EPMEPM: Profile

Natalie Wendell: Quality over Quantity

Natalie Wendell is choosy when it comes to landlords and properties. Instead of growing exponentially, her team is focused on quality managements and quality service – and they are not afraid of doing things differently, as she explains to Real+ coach Lauren Kirk.

When looking at new business, there is the question of quality or quantity – which do you choose?

Quality, always. We don’t take on poor-quality people or property because that just slows us down; good people and good property are easier to manage, and it’s better for our people, our business and our customers to have less stress. The most we take on in a month would be 15.

People love that we aren’t desperate for business.

We choose the managements we want and refer anything outside our core area. We have PM businesses we know and trust in areas we don’t work in, so we know we are sending our landlords to a quality business.

Your growth plans are very clear and you even have a finish line nearing. Can you tell me more about this end point?
In the beginning, we asked ourselves, “Why do we want to keep growing? Is it because we are expected to as a property management business, or because everyone else is?” We decided that we wanted to reach 725 properties and that would give us a profitable business. We found our profitability spot and we are working towards that goal. Our finish line has always been clear, but we know that when we reach that point we can always relook at this goal and move forward again.

You have a unique approach in your market when it comes to helping your landlords.
Our aim is about ‘improving the doors’ constantly: quality of landlords, tenants and properties. In the current market in NZ not as many people are buying investments (but some are), so we are helping our clients improve the value of their property through renovations and redecorating, rather than buying a new property. This, of course, increases rent and helps our bottom line. We have engagement from the team, client and business and we are building the wealth for all parties.

Really, it’s about creating opportunities to call your clients that have a purpose. And then being able to have quality conversations with them, delivered by the right people in the team. We train on the delivery so that [they] know what they are selling to the client. But we know that some of the team just don’t have an interest, or the knowledge or skill, so we let them just do their job managing properties well.

Your new client induction process is also distinctive. Can you tell me more about this?
We call it a health check for our landlords. There’s a lot of hands-on from all the team at this stage. The New Business Manager assists with the paperwork; the owners know she is involved but not going to be managing the property ongoing. Of course, clear communication throughout is key.

Part of this health check includes a call on the first day after the new statement is received by the landlord, to answer any questions. The tenant gets a call two or three days after moving in, as does the owner. We check in again after one month, to answer any of the admin questions they have; and then after three months I call to touch base with them.

We have a very clear follow-up plan that is just automated. Things just happen in our office, because the team know the importance of our client relationships.

Retaining business is important for all business owners. What do you do differently?
We induct well to retain well. Looking after our clients also helps us to retain staff.

Firstly, we don’t split portfolios once they reach capacity. Usually, the PM works so hard to build the relationship with the client, and then when the complaints stop coming in the landlord gets moved to a new property manager and the Senior PM gets the difficult clients. It doesn’t seem fair, and we realised this wasn’t a reward for building quality relationships.

Engagement from owners and tenants is also important. We create a community for all our clients. We send quality newsletters that include lots of stats, and provide ‘Welcome to the neighbourhood’ information. Compliance is new in NZ, so we ensure that all owners have clear guidelines for the new standards so the change isn’t scary for them.

We also offer a second opinion service, which is recommending other services that they will benefit from. As a principal I am involved in this, so they contact me directly. It keeps me aware of what questions they are asking, and what other value we can add.

Engagement is about knowing what they are interested in and providing the help.

So, ultimately, it’s about the long-term client relationship?
So many businesses fail to grow because they neglect the existing client relationship (and then lose them). Ultimately, our aim is to have sticky clients so they refer and return. We reconnect always with our clients, including maintaining old landlord relationships. Because of this, if there is a problem, I know they will come to me first.

Any final advice?
Be OK with bucking the trend. We know we may be judged by the community when we stop growing, but we are clear on our end point and what we want to achieve. It’s OK to not always be about growth.

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Lauren Kirk

Lauren Kirk is the General Manager of Real+, developing bespoke training programs for individuals and offices to boost performance and growth. For more information visit realplus.com.au.
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