How do you structure your property business?

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  • #17532

    Agent 007
    Member

    Hi all,

    First of all can I say that The Arena looks like it could be a fantastic and well needed forum for property professionals to share knowledge – let’s hope it becomes the amazing resource that it sets out to be.

    For my first post, I wanted to discover how Agents (Lettings) structure their businesses in terms of staff roles and hierarchy structure. We’ve tried varying structures, each with it’s own pro’s and con’s, and having not had experience in a sales / lettings office prior to setting up mine, I wanted to know that I’m on the right path or at least working to a more ‘normal’ business structure that will allow for continued growth.

    A bit of background: We set up around 4 years ago and currently manage circa 300 properties. Our sales arm, whilst relatively new, is growing at a slow rate but realistically our focus remains within the lettings / property management division. We have a team of 6 people in total  including myself and my business partner, and our structure is currently as follows:

    Director 1 – General operations, new business development, accounts, recruitment etc.
    Director 2  – As above

    Property managers x 3 – Booking in / conducting viewings and seeing through to tenancy set up (including deposit registration), landlord feedback, managing check in / check out, arranging maintenance works, tenancy renewals, dealing with general tenant enquiries, deposit dilapidation’s, arranging inspections (and feeding back to landlords once done), ensuring compliance with regs etc.

    External viewer – Paid on an ad hoc basis to conduct out of hours / weekend viewings and inspections.

    All maintenance is outsourced although I do feel there could be scope to bring this in-house and I’d love to talk to any others who have done this successfully. This, in effect, would free up the property managers more but would likely require a new member of staff inside the office to manage all quotes & invoicing etc as well as the employment of a general maintenance man, cost of van, insurances etc.

    Whilst we continue to grow at a good rate, I’m still finding that I’m spending quite a lot of my time stuck in the ‘nitty gritty’ of property management as opposed to focusing on the overall strategy for the business.

    I guess my question is: Where do we go from here?

    Would you now suggest employing a manager for the property managers? Do we look at a BDM to focus solely on new client recruitment? Or do we employ a new property manager to be able to take a bit of the strain off the others? In amongst all of this of course is the possibility of promoting one of the current property managers, but I do also think that somebody with previous agency experience would be very well placed to take on this role and be able to share other best practices.

    Would you say that this is a relatively normal business structure or have you discovered more efficient ways of doing things?

    I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    #17533

    smile please
    Member

    Sounds like you are doing something right if you have 300 properties under management well done!

    By any chance are you from a financial services background?

    Only reason i ask is your roles / terminology sound very “commercial”

    Do you need the extra head count? can you afford another member of staff?

    I run sales offices so i cant really tell you what i do as differs.

    Before employing an individual i would call up an established firm a town or two over where you will not cross business paths, and ask to spend a day or two with them. Most people are happy to help and see it as a great complement. You will see get ideas on how others work and what you could implement / change. You may find you dont actually need more staff just maximise resources.

    Or you could get a consultant in for a week or two, just make sure they have relevant experience!

    Failing all of that if you want to go down the recruitment road, i would employ somebody with experience, (your staff would probably already stepped up if they were capable)  i would try and poach from another established successful company as opposed to advertise.

    Once you have interviewed and happy you have the right person, and you have given them the day to day running of the nitty gritty make it apparent to existing staff they are in charge and back them no matter how scary it is!

    #17796

    Agent 007
    Member

    Hi Smile,

    Thanks for responding – I hadn’t had any notification of it so I’m glad I checked up on this!

    An interesting observation, but no I’m not from a financial background.

    You’ve also made some great points and ideas – thanks for that.

    I’m pretty sure we could be more efficient with the staff we have at the moment, something I seem to be constantly working on when I get the free time to do so, but I do also feel as though a new member of staff could really take a bit of the pressure off me to be able to focus from a more strategic point of view – it’s a bit of a catch 22  at the moment.

    Have you had experience with any consultants and could recommend one? Is it something you’ve tried previously?

     

    #17801

    smile please
    Member

    Depends on budget on who you use. Industry expert is Richard Rawlings but he will charge you handsomely no doubt, you then have a couple of others (i will not name) that make a big noise but are very basic in their approach.

    To be honest by the sounds of it i think you just need somebody with some experience running a branch to come in and give it the once over for you.

    I would be tempted in your shoes to ring up a recruitment consultant and look to offer a 1 month temp contract.

    You might find somebody between jobs who can give you a quick run down and some pointers where to maximise your efforts. If they are really good you could always employ at the end.

    My sales offices are set up as

    Owner (Me) overseeing offices from a distance just checking in we are hitting agreed income and instructions and we running well.

    Managers – Oversees the day to day running of office, looks at what needs to be done and makes sure as a team its achieved. Gets involved with valuations and sales.

    Associates – Look to bring property to the market and tie up deals, progress sales.

    Negotiators – Do the majority of viewings and register new applicants, canvass and look to build further relationships with registered clients through call outs.

    Secretary – Deals with admin, be it mailouts details, adverts, sales memos, windows and there to cover the office / phones in emergencies.

    Obviously theses roles are not all encompassing but sets out what is expected on a day to day basis.

    #17981

    Vanessa Warwick
    Member

    Hi Agent 007,

    Congratulations on what you have achieved so far.

    Some thoughts – although I am not an estate or lettings agent.

    Have you considered having an audit undertaken of your business?

    This would show you where you are doing well and where improvements could be made.

    It would create a benchmark to measure future progress from and give some pointers as to what to do more or, and less of.

