Are you a property manager who loves or hates creating systems by leveraging technology? Do you enjoy or dislike doing inspections, dealing with tenant issues, and handling renewals? Have you considered putting processes and people in place to automate your business?
Today, I am talking to Paul Kankowski, a real estate investor with more than 200 doors. Paul increased systems to build a better property management business. He describes how he created computer-based processes for his employees to do everything his way, the same way, the right way.
[03:10] One-man Show: Learn how to get the job done right and then do what you want.
[04:41] Paul prefers to create processes and systems to solve problems.
[05:29] No Secret Sauce: NARPM speaker/expert on automated processes/systems.
[07:29] Paradise is Possible: People make more money, if they have good systems.
[08:39] Fines: Do I charge? Do I not charge? Decision made by process, not employee.
[09:25] Everything that doesn’t have a process, Paul deals with until he creates one.
[10:52] Manuals and How To Videos: From simple checklists to 195+ steps to follow.
[13:37] First Process: Tackle the one that’s losing you the most money.
[16:40] Make or Break and Placing Blame: Mistakes are made by processes or people.
[25:40] People as Process: Property management will never be completely automated.
[29:30] Retention vs. Growth: Give good customer service and don’t let doors leave.
[36:20] Stay in Your Space: Identify what energizes or drains you, then offload them.
PM Systems Conference (Aug. 10-13, 2020, in Las Vegas)
Jason: Welcome, DoorGrow Hackers, to the DoorGrow Show. If you are a property management entrepreneur that wants to add doors, make a difference, increase revenue, help others, impact lives, and you are interested in growing your business and life, and you are open to doing things a bit differently, then you are a DoorGrow Hacker.
DoorGrow Hackers love the opportunities, daily variety, unique challenges, and freedom that property management brings. Many in real estate think you’re crazy for doing it, you think they’re crazy for not because you realize that property management is the ultimate high-trust gateway to real estate deals, relationships, and residual income.
At DoorGrow, we are on a mission to transform property management businesses and their owners. We want to transform the industry, eliminate the BS, build awareness, change perception, expand the market, and help the best property management entrepreneurs win. I’m your host, property management growth expert, Jason Hull, the founder and CEO of DoorGrow. Now, let’s get into the show.
Today I am hanging out with Paul Kankowski. Welcome to the show, Paul. I’m excited to have you on. I told you in the green room that I was really excited to have you because this is a topic I think everybody would be interested in. Everybody loves this idea of creating systems in the property management business, figuring out how to leverage technology. Before we get into this topic, qualify yourself. Tell everybody about you. You’ve done some really cool things in the property management space connected to this. Introduce yourself.
Pau: Hi, my name is Paul Kankowski. I’m out here in Temecula, California, this is Southern California. I have over 200 doors right now. We’re not huge, but we have increased our systems in order to make ourselves better. I actually started in education. I was a school principal and a math teacher for 18 years, and I was a real estate investor. I’ve been a real estate investor for over 20 years. I bought a lot of properties and when the crash happened, I became a flipper. I bought a lot of rental properties and people were doing a really crappy job in my area. Now I actually know a lot of property managers in my area, but back then I didn’t.
At the time, I just didn’t have anyone that could do the job right, so I started taking some NARPM classes and I started using that to manage my own properties. I only cared about managing my own properties and family for the first two or three years, and then I went into that to turn it into a business.
Since I’ve turned into a business, now, I don’t want to manage everyday things. I don’t want to be doing inspections. I don’t want to be doing all the stuff that you have to do as a one-person show. We have eight employees and I’ve created processes and systems so that they do everything that is done by computer and everything in the same way, I can work on higher-level things, more networking, and doing stuff that is more enjoyable in the industry.
Jason: More enjoyable for you, right? Because some entrepreneurs hate that stuff.
Paul: Yes. More enjoyable, in the sense, that I don’t like doing inspections. I don’t do them anymore. I don’t like dealing with some tenant issues. I don’t like dealing with renewals, but I like everything being done my way. I like it being done well. I like it to be done the same type every way.
