DGS 131: Property Management Growth Strategies After COVID-19 with Mark and Anne Lackey

property management growth strategies episode artworkAs some freedom returns to society following COVID-19, don’t miss out on potential opportunities to implement property management growth strategies.

Today’s guests are Mark and Anne Lackey from HireSmart Virtual Assistants (VAs). Mark and Anne are broker-owners that manage almost 200 doors in Atlanta.

You’ll Learn…

[03:47] Trends: Property management pivots and changes during economic downturns.

[07:10] Hire Virtually: Save money, get better employees, and increase productivity.

[08:22] Wake Up: Don’t resist remote work; realize office space may be unnecessary.

[11:14] DIY vs. Professionally Managed: Ramp up sales/funnels to serve customers.

[15:26] Problems are always opportunities to grow business by offering solutions.

[21:11] Customer Service: Don’t disconnect. Focus/follow up for retention/satisfaction.

[27:02] Professionalism: Set expectations. Don’t badmouth landlords via vendors.

[28:29] BDM: Do you need a business development manager?

[31:33] Time, Energy, and Effort: Resources required to rent properties to tenants.

{[32:28] Referrals grow businesses. No referrals represents customer care problem.

[35:29] Gamechanger: Save time and money to get things done or do more yourself?.

[38:30] Wrong Person, Role, Tool, Time, and Money: Hire based on owner’s needs.

[40:57] Off-the-Shelf vs. Customization: How to hire and build teams takes time.

[46:50] Remote Challenges: Communication, operations, and management problems.

[48:22] Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Get work done based on expectations.

[50:15] Think, Invest, HireSmart: Know avatar to grow property management business.



HireSmart Virtual Assistants (VAs)

DGS 69: HireSmart Virtual Assistants with Anne Lackey


Lehman Brothers


DoorGrow on YouTube




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 the 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.

My guests today are Mark and Anne Lackey from HireSmart. Welcome you two.

Anne: Hey, good to see you. It’s been a while.

Mark: Hey, it’s good to see you.

Jason: It’s good to have you back. I noticed you’re displaying that beautiful logo in the background.

Mark: Isn’t that wonderful?

Anne: Yes, that is of course a DoorGrow special. They helped us with that on our website.

Mark: The logo, the renaming, all of that was a DoorGrow impression that was right for us and is great for our clients.

Jason: Yeah, I like it. Cool. We’re going to be talking about property management growth strategies after COVID-19. This Coronavirus is just starting to clean itself up. I just rode a road trip from Pennsylvania to Austin over the course of multiple days. People were not wearing masks anymore. We were eating at restaurants. It was awesome. It was like we are back to having freedom again.

Most places are open here in Austin. I went to the hardware store yesterday, though. Everyone was wearing masks and I felt like I was in trouble. I thought we were over this already, but apparently not at Home Depot.

Anne: Some places are, some places aren’t.

Jason: I think the national chains and the national stores have to accommodate the lowest common denominator nationally. They got rules in place for everything. What are we chatting about today?

Anne: First of all, I want to make sure everybody understands we are broker-owners ourselves. We manage doors in Atlanta.

Mike: Nearly 200 doors in Atlanta since 2005 for other people and for ourselves, since 2001.

Anne: We’ve been talking a lot to our friends who are in the property management business. We are, of course, NARPM members, affiliates, and affinity partners with them. We hear a lot around the nation of different things.

Just like your trip from Pennsylvania. You saw different parts of the country where things were more open than others, so we want to talk about a couple of different things as we see them. For property managers that are thinking what’s the next thing.

I want to back up just a little bit and talk a little bit about historical trends and changes. Mark, why don’t you get us started on that?

Mark: This will show my age. That’s one thing if I’ve mentioned this. In the 70s, we had lines to get gas. Not everybody out there remembers that, but there was an oil shortage. There was a gas shortage and at that point, everybody said we’re going to run out of oil in a couple of years.

It was a crisis, so out of that came what? We got into solar energy, more on to hydroelectric. Things pivoted, things changed. In the 80s, the savings and loans went down. Things pivoted on how we got mortgages. The dot-com buzz, the 90s, the tech blow up. All those things and what most everybody remembers is the meltdown that we had in the economy and mortgage market that occurred just 10–12 years ago.

