FRONT DESK TO BUSI­NESS OWNER

WHEN LAURA LE­VI­SOHN started in real es­tate as a re­cep­tion­ist she didn't have a def­i­nite ca­reer plan. Now, with al­most 20 years' ex­pe­ri­ence in all as­pects of real es­tate and a busi­ness owner her­self, Laura is self-mo­ti­vated, pos­i­tive and com­mit­ted to her j

Elite Property Manager - - Contents - Laura Le­vi­sohn

IT WAS BACK in 1991 when a very young Laura Le­vi­sohn first sat down at a desk in a real es­tate of­fice – as a re­cep­tion­ist. She never would have imag­ined one day she would be a 50 per cent owner in the same busi­ness. Back then, it was called McCamey & Co (lo­cated in South Perth, WA), owned by hus­band and wife team War­ren and Lynne McCamey. “I was pretty young but thought it was ex­cit­ing that I was deal­ing with own­ers who were in­vestors and then com­ing back and deal­ing with ten­ants and putting them in homes. I started picturing my­self in years to come be­ing that in­vestor.”

Laura con­tin­ues, “I guess it was a huge eye-opener for me to see all the dif­fer­ent as­pects and just how buy­ing one prop­erty pro­vides so many op­por­tu­ni­ties. Not only do you have the op­por­tu­nity to rent it and have it re­turn in­come, but you also have that op­por­tu­nity to add value to it by ren­o­vat­ing it and selling it to get a good profit.”

It was see­ing the ben­e­fits of in­vest­ment that inspired Laura and while tak­ing a break from the com­pany she also bought and ren­o­vated prop­er­ties. At one stage, she had 11 houses on the go.

“That ex­cited me and inspired me, and I thought the ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge I gained from do­ing it for other peo­ple would then help me as well.”

Af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a mar­riage break­down and then re­turn­ing to the same busi­ness af­ter 10 years, Laura’s prop­erty man­age­ment ca­reer re­ally took off. With the busi­ness now op­er­at­ing un­der a new name and owned by the son of the orig­i­nal cou­ple, Gar­rick McCamey, Laura was made head of the prop­erty man­age­ment depart­ment. Within a year, she was a 25 per cent share­holder. When Gar­rick de­cided to sell at the end of 2014, Laura bought another 25 per cent and sales agent Lee Riddell bought the other 50 per cent.

To­day they op­er­ate the com­pany to­gether, with Laura fo­cus­ing pri­mar­ily on busi­ness de­vel­op­ment – some­thing on which she prides her­self for in­creas­ing the suc­cess of the busi­ness – and Lee man­ag­ing the sales un­der the new name of M Residential.

“When I came back into the busi­ness I made a few rapid changes. For ex­am­ple, our PM depart­ment was or­gan­ised as task man­age­ment (as op­posed to port­fo­lio). We had a lot of peo­ple work­ing on one prop­erty – a ten­ant li­ai­son of­fi­cer, a leas­ing con­sul­tant, some­one who li­aised with the own­ers. Af­ter a year I could see cracks in the sys­tem where no one was tak­ing ac­count­abil­ity and it was enough for them to say ‘Oh, that’s not my role. You should have done that.’

“I de­cided I’d change it all and bring it back to port­fo­lio man­age­ment, with a leas­ing con­sul­tant and my­self do­ing all the busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and my prop­erty man­agers just man­ag­ing prop­er­ties, which is what they do best.”

Laura par­tic­u­larly at­tributes the com­pany’s suc­cess to the team of prop­erty man­agers work­ing with her. A ma­jor point of dif­fer­ence is that Laura doesn’t em­ploy any­one who al­ready has ex­pe­ri­ence in the in­dus­try, only those who are in­ex­pe­ri­enced and ‘who have just fin­ished their ed­u­ca­tion’. The rea­son

"DON’T HOLD DOUBT WITHIN YOU. LOOK AT WHAT YOU’RE DO­ING AND TRUST YOUR PROCESS IS RIGHT. HAV­ING THAT CON­FI­DENCE IN WHAT YOU’RE DO­ING IS KEY."

is that she prefers to men­tor them and train them to work to her sys­tems and busi­ness plat­form – which means they get taught good ser­vice habits from the word ‘go’. And, when it comes to find­ing the right peo­ple for the job, it is at­ti­tude that is most im­por­tant. As the busi­ness is built on solid check­lists, pro­ce­dures, poli­cies and tem­plates of ev­ery let­ter a prop­erty man­ager may need to use, Laura is easily able to pass on her knowl­edge and skills to new staff mem­bers. “If they have the right at­ti­tude,” she says, “I know I can teach them the skills they need for suc­cess.”

How­ever, Laura also freely ad­mits that hav­ing peo­ple come in so young does have its draw­backs, par­tic­u­larly as the young women tend to leave to have chil­dren; but with per­sis­tence and by test­ing dif­fer­ent tech­niques (in­clud­ing bring­ing the chil­dren into the of­fice with babysit­ters), she has found that in­tro­duc­ing the abil­ity to work re­motely has been the big­gest ben­e­fit to the busi­ness.

“M Residential wouldn’t have the recog­ni­tion that we have with­out such an amaz­ing team and we have such great team cul­ture and loy­alty. The last peo­ple to leave the busi­ness did so to have chil­dren, so I’ve been chang­ing how we work in the of­fice to al­low those girls to come back on and work on a part-time ba­sis, or to work re­motely as as­sis­tants for our full-time prop­erty man­agers. That just means I’m not tak­ing them away from what is a re­ally spe­cial time for them start­ing their fam­ily, but I’m still giv­ing them the abil­ity to be a part of the team and em­ployed.”

