Property Management & Me

Ep1: Structuring your department for efficiency — with Christina Lennie from Stafflink

June 05, 2023 PropertyMe Season 1 Episode 1
Property Management & Me
Ep1: Structuring your department for efficiency — with Christina Lennie from Stafflink
Show Notes Transcript

“We have approximately 5,500 properties... we grew from a humble 200, so I feel like we've really felt the pains, the ups and downs of growing a real estate business and growing that team that goes in and around it and that's what led us here...” 
— Christina Lennie

This episode features practical tips from Christina Lennie from Stafflink and Kate Sunol from PropertyMe on how reviewing your property management department structure can help your team work to their strengths and create more efficiencies around your processes.
 
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TRANSCRIPT

Kate: Hi, and welcome to Property Management & Me, a series from PropertyMe bringing quick tips and insights that will make a difference to your everyday property management practice. I'm your host Kate Sunol and today I'm really excited to be joined by Christina Lennie, Chief Customer Officer at Stafflink. Welcome Christina.


Christina: Hey, Kate, thank you so much for having me. It's so exciting to be on this new property and me.


Kate:  So for those of use who don’t know who Stafflink are and what you do, can you share a little bit about how you came about and what your vision is for our industry?


Christina:  Yeah, certainly. Um, so we do have our own real estate business, which is Image Property. And we have approximately 5,500 properties and 82 agents (sales agents). We grew from a humble 200. So I feel like we've really felt the pains, the ups and downs of growing a real estate business and, growing that team that goes in and around it. And obviously, that's what led us here in terms of this business, that is Stafflink. And ultimately, what we're trying to do is empower real estate professionals who want to take advantage of technology, remove inefficiencies in their business, and in turn, create a high level of accountability with their teams, and also support and leverage their team members to get them doing what they do best. So you know, if it's a property manager, it's about managing and building those ever-important relationships with owners, tenants, and suppliers. And for a sales agent, it would be of course listing and selling.


Yeah, definitely. And that's actually a key topic of conversation that's coming up with a lot of our guests on the podcast is really reinforcing that the Property Managers are there as consultants, they are specialists in what they do. And it is about the relationships not so much getting caught up on the micro admin tasks anymore, because we have software that can do that for us. 


Really scaling from 200 to 5,500 properties is incredible. Congratulations, and what a journey to have been on. I’d imagine a lot of your key drivers behind forming Stafflink would have been the efficiencies of servicing that agency growth. What are some of the things you have seen that have influenced your model or that you are seeing in the changing industry that bring the solutions to your model? 



Christina: 


Yeah, look, for us, particularly having and experiencing that growth, and scaling that business, you know, five, six years ago, the, the team of PMs that we had, we could already see that instability within the role, you know, people coming in early, leaving late, you know, tears and people, ultimately, they were leaving the industry, because that traditional model of one person managing 140, 150 properties, it wasn't sustainable, because at the same time that, you know, technology was improving, as was the customer service experience. And exactly, as you said, the other you know, business owners you've been speaking with, it's now we're not competing against agency to agency, it's agency to Google and the customer service that you get off the back of that it's your agent in relation to your local coffee shop in terms of the service that they give you. So for us, it was very important to create that additional support and resource to our property management team, so that we could continue to compete in that ever changing space. We did look to offshoring to help with that. So we hired an offshore team. And what we have seen in this space, and what we were experiencing five years ago was the fact that there was a complete lack of structure, which led to a lack of clarity on where to start, what to prioritise, and what finished to look like. So, for us take for example, that renewals process was one of the first that we segmented the roles and responsibilities involved in that one process. And we created a really clear workflow so that that standardisation of process across a Property Manager and what they were doing within that particular process, and of course, that offshore team and what that meant was a 48 minute task for the PM creating the CMA the rental analytics creating that owner for commendation email template in PropertyMe sending off the tenant intentions, the owner instructions lease prep, that was 48 minutes. And by overlaying and pulling out those admin based tasks, setting up the offshore team for success, it took it down to an eight minute task for the PM. 


So that's where we found the value in a live environment, which is our platform, where we've got standardisation of process combined with clear workflows for both onshore and offshore teams in a digitised environment where we can we almost see ourselves as an extension of take, for example, PropertyMe, we're certainly not doing the role of PropertyMe. But we're an extension that allows them and empowers them to communicate, to work together collaboratively in that ecosystem.


Yeah, I think what you mentioned there, what does finished look like would really resonate with a lot of property managers I know. But I actually, I feel like I felt that statement when you said it, just getting to the end of the day and going, Yeah, I don't even know what needs to be done today. Because there's so many things on my to do list that's sitting on my desk and my to do list that's sitting on my computer and my emails that aren't read. So I think definitely that hitting those really those key pain points of property managers and being able to offer them solutions is not something that we're seeing holistically right now. So it's great to see that tech combination coming through that just allows property managers to do the stuff that they do best. So staff Link has added huge infrastructure of support around the model. But the task based model, not necessarily new to the industry, a lot of people have probably tried it may not have loved it. Do you find that you come across a lot of resistance to adoption with property managers, whether they have or sort of haven't tried that task based approach?