At that point, it required pivoting and Anne and I are really good at our business about looking to see what the trends are going to be. What’s going to change and how to pivot. That’s what we want to talk about today. It’s not the end of the world like everybody said, March 15th or whatever date it was when everybody went to hibernation. It’s like, it’s the end of the world.

Anne: Nobody’s going to pay their rent.

Mark: We thought that 12 years ago when Lehman Brothers shut their doors. It all seems like it’s the end of the world, but it’s not. It’s an opportunity. It’s learning to pivot. Look at where the puck is going.

Anne: We wanted to talk about some of the trends that we see and the opportunities that property managers should be looking at in their business. You obviously don’t hop on every trend and everything that comes along, but it is always good to put it in perspective. Mark, let’s talk about some of the trends that we’ve seen in real estate in general. We’re going to talk about how you can take advantage of that.

Mark: In the last few months, we had property managers and friends that were investors that had Airbnb. They were making 5–10 times the amount of rent I was off of a property. Suddenly, they made nothing because all the bookings shut down. They’re looking. A lot of them said hey, let’s sell. Let’s go long term. A lot of things changed there. Through them and through those changes of people not having as much disposable income at this point because there’s a slow down in jobs, second homes aren’t popular right now.

Two, with all the laws that are coming about with the changes to protect the renters that are coming out of state legislators and the national, there’s a lot of change and as property managers, we keep apprise to that. But these DIY (do-it-yourself) landlords don’t. So, we’re going to talk about some opportunities to make sales, to get some additional properties, to manage some opportunities for investing, too, if you’re into that area.

Jason: When COVID hit and it was March, March was brutal for us at DoorGrow. Sales stopped. Every property manager just tightens their purse strings, freaking out, there’s this cash crunch. We experienced a serious cash crunch so we had to get lean. I think a lot of businesses had to get lean and in the long run, that is a really healthy thing for business. Everyone was trimming the fat and […] was effective.

Anne: We saw that in HireSmart because now everybody is a virtual employee. This is a perfect time to write stuff. People that have been hesitant to hire virtually have been in our doors now because they are like, wow, we can save some money. We can have better employees. We can have different strategies and approaches. Now, it was no longer important because it wasn’t allowed to have people come into the office. Actually for us on HireSmart, it actually expanded our business.

Mark: There was resistance before from property managers that wanted to walk down the hall and lean over Joe or Joan’s shoulder and see what they’re doing, see what they’re working on—literally, not figuratively—to be there, to have that conversation face-to-face.

They were very hesitant about working and they didn’t have the resources to figure out how to work remotely. With what’s come out of COVID-19 has become the realization that you don’t have to have your employees at an office. You don’t even have an office anymore.

Jason: I’ve known this for well over a decade. Interesting to see that mass transition of people realizing they can use tools like Zoom and move away from having somebody right there in their office. I did some polls online asking people during this. I asked how many people would renew their business lease at the end of the term and a lot of them said they’re going to, at the very least, downsize, maybe to a smaller office base, or they may even not renew.

I also did some polling on what people have noticed as a result of people working from home. Some of my clients were saying that they’ve noticed that they were surprised that their team members became more productive. They’re getting more done. I guess because there are fewer interruptions they were saying. There are fewer distractions. Maybe they’re more comfortable. But some of my team members are doing better.

I have heard some people say I hate it. My kids are there all the time. I’m going crazy. But in general, I think the world has to wake up and realize when you have to get work done, you can try this. Then they tried this and they’re like, hey, this works. Why are we spending so much money on this brick and mortar location that is outrageously expensive to have all these people in it when we can eliminate that crazy expense and it’s unnecessary.

Mike: Yeah. It was shocking, like you, we immediately drew into our shell in March, and let’s save. We don’t know what’s going to happen. People are going to let people go. But in April and May, we had the most requests for information about our services. The most orders we’ve had in five years.

Jason: I’ll bet.

Anne: Without any […]. That’s the funny part for us […]

Mike: We’re not traveling.

