EPMEPM: Productivity

The “Expert” Property Manager

What goes on in the mind of a consumer when they meet someone entitled “Investment Property Manager” or “Client Service Manager”, or “Senior Property Manager”? It is likely, says Fiona Blayney, that they are immediately left with the image of the ultimate expert! Its time to examine what qualifications and level of expertise is required to earn this title.

What really is an “expert” and what does it take to be an “expert property manager”? Do we already fall short of the clients expectations based on their perception of who we are versus what we deliver? Is perception reality for either of us?

Recently I have been conducting a training workshop with groups discussing the topic of the “Expert Property Manager”, working together to formulate what a client expects from the “PM Expert” and creating the platform for the individual and business to provide the same. Our first challenge is to identify what it is to be the expert in our field, and from here, we delve into the reality of the application.

What is a Property Manager?

At the core of being a property manager is the concept of property management – but how does one define it? You don’t – you Google it! Despite the international expert on everything that is “Google” we are left to mould our own definition and for me, this is the handling, direction, or control of that which a person owns, and furthermore the property manager, would then become the person to whom the responsibility for the handling, directing and controlling of the property lies. So how do you become and expert in handling, directing and controlling of property owned by another?

Defining the Expert

When you think of the term ‘expert’, there are possibly images of individuals whom you regard as experts filling your mind – these people are those who possess special skills and knowledge in a particular field, they are a specialist, an authority, they are someone who is trained in their practice to the highest level.

If an expert has the highest level of skill and knowledge for their field, what would this be to handle, direct, and control a residential leased property? What is the attitude of this person? What action do they take on a daily basis?

Whilst it is a great exercise to do in your next team meeting or as a method to rate yourself, here are just a few of the answers we have been given in recent months whilst on tour.

Expert Knowledge Current understanding in the relevant Residential Tenancies Acts in each state, lease documentation, Trade Practices Act, anti-discrimination, Strata Titles, Smoke Alarm requirements, insurance, building and maintenance basics (for works referral), tribunal application and representation, industry best practice, basic accounting, company policies and procedures.

Expert Skill Communication, conflict resolution, negotiation, property marketing, property market appraisal, copy writing, photography, organisational, creative thinking, operational.

Expert Attitude Results focused, positive can do, customer service orientated, honest, reliable and transparent.

Expert Action Deliver on promises, set expectations. Make it happen or refer to someone that can!

If you were to rate yourself on a scale of 1 – 10 in terms of your level of ability, 10 = expert, 1 = novice how would you rate? In considering your answers, review yourself against the “expert” the highest level of knowledge, skill, and attitude in your field.

My guess is that for most of us our numbers were low, and perhaps, especially in the knowledge area, if we were to run a quiz of legislation (which I have done before) we would all end up with even lower results. If you don’t believe me – when was the last time you read any of the legislation – or perhaps have you read it at all? An expert not only has these attributes but they are current!

Expert Development

Even the greatest expert undergoes training and development, and in fact as an expert, they know it is a crucial ingredient in maintaining their status. Development can come in many forms, formal environments, self paced learning, workshops, eLearning and mentoring, amongst others.

What is your development plan? Personally, I undertake all of the above; in fact, you will even meet my mentor Bernie Bolger at this year’s ARPM conference (5th – 6th August, Sydney Hilton), where together we will show case how you can control your own development – even in the most challenging of situations.

An Expert Manages Expectations

An expert knows that they are not able to be all things to all people, and they do not represent themselves as such. I am often sitting across from one of my clients in discussion about a foreign topic, admitting that I have no solution or answer at that moment, but I will resolve to design one.

An expert does not feign knowledge or skill in the hope they get it right, or for fear of no longer being seen as the expert. It was evident on tour that property managers believe the client expected they were the oracle! The keeper of all answers, the holder of intricate knowledge in areas like plumbing, insurance, building works, but perhaps the expert property manager knows the knowledge and skills is with the “experts” in those fields, and we simply handle, direct and control the parties.

When you are feeling unwell and you visit your GP – would you prefer the GP make an assumption on your condition, or refer you to the “specialist” for a diagnosis and treatment? An expert GP maintains control of the situation, he directs the discussion, and handles the referral and perhaps ongoing management if the solution is not found.

An expert property manager knows their boundaries, communicates these with the client and customer, and works with other experts to find solutions.

The Expert Relationship Tools

It is a well-known practice of our cousins in sales that a client’s decision to engage your services will be a direct result of their transition through ‘knowing you – liking you – trusting you’. Where the client goes through this transition, they will be ready to make the initial commitment to ‘using you’. However, like any quality personal or business relationship the expert knows that for the client to maintain the engagement of their service they must continuously move through this cycle of relationship development to reaffirm the connection.

The expert knows that they are not right 100% of the time, and so they employ the concept of relationship banking, a tool that can be the expert property manager’s greatest asset.

We all need credits in the bank with our relationships, in the case of business, when things don’t go as expected the client has a level of trust with us which ensures the relationship is maintained. The greatest relationship tool in this process is second nature to the expert; it is the tool that accumulates more credit than any other – is transparency. Whilst it was concluded by our groups, that a client believes a property managers “tasks” are to find a tenant, collect rent, and deal with maintenance – we also agreed that the client is left to believe that is all that they see of what we do – we hide our activity from them. What is expert about that?

Stop for a moment and consider the seven elements of property management and all of the actions that fit into each category consider each of your internal processes and industry practice, how much time, the skills, knowledge and/or resources which are utilised in this work? How much interaction with the client has occurred throughout the process? What information is relayed? How are you educating the client along the way?

The expert makes the invisible work visible to the client, allowing the client to see the expertise in practice.

Organised Expert

With so much knowledge and skill, it is no wonder an expert is organised! How does the expert property manager organise their world? Whilst this question could fill an entire book, a few micro tips to get you on your way;

  • Use SMS for information confirmation not conversation
  • Plan workflow annually and works towards a periodical plan
  • Be self aware, acknowledge weakness, remove distractions, identify procrastination
  • High level knowledge of management software and utilise to capacity
  • Maximise electronic communication and keep it documented
  • Meet with the expert team daily – redistribute work to maximise in and out of office time.

Ten Lessons from the Expert

  1. You handle, direct, control a possession, this means you are not a jack of all trades – You are a jack of handling, directing and controlling
  2. Be aware of your level of knowledge and skill
  3. Check your attitude constantly
  4. Actions speak louder than words
  5. Professional development is your responsibility – keep it current
  6. Set the expectations
  7. Refer to the field expert often
  8. Get some credits in the relationship bank
  9. Transparency in everything you do
  10. Organisation allows expert practice

Expert Focus

Ultimately an expert property manager has focus – they follow a course until success! The expert with laser beam focus, will continue to adjust or develop their knowledge, skill, attitude and action, until they achieve authority status – perhaps then you may have earned the right to call yourself whatever you want.

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Fiona Blayney

Fiona Blayney is the founder and director of Real+, an industry first Property Management learning platform. For more info visit realplusonline.com.au.