Before (as you know) I have to get my hands on everything to make sure things are being done, so we are giving the best customer service. Now, we have systems in place, so I know that things are being done the way we state it and ought to just hope that my employees are doing it the right way.
Jason: Right. What’s cool about Paul, for those watching, is Paul’s built this business around himself and what he wants to spend his time doing, versus what most business owners think they should or have to do. You get to do things you enjoy doing on a daily basis, which really is different for every single entrepreneur.
Paul: Yeah, it’s great. I like doing the processes and systems are working on them, but I can’t. I was a math teacher for 12 years, so systems and stuff are like math problems. If you have a problem, how are you going to solve it and how do you solve them the same way each time? It also (I think) a great way for people to hire people that can do it for them, to get it done right, but you have to be involved in your systems. I don’t care if you don’t like the math portion of it. It’s just very important that you know how they’re running so that your business will run right.
Jason: Right. You can’t just stick your head in the sand and throw it at somebody and expect that it’s going to be done well.
Paul: I agree.
Jason: Let’s take a step back. Everybody listening to this, I want to point this out, too. You’ve run some conferences related to automation and technology. You’ve got some things going related to that, you didn’t mention that. You’re an expert at this. You’ve spoken at NARPM, the Broker-Owner, I think, related to this, or the national conference or something like that.
Paul: I spoke at the national conference in San Diego. It was something similar to this. I have had four conferences on systems and I have a systems conference. My next one’s in August, that will be our 5th one. This has been really good.
It’s a small conference, they only allow 50 property managers to go do it. It’s a workshop, not a conference, I always like to say, because it’s not a bunch of speakers speaking. It’s a lot of time you getting down and dirty, actually doing the processes, having fun with property managers, and really getting in conversations. “How is your move out? What’s your move out different?” Sitting there and discussing with other people what they’re doing and then creating the process on people that have already paved the path to do good process.
I find that when you sit there and you work with five or six other people, you learn where your inefficiencies are, what’s great about someone else’s processes that you can copy. Processes are not this secret sauce that everyone has to have a different one. You can take a good process and you can adapt it to your business. That’s what our workshops are about. It’s a really great time. They usually sell out in about three to four weeks. I usually have a long waiting list afterward, just because we do keep it small. I don’t want to get so big where people can’t actually sit and have a conversation with each other.
Jason: I like the idea. Let’s talk about your business. Let’s paint a picture of what’s possible or what you see other business owners do that had been in these conferences, some of the people that are plugged in, they’ve got technology, they’re leveraging it. I want to paint a picture of paradise or a possibility for those that are listening because I think a lot of people listening are going, “It sounds so complicated. It’s probably not possible. I’m sure what I’m doing is nearly just as good.” What are you noticing in your own business? Maybe in terms of margins, systemization, and staff?
Paul: This is the biggest thing and this is why people like systems. You’ll make more money if you have a good system. I’ll look at HOA. HOA was an issue a year ago. We tackled; we were not doing as good of a job. We were handling every HOA issue as its own individual thing. We weren’t getting emails to owners. We were dealing with the HOAs, but we weren’t letting the owners know, “Hey, we’re dealing with it every week.” I lost a big owner because they thought we weren’t dealing with the HOA issue, even though we were, but I lost it because of perception.
The perception was they were getting email weekly, so we create a process where the owners get updated every week on the condition of the HOA when the things are going to be resolved. The other things that would make more money, first off, we have owners that are happy.
Second, the fines that we’re giving to tenants, they were happening 100% of the time. When it’s not in a set process, a lot of times I’m like, “I’m not going to charge that because it wasn’t that big a deal. He left the trash can out.” Well no, it is a big deal and it’s a $25 charge. You’re going to get a charge no matter what now because it’s in the steps. The employee who’s doing it doesn’t have to make that decision, “Do I charge? Do I not charge? Is this one of those things?” That’s a step that might have been missed.
We’ve noticed our revenue—when we have processes—doing really well, it goes up dramatically. I would say HOA fines, we might have a couple of $100 in HOA fines the year before and now, it’s thousands of dollars. That’s a huge difference because we were not being consistent on the fine. That’s a huge thing about the process.