Anne: It’s been interesting and we do a lot of community teaching and speaking even online. We always have to help people understand what opportunities are there. A lot of things that we’re promoting or that we’re seeing right now, specifically in property management, is now’s a great time to ramp up your sales and funnels. Again, because the DIY’s are so lost. We already know that there are so many DIY landlords compared to professionally managed.

Mike: Eighty percent of the US are do-it-yourself landlords. That’s a lot of opportunity.

Anne: That’s a lot of opportunity. I know you talk a lot about that, but how do you reach them? How do you engage with them? How do you attract them? Of course, they outgrow a platform, obviously, as a key component to that, which is wonderful, but you have to have the human-to-human or human automation to back it up.

I think where we’re coming to as a society is if you don’t have a physical office where people can walk in anymore because you’re closing your doors. We’ve had a closed-door policy for 19 years. I think people are very surprised that we’ve never let anybody in our office ever.

Mike: We have a small office of three.

Anne: We’ve never let anybody in our office even when we had seven people in our office, we didn’t have people in our office because it’s a distraction, that interruption. What happens is you need to serve your customers. You need to be talking to them. You need to be serving them.

Now, the residents and owners don’t just want to be served 9–5. We’re seeing that they want answers seven o’clock at night, eight o’clock at night when they’re online. When they have questions they would like to have some interactions with someone from your office.

How do you do that cost-effectively? Of course, we have the solution. A full-time dedicated virtual employee that works as the second shift or the split shift is there to take care of chat. They’re there to answer the questions and help people guide them on applications.

Mike: Then guide the people that are coming in to bring you properties to manage.

Anne: Right, and to talk to owners about how I work with you. Because here’s what’s going on in the marketplace. Again, in a lot of places, you do have people that aren’t able to pay their rent right now because they have lost their jobs. Do you have owners that are concerned about what I do? How do I do this? We’ve had an increase in our inquiries for property management recently as well because they just don’t know the rules. They don’t know the laws.

Mike: It’s not the time to withdraw. We’re all sheltered in our business in place, too, and when we withdrew that opportunity to find new business went away. The companies, the far-sighted future thunking property managers, business owners, and the brokers that are now looking at making some investments. Not just sitting on their dollars, but actually making some investments in the right people, the right tools, business development people to help grow the business, doing outreaches.

One thing we were talking about just the other day was—we haven’t done this yet—we should have a seminar that we invite all the DIY landlords to share with them all the fears of all the new laws that have come out.

[…]. We have that seminar and some of them are going to come out and say, okay, now I can do things differently because I have information on what I can and can’t do. A lot of them are going to come out and say I just can’t do this anymore. I’m tired of doing it. I’m going to hire—in case—us because we’ve been in that seminar.

Making those types of investments, and granted that those seminars aren’t always live, they’re maybe at this point virtual but reaching out to those. Those are the ways now to grow your business for tomorrow because over the next six months until we get to the end of this year, there’s opportunity abound for forward-thinking.

Jason: That’s what problems do. Problems are always opportunities. Let’s talk about the problem. Here are some of the things I noticed. I won’t say who it is, but I got a call from one of my business coaches and he has rental properties. He was like, what do you see in the market place right now because I got a small portfolio of properties and only 50% of them are paying rent. I said at least 98% of most of the rent is being collected by my clients. That’s what I’m hearing.

Also, what I noticed happening is my clients are saying that their owners were calling them and saying if tenants don’t want to pay rent this month, we’ll let them not pay rent. They’re like no, they’re going to pay rent.

The thing is people felt guilty. They’re almost ashamed but feel guilty, but property managers, you guys are over that […]. You guys are completely over. You’ve heard all the excuses. You’ve heard all the stories. Some residents right now, due to the unemployment benefits and stuff that are going around, are making more money, especially the low rent markets. They’re making more money than when they were working. But some of them are still trying to use the excuse that they need to not pay rent or whatever.

The news kind of made it look like that. It made it look like people trying to collect rent are evil, bad, sick, or wrong. A lot of homeowners are just feeling guilty. Property managers are immune to guilt.

Anne: That’s because we’ve heard it all.

Jason: We’ve heard it all. We heard all the stories, the excuses. You know how to help people. You know what programs are available because you guys are on top of this stuff. You guys aren’t having trouble collecting the rent.

