Elite Agent

Three steps to reinvigorate your PM department

Cathie Crampton has carved out a niche as a master of property management efficiency and best practice. Over the years she’s applied these skills at Harcourts and Belle, and now Place, where she has doubled the property management margins within six months. Now she’s set to share her insight into how others can achieve that goal at the Business of Real Estate Conference 2019.

When property management coach Cathie Crampton was tapped on the shoulder to assist Place real estate increase their rental division’s profitability and efficiency, it wasn’t a mission she took lightly.

A growth specialist with 15 years’ experience in property management and coaching, she knew there would be personal investment involved.

Her challenge involved steadying a drifting ship, improving divisional morale and then looking to a future where growth was the aim.

“Place founder Damien Hackett reached out to me in July, 2018 about his property management division. His thinking at the time was either sell it or consider options,” Cathie explains.

Instinctively Cathie knew there was opportunity for improvement and joined the brand as a partner, using a three-phase strategy to overhaul Place’s entire approach to property management.

In the process she lifted their profitability from five per cent to 39 per cent within a year.

STEP 1 – GAUGE THE PLAY
Cathie’s first few months at Place involved meeting the property management team, ascertaining how they worked and identifying potential areas for improved efficiency.

“You must understand the dynamic to know what you need to do,” she reflects. “I didn’t do anything for three months. I just went around having conversations about the organisation and situation as it was.

“I needed to know exactly how Place worked, what their core values were and also how they were perceived as property managers.”

Those conversations yielded a fascinating insight into everything from profit and loss to sales referrals and the team’s morale.

“What I found from feedback was there was minimal accountability, minimal metrics transparency and minimal financial results.

“There was a genuine cultural feeling within the organisation that property managers were second-rate citizens; an overall feeling of lack of confidence in the ability of Place PM.”

Beyond lacking confidence, the PM team also lacked training in technology, growth and communication. Cathie’s research revealed major flaws, but also major potential for improvement.

STEP 2 – STEADY THE SHIP
Armed with an in-depth insight into what wasn’t working, Cathie set about drilling down into the detail of the business and the improvements that could be made.

She took control of the property management financial accounts, looked at every line of the business’s profit and loss, and set about compiling a massive report. In it she identified areas that could be quickly altered to improve the bottom line, along with strategies and cultural changes which would inevitably take more time.

“I took a whole bunch of recommendations to the board. At the time, for example, we weren’t even charging relisting fees. It was apparent this was a sector overall of the business which had been neglected,” Cathie says.

She also looked at the best practice of others in the industry to see what they were doing and achieving in the same sphere.

Then she set about enacting change.

“We introduced a change in technology platforms, started new training procedures, and began employing accurate metrics and measures of success operationally and financially,” Cathie continues.

“We started offshoring those time-consuming, mundane tasks like invoicing and scheduling because I knew that would be a quick way to reduce the repetitive workload.

“We repurposed six positions and changed terminology so now people were relationship managers rather than PMs.

“We also focused heavily on team building with initiatives like TV screens that illustrated positive testimonials rather than data.

“Then we looked at incentive schemes to reward high-performing personnel.”

Her focus was to stem the losses and position the business for a turnaround, but in the interim she was already making ground.

“It took six months to steady the ship and then we began to see financial reward. I have the same team now as I did 12 months ago. And that’s the longest consistency there had been for some time.

“Once we’d steadied the ship, we began to move forward.”

STEP 3 – THE ROAD AHEAD
As Cathie looks to the future, she says the next year at Place is all about property management growth.

“There’s a lot more confidence within the PM business as a whole. We now have a BDM growth club with set goals.

“In the interim we’ve hired two new people, both recommended by the sales department, and I now speak at every sales meeting as we look to lift sales referrals from 30 to 80 per cent.

“Our aim is to see Place as renowned for property management as it is for sales.” As for her words of wisdom for other agencies looking to turn their profit around, Cathie has some key pieces of advice.

“First you need to understand and get control of the situation as it is now. That ship has got to be steady before you make change.

“Next, build a team structure that empowers your staff and gives you time to focus on the business. In the interim, identify and build solid communication with your low-hanging fruit. If you build good relationships and value people, they’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done.

“Then get smart about growth, not just with new business opportunities but by looking at optimising existing streams within your business.”

Cathie Crampton is among the key speakers at The Business of Real Estate conference 2019. To book tickets visit thebusinessofrealestate.com.au

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