Elite Property Manager - - Contents - SARAH BELL

Sarah Bell

SOME­ONE CALL A DOC­TOR! The huge hon­our of gueste­dit­ing an edi­tion of EPM is the chance to hold a mir­ror up to the zeit­geist of prop­erty man­age­ment and won­der, ‘Where do we go from here?'

If we look at the dis­rup­tors and the in­sa­tiable ap­petite that cus­tomers have for the more and the now, I be­lieve that prop­erty man­age­ment needs a check-up.

As we move into 2017, we are no longer in the busi­ness of prop­erty man­age­ment, or even peo­ple man­age­ment. While ten­ancy and fi­nan­cial ad­min­is­tra­tion are at the core of our ser­vice func­tion, we have in­fected prop­erty man­age­ment with the ‘re­la­tion­ship man­age­ment' la­bel. It wasn't un­til my bank started do­ing ‘re­la­tion­ship man­age­ment' and mak­ing life hard one day that I re­alised we were all sick with man­age­ment.

Watch­ing my youngest child start to push back on her older sis­ter's ‘manag­ing' her at play, it has be­come ob­vi­ous to me that at some point af­ter we de­part tod­dler­hood feel­ing man­aged by some­one is at odds with the hu­man de­sire to be an au­ton­o­mous hu­man be­ing. Be­ing an adult placed un­der man­age­ment can­not be an ex­pe­ri­ence that peo­ple are happy to pay for in the mod­ern era. Here is why.

The 21st cen­tury is the age of the in­di­vid­ual; for the last decade we have en­joyed the pre­vail­ing hip­ster sub­cul­ture and its cen­tral doc­trines of self-ex­pres­sion, spe­cial­ness and unique­ness. Be­hind the beards is the car­di­nal be­lief that we are all free and ca­pa­ble of choos­ing to iden­tify who we are and what we need to be happy.

The pro­lif­er­a­tion of the smart­phone since 2011 is tes­ti­mony to our crav­ing for real-time, self-serve, non­in­ter­rup­tion com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The rise and rise of so­cial me­dia and mi­croblog­ging plat­forms like In­sta­gram and Snapchat strongly sup­port the no­tion that we, the peo­ple of ‘now', want to be the au­thors of our own des­tiny. All of this is grossly out of sync with be­ing man­aged and the no­tion of sur­ren­der­ing our

re­la­tion­ships to some­one else for ‘man­age­ment'. No. No. No.

We need to try to find a new word. In the ed­u­ca­tion space, the qual­i­fi­ca­tions we achieve to be­come real es­tate agents come from the train­ing pack­age for prop­erty ser­vices. ‘Prop­erty ser­vices', un­like prop­erty man­age­ment, is start­ing to sound like some­thing peo­ple might want. ‘Pro­fes­sional prop­erty ser­vices' is start­ing to sound like some­thing for which land­lords might be pre­pared to pay a pro­fes­sional fee.

Ours is a ser­vice in­dus­try and, like all ser­vice in­dus­tries cop­ing with the threat of dis­rup­tive forces, we are in the throes of an iden­tity cri­sis. As we have in­creased au­toma­tion and stan­dard­ised, tem­plate­heavy com­mu­ni­ca­tion, what our ‘ser­vice' ac­tu­ally is ver­sus the ‘prod­uct' we ad­min­is­ter can be dif­fi­cult to iden­tify at times. Most prop­erty man­agers use realestate., have the strictest ar­rears process pos­si­ble and per­form com­pre­hen­sive rou­tine in­spec­tions, so all of our brochures start to look the same af­ter a while. Given that we all de­liver a sim­i­lar prod­uct, ser­vice is re­ally the only com­pet­i­tive bat­tle­ground of the fu­ture. So what is ‘ser­vice'? No one would con­fuse the ser­vice a doc­tor pro­vides in di­ag­nos­ing a med­i­cal con­di­tion with the medicine that is pre­scribed to fix it. The di­ag­no­sis is the pro­fes­sional ser­vice and the medicine is a prod­uct. Our processes and pro­ce­dures, the pro­to­cols we have for re­spond­ing to both rou­tine, emer­gency and novel cir­cum­stances, are the medicine that we have avail­able for the ails of res­i­den­tial ten­ancy.

But, we are more than just our processes and pro­ce­dures. The el­e­ments that con­sti­tute pro­fes­sional ser­vice are the same, whether we are talk­ing about a pro­fes­sional physi­cian or a pro­fes­sional prop­erty man­ager.

Lis­ten. If a doc­tor handed us a bot­tle of pills be­fore we had the op­por­tu­nity to de­scribe the symp­toms, we couldn't be con­fi­dent that those pills were cor­rect, or even safe to take in our cir­cum­stances, be­cause no two pa­tients are the same. The same goes for prop­erty man­age­ment – no two sit­u­a­tions are alike, so if you lis­ten well in the first in­stance you will be in a bet­ter po­si­tion of trust to rec­om­mend the best course of op­tion.

Test. There are two sides to ev­ery story and in a sit­u­a­tion that re­quires the com­pli­ance or co­op­er­a­tion of another party, such as a ten­ant agree­ing to fix some dam­age, it wouldn't hurt to do some proac­tive li­ais­ing to en­sure that you have the right end of the stick.

Di­ag­nose. This is where you iden­tify the is­sue and the op­tions that are avail­able to re­spond and treat it. If you missed any of the pre­vi­ous steps, you may rec­om­mend the wrong treat­ment and end up caus­ing harm or los­ing trust.

Con­sult. I have al­ways found it bizarre how PMs take ‘in­struc­tions' from land­lords, although I un­der­stand it is the cor­rect use of the word. It seems strange to ask a client what to do next. In­stead, lay out the op­tions, ex­plain the risks and get your client to take up one of your pro­fes­sional rec­om­men­da­tions.

Treat. This is sim­ple – you ad­min­is­ter the medicine. If there are ar­rears, send the rem­edy no­tices.

Fol­low Up. Like a good doc­tor, fol­low up and see how the treat­ment is pro­gress­ing, and be au­then­tic; a good bed­side man­ner (or desk­top man­ner in our case) is im­por­tant.

If we are, as I say, sick with man­age­ment, be­hav­ing like a doc­tor might be the medicine we need.

Climb­ing onto the soapbox now, I want to fin­ish with the words of the es­teemed con­tem­po­rary philoso­pher, Dave Grohl, “This is a call”. A call for all PMs to stop manag­ing peo­ple and to give a pro­fes­sional ser­vice, with a desk­top man­ner that you would be pre­pared to pay for.


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