The other thing is everything that doesn’t have a process, I have to deal with. Here’s one that we have not created yet, owners leaving us, and we have to exit them. That’s the next process we’re making in the next two months. Right now, when an owner leaves, I have to do all the work because I don’t have a process. I’m afraid that my employees might do it their way. They might make a mistake. They might not take them out of the property mill.
I’m going to be paying $2 a month for that door that’s not even active because it’s not been deactivated or up fully own and that it’s $1.50 a month. All these little things that you think, “It’s only $2, only $1.50.” You have 20 doors that you’re being charged $2 a month, that’s $40. Over a year, you’re looking at $480.
You have to have good processes so you don’t skip minor steps. You say, “Well, I don’t skip.” If it’s not written down, you make mistakes. You might not make mistakes but your employees are going to. They’re not bleeding the business day-to-day that they’re not going to sleep thinking about the business like you are as the property owner. If you write it down and you have every detail there, not only you’re going to make more money, you’re also not going to lose money from having money just shot through.
Jason: Okay. You were just talking about a process that you haven’t yet created, that you’re working on right now. When you get into this process of creating a new process, how involved are these? Are these like insane, and they have lots of different steps? You’re thinking of every nuance and every detail or are a lot of your processes simple?
Paul: When I started, they were really simple. When I started, I was Asana, it was a checklist. It was a checklist and everything was the same and it was fine. It was better than nothing, but it wasn’t good. Now, my utilities processes are 195 steps.
Jason: Your utilities process.
Paul: Are 195 steps. When someone does utility, it’s about eight steps for them to finish it because one of the things is every utility is listed and so you put SDG&E, or you put Edison, a different step is going to come up for every single utility. It asks you questions and then Neil, my person has to go through 195 steps, they go through nine steps. They go through SDG&E, then it tells them the phone number to call, who they have to talk to. Sometimes, one of our processes for a little water company we deal with it says, “Talk to Susan,” because Susan’s the one in the office that they have to talk to in order to pay this bill because this is […] water district, and they’re just kind of backward, I believe that’s the one.
It says every detail. There are videos there. If I get a new person on, they can watch a video and the video shows them step-by-step how we do, how we put the invoice in AppFolio, how we do everything. It’s a training tool for my new employees. I just had a new employee last week. The first thing we tell them is, “You need to go through Process Street. You need to watch these processes and you need to go through this 20 times,” and then I want you to try it, without me even instructing you and see if you know how to do the process. I’m going to watch you do it. If you know how to do it, then I created a good process.
If you watch these videos and go through it 20 times and you still don’t have a clue how to do your job, then my process isn’t good enough at this stage I’m at right now. You can be as small as just wanting a checklist and having people skip steps, which is fine, but there’s more chance for mistakes to being so detailed that it’s a training manual for every person that comes on.
Jason: I love it. For those listening, you’re currently using Process Street. We had Process Street founder, CEO on the show before. It was a great episode. Make sure you go back and listen to that episode where we’re talking about Process Street. We use it internally here at DoorGrow. I think it’s a great software.
Now, if somebody is looking to get started with this, or they’re showing up at your conference for the first time, they’re one of these 50 people, they’ve got the deer in the headlights, eyeballs going on, and they’re like looking around, they’re feeling really inseminated, what is the first process that usually people should tackle?
Paul: The one that’s losing you the most money. The one that’s a hemorrhage point. It’s usually either moving, leasing, those are usually two of the big ones, move out. It’s funny, right now, we’ve changed our compass around a little bit. I’m doing a pre-session on the first day, so we’re doing it for four hours, where I’m going to work with a small group (10 people), and we’re going to break down your process and build it together for the first four hours. You’re right, I have people at all stages of my conference now, I have people that have been to every single one of mine. This August, it will be their 5th time going and I have people that’s their first time going.
We want to give the difference between those that are first-timers and those that have been to four of them. When I started this systems conference two years ago, it was two years ago last September, I started it because I thought my processes sucked. I hired a speaker to come and speak to us, and he was pretty expensive. This is how this conference has started. I put on Facebook, “Anybody wants to share on the speaker cost, we’ll just meet in Vegas.” We had 10-12 companies there and it just started because 12 of us got together, we split the cost of the speaker, and we went together and hung out.
