23 Feb

From 0 to 60 Property Management

There may be some that wield high tech tools of sorts, but overall the property/facility management and commercial real estate industry is lacking the technology that would unleash power into its systems and processes.  Because we are so busy making our clients money, counting light bulbs and managing labor to the tiniest penny, we typically fall short of optimizing our workflow.  In my 25 years of experience, I have realized that the pathway for our industry to dig itself out of this low profit margin hole is by embracing the tools that exist today. It has always been my personal mission or desire to demonstrate that a property manager can go from 0 to 60 with the right tools and infrastructure at their fingertips, simultaneously providing clients and customers with a higher level of service.

 

There are managers who do not yet have automated work order systems, dispatch capabilities or automated monthly owner reports and early on in my career it became apparent to me that this inefficiency ultimately had an impact on the bottom line. It was in an office akin to a mini-Kinkos of sorts, producing upwards of 18 partners books per month, where I realized the gap that was emerging in our industry. I will never forget the moment when we were actually able to convince one single client to permit us to email a PDF to them. That was a huge milestone in my career and one I will never forget. We were so proud that out of 55 clients, one single client would permit such high tech delivery! This huge triumph over the antiquated way of business, opened my eyes to how cost effective and efficient things could now be given the technological advances. 

 

Despite the advances, our industry was still slow to adapt, and for me the gap between technology and the property managers became exceedingly more of a problem.  The way Property Managers operated was unnecessary, redundant and even absurd in some cases. Tasks that were taking days could take the click of a button, streamlining and accelerating my business, leaving me freed up to provide quality customer service; walking the property or meeting with potential new customers; working with leasing on creating new ways to lease our buildings; taking customers to lunch; working with programmers to develop a comprehensive and effective website; producing a newsletter; hosting a tenant retention activity; even staff training day.  All of these useful and creative projects had taken a backseat to the repetitive, wasteful functions that currently occur in the normal course of a property/facility manager’s day and the industry cannot afford to tolerate this any longer.

 

There are a few simple things that we can begin to adopt now that will take the industry from 0 to 60. The first is cross industry standards various templates for all of our databases and that will allow software systems to talk with each other. When all of our software is communicable, we will eliminate redundancy and exchange information with clicks instead of paper and laborious data re-entry. The second is connectivity and communication. It is not necessary for a manager to be tied to a desk, in fact a good property manager is mobile without compromising the inflow of requests or customer service needs. The manager is always available and reachable with the tools to dispatch requests and monitor the vendors or projects at all the properties they oversee.  The third is effectively utilizing the Internet as a fundamental component of customer service… Adopt these principles of standards, utilizing the Internet and management mobility and you will empower the property/facility management industry. Not only will you provide the speed and improve the quality, but you will provide your clients and customers with the excellent service they deserve from today’s up to speed, property/facility manager.

  • Well said, Linda! My early experiences, back in the very early 80’s, in “unencumbering” the property management process included a brand new Compaq portable computer (“portable” was a debatable term!) and the arrival of Lotus 123, ver. 1.0. I was in love! I was able to go from 13-column ledger sheets where changes caused the need to manually recalculate multiple sub-totals and totals to creating 20-year budgets within a few hours. By the mid-80’s, I had created an A-to-Z lease administration system for 50+ strip shopping centers, administrated by 5 lease administrators who doubled as Property Manager assistants…all on dual-floppy computers (no hard drives!). Today is seems that most companies still accomplish budgeting and lease administration functions with the current spreadsheet-leader, Microsoft Excel – separate from the G/L. A few years ago, vendors rolled out online invoice processing for property managers which has been a big help with regard to the PM’s workload, and online maintenance request processing for tenants, however PM’s everywhere continue to be tied to their desks for inordinate amounts of time due to the huge number of tasks required of them, and overall those tasks are still relatively speaking, manual. PM’s need to get out from under the in-office workload so they can spend the majority of their time in the field doing the most important tasks in property management, just as Linda described.

    One of the keys to “unburdening” the PM is the task of finding the balance between what the corporate office personnel handle and what the remote site property managers handle. This is the ultimate challenge due to dealing with differing priorities and challenging personalities and the over-riding issue of control. By empowering PM’s and properly coordinating the assignment of duties, we can free PM’s up to allow them to spend more quality time in tenant-retention and property improvement activities!