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Community Management

What does true manageability look like for Property Management businesses?

Managing performance and service delivery is an essential part of getting the best out of any business, but in people-driven industries like Property Management, it can be a bit of a challenge.

Some employees work instinctively and perform their roles to a tee, but most need at least a little guidance on where to pick up the slack and focus their energy. To help them be more efficient and effective (and maximise the profitability of your business), managers and business owners need to be able to see exactly where, when and how they’re falling short.

Of course, unless you’re shadowing your staff’s every move, day in and day out, pinpointing problematic people and/or procedures can feel like an almost impossible challenge. Even if you do manage to find the needle in the haystack, implementing effective solutions tends to be a reactive process that’s often a little hit and miss: without proper visibility, it’s tough to know whether your team has actually understood, absorbed, and successfully applied your fixes.

So how do we solve this challenge and make it easy for business owners and portfolio managers to keep their finger on the pulse of their teams without becoming the business equivalent of helicopter parents? Spoiler alert: it all boils down to transparency. But before we dive into how WeconnectU delivers on this, let’s take a look at which insights and capabilities you need in order to create the ideal manageable environment.

What are some of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) every Property Manager should manage?

You can only manage what you measure – that’s a fundamental business principle that holds true for all industries, including Property Management. However, nobody ever seems to talk about how to figure out what you need to measure in order to be able to manage it. How do you know what you need to know? It’s kind of a chicken and egg situation.

Thankfully, when it comes to Property Management, we’ve done a huge amount of research into which insights and capabilities deliver the most value for business and portfolio managers looking to maximise manageability and improve the efficiency of their teams. Here’s what we’ve found.

Portfolio growth

This one is pretty obvious: to grow your business, you need to know if your portfolio is growing or declining. To reach your planned financial goals within your business, you need to know when you are taking on new communities and understand their potential financial impact. Taking on new communities also affects the workload on your team, which needs to be budgeted for proactively.

Portfolio breakdown

It’s also important to understand the breakdown of your portfolio growth. All growth is not necessarily good growth, after all. The right insights into your communities can tell you a lot more about your business than you might think.

Each community in your portfolio has a baseline workload on your staff, and that workload doesn’t increase dramatically per additional unit. Focusing your growth on the wrong type of communities – particularly smaller communities with lower management fees – can therefore negatively affect the manageability (and profitability) of your business. That makes it critical that you understand the time spent on an average community and can define the exact threshold over which a portfolio becomes profitable for your business.

It’s an important piece of information to use when setting your minimum charges and can help you focus your business development prospects on communities that fit within your particular sweet-spot.

Proactive compliance planning & progress

One of the most powerful mindset shifts in modern Property Management is the transition from reactive management (handling issues as and when they arise) to proactive management (ensuring those issues never come up in the first place). A huge part of making this change involves implementing a comprehensive planning process that schedules all the compliance tasks required by law of all community schemes, internal processes and meetings, well in advance.

From a manageability perspective, this kind of planning scheduling has three key benefits for your business. Firstly, it provides a clear guideline for staff to follow, making it difficult for critical tasks to plausibly pass under the radar. Secondly, it neatly bypasses the unpredictability of letting trustees get involved in setting and supervising key timelines. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, being able to track the progress of this schedule makes it easy for business owners and portfolio managers to confirm the compliance health of their communities at a glance, assess their team’s performance, and catch any red flags before they put the business at risk.

As for what should be included in a proactive compliance plan, we’d suggest starting with this basic compliance to-do list that applies to all sectional title and community living schemes:

  • Director/Trustee Meeting
  • Annual audit
  • Financial statements
  • Budget meeting
  • Proposed budget circulated to owners
  • Send out the AGM pack (according to the legislated guidelines) before the AGM
  • AGM
  • Submit the financial statements, updated contact details for directors/trustees, and a copy of the AGM minutes to CSOS after the AGM

Adherence to processing timelines

Having a proactive compliance plan in place is only half the manageability picture. The other half is having the ability to plan and track the plethora of other monthly tasks that need to be consistently and timeously completed.

Being able to quickly and easily confirm that these timelines (and task lists) are being adhered to by your team is extremely valuable from a manageability perspective. Why? Because it makes it makes it easy to spot bottlenecks, communication problems and underperforming (or overburdened) departments and implement the necessary changes to get your processes streamlined and on track.

To give you an idea of the scope of the tasks you should be tracking, this is an example of a typical processing timeline that a Property Management team would need to complete every month.