In general, I haven’t heard anyone in the single-family residential space or even multi-family having real trouble collecting rent. Rents have gone down just a little bit. You got people that most would have heard it’s the same people that we’re always troubled paying rent. We just couldn’t evict them, but that’s coming.

Mike: Your coach needs to reach out to a professional manager. You see that, but he doesn’t. Seminars, webinars, something.

Jason: They don’t see the problem. That’s the challenge I’ve always experienced in DoorGrow. I’m selling a solution to a problem that most people can’t see. They can’t see the leaks on their website. They can’t see the challenges that their branding is hurting word of mouth. I have to educate people to see the problem.

The same thing is what you’re talking about. If you can create the gap and show the contrast between what challenges and problems they’re dealing with and what they could be experiencing, what successes your clients are having, they’re going to see this gap and that gap is what creates pain.

People want to solve pain. People want a pain killer, not a vitamin. People will pay even more money to get out of pain. They want a solution, but they don’t know a lot of them that there’s a solution out there. I do think there is a massive opportunity. There’s no scarcity in property management. There’s no shortage of people that are in pain or have problems or challenges they are dealing with.

Not only that, but I think property managers can hold their heads up high because good property managers, I really do believe as I said before, can change the world. There are millions of renters. Even here on my own property, I’m renting (I just moved to Austin), my kids were without a water heater for two weeks. The landlord sent out two different plumbers because he didn’t like the feedback that the 13-year-old water heater should be replaced even though the pilot kept going out.

I didn’t even know my kids were taking cold showers because they got it before me and they can’t get on Xbox until they take their showers, so they ‘re just doing it. All they’re thinking about is can I get on the Xbox now? I’m like, yes, go ahead. But then my daughter’s like, I haven’t taken a shower in four days because the shower’s freezing.

I didn’t know this and the younger ones, I went to them. That doesn’t make sense because they’ve been taking their baths and their showers. I went to my son, Hudson, and I’m like, how’s the shower been lately? He’s like, cold. I’m like, what? Why didn’t you tell me?

Mike: It’s virtually a summer, right?

Jason: Then I said to my daughter, she likes taking baths, you’ve been taking baths? She’s like, Yeah. How are your baths been? She’s like, they’re really cold. I’m like, what? But you guys protect families. You guys also protect owners. You guys are like the middle person that makes everything okay and you take care of people. It lowers the pressure and noise.

Property managers even do things like increasing the number of pets that families are able to have because you guys recognize that usually, it’s the kids that are causing more damage than the animals. […] to get more rent because of pets. There are so many benefits to property management that positively impact families, homes, and lives. You guys are really the heroes of the rental industry. Property managers are the heroes of the rental industry.

Mike: And unlike your property manager there that evidently has trouble with customer service.

Jason: He’s not the property manager, technically. He’s just a landlord who doesn’t want to do anything.

Anne: You got a DIYer.

Mike: Yeah, a DIYer.

Anne: Sounds like a great lead.

Mike: But that gets into the consideration of customer service. As property managers, we worried over the years about customer service to our owners but we haven’t worried as much about customer service to our tenants. For retention and to continue to have tenants that want to refer people in, raising your level of customer service at this time specifically because I know I ordered something that didn’t come and it was then delivered to Valentine, Nebraska instead of here where I am in Georgia, so I sent a response online and I got an auto-reply that says call this number. I call the number and it says we’re too busy. We’re not answering phones now. Just send an email. Customer service has failed specifically right now.

Anne: I’ll actually tell you something that we did on our property manager which I think has really impacted our renewals and we are getting increases in rent even now.

Mike: On everyone.

Anne: Let’s just talk about it. Again, people pay for when they feel taken care of. One of the biggest gaps that we saw, this is probably two years ago, in our business was exactly what you’re talking about. Tenant isn’t taken care of, it’s taking too long, the contractor is giving all kinds of excuses as to why they can’t get there, tenant’s going here, contractors going here. There’s this big disconnect.

Our virtual employee, Bonnie, is charged literally with every day every work order that comes in, she’s calling the vendor and saying vendor, did you get it? Because we want to make sure it didn’t get—

Mike: Lost. You know how emails are.

