LESSONS LEARNT IN A RE­ALLY BIG BUSI­NESS

BROCK FISHER TAKES AN HON­EST LOOK back at the learn­ing curve he ex­pe­ri­enced when he joined Rental Ex­press af­ter man­ag­ing a much smaller rent roll.

Elite Property Manager - - Contents - Brock Fisher

Be­fore Rental Ex­press, the big­gest depart­ment I had worked in man­aged 500 prop­er­ties. Now, work­ing in a multi-lay­ered busi­ness look­ing af­ter 4,500 prop­er­ties, with or­ganic growth of 900-plus prop­er­ties per year, has been quite an eye-open­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

De­spite the chal­lenges, there are great ad­van­tages to hav­ing a re­ally large busi­ness which make it worth the ef­fort. Economies of scale and the abil­ity to spread re­sources and de­velop new things are big ad­van­tages. If you have a rent roll of 200 and spend $10,000 de­vel­op­ing an own­ers' app, that's $50 per prop­erty. If you have 5,000 prop­er­ties it's only $2 per prop­erty!

The learn­ing curve has been steep and con­fronting at times. How­ever, it doesn't mat­ter how big your team is; the fol­low­ing has rel­e­vance in busi­nesses of any size.

IT’S ABOUT TIME

I could sum it up in one word, but that wouldn't make for par­tic­u­larly good read­ing, so let me elab­o­rate a lit­tle fur­ther.

I have a whole new un­der­stand­ing and an acute ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the value of time that I never had be­fore. Both my time, and the time of oth­ers. The time it takes to do things, all things. The huge value in sav­ing time. Where and how I am spend­ing my time. Whether what I am do­ing at any given point in time is adding value.

This ar­ti­cle could easily have been called ‘Re­al­i­sa­tions of a non-del­e­gat­ing per­fec­tion­ist', or per­haps even ‘Ways you could be in­ad­ver­tently sti­fling your busi­ness'. I have found that work­ing in a re­ally big busi­ness am­pli­fies all the habits and ten­den­cies you al­ready had but were pos­si­bly obliv­i­ous to.

Pre­vi­ously, if I lost an hour here and there solv­ing prob­lems for team mem­bers in­stead of coach­ing them how to do it, or dab­bling in things that other peo­ple were also dab­bling in, it wasn't such a big deal. But mul­ti­ply that by 20 and all of a sud­den there goes the work­ing week and all of the core du­ties that should be get­ting done.

I have learnt so much from the tal­ented team I am for­tu­nate to work with, but here are four of my favourites.

1 DON’T GIVE THEM A FISH, TEACH THEM TO FISH BY COACH­ING

Deeply em­bed­ded in my per­son­al­ity is a need to solve prob­lems in a fan­tas­tic way be­cause no one could pos­si­bly do it as well as I could – or at least that what I thought. It took me quite some time to re­alise just how self­ish and ego­tis­ti­cal that is.

While solv­ing a prob­lem may give me a nice feel­ing of sat­is­fac­tion, it is hugely prob­lem­atic for any busi­ness in a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ways.

One per­son spend­ing 10 hours solv­ing prob­lems is nowhere near as ef­fi­cient as 10 peo­ple tak­ing one hour to solve the same num­ber of prob­lems.

Be­ing the chief prob­lem­solver in a busi­ness sti­fles the de­vel­op­ment of your team be­cause it fails to up­skill and grow them, leav­ing them less en­gaged and mo­ti­vated in their roles. They do not get the morale boost that comes with im­prove­ment and achiev­ing things they doubted they could do.

So don't solve the prob­lem. In­stead coach, sup­port and guide oth­ers to solve their own dif­fi­cul­ties. With greater skills come fewer prob­lems and bet­ter out­comes. Get your team mem­bers into the habit of bring­ing at least one pos­si­ble so­lu­tion when they bring a prob­lem, and guide them to reach their own so­lu­tions rather than telling them what to do – or worse still, just do­ing it your­self.

One of the eas­i­est ways to do this is when some­one on your team comes to you with a snag ask them the sim­ple ques­tion, ‘What do you think we should do?' You might be sur­prised that nine times out of 10 they al­ready know the an­swer. And if they don't, fol­low up with ‘What are our op­tions?'

Some­times all a team mem­ber needs is some­one to en­dorse or val­i­date that they are on the right track when they are hav­ing a mo­ment of self-doubt.

2 DEL­E­GAT­ING CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE

Hav­ing spent 15 years as a no­to­ri­ous non-del­e­ga­tor, two years ago I dis­cov­ered del­e­ga­tion and it has quite lit­er­ally changed my work­ing life. I just never re­ally ‘got it', I told my­self, but the re­al­ity is I just re­sisted let­ting go and al­low­ing oth­ers to shine.

