EPMEPM: BD & GrowthEPM: Leadership

What is ‘Business by Design?’

‘Business by design’ and ‘Business by default’ are two very different things says Jo Oliveri of ireviloution intelligence. It is time to put yourself in control of making your business happen rather than just letting it happen.

We all know the old adage, ‘If you fail to plan then you plan to fail’. I call this, ‘business by default’. So many principals operate their property management business with little to no planning. The business operates on a day-to-day basis through reactive management – they just let things happen. For many, it is because they do not understand how to plan.

‘Business by design’ means planning every tangible and intangible area of your business so they are working towards achieving your business goals. These areas are culture, brand, service, touch points, reputation, team, and consumers. So, how do you operate business by design?


Operating business by design starts here. Your organisational culture says who you are and what, when, where, why and how you do it. This means designing, implementing, and proactively managing your business’ values, beliefs, and norms.


Values hold you and your team accountable. Think hard, because from these value stem the foundations of every other business area. If you design your core values as mutual respect and trust then stick this on every team members’ desk – they must be reminded of them every day so their actions show it.


Beliefs guide you and your team towards achieving business goals. Decide what beliefs you want your business to convey – perhaps the belief that continual training is important to ensure a knowledgeable service is delivered. To reinforce this belief you may hold monthly training sessions so your team’s knowledge remains up-to-date, ensuring your service standards remain consistent.


Norms are accepted behaviours in your business, such as team members taking coffee breaks whenever they feel like it. Most organisational norms happen by default because they have always been and always will be (even if they damage the business in some way). Why? Because you have never designed these norms to ensure they benefit the business. What would happen if you allowed coffee breaks to happen only twice a day – wouldn’t this designed norm immediately increase productivity?

Designing your culture rather than just letting it happen allows you to address problems before they become crises – you can tell when something in the designed culture does not belong. It also helps attract the right employees and customers to your business because they understand your culture and want to be part of it. Why do you think so many people want to work for or buy from Apple and Google?


Speaking of Apple and Google, what do these two organisations have in common? They are the two most highly respected and highly loved brands in the world! Why? Because they operate business by design, so have the ability to proactively manage their respective business. The result – their teams love their careers and their consumers love their products, services, and brand.

Designing your business’ brand means designing your identity and proactively managing your image. Your brand identity is essentially your organisational culture. Your brand image is how your stakeholders perceive your business.

The key to designing your brand so it is highly respected and highly loved is consistently confirming that you do what you say. If your core values are mutual respect and trust then delivering a service where consumers feel frustrated by your property managers broken promises only confirms that you do not do what you say – what we call a ‘legitimacy gap’ in stakeholders’ minds. Thanks to word-of-mouth you can be sure bad experiences spread until it is a confirmed belief your agency delivers a service of broken promises. Wouldn’t you rather design what your stakeholders think of your business, and proactively manage anything that may damage this perception?


To proactively manage your brand, you must design your service standards. Service is the main area your consumers experience and subsequently form perceptions about your business. So why would you just let service happen by default?

You must decide what service standards you want your team to deliver to your consumers, and in fact anyone who deals with your business. If your core values are mutual respect and trust then your service should be built on this. You must then design set processes for every service area (for example, maintenance and tenant welcome) and train your team to deliver these processes consistently. However, service is not the only area from which your stakeholders form perceptions about your business.


‘Touch points’ are everything your stakeholders come into contact with, whether tangible or intangible, in your business.

Touch points include your physical agency, clothing, website, business cards, collateral, team members, coffee cups. Most of these touch points will communicate something about your business without you even knowing it! Therefore, some areas can go unplanned and unmanaged, and so creates business by default.

Time to start designing your business’ touch points! List off everything your stakeholders currently see, hear, smell, taste, and feel with your business. Then, write down everything you want your stakeholders to see, hear, smell, taste and feel with your business. Now implement – teach your team the new standards and apply measures that maintain these standards. If one team member wears red when everyone else wears purple, your stakeholders become confused and ‘legitimacy gaps’ emerge putting your business’ reputation on the line!


Your business’ reputation is your most valuable intangible asset. Nothing affects your bottom-line more! So why just let it happen? Why not be proactive about building, maintaining and improving your reputation within the workplace, industry, and market.

To create a reputation by design you must ask yourself, how do you want your team, associates, partners, industry, and prospective consumers, effectively anyone that has a stake in your business, to perceive you? This must link to your business goals and all designed areas. If you want to be seen as the number one agency for service then you must design tactics for that goal to unfold from your organisational culture through to your touch points.


Your business’ reputation is put on the line every day by one of your most volatile touch points – your team. Property management is synonymous with high employee turnover. This means every time you lose and hire new property managers your business is at risk.

However, it does not need to be like this if you operate business by design. When recruiting, you can determine whether prospective employees tick the boxes – that is, if they embody or have the potential to embody your designed business. For example, if a prospective employee believes service is not about the customer, does this put your designed business at risk?


Your consumers are your most valuable touch point. They provide the most trusted testimony of your business! Why wouldn’t you design your consumers too?

Consumers by design means identifying who your target market is given your agency’s catchment area. Are you in an area with one-income young families or are there dual-income no children couples living in high-rise apartments?

Do your research and identify who needs your services. Then, design your marketing around this market. If it is a young family area then your communication should suggest this whilst maintaining your own brand messages, for example, ‘here for your family because we know your house is your home’. On-going research into your area’s changing demographics allows proactive management of your communication so you can attract and maintain long-term loyal consumers spreading messages you have designed about your business!

When all these areas are designed, it is time to re-evaluate your business goals and targets. Remember, operating business by design means constantly measuring, monitoring, and re-evaluating to ensure you remain alert and adaptable to internal and external changes. It is time to put yourself in control of making your business happen and rather than just letting it happen!

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Jo-Anne Oliveri

Jo-Anne Oliveri, CIPS, TRC, Founder and Managing Director of property management business solutions company ireviloution intelligence. She is an international real estate identity who has trained over 500 agencies and thousands of agency owners and property managers worldwide. Visit ireviloution.com to find out more.