We had such a great time, we found that it was so great just talking with other property managers, that we kind of tweaked it a little bit, and then we’re like, “Okay, we are kind of the speakers because we are in the industry. We know what each other needs.” Now it’s all about helping each other. If you go to this, you’re going to the four hours (in the beginning where you’re going to get that), and then just go and sit with other property managers, see what they’re doing, write little notes, and get your checklist. Start as basic as you can.
I have one guy that will only use Google. Everything is Google sheets, but he has his steps written down and it works for him. Other people are Asana, other people Process Street. Other people like Wolfgang Croskey, have Podio everything automated. All his emails are sent automatically. Everybody that goes, they’re using different software, they’re using different things, but their whole goal is to help each other and to make it so that your process will be good.
Jason: Yeah. I would imagine one of the best things about being there, talking with other people, seeing and hearing how they do things, you’re just going to get ideas, and there’s a lot of ways to implement that idea. A process is software-agnostic in general. It’s a process. You need certain steps to be done, it can be done by humans, it could be done by technology like Podio, it could be done by whatever, but it needs to be done. You need to know what the vision is so that you can create it.
Sometimes, this just comes from getting ideas from other people. “Oh my gosh, that’s a great idea,” and you’re doing that in your business. “We should do that too,” and then, “How can we do that with the tools and resources that we’re currently using?”
Paul: Jason, I would say, to start a good process, the first thing you do is you get every employee that’s working on a process on the table. You get a big white sheet of paper and you write down, “What are you doing?” This is our creation of the process. Our process is to get them right. It’ll take about two months. It sounds like a long time, but it’s really not because of the process we do to get our processes. We start out by getting all the people involved in the process, and we write down, “What steps are you doing? What do you do?” We don’t skip anything.
After we get all of the steps down, I send it to someone in my office named David who will sit there and put it into a Process Street with all the bells and whistles, all the changes, and when this is going to happen. We sit there, and we go through it, and I try to break it. I go through every single step and I see where it ran into a problem. That’s the very first month. I only work for an hour here and an hour there. I work on for an hour and say, “Hey, this is tweaked,” and “Are we clear?” He fixes that. I look at it and say, “Okay, this is good.”
After that, we give it to the person who’s actually going to be doing the job. Their job for the first month is to try to find where the process doesn’t work and to either, doing the process to be like, “Oh my gosh, we forgot to put the charge into the tenant,” or whatever it is. If they find something wrong with the process, then I’m going to praise them beyond belief because they broke my process. Breaking my process is a good thing.
Throughout the entire year or whenever we have a process, whenever a problem occurs in my company—an HOA gets missed, and we have some major issues with some HOA—we look through the process, and we say, Was it a mistake by the employee, or the mistake by the process?”
If it’s a mistake by the process, we fix the process right then, right there and get it right again. If the mistake is by the employee, we show them, “Look here are the steps, what happened? Why did you skip it?” “Oh, I’m sorry. I just skipped this step,” now they know that it was them. It’s really easy. In the past when you just have, “ Hey, here’s what you do with an employee, you’re always blaming the employee,” a lot of times, it is not the employee’s fault, it’s your process.
Jason: Yeah, that makes sense. A broken process ensures you’re going to have a bad employee a lot of times.
Paul: I agree.
Jason: I’m going to recap, this is what I wrote down. It takes about two months. You’re going to first document it, sit down as a team, then you’re going to build it, then you’re going to break it, then you’re going to fix it, then you’re going to test it. It sounds like over time, you’re going to optimize it based on what feedback you’re getting from your team, and what feedback you’re getting from clients, tenants, owners, and problems that are coming out.
Paul: Exactly and that process is never done because the second something goes wrong in our company, you look at what the process is. If you have a move-in and the move-in is a disaster, it’s either the employee or process, and you have to check and find out. It’s so easy when you have a good process, to find out where the breakdown occurred.