I can thank our Gen­eral Man­ager, Tara Wil­liams, for the sim­ple clar­ity im­parted by Fig­ure 1 that as­sisted the prover­bial penny to drop.

Lever­ag­ing the num­bers and tal­ents of our team gets things done faster and keeps our busi­ness mov­ing at a brisk pace. Re­ly­ing on one, two or even three peo­ple to im­ple­ment all the im­prove­ments around a busi­ness just re­sults in things

DON'T SOLVE THE PROB­LEM. IN­STEAD COACH, SUP­PORT AND GUIDE OTH­ERS TO SOLVE THEIR OWN DIF­FI­CUL­TIES.

YOU CAN'T BE EV­ERY­WHERE CHECK­ING TO MAKE SURE PEO­PLE ARE DO­ING A GREAT JOB, WHICH IS WHY YOU NEED EASY-TO-FOL­LOW SYS­TEMS AND GREAT RE­PORT­ING.

never get­ting done, or tak­ing an eter­nity to com­plete.

Co­in­ci­den­tally, two years ago I also put a Vir­tual As­sis­tant on to han­dle much of the monthly re­port­ing and com­pli­ance checks in the busi­ness that I was do­ing at the time. Rizelle is faster and more ac­cu­rate than I was, and this alone saves me on av­er­age 15 work­ing weeks a year – time that I can spend im­prov­ing, de­vel­op­ing and mov­ing the busi­ness for­ward. I have also been able to cre­ate and im­ple­ment a whole range of ex­tra checks and bal­ances that I al­ways wanted to do but never had the time.

In re­la­tion to the above two points, let me just say this: If you give a team mem­ber the chance to shine, they gen­er­ally will.

3 IM­POR­TANT BUT NOT UR­GENT

Our Di­rec­tor, Chris Rolls, gave me a sim­ple in­sight into what is ac­tu­ally re­ally im­por­tant to de­velop a grow­ing busi­ness when he drew me a pic­ture sim­i­lar to Fig­ure 2. It is the ‘im­por­tant but not ur­gent' things that re­sult in ef­fi­ciency gains and busi­ness ad­vance­ment. These are the things in busi­ness where you find your­self us­ing sen­tences that go a bit like ‘It would be great if we could…', or ‘I wish this flowed bet­ter', or ‘That's not user-friendly – why don't we….?'

The chal­lenge is that man­agers and depart­ment heads of­ten spend most of their time get­ting bogged down on the ur­gent and im­por­tant things – things that need do­ing now, sort­ing out the never-end­ing spot fires that hap­pen in a prop­erty man­age­ment depart­ment.

But this means that the im­prove­ment and growth of the busi­ness can fal­ter be­cause it's not be­ing worked on con­sis­tently, and stag­na­tion is the re­sult.

Putting it another way, you need to spend time work­ing on the depart­ment and not in it. That's where real progress comes from. Since I dis­cov­ered del­e­ga­tion and changed my ap­proach to prob­lem-solv­ing I have been able to spend a lot more time work­ing in this space.

4 GET COM­PLI­ANCE SYS­TEMS RIGHT FROM THE START

If you are go­ing to be big you are go­ing to be no­ticed and scru­ti­nised, so you'd bet­ter be ready for it. Leg­isla­tive com­pli­ance does not take into ac­count busi­ness scale in any way. For ex­am­ple, the 10 days per­mit­ted to lodge a bond is the same 10 days whether you man­age 200 prop­er­ties or 4,500 prop­er­ties.

But the checks and safety nets needed to en­sure com­pli­ance in a 200-prop­erty of­fice are vastly dif­fer­ent to the checks and safety nets needed in a five-of­fice, 4,500-prop­erty op­er­a­tion. Ex­po­nen­tially dif­fer­ent, in fact; but it is still the same 10 days, so you need to be slick, stream­lined and op­er­ate with bullet-like pre­ci­sion.

You can't be ev­ery­where check­ing to make sure peo­ple are do­ing a great job, which is why you need easy-to-fol­low sys­tems and great re­port­ing to catch the things that will in­evitably be missed. Mis­takes ex­ist in all busi­nesses, be­cause hu­mans make er­rors. It's how you find and solve these that re­ally counts.

If you skimp on your sys­tems, com­pli­ance and data en­try in the be­gin­ning, it will bite hard later. Think­ing that lit­tle bit longer, harder and more big­pic­ture, and get­ting it right from the be­gin­ning, saves you a world of pain in the fu­ture.

When you find that you haven't cap­tured a par­tic­u­lar piece of data or in­for­ma­tion ef­fec­tively and you need to change the way you do it, it is painful to have to up­date 200 prop­erty files. But when you have to up­date 4,500 files, you learn very quickly to give it more time at the start.

Time is a pre­cious com­mod­ity, so make sure you are max­imis­ing the use of yours. ■

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