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How Efficient Is Your Property Management Company?

By Linda Day Harrison, theBrokerList, Chicago, IL

Walk around your office and various departments. Ask folks what tasks they absolutely hate to do or what seems pointless. You will gain a ton of insight about your processes and procedures. Find out why you do that task. Make sure you dig down deep and study the what-ifs of each task.

For instance, each time we do a batch of “X”, a paper printout is generated. The paper is then put into a bin and we file it by property. Every single company, building, and system is different so this example is just an illustration. The point is to ask, “What is the value of this task?” If you file this print-out by property, what is the value of that print-out, and how many times is it referenced or utilized? Why are you printing it at all, can the printing function be turned off? How long is the data retained? There are many questions to ask, but the most important point here is, somebody just needs to ask.

Efficient property management

Tracking and naming files and logs is very time consuming so you should ask yourself and your team a few questions. Is it meaningful? How often do you reference the information? What happens to the information after one month, one year, etc.? In one case we had a supervisor instruct the staff to pull down a report, save it to a file, and create a name for the file each time a certain event occurred. On top of that step, the supervisor created an Excel spreadsheet to document the occurrence, and listed it out by date. They did this each time. While doing my weekly walk (remember PMBWA?), I asked a team member what they were working on. They let me know about this logging task and how they felt about it. Once we discussed this with the supervisor and assured her that this data entry and log was not warranted, we were able to stop this process. There were cheers heard throughout this department as people were so glad to find out this busy work was going to stop. It turned out to be a task that took 4 employees approximately 10 minutes every single day to accomplish. That task was eliminated which reduced the waste of data entry labor, server storage, and management oversight to the tune of $5,000 in inefficiency. If we couple that with several other tasks we found and eliminated, we were able to add more properties without adding staff, which is the name of the game. It is not that we ever want to eliminate our personnel and talent, but we want to focus on how we can help them, and the company, grow without adding to our team!

In property management there are many important things we do, but we do not have time to do execute all of these tasks. You need to find the essential work (responding to customers, marketing properties, attending educational seminars, etc.) and get rid of the busy work! If we feel we do not have time for those essential tasks, are we filling our days with too much busy work? Is the owner or accounting making wasteful demands of our time? If outside demands start to add up, you may have to ask the property owner if they really need all these reports, or if they would rather have their property 100% occupied?

I am not saying that this solves all of your efficiency problems, but eliminating wasted busy work is a start! It is amazing how much you will find out about your operation by finding out what people hate to do most. In exchange, replace the task with more important functions that will bring in more rent, fill the property, make it safer, or increase its value. That should be the focus, not the mundane tasks!

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Linda, and all readers: There are clearly many ways where our lives can be made more efficient. The key thing to remember is that this is an evolutionary business. Change takes time, but it has to be an ongoing process. Something which made sense a few years ago may no longer work for the property as the industry, regulations, staff, and tenants have changed. During your PMBWA, think that there should be no untouchables--everything should be examined and discussions should be solicited on absolutely everything. Are tasks planned properly and done in the proper sequence, for example. I will cite a situation from personal experience--not from property management, but it highlights how inefficiencies can cost time, money, and imact customer satisfaction.
I used to work on Madison Avenue in the 50s, in New York City. Last year, the street was scraped, then repaved, then had the lane markings applied. A few weeks later, work was done to replace some of the sewer mains, ripping up the very same stretch of road which had just been made to look like new. Anyone who knows New York traffic can imagine the degree to which 'customer satisfaction' was affected.

Some will want to be maniacal about efficiency, and I am not certain that makes sense as that will usually drive everyone crazy. Continuous improvement (the Japanese call it 'kaizen') is the way to go, in my view. As I said in a previous post regarding MBWA--if you walk around the property or office in the same direction or loop every time, talking to the same people and seeing the same things, go a different way or route and at different times of the day. That will yield terrific insights, I am certain.

One final thought, if you have not yet, consider looking into an automated property management or at least an electronic rent payment system. The efficiencies and cost savings realized can be immediate and significant.

  C Fiori
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I love this post, but I think it is also important to empower this type of efficiency to come from the front lines up, as well. Why not during Monday meetings require all the leasing consultants to share one idea about what they could do more efficiently...

  Brent Williams

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