Jason: I think this is an interesting thing to point out because I get a lot of people that come to me, and they’re like, “I need the perfect magic owner’s manual. Where can I buy that?” or “I need this,” and I tell them, “Every single property management business is so unique, so different. How you want things done is going to be different and no business is ever perfect,” it’s never just done. I think a lot of property managers think, “Well, I just need this one thing that I could just strap onto my business and it’ll finally be perfect, it’ll finally be done, and I won’t have to ever mess with it again.” I think that’s just not reality. You’ve got things really well dialed in and you’re still working on stuff.
Paul: I bought multiple different companies through NARPM that I’m glad I bought them because I did look at them. I can tell you right now, there are some things I bought that I never looked at, we never really did, and it says, “Blank your property manager company name,” it is very, very detailed and stuff like that, but until you sit down, if you buy something, it gives you a basis to start working on your thing, don’t think, “Oh, I spent $1000 on this. Now, I can just implement it in my company,” you have a framework. By the time you’re done rewriting that, it’s going to be 50%-60% different (I think) than what you bought.
It’s still going to help you. It’s still going to help you pay Mark Cunningham, or any of these people, or Landlord Source for something that they have, is going to help you in getting your brain thinking about what you need to do for that role or position, but how Mark Cunningham or Landlord Source do their business is not the same way. I don’t do my business the same way as anyone and I get a lot of their information. I look at them and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, it’s really cool how they did that,” but then we might have a different law in California, a different ruling, a different way of doing what we have to. You can’t assume that what someone else do you can just implement in your company on day one.
Jason: Yeah. For a lot of us, it’s easier to create something. Especially, for starting from scratch. If you’re a startup, or you’re a new property manager, you never documented your processes, sometimes it’s helpful to have some resources to look at. It might not even be that great. Sometimes the bad processes with the bad ideas are even better because you can look at that and the contrast from what you know you’re doing and what you’re reading about, you’re like, “Okay, we don’t want to do anything like this, and I want to make sure that we avoid these things.” I like the idea that you intensely try to break your processes.
Paul: Yeah. The other thing I want to add is, I think automation is amazing, but this is my fear of automation. I will automate a lot of my processes, and they’ll be better automated than it is something that we’re going to work on. But any bad process that’s automated, you’re not going to see that’s a bad process. If you have an email that’s automated going out and says, “Dear tenant’s last name.” Putting the tenant’s last name because you’re not actually having any human do it at the beginning, then you’re going to be automating that for 70-80 emails that are going to be sending “Dear tenant’s last name.”
I think you need to do a process for a while by hand. You need to have an actual human being doing the process, checking the boxes, and making sure it’s right, so they could find things that are wrong. When you get a process really good, then your next step is to automate, because yes, it’s great to save time and have an email every week go out that tells them about their HOA violation or tells them about the moving processes.
I still look at emails every once in a while and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, we forgot to change the wording from this move-in email to this move-in email saying the second week.” If it’s automated, it’s going to be automated. Something automated bad is going to be badly automated forever.
All I’m saying is that a lot of people want to go from no process to everything being automated, and them not being involved. I don’t think that’s possible. Wolfgang Croskey, he’s automated, and he does an amazing job, but I don’t think he went from not having a process to everything running on its own, and him not involved in it.
Jason: No. There was a coaching plan for a good while and I know he didn’t start at Podio. I think he was using Process Street and even before that, he was working on stuff. I love the idea. You got to do it manually. A lot of property managers are already doing a lot of things manually. They’re doing it that way first. They now need to document it, then they need to figure out, how can we start to systemize this? How can we create consistency? How can we automate this? How can we make sure it’s being done the same way every single time and there are checks and balances?
That’s one of the reasons I like Process Street because you can build a process and that’s one step, and you just paste it in a Word document if you have to. Really, really low level and maybe that’s the best you’ve got. Eventually, you can break it into some multiple steps. Then you can get it into something crazy like you’re 100 plus step thing that’s got context-sensitive options based on what you pick, and it’s going to give you different tasks to do depending on what options you’re selecting, and you can get really crazy (if that makes sense).
The cool thing about having a process though is you can continually improve it. It can get better over time. That means that you’re lowering operational costs, you’re lowering drag, you’re improving your team member’s ability to accomplish things and win, and get things done. Now, what do you think about the challenge of people as a process?