Anne: That’s the first thing. Then the next day, she’s calling the resident and saying resident, we assigned your work order to contractor B. Have you heard from him? Well, no. What happened?

Jason: That’s better than being ghosted and then eventually not having your calls answered, then eventually maybe getting a text or response half a week later.

Anne: She says okay, you haven’t heard from contractor B. Here’s contractor B’s information. We have already approved them to go out. Then she calls contractor B and she says contractor B, I heard that you haven’t connected. Why haven’t you connected? Oh, they haven’t returned my call. Okay, I just got off the phone with them. They are available. Call them and they are expecting your call.

She closes that loop, that hand-off because we assume contractor B is doing his job and we assume tenants are never wrong, they never change their phone numbers or anything else.

Mike: Then the contractor goes out like he did to you and assesses the work. Many times there’s not a follow-up, so what does Bonnie do then?

Anne: Bonnie, as soon as she gets the date it was supposed to be scheduled from either the tenant or the contractor B, she follows up the next day and says my understanding is that contractor B was supposed to be there yesterday. Did they show up?

Mike: Jason, did they take care of the water heater for you.

Anne: Are you satisfied with the repair.

Mike: And Jason says no.

Anne: No, I still have… Now, we have another feedback loop. This is a maintenance process that we never could have done without having a virtual employee do this. It’s too time-intensive and we have other work to be done.

Mike: Then the flag goes up to tell the owner, owner, you got to provide hot water. You want an ACH or do you want us to loan you the money at an 18% rate?

Anne: Yeah, put it on a credit card, however you want to do it. The reality for us is our tenant satisfaction has gone through the roof because we showed that we care, we’re not letting it go, and literally, I as the broker get the list of not only what the outstanding work orders but where they are in the process and what she’s done to move it forward.

If we have a resident that we haven’t been able to get in touch with, the contractor hasn’t been able to, we have an escalation process. I don’t manage, Bonnie manages. Again, total game-changer.

Mike: The benefit out of all of that, we don’t get pushed back when we’re raising the rent. We started with our process in the middle of March. We do it in the middle of every month with notification of our rent increases and property. Most property managers that we know said you’re crazy.

We’re either going to hold it. We’ll tell them they don’t have to pay an increase. We went out there and we got resistance from one tenant over the last, March, April, May, June. We got four months into our belt of increases and we have one pushback.

Anne: Of course when you have rent increases, that increases our profitability, too. The owner makes a little bit more money, we make a little bit more money. It’s still very reasonable. One of the things I’ll say about rental rates is we don’t do it arbitrarily. We do a full competitive market analysis. We make sure it’s on the market. We don’t raise all the way up to market if it’s a significant jump, we’ll do it at the average appreciation rate.

Mike: We want to stay just below the top of the market.

Anne: Correct because we don’t want to give them a reason to leave.

Mike: But we got happy tenants that don’t want to leave. They go oh, I can’t rent down the street for what I’m paying here because we always stay right below that.

Jason: There’s another hidden killer, too, I noticed in the scenario because when these vendors came to my property here and talked to me, they were basically bad-mouthing the landlord. They were like this guy is cheap. I’ve told them he needs to do this.

In your scenario, the vendor is going to feel like they are getting taken care of. They are going to feel like they are on your team and on your side, and they are working with you, whereas these vendors feel more loyalty to me because they know the landlord isn’t’ doing the right thing.

Anne: That goes back to having a contract with our contractor of standards of professionalism. Our vendors actually sign a document that says these are our expectations to be a vendor for us, and one of them is to not bad mouth as part of that.

Mike: All these things combined, give us opportunities to shine. We get referrals every week. People come to us and say we hear great things about you as a property manager, and we’re forward-thinking. We have opportunities there where we reach out to try to bring in business. Like what we’re talking about earlier, a lot of the property managers are just sitting back. They are scared. They are afraid to do anything. That’s the wrong thing to do.

Anne: A lot of them are looking to bring on a BDM. Remember last year was the year of the BDM. Do you need a business development manager? Okay, maybe you do, maybe you don’t. We tend to be our own.

Mike: We are our BDMs.