    Obviously, you want an ROI on every aspect of your business.

    When a person is training to run the marathon, the actual race is the audit of how successfully he trained.

    Unless you measure results, you will struggle to find a way forwards imho.

    John Paul, M.D. of award-winning agents Castledene, wrote this on this topic on Property Tribes:

    “I love systems and auditing your business goes or should go hand in hand with it. The sad fact is people do not audit their business so do not understand if their systems are effective or not, so when issues do arise they cant pin point the problem and tend to be reactive rather than proactive in their business and spend more time fire fighting.

    There are 5 areas of effectively systemising a business

    Systems

    Ive heard them being called, systems, policies, procedures, operating procedures, agreements and many more but what ever you call them you need them in your business. Ive never know a successful business operate without them, it just doesnt happen. People think its the hardest part of systemising your business but in fact its the easiest part. Its time consuming, sometimes a pain in the bum BUT its easy.

    All you are doing is writing a rule guide of how to operate your business. Think about being hit by the bus scenario, how would people know who, why and how to run your business. The systems need to be written with customer service in mind BUT what you think is good customer service. You will get situations where even after you have written the systems and have them operating fine, some customers have different expectations (notice i didnt say higher). When that happens, thats fine, dont worry about it.

    **** happens in life where you cant work with people, but so long as the vast majority are catered for then the systems are working. We had one LL who wanted us to respond to his email within the hour (myself included) he literally lasted a week before we disinstructed, just make sure you are happy with the systems.

    Training

    Yet another easy but time consuming part of the process. Going through each and every applicable process to make sure each staff member or even yourself understand your specific role and responsibility. It prevents issues and gaps in the process and ultimatley a “Oh i thought it was he/shes job” or “Thats not my job”.

    Training and keeping training records also helps if you need to put people on PIPs (Performance improvement plans). If staff dont do what they are meant to do then its a skill or will. Skill its a training issue and easily solved, if its a will then its a motivational issue and thats a different problem you need to solve.

    Audit

    This is in my mind is the most important part of the process. How do you know if your systems are effective unless you are “audited” or “checked” against them.

    Everything we do in life we are measured in a way to make sure where we are or have we improved, especially in sport so why should business be no different.

    Every time we have a competitive sports match we are being audited by the coach or manager, everytime we go to school we are getting a test or exam, but in business we very rarely get audited in SMEs.

    Im not going to go on about what and how to audit as that will take far to long suffice to say, just pick a couple of procedures and make sure you have followed them completely against property files, or a process. Be honest and open, you are only kidding yourself if your not.

    Feedback

    You have to give feedback to the person or persons you audited. How on earth will people be able to improve if you dont let them know?

    All sports people are given feedback from the coach or even supporters but feedback is necessary to see what you did right or wrong. You have to be able to accept the feedback and not take it personally.

    Review

    This is where you implement the changes or improvements found in the audit. Its a constantly evolving process and very pragmatic. Our procedures are always being tweaked or slightly changed depending ont he audit. Training is given accordingly

    KPIs or Metrics are also apart of systems but thats a whole other topic and i wont bore you with it here Smile but they are intrinsically linked to systems and audits.

    Since we have implemented audits its improved our bottom line, improved training, improved customer service, higher retention rate of customers, higher referral rate. So in our case its been so worth it and i cant speak highly enough of audits and the first hand experience we have had of them. It might come across as a corporate thing to do, and you might think theres no point or its too hard to do but honestly its not and its quite a simple thing to implement, just slightly time consuming”.

    You also did not mention whether you have someone on the marketing and digital side.

    Creating branded content on the social web is taking over many functions including marketing, brand awareness, building trust, find-ability, demonstrating domain expertise, having new clients find you, rather than you finding them.

    The American marketeer, Seth Godin, who’s blog I highly recommend – http://www.sethgodin.com , says that every business now needs an in-house journalist to create content for the web as that is the way people are researching which products and services to use and your content can help people reach the conclusion that you are the best agent to work with.

    Hope that helps and best of luck.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 2 months ago by  Vanessa Warwick.
    • This reply was modified 3 years, 2 months ago by  Vanessa Warwick.
    #18013

    Agent 007
    Member

    Smile / Vanessa, thank you so much for your valuable insights,

    Funnily enough Vanessa I read that exact post on PT at the time with open eyes. We do have a process such that all of our files are audited upon completion to ensure the correct processes are being followed. This then creates the relevant feedback / training loop to ensure mistakes aren’t being made regularly and we are operating efficiently.

    I’ve also created a ‘process bible’ which I regularly add to in order that and new staff can ensure they are following the correct procedures.

    Marketing is handled by my business partner (in the main) but we don’t actually do huge amounts of it – this could be seen as sacrilage by some but we do very well with repeat business and referrals – I guess we must be doing something right! That being said, we are going to be ramping our marketing up in the new year.

    My main goals now are to start scaling the business and having been a ‘technician’ for quite some time this is where I’m facing some difficulties in terms of the mindset shift. I don’t want to run before I can walk, but I’m also getting fed up of walking! Making sure we have the right structure in place is going to be key to any ongoing success, hence the original post.

    I guess only time will tell – here’s to hoping I post again in 12 months time with an increased portfolio and a more ‘strategic’ outlook!

    Thanks again for your comments.

     

    #47680

    harrysherman85
    Member

    The competition in property business is really huge but also a kind of struggles for them to get the right clients. Business with the promising offers gets the mist impressions. and to see that effect, you should also use catchy business name to attract clients just like those offers at http://eatmywords.com/

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