What I mean is, everybody has team members that they need in order to think. If somebody is making decisions, they’re planning, they’re coming up with ideas. Then you have team members that really are operating like a computer. Their job is just to follow the process. How do you balance this in your own company and determine, is this just anybody on the planet that could just follow this checklist, or they need some customer service skills, and they need to be able to communicate? How do you balance the discrepancy that people have that are fearful of processes because they’re like, “I want my clients to be taken care of really well.”
Paul: You still have to think. You still have to go through it. You still look and see what’s going on. How many of us property owners, managers, et cetera, spend nights thinking about everything we have to do the next day? You write steps down on a sheet of paper before you go to bed and then you try to get it out of your mind so the next day you don’t forget it. You’re not doing that because you don’t want to care about your business or you don’t what I think about it, you’re doing it because you don’t want to be staying up at [1:00] in the morning, sitting there and trying to think what you need to do.
Everything we do in life, if something tells us how to do it, then we can start thinking about things that are higher level. You can take your employees. If you could take a lease renewal process and you can make it so that every single time it’s done correctly, it’s done right, no one wants to think about it, then there’s no stress on these renewals. Now, when something does come up that’s stressful, people that are higher level can think about the things that are higher level. You have a maintenance issue where someone falls off the roof and you’re getting sued. You’re not going to process for that.
Now, instead of you thinking about lease renewals and wasting your time on something that can be automated, something that can be just automatic, you can spend your time on high-level items, and you’re going to have employees that need to spend their time with high-level items, so you could spend your time on other high-level items. Probably the management will never be completely automated.
There are companies that say, “Oh, we could just automate everything,” no, you can automate a lot of stuff so you can spend your time on the 10% of the stuff that really, really matters, that’s really stressful, and that can’t be automated.
Jason: We talked about this on the show I think probably several times with different companies, but ultimately, the goal (in my opinion) when it comes to technology, when it comes automation, when it comes to systems, is to take off the plate of yourself and your team members, the stuff that’s really redundant, the stuff that could be systemized so that you can focus more on depth. I think that’s where property managers are going to be able to compete with the big conglomerates, the big companies that are super tech-based, is that it’s going to be about relationships.
Property management is a high touch relationship type of business. If process and systems allow you to create a more personal touch, to go deeper, to spend more time communicating more intimately with more depth with tenants, residents, owners, then I think you’re creating a business that is going to have significant value, and it’s going to have longevity because it’s built on relationships. Ultimately, it’s people that are giving you the money. As people, we tend to like humanity, and we tend to like people.
Paul: If you’re spending, as a business owner, 20 hours a month on something that can be automated or something that can be done by someone at a less level, you have to think of your time as value. When I had 30 doors, I did everything. When I had 50 doors, I was still doing everything. You have to figure out where you value your time.
I have five remote employees and I have two employees in my office. People are like, “Oh my gosh, that’s a ridiculous amount of employees you have for the number of doors you have.” We’re profitable, and we’re profitable because we’re in California, we price ourselves well. It’s the customer service level we give our competition. Some of them are missing the mark. They are not giving that customer service, so we are giving it. Someone is not going to leave because of some deep discount or just giving really bad customer service where retention is so huge.
I’m seeing so many property managers talk about retention being better than growth because if you are losing 20% or 30% of your doors, all your time and ability is going to just stay even. People are spending $500–$1000 a door to get a new lead, but there are others that walk out the door. My thing is to give really good customer service and don’t let those doors leave you. They are going to leave you because they are selling, but don’t let them leave you because you are not doing the job right.
Jason: I find that with clients. A lot of times, the issue with retention. I agree, retention is a significant thing. The issue with retention is often created during the sales and onboarding so if you can really systemize, automate, and build a really solid process during the sales and onboarding, you’ve got a really solid sales and onboarding process that really develops a strong relationship, that would carry you for years with some clients.
Paul: I agree.
Jason: And the trust level is higher even if the communication (later on) is really low. If you created them in the beginning, they are going to trust you and it’s going to be a lot stronger. If that’s not done effectively during onboarding and sales and isn’t created well, there’s going to be a lot of uncertainty, a lot of fear. They are going to be questioning everything that you do. You might end up a lot more operational costs related to that, and they are probably not going to stay with you as well.