Anne: But again, we are high salary people like if you are paying somebody. Our time is very valuable, but we are seeing the smart property managers are supporting that sales effort through follow-up with the virtual employee, a virtual assistant that is literally a full-time doing this grinder follow-ups because we all know in sales—I don’t care what industry you’re in—you have to reach out seven, eight, ten times.

Sometimes, property management specifically, it’s pain point-related and some of the pain points only come up once a month. Some of the pain points come up once a year. Some of the pain points only come up periodically, so if you don’t have a system to reach out to them, again it can’t just be an email anymore.

I think people are tired of tech, tech, tech. You need to have tech. You need to have a chatbox on your thing that’s manned by a live person, in my opinion, but you also need that human-to-human automation. You need somebody that actually shows that they care a little bit about not only your company but the people involved. Having that sales support, a virtual employee to do that, really allows your BDM to be their most successful self and to do the things that they like to do. People don’t realize that.

BDMs don’t want to do a whole lot of phone calling. They want to be in relationship management. If you can get them in front of the customer more times, if you can keep prospects warm and in the hopper so that when the prospect is ripe and ready, and your BDM can come and close, you are maximizing your ROI for that person.

Mark: Yeah. They actually go to our website and ask for some of our tools or some of our information. It auto delivers but then they get a phone call, I want to make sure you got 21 questions or our technical information, and when they get that phone call, they’re shocked.

Anne: I’ll tell you one other thing where people are going to have some issues. We all know about the Zillow. Zillow and they’re charging for leads. That’s always been a hot topic. Zillow is rerouting leads. They’re rerouting them to their call center in some areas, not to all areas, but into some. You don’t have somebody actually calling those leads proactively when you get the email because even if you syndicate them, specifically if you syndicate them, you still get the email that says so and so is interested and they give you the phone number. But if the person proactively calls, Zillow is going to try to give them to people that are paying them, not necessarily to those of us who are syndications.

If we’re not actually outbound calling those leads as they come in, we are missing opportunities for tenants. This has been a big change probably in the last three weeks. This is fresh information that again if you don’t have somebody in your office that has the time, energy, and effort to be calling in addition to responding back via email, you are missing an opportunity to get your properties rented. Again, we have literally five properties come on the market on June 5th, all but one are occupied now. That’s how quick we are to get these things done because we have a dedicated resource and our virtual assistant. Literally, that is her only job to focus on.

Jason: I want to touch on a couple of things you mentioned that you threw out that I think are important. One, you were talking about referrals. This is one of the number one ways to grow any business generally. I talked to a client I think yesterday, I was coaching a client and they were like our business is so great. We’re great. We got all this process dialed in and they said, but we’re not getting any referrals. If a business is not getting any referrals, it’s probably not as great as you think it is.

Property managers have blind spots. We all do. For those listening, if you’re not getting referrals, you got some customer care problems that are likely going on. You should be getting referrals. You should be getting referrals from your vendors. You should be getting referrals from your real estate friends. You should be getting referrals from your property management clients. You should be getting, maybe referrals from some of the vendors, but people should be talking about you. If they’re not, there’s some sort of blind spot that needs to be shored up.

The other thing you mentioned (I think) is really smart. A lot of people, yes, they’re like, I need a BDM. I need somebody to do sales, but they can’t afford it. A lot of people can’t just go out and afford to get some high-grade wonderful salesperson. But most business owners are not willing to also acknowledge that they are a part-time shitty salesperson. The time they’re willing to dedicate or have sometimes is maybe an hour or two a day. That’s part-time. it’s 10, maybe 15 hours a week, maybe they can dedicate up to 20 hours, but if you really want to grow and scale your business, there probably needs to be a little bit more time or you need just business being referred to you all the time, so it’s super easy.

One of the easiest hacks I implemented when I was a solopreneur and was doing all the sales, the web design, branding stuff, and everything myself, I got an assistant. I had that person operate as a sales assistant and an appointment setter. It immediately multiplied, not just doubled probably, but it multiplied my capacity to close deals. All I did was show up for appointments. I just met with people and sold. I wasn’t doing any of the follow-ups. I was a solopreneur and my assistant was calling—she had a British accent—and saying hello, this is Helen, the assistant to the CEO Jason Hull of DoorGrow. He was wanting to get back together with you.

