and getting married or divorced, or whatever it may be. The biggest change has been the tech, which gives us the ability to do a bit more and offer more to our clients and customers.”

When Tameka set up her business with her partners Ananda Cairns and Kate Woods, one of the most important features was that they were selective about their listings. In the last financial year, Key2 Property has turned away 33 managements that didn’t fit the criteria of their business.

“That’s a huge amount of revenue that we turned away from our business, but it was also a huge amount of headache. We only work in select suburbs in our area and find select landlords that are happy to do the maintenance and generally care for their tenants and their properties, and want their investments to grow.”

In Tasmania, the usual timeline for burnout in property management is just eight months. Tameka and her team hope that through implementing better strategies and stricter processes in their business they can improve that. One example is Tameka’s assistant, Zoe Allen, who has been in the business from day one and is on the same path Tameka followed 14 years earlier.

PM Transform came at a perfect time for Tameka. It was two years after starting the business, which was comfortably off the ground, and she was ready for a review.

“I’m addicted to learning, love it, love learning, love teaching, so an opportunity for me to learn I’ll take every time. I jumped into it, not realising it was a competition you could win; I just thought it was a 30-day intensive training program and I was all for it. So I signed up and got stuck right into it.”

I’ve got a number in mind of where I want to grow the business, but I need to work out the why.

Tameka opted into the extra training with Heidi Walkinshaw of Real+, who was the one who eventually told her about the leaderboard.

“For me it was about the learning and the growth, and the winning was just an added bonus. It was definitely about the content they offered, and it’s one of the best training programs I’ve ever done.

“I probably got more out of it personally than professionally. It was really good timing; I’ve been doing this for two years now and hit some massive milestones, but to do that I’ve had to almost forget about the family and my life. So it was a really good time for me to readjust my commitment to everything, to readjust where the hours in my day are going and work more on the business than in it. And also not forget that I’ve got a family.”

Tameka’s kids and her husband are a big part of what drives her to succeed. Her next goal straight after Transform was to take a break with them and go on a family vacation. But when she returned to the office it was straight back to work.

“Now that I’ve done Transform, the goal is to have an overhaul and see what we do need and what we don’t need. I’ve got a number in mind of where I want to grow the business, but I need to work out the why. Why do we want to do that and how are we going to go about it?

“It’s setting the path and direction for the next five years now, really. We’ve got the business up and running; when you’re starting you do whatever’s necessary to get it to this point, and now it’s fine-tuning it and setting the future for where the business is going.”

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Hannah Blackiston

Hannah Blackiston was an in-house journalist with Elite Agent. She worked with the company from January 2018 to January 2019.