Kate: I think what you mentioned there, what does finished look like would really resonate with a lot of Property Managers. I feel like I felt that statement when you said it, just getting to the end of the day and going, Yeah, I don't even know what needs to be done today. Because there's so many things on my to do list that's sitting on my desk and my to do list that's sitting on my computer and my emails that aren't read. 

Christina: Yep


One of our surveys recently in our monthly Insider newsletter was which work style do you prefer, we had 38% respond preferring a standalone, full responsibility portfolio, followed by 29% with task based, 13% with pods, and other, and 7% as portfolio with outsourcing.

There are some strong preferences definitely to management style, PMs who have been around for a while have possibly tried task based before and not loved it, how do you navigate that change management piece? 


Christina: Yeah, great question. So you're right there was that traditional format of you are either portfolio based, or you were task base. This is a hybrid model. So we are still,  take for example, our image PMs and a lot of agencies that we're working with, and we work with about 300 agencies across Australia and New Zealand, when they're coming to us, almost the first step is to create that really strong foundation. And we do that through that standardisation of process, getting the team in that live environment, cleaning up the data that we know hasn't been touched for eons, and saying, right, let's get a really good foundation to kind of leap us into this next phase, which is going to be around, okay, now we can start to look at growth and structure of your team. And we very much recommend a hybrid model. So you still have your PMs in that portfolio style, but what we're doing is we're saying hey, the best use of a PMs time is to be in office 99% of the time supporting managing those owner, tenant, suppliers. And what we then created was a field service role within our own team, where these field service agents, their core role is to collaborate with the PMs. And they complete all of their entries, vacates, routines, and open homes. So they're the out-of-office crew. And then you overlay the offshore support. And now you've got a structure that allows an incredible amount of inefficiency being removed. And that live platform, which is obviously what we're rolling out and implementing within teams, in conjunction with their PropertyMe is exactly what we need to be able to make these three teams work holistically together.




Kate: Ok so really a mix of a lot of the styles we have seen before, with the tech support added.


It can be daunting when there's a lot of change in workflow and responsibilities, but it also provides an opportunity to really excel as a business, and generate those new, innovative, innovative ways of providing great service. Obviously, Image Property have been trailblazers with what's come from that. I'd imagine if you're freeing up a lot of the busy work from Property Managers, they really have that time to serve as their customers well. What are some of the things that you're seeing come out of this? Like, what are some of your clients achieving, as a result of freeing up that admin work?


Christina: Yeah, the most successful clients that we have, they understand that this is absolutely not a silver bullet. This is a journey. And when we're working with teams, you mentioned earlier that change management is so critical. And you know, we've got lots of different teams across Australia, and New Zealand. Some of them have been in the industry for years and years, which is fantastic. But some haven't. And being able to, you know, prepare, support, and equip those teams so that they can successfully implement this is very important to us. And it's been an incredible journey to navigate that. Some of the things that we've seen, and it's the simple things, Kate, you know, the small things lead to the big things. So take, for example, Image were quite progressive, four years ago by the fact that every property, whether it be an entry or vacate or routine, they were creating virtual tours for their property owners. And that was a free service charge. Because at that time, if you think about like compounding interest, we had the leverage because we'd already created our foundation. And we'd started to see the benefits of what removing inefficiency can mean. 


But on a smaller scale, we've had take, for example, the rental reference, everyone knows a tenant’s vacating you get five of them. And then you're sitting there completing the same 20 questions five times over. Through our vacates workflow, you complete one rental reference form that goes to your offshore team, every single reference you get for that tenant moving forward, you forward that straight on to the offshore team, they then grab the one version of that reference that you've done, they reply to the agent requesting it, attach the most recent tenant ledger, and they move on. So the small things make the big things in that respect in terms of some of those smaller level initiatives that we've seen. 


For some of the bigger pieces, particularly for Image, they were able to improve their NPS scoring dramatically and hold it at a very high standard consistently. So three years running, they've won, Rate My Agent agency of the year. And the other thing that we've seen off the back of using this system, particularly when we talk about efficiency is within our renewals workflow, we have the ability for a PM to hit a sales referral form, they complete that and that goes directly to our Head of Sales. So we basically took our sales business, which is only still very young, from 0% of rent roll sales, up to 72% of all rent roll sales are made using our Image agents. And that was through the implementation of that one form, And of course, our very clever Sales Director, Adam Empringham.



Kate: Yeah, wow. So that's quite a large increase and really great that you have the ability to track those numbers and focus your effort on the areas that need that improvement or the areas that you just want to be continually refining.


Thank you so much for joining us here today Christina. If our listeners want to continue the conversation how can they reach out? 


Christina: They can reach out to our Stafflink website, we also do have an events page which obviously includes our contact information and workshops that we run across Australia, but yeah I really appreciate your time today it’s been fantastic talking to you.


Kate: Thanks for tuning into our podcast PropertyMe. Here at PropertyMe, we’re really passionate about putting these insights into practice. So if you head to our website you can find resources from today’s episode to get started.