It also set me in the mind of the prospect as something higher than maybe I actually looked like at the time being a solopreneur, sitting at home, trying to work in my living room. There’s power in having a team. A lot of people say I can’t afford to hire anybody. Maybe you just need somebody to start, just somebody that you can start with and they could be full-time or part-time, but they can start doing a piece of that thing that you need help with. They don’t have to be able to do everything. Maybe it’s the piece that you least enjoy. Maybe doing the follow-up, the cold calls, and whatnot.

Anne: That’s the great thing about virtual assistants and personal employees. You’re looking at less than $20,000 a year for full-time dedicated help. That’s a game-changer. You can’t afford not to do that. I think that that’s where people get sideways. Where we really help our clients in helping them define their staffing needs, and what’s the best ROI for them to bring on board first. We’re talking about trends and the things that we see, but that’s one of the services that we provide, helping them figure that out because sometimes it’s like you said, sometimes this is a generalist. Somebody that can do a little bit of everything. Sometimes it’s a sales support person. I know I need leads. Sometimes it’s accounting, sometimes it’s leasing line, sometimes it’s in marketing.

A virtual assistant through HireSmart, because we’re full-time, dedicated, and we specifically recruit for our clients. We don’t have a room full of VAs that we go, here you go. I actually go and curate the contacts for you, and then I personally work with them for 40 hours afterward like that one-week job interview to make sure that they’re amazing. Anybody that has hired and day two you’re like, ugh, they just aren’t amazing. I take care of that for the clients.

Mark: It frees up so much time. If it frees up 10 hours a week, how many deals can you close, how many new properties can you bring on in 10 hours? You invest maybe two hours where somebody else is making all the calls, set the appointments, you got that two hours invested. Your return on that is tremendous because you’re going to make an offer that’s equivalent to $100, $200, $300 an hour for your investment of time.

It goes back to, you’ve got to make those investments. You can’t not hire now, you can’t put your head in the sand or pull back in your shell and say, I’m going to do it myself. Especially if you’re not happy doing it because if you’re not happy, you’re not going to get it done.

Jason: Therefore, a lot of people that have been shifting to doing more themselves. I have to lay off team members now, I’m doing everything myself. Now I’m doing stuff that I don’t even want to do.

Let’s touch on one thing that you just mentioned. I think this is really important for everybody listening to understand. I’ve seen this in hundreds of property management businesses and businesses in general, but one of the most painful or dangerous things I think a business owner can do is hiring the wrong person, the wrong role, spending the wrong money at the wrong time.

A lot of people hire based on what they think the business needs instead of what they need in order to create more space and eliminate the number one bottleneck in the company, which is you the business owner, it’s the entrepreneur. You taking the time to figure out what they actually need to get the best ROI is huge for them because they’ve seen lots of people, they hire the wrong person they didn’t need. Now they’re spending this money, or they just hired a bad person in general which not just cost them the money they spent on that person and the time they spent to get that person, but they’re now losing money in secret places.

I’ve had team members that stole from me. I’ve had team members that stole time. I’ve had team members delete and stuff after I fired them. These are problems that entrepreneurs learn painfully over time trying to build a team. A lot of property managers are in that first trap. They’re the 50–60 door mark, they don’t know how they can afford to hire that first person, and this is a solution for that.

This is a very obvious solution for that. You can help them figure out who they really need right now and to take the next step forward, because if they spend the money on the right person, they make more money. It makes it easier. They then can reinvest. If they spend it on the wrong person, or the wrong tool, at the wrong time, it could be the right tool but it’s at the right time, or they’re getting software prematurely that they didn’t really have to have at that point, or whatever it might be. If you spend money at the wrong time even though it might be the right tool for the future, you’re hurting your ability to get to that future.

Anne: I totally agree with that.

Jason: Cash flow. If you run out of cash flow, the business dies. It’s like the Indiana Jones boulder rolling after you is the cash monster trying to get to you. If the boulder catches you, the business is game over. You’ve run out of money, run out of cash, you’re dead. People started to feel that in March. You have to always be outpacing that boulder. If you spend, the boulder gets bigger and faster, but you can get faster if you spend it on the right people.

