Busi­ness con­sul­tant and di­rec­tor Grant Foggo ex­plains how he’s help­ing shake up the Welling­ton prop­erty man­age­ment sec­tor.

In busi­ness, ex­pe­ri­ence is a won­der­ful thing. Over time it al­lows you to work smarter, bet­ter un­der­stand the mar­ket, and in­crease the chances of suc­cess in ev­ery­thing you do.

For Grant Foggo, his busi­ness jour­ney has seen him ex­pe­ri­ence vastly dif­fer­ent cul­tures, a va­ri­ety of busi­ness sec­tors, a ma­jor set­back, and some solid busi­ness growth based on his knowl­edge of sales man­age­ment.

Grant left the UK aged just 23, worked in Saudi Ara­bia for ten years, Brunei for an­other ten where he mar­ried his Kiwi-born wife Sally, be­fore re­lo­cat­ing to Welling­ton 16 years ago.

Af­ter find­ing his feet, Grant took on a sales po­si­tion for an of­fice re­lo­ca­tion com­pany, and some years later pur­chased a Hutt Val­ley-based re­cruit­ment busi­ness.

Then the GFC bomb­shell dropped and in Grant’s words “we lost ev­ery­thing – but did man­age to pay ev­ery­one out over six or seven years”.

For­tu­nately there were those who ap­pre­ci­ated his ex­ten­sive man­age­ment ex­pe­ri­ence.

An ex-client opened the door into lo­cal prop­erty man­age­ment.

“Sales and growth are im­por­tant in busi­ness but en­sure you have ev­ery­thing work­ing well and you’re man­ag­ing your cash­flow…”

Then five years later he was rec­om­mended by a board mem­ber at Welling­ton de­sign agency Capiche to come on as a sales and growth-fo­cused GM.

With his feet barely un­der the desk he was sub­se­quently ap­proached by a group of de­vel­op­ers/in­vestors to help set-up prop­erty man­age­ment com­pany Com­prendé (Span­ish for ‘ to un­der­stand’) – a busi­ness that’s about “un­der­stand­ing ten­ants, land­lords, and rental prop­erty.”

Grant, who de­scribes him­self as a “strate­gic leader”, took up the chal­lenge and the com­pany adopted a ‘big busi­ness’ ap­proach right from day one.

A block of 73 apart­ments de­vel­oped by one of Com­prendé’s in­vestors en­sured they were off to a fly­ing start from De­cem­ber 2014.

For the past 14 months Grant has also been tak­ing on pri­vate man­age­ment con­sul­tancy work – de­vel­op­ing strate­gic sales plans for busi­nesses across mul­ti­ple sec­tors.

“What all those busi­nesses are ask­ing is ‘ how do we nail this thing called sales’,” says Grant.

He says most busi­ness own­ers get too busy in their busi­nesses to give sales the at­ten­tion it de­serves. Many of­ten launch into sales pro­grams with­out first val­i­dat­ing the mar­ket.

They also fail to qual­ify prospects and/ or move po­ten­tial cus­tomers through the sales cy­cle.

Ki­wis are known for not want­ing to say ‘no’; they say they’re in­ter­ested when they’re re­ally not, he ex­plains. So peo­ple end up with a bunch of phoney ‘leads’.

To­day he splits his con­sul­tancy work 50/50 with de­vel­op­ing the strat­egy, sys­tems and cul­ture at Com­prendé Prop­erty Man­age­ment.

A team of nine han­dle hun­dreds of prop­er­ties across Welling­ton, in­clud­ing prop­er­ties to house Weta staff and Gov­ern­ment clients.

From what Grant’s seen in both Brunei and New Zealand, prop­erty man­agers are gen­er­ally over-stretched.

“[At Com­prendé] we pro­vide a lot of ad­min sup­port for our prop­erty man­agers. So they’re al­ways avail­able for ten­ants and land­lords.”

That avail­abil­ity is cru­cial for both ten­ants and prop­erty own­ers, he says.

“We want our prop­erty man­agers to be a trusted and proac­tive con­sul­tant to the owner. It’s about build­ing trust, ad­ding value and cre­at­ing happy homes for both the owner and the res­i­dent.”

Their ideal client is the busy pro­fes­sional who’s happy to hand over all the has­sle and re­spon­si­bil­ity of prop­erty man­age­ment to the ex­perts, and have peace of mind.

In 2016 Com­prendé ac­quired Just Prop­erty Man­age­ment and af­ter four years has grown to be one of the top five prop­erty man­age­ment agen­cies in Welling­ton – with growth com­ing pri­mar­ily through word-of-mouth, and a sales man­ager who has done “the hard yards”.

New leg­is­la­tion

A raft of new prop­erty man­age­ment leg­is­la­tion pend­ing in New Zealand around is­sues such as in­su­la­tion, heat­ing and let­ting fees will im­pact on own­ers, says Grant. He pre­dicts the num­ber of pro­fes­sion­ally man­aged prop­er­ties will in­crease sig­nif­i­cantly as a re­sult of the shake-up, and there will be a de­gree of con­sol­i­da­tion within the mar­ket – bring­ing it more in line with Aus­tralia.

There are al­ready signs of con­sol­i­da­tion hap­pen­ing, he says, ad­ding that the in­creased cost of own­ing rental prop­er­ties across New Zealand will be passed on through higher rents.

Ac­coun­tants are also en­gag­ing with prop­erty own­ers more too, as they move away from be­ing just book­keep­ers. They’re en­cour­ag­ing land­lords to treat rental prop­er­ties as a se­ri­ous busi­ness, rather than the tra­di­tional ‘set-and-for­get’ in­vest­ment – a busi­ness that can take care of their re­tire­ment.

Con­trary to me­dia re­ports, Grant’s view of where New Zealand’s rental prop­erty sec­tor is head­ing is that it will sim­ply balance it­self out. “Some land­lords will leave, some prop­er­ties will be picked up by in­vestors with sav­ings, and some will go to first-time buy­ers.”

Com­prendé is look­ing at smart ways to as­sist its prop­erty man­agers, “so the in­dus­try no longer con­tin­ues with this vi­sion of a grumpy old man­ager who’s con­stantly stressed”.

Busi­ness lessons

Grant’s ex­ten­sive ca­reer has taught him some key busi­ness lessons – not least of which is the need to take your time. “Sales and growth are im­por­tant in busi­ness but en­sure you have ev­ery­thing work­ing well and you’re man­ag­ing your cash­flow,” he says.

His ex­pe­ri­ence of hav­ing to wind his own re­cruit­ment busi­ness up dur­ing the GFC still haunts him to a de­gree – which is why he now ap­proaches busi­ness growth with cau­tion, and al­ways with a strate­gic plan.

Un­for­tu­nately many busi­ness own­ers treat sales as an af­ter­thought, says Grant, wear­ing his sales ex­pert’s hat – and of­ten be­cause they’re stretched to the limit.

Break­ing the sales ‘peaks and troughs’ cy­cle all comes down to hav­ing a sound sales strat­egy, he be­lieves.

A well-thought-out sales strat­egy will also take your busi­ness to the next level by iden­ti­fy­ing the right mar­ket to pur­sue.

“And most small busi­nesses put so much re­sources into mar­ket­ing, yet never im­ple­ment their mar­ket­ing well. But if you hire a good sales­per­son and have a sound sales strat­egy you can get so much more [re­sults] for your dol­lar.”

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