  • Arrear notices must go out
  • Month-end processing must be completed
  • Trustee reports must go out by the 10th and include:
    1. Up-to-date compliance planner & checklist
    2. Financial overviews of transactional and investment accounts
    3. Updates on arrears/debt collection processes
    4. Income statements
    5. Balance sheets
    6. Cash book allocations
    7. Transfer/consent letters issued
    8. Active tasks
    9. Completed tasks
    10. Warnings/penalties issued
    11. Last month’s payment authorisations
  • Utilities must be processed (allocated and invoiced) between 1st – 25th
  • Invoices must go out by the 25th

Outstanding portfolio debt

Non-payment is the biggest risk factor for most communities, which makes it one of the most important performance indicators for Property Managers to keep an eye on. Being able to instantly spot portfolios with higher-than-average debt levels enables Property Managers to address the root causes of these issues and ensure that their communities are receiving the level of service that they need.

Task turnaround times

One of the most visible value-adds that Property Managers provide is the fast and effective turnaround of maintenance tasks. Of course, failures in this area are equally visible and can have a big effect on trustees’ perception of your service quality. That makes it pretty important for you as a business owner or portfolio manager to be able to keep tabs on these turnaround times and hold the right parties accountable for slow or sub-par service delivery.

Warnings & penalties

The number of warnings and/or penalties issued within a community are often a good indicator of that community’s overall health state. Being able to track and view the details of these warnings is important for managers to ensure:

  • Warning expiry dates are tracked so that penalties can be issued when appropriate
  • Repeat offences are recorded so that problem units, tenants and/or landlords can be dealt with
  • The overall frequency of offences is recorded so that steps can be taken to prevent permanent damage to a scheme’s appeal

Financial Audit Trails & Risk Management

Fraud is a risk whenever you’re dealing with financial management responsibilities, and we all know that financial management makes up a large part of what Property Managers do. To mitigate this risk, it’s vital for business owners and portfolio managers to have access to comprehensive approval trails and any other relevant details (e.g. which trustee approved what) relating to community and/or portfolio expenditure.

Regulatory compliance

We’ve already spoken about the importance of setting up a proactive compliance schedule from a business perspective, but tracking compliance is equally important for managing portfolio performance. First prize from a manageability perspective is having access to compliance status insights and overviews on not just a business level, but a portfolio level as well.

(It’s even better if you can make a community’s compliance information available on demand to trustees – nothing is more comforting than being able to check your scheme is in good legal standing at the click of a button!)

Real-time feedback on specific portfolio KPIs

Just like you, as a business owner, need to be able to view your business KPIs, your portfolio manager needs to be able to see how healthy their portfolio is. Thus, having access to a similar overview, but focussed only on their portfolio, is critical to their ability to excel at their work.

Inter-departmental collaboration

Lean isn’t just reserved for start-up environments. Reducing wasted effort and superfluous manpower is a great way to lower business costs and increase profit margins no matter what industry you’re in. While the methods businesses use improve their efficiencies and become leaner versions of themselves vary, for Property Managers, it’s all about streamlining processes – generally by splitting portfolios across several, specialised departments.

Unfortunately, by creating siloed workflows, effective teamwork becomes a challenge unless a concerted effort is made to maintain good inter-departmental collaboration.

If you have great collaboration capabilities, however, it becomes far easier to spot and address any blind-spots, ensure your teams and workflows are fully aligned with your desired outcomes, and streamline your processes for maximum efficiency and growth potential.

Monthly reporting

Giving your trustees the ability to engage directly with their scheme’s status is a very powerful manageability tool, but it doesn’t replace reporting altogether – or, at least, it shouldn’t.

The problem is, without consistent, comprehensive and high-quality reporting, a lot of the hard work your teams are doing is practically invisible – and nobody likes to pay good money for value that they can’t see.

The easiest solution is to produce attractive, professional and clear monthly reports that effectively communicate your full value to your clients. Ideally, this should also be a largely automated process that doesn’t add significantly to your administrative workload.

Trustee engagement

When we get right down to it, being a Property Manager is a lot like being “middle-management”. A big part of the job is keeping trustees and directors (whose role is similar to that of corporate CEOs) in the loop at all times. Typically, this involves endless reports, emails, phone calls and meetings – that’s not exactly time-efficient for those trustees and directors, and it’s certainly not quick or easy for you.

It is critical from a manageability perspective for trustees and directors to receive comprehensive community reports on a monthly basis or, even better, have direct access to their scheme’s key information whenever they choose. That way, they can stay on top of all pertinent activities, help flag potential problems, and indirectly assist you in keeping your teams on track.

How to get the insights and capabilities you need

Now that we’ve explored what the ideal, manageable environment looks like, you’re probably wondering how your Property Management business is supposed to get its hands on of all the insights and capabilities it needs. In fact, you’ve probably already come up with a hundred reasons why this kind of manageability is a pipe dream.

Well, hang on to your hats, because that may have been true in the past, but it’s certainly not true anymore.

Achieving the ultimate, manageable Property Management environment is not only possible, it’s a whole lot easier than you might think, thanks to WeconnectU’s Community Management Solution. We’ll be diving into the challenges and solutions next month, so check in again with us soon, or book a one-on-one demo for a personal explanation and guided “how-to” tour.