Paul: I agree. We have one person whose new onboarding is their main priority. It’s making sure that new owners have a good experience and are treated well, and the onboarding experience is great. Never lose a customer. I think one of the podcasts I heard about that, I read the book. It was a great book. It’s about customer service and taking it to the next level.
The thing is people will spend so much money on different things and then don’t answer the phone. If you can have your people working on the process, working on other things, then you answer your phone, you are not going to let that lead that. You just play when it clicks, $30, $20 get away. Processes are huge for your business to me, they are the number one building block.
I don’t think everyone on all the boards is always, “How can I grow? How can I grow? How can I grow?” I think growth is important, but if you grow and all of a sudden, you add 100 doors in one year and it was just you, you don’t have a process and everything is in your head, then you are going to lose all those doors because you are not going to be able to give. When you had 30 doors, and you go from 30 to 130 and you’re at the customer service, you gave those 30 people. You are not going to be able to give 130 because all of a sudden, then you are hiring someone. They are going to be like, “Well, how do I do it?”
“Well, you just got to listen to my head.” No one can read your head. So, even if you are a single person that’s by themself, if you want to give a task away, then start working on the process for it as soon you have to give that away. If you are at 50, 60, 70 doors, I would tell those people it’s more important for you to start working your processes right now unless you plan just staying at 50 or 60 and never want to grow.
Jason: This is one of the greatest secrets that I coach entrepreneurs when they come into our program. One of the very first things to start them with is helping them get clarity on where they can get leverage the quickest first. It’s usually different for everybody. There are some similarities but the way to identify that is usually done through getting clear on where you are actually going.
I have them do a time study, then I have them identify which things are energizing them and which things are draining them, then which things are strategic versus tactical. The strategic stuff grows your business, tactical stuff just keeps it going. Most of the process would work by its tactical work. The strategic work is what you are talking about doing in creating a new process. You are like, “We are going to work for this new process for the next two months when we get this dialed-in.” That’s what grows companies.
If you get to stay in your area of genius, the things you really enjoy doing as a business owner, and you’ve identified what does are because you are clear on which things are causing you grief and energizing you versus draining you, then you know exactly what to offload. You know what to give to your assistant and different people. We’ve had different great companies here talking about […], hire smart VAs, great assistants. We’ve had companies talking about virtual team members and whatnot. Those are great episodes if you want to listen to those on the DoorGrow Show. We touched a lot on those different ideas.
Ultimately, one takeaway you want everybody to get is that everybody can have the property management business that they enjoy, that they love having, and if we built around you and what your unique strengths are, maybe you love the accounting side, maybe you love doing the phone calls, the customer service, connection with people. Maybe you’re a people person, maybe you geek out on systems and process, but you can do whatever you want to do in your business if that’s your intention. I think we get stuck sometimes having the business that we think that we need to do like the job that we need to do in the business instead of the business that we want.
Paul: I would agree with that 100%. Last year, we grew 80 doors so that’s probably the average of what our average. We are averaging between 5 and 10 doors a month. We haven’t really started spending money on marketing because I really wanted to first get everything correct and right.
One of my property management friends (who is my mastermind guru) calls me once a month and asks me, “Hey, Paul. Did you talk to a tenant this month?” and I’m not allowed to talk to tenants because it was taking time away that I could be doing other high-level things and I need to trust my team to deal with my tenants.
Now, if it gets to a certain level and I have to talk to a tenant, then that’s a different call, but I have to make sure that I am actually thinking about when I talk to a tenant. When a tenant calls because they are pissed-off about the fact that we paid the utility bill and make every charge, I have to trust my team’s going to handle it, my team’s going to do it, and that I am not going to get involved in it because I find when I get involved in it, then I might do something that wasn’t like the process we agreed upon as a team. I even had to, as an owner, that’s $25. You are talking for 10 minutes, not worth my time for $25.