Staff mem­bers are able to log in re­motely and work on ex­actly the same sys­tem as they would if they were work­ing from a desk within the of­fice. There is no con­cern from Laura about man­ag­ing her team be­cause they are all well trained and very loyal.

“It’s such an amaz­ing thing for my busi­ness, be­cause my team know my sys­tems, they al­ready know my pro­cesses, they al­ready know the prop­er­ties. I’ve seen peo­ple a bit scep­ti­cal about hav­ing re­mote work­ers whom they don’t know that well. The fact that I know and trust these peo­ple who are in my team means that if they say to me ‘I worked five hours to­day’, I’d never have to mon­i­tor that be­cause I have faith they’re be­ing hon­est. I’m also con­fi­dent they are com­plet­ing pro­ce­dures cor­rectly and in the way that I want them to.”

Next we dis­cuss mar­ket­ing, another area where M Residential does things dif­fer­ently. There is a great re­la­tion­ship be­tween the man­age­ment and sales teams in the busi­ness; man­agers have di­rect ac­cess to in­vestors, so keep­ing sys­tems up to date and high­light­ing points of dif­fer­ence is key to cre­at­ing new busi­ness.

“In our area, we’re the only ones us­ing video tours in prop­erty man­age­ment, plus some other points of dif­fer­ence such as online book­ings. If I don’t win a list­ing, I know I didn’t sell my points of dif­fer­ence enough be­cause I know we’re do­ing things our com­pe­ti­tion doesn’t do.”

And Laura says it’s of­ten not about fees. “I sent a sur­vey out to our clients and what came back was re­ally in­ter­est­ing to read. Not only were they (the clients) happy with us, but it was good to get feed­back on the ques­tions – par­tic­u­larly where I asked ‘When you first looked to take on a prop­erty man­ager, what were the main de­cid­ing fac­tors?’ Out of the op­tions listed in our sur­vey, fees came out as the third most im­por­tant, yet this is the first ques­tion we’re al­ways asked. But it was re­ally in­ter­est­ing to know this is not the de­cid­ing fac­tor for the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple.”

Those that know Laura say she is a bun­dle of energy who man­ages to pack a fair bit into each of her busy days. She says her stamina is down to keep­ing fit and healthy, and be­ing pre­pared the night be­fore. She also talks about the ben­e­fits that phys­i­cal ex­er­cise has on the mind that al­low her to make the time and ef­fort to look af­ter her­self in be­tween jug­gling her busy ca­reer and moth­er­hood.

“I’ll get up at 4:30, go to the gym about 4:45 for an hour and a half, come back and get ready. Keep­ing in mind that I’ve al­ready done ev­ery­thing I pos­si­bly could the night be­fore, I eat break­fast, get changed, drop my sons at school, go into the of­fice and set my­self up with an ideal week in my of­fice so I can keep on track and not fall be­hind. Go­ing for a run is of­ten the best time to clear the head of any wor­ries and come up with so­lu­tions to any is­sues, or sim­ply a great start to the day.

“I’ll go through my emails, block out some time to do my busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­age­ment work, go back through my emails and my di­ary sys­tem to see ev­ery­thing I need to do for that day. Then I’m home, pre­par­ing for the next day and then I go again.

“By the time I get to work [af­ter an early morn­ing gym ses­sion], I don’t have a foggy head like, ‘I’ve just rolled out of bed; quick, give me my cof­fee’ - I am ab­so­lutely ready and rar­ing to go! I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant for ev­ery­one to have that in their lives be­cause they’ll be amazed what a dif­fer­ence it makes to their pro­duc­tiv­ity and their fo­cus dur­ing work.”

Laura con­tin­ues, “I also go to a nu­tri­tion­ist; I was hav­ing a chat with her the other day, and she had read an ar­ti­cle say­ing that an un­healthy per­son only works 43 ef­fec­tive hours in a month, com­pared to a healthy per­son who works 149 ef­fec­tive hours in a month. And that’s just in their work life. Imag­ine the ben­e­fit for ev­ery other as­pect of that per­son’s life!”

Ac­cord­ing to Laura, there is al­ways some­thing to do when it comes to her busi­ness, and in the next 12 months she hopes to fo­cus more on the busi­ness man­age­ment side of things.

“I’ve got so many ideas run­ning through my head at the mo­ment that I just want to be able to com­mit the time to get those ideas in place and un­der­way. I also want full recog­ni­tion for M Residential and a win at the Lead­ing Prop­erty Man­agers of Aus­tralia for Prop­erty Man­age­ment Com­pany of the Year. We’ve been the fi­nal­ists for the last two years and I want the win!” she laughs.

Lastly I won­der whether there was any­thing she would tell her younger self start­ing out in prop­erty man­age­ment, know­ing ev­ery­thing she knows now.

“I would tell my younger self, ‘Don’t hold doubt within you. Look at what you’re do­ing and trust your process is right.’ Hav­ing that con­fi­dence in what you’re do­ing is key. The best piece of ad­vice I’ve ever been given was that you can do any­thing if you’ve got the right fo­cus, com­mit­ment and pas­sion. You’re not go­ing to please ev­ery­one, but you have to fix your path and work on that.”

"GO­ING FOR A RUN IS OF­TEN THE BEST TIME TO CLEAR THE HEAD OF ANY WOR­RIES AND COME UP WITH SO­LU­TIONS TO ANY IS­SUES, OR SIM­PLY A GREAT START TO THE DAY."

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