I have to be out of it because I will be like, “Yeah, just waive the $25. I don’t want to talk to them anymore.” It’s really important that no matter who you are, that you follow what you tell your team to follow. A lot of times, you can do it yourself, you made your own decision, but once you make a decision on how you are going to run your process or what your rules are, you have to stick to it company-wide.
I laugh because it’s usually us, as the owner, are the worst culprits of not following what we are going to do. The employees do it because a lot of times my employees’ bonuses are based on serving certain goals so if I don’t accept anything, they are like, “Man, you are hitting on my bonus. Don’t be messing with my goals.”
That’s something I’ve learned is just find what you like. Find what you are good at and get a group of property managers around you that can be like a mastermind group that can keep you focused because you need other owners to tell you, “Stop doing that,” because your employees won’t always tell you exactly what you need to do, what you need to hear.
The other thing is when systems aren’t working right. Now, there’s a system in there where my employees can say, “Well, you didn’t follow the system here.” Every person is accountable for checking off what they have to do in the system. When I don’t check it off at the end of the week, an email goes out to every person who missed any steps of the system. I have an employee that’s checking that. My name is on there. I miss a part of my system and it will list. I never want to be there with three or four items that I missed because that would look really bad.
That’s another thing, the accountability, I’m not doing the accountability part. I have an employee on Saturday that answers the phones and her job on Saturday if it’s not very busy, is to go through every single process in […] and write down who hasn’t met their deadlines for that process.
Jason: Yeah, accountability.
Paul: It works really well. None of us wants to see our name on that list, so everybody is getting their stuff done and it’s not because I’m going to yell at them, it’s because we don’t want to be mass emailed to the whole team that you didn’t do your job.
Jason: It creates a lot of pressure which is a positive thing. That means you don’t have to come down on them all the time. There’s this lateral pressure, this internal peer pressure in which most employees and team members are recognition-based. That’s how they are most motivated rather than financially, so they want to be seen as doing a good job, and they want to be recognized. That’s the opposite. There’s that pressure, so they want to make sure they avoid that.
Jason: It makes sense.
Paul: And we also do our bonuses based on not being recognized. Even my bonuses. Everything is based on getting your job done. What I saw in the past, we didn’t have someone that was going through it weekly. We had some process where they’d be open three or four weeks and not being completed yet. Now, it’s very rare for the process.
It will definitely not be there if you are listed on that one week. If you are listed in the second week for the same one, then you are going to have a conversation with me, then you’re going to me. Our processes are never missed for more than 5–7days, which is huge.
The only thing that I’m still trying to figure out is maintenance because I use Property Meld and I’m still trying to figure out how I can make sure my maintenance team doesn’t get missed. Property Meld does good ways of doing that. That’s something I’m currently working on is how on a weekly basis, we can check to make sure none of that’s missed.
Everything that you do, you got to find using the software systems that will work to check on the system.
Jason: All right. Paul, I think it has been really fascinating. I think everybody listening got a lot of value out of this. I loved your tips about where to start. Anything else that you throw out there and want to say to anybody before we wrap this up about creating systems in the business?
Paul: I just tell them the dates. Our website is pmsystemsconference.com and the dates of our conference will be August 10th through 13th. It’s in Las Vegas and it will be in Rio. It is not up yet, we should have it up next week or two. We are still working on it. We just got the rooms and booked everything yesterday. We just booked for August, but it’s a really good time. Last time in January, we went ziplining on one of the nights. We also try new fun stuff because if you are working all day, you also want to have fun. There was a time we went bowling one night which is a great time to get together with a small number of property managers and get to know them. I enjoyed it.
People always ask me how long I am going to do it, I’m going to do it until I stop getting fun. When it becomes a job, then I’ll stop doing that workshop, but now I go there and it’s like seeing a bunch of old friends.
Jason: Cool, love it. All right, Paul, thanks for coming to the DoorGrow show. I appreciate you.
Paul: Thank you so much, Jason. You have a wonderful day.
Jason: All right, so check out his website. Check that out. Thanks everybody for tuning in. If you have a moment, make sure to like and subscribe. If you are watching this on YouTube, be sure to like and subscribe. If you are listening to this on a podcast on iTunes, then please leave us a review. We would love it. That would be great.
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