Anne: One of the things I tell a lot of prospects that I’m talking to is most property managers (specifically) were never trained on how to hire or how to build teams. That’s not something we learn at school, it’s only by trial and fire. A lot of property managers have fallen into it.

Mark: There’s not a hiring 301 class in college.

Anne: One of the things that I tell them is, just like you’re the expert in finding the right tenant for an owner because you’ve seen enough applications, you’ve gone through the process, you’ve done all that, you are the expert there, we’re the experts in hiring. I know I have a profile for hiring, I know what’s successful, I know what’s not successful. I save my clients from hundreds of hiring mistakes because it’s not that they can’t do it, a DIY landlord can do it, but they can’t do it as well as a property manager.

I say the same thing. You can hire. It’s going to take you more time, you don’t have a process, you don’t do it enough, I have done thousands. Just in the last six months alone, I have evaluated over 9000 applications. You say that gave me some data points.

Jason: You know the BS, you know how to spot the scammers, you know which people are gaming the system, you know which people are feeding you a story, you know what questions need to be asked. In the Philippines, you got to ask about their internet connection. You got to, you can’t just trust that they have one. You got to ask about where they’re working. Where are you working at? Where are you working from?

That was part of the thing that I really enjoyed working with you guys. I always look at everything through a certain filter, and I’m skeptical, and I want to see how I can help people. As I went through your process, I’m like, they do this. They already do this. This is stuff I’ve learned over a decade in my own painful experiences hiring in India, Bangladesh, Russia, the Philippines, Bolivia, and of course the US, which ultimately most of my team are in the US now. But I have Filipino team members.

I can personally vouch for your hiring process making a lot of sense. It’s solid and it works really because it’s very similar to my own. There are so many similarities. Okay, they’ve got this down, but you have some advantages. We talked about this in the previous episode. You guys should go listen to that where we talked about their processes and some stuff they do, but you have vetting, background checks, and stuff that people don’t just have access to if they’re just trying to DIY this.

Mark: It’s like the difference, if you’re getting married, you got the bride and the groom, and the bride wants a custom-made dress, not one off the rack. The groom really wants a tux that fits them. We are the custom dress, we are the custom tux for that couple versus walking into Neiman and pulling one off the shelves, this looks good, or getting a dress off the hanger and putting it on like, this almost fits, let’s go get married.

Jason: It looks like your dad handed you down a suit or something.

Mark: Right. That’s the difference in what we do. We are custom for our client. We are not off the rack.

Anne: Right, and outside of that is it takes time. It takes us 3–4 weeks to literally curate the right people. I always say if you need to hire somebody just the first person off the street, good luck.

Jason: You guys are bespoke. It’s bespoke hiring.

Anne: We have a guarantee and all of those things, and we can back up what we’re saying. But again, if you’re trying to grow your property management business right now, you need to look at your staff. Here’s the other thing. Not all staff members are coming back. You may think they’re coming back. They’re not coming back. You’ve got to look at who are your top liners? Who are the ones that you’ve got to keep? You need to be investing in a relationship with those people first of all.

If you’re not talking to them on a regular basis, if you’re not feeding them, if you’re not taking care of them, you need to take care of them now. Who’s part of your med tier? The kind of people that are like, if they come back, great. If they don’t, what’s the impact that’s going to happen? What are the people that you really know you just need to not have come back, and you need to deal with that pretty quickly.

Mark: For our best person, we got a VA to assist that person so that they can do even better at the best that they were. That’s the important thing that people need to take away from changes that are coming out of COVID. It’s supporting your staff and letting them work at the highest and best use. Maybe that’s taking away some of those phone calls and emails by hiring an assistant for them and to give you the opportunity to grow. It’s an assistant to you for the business development to make those calls and to set up those appointments, so that you can just close.

Doing those things is the job that Anne enjoys so much is finding the individual to match. What does Jason need exactly? Even though Jason doesn’t know exactly, she’ll draw that out of you, and I’m just picking on you on that.

Anne: That’s a puzzle for me. There’s nothing better than when I see my clients six months in, years in, we have our clients for five years now and seeing them and they’d say, Mitch has been the best thing ever in my company. She’s really allowed me to be amazing and do what I want to do. Literally, these are comments that we get when we survey our clients. It has been a game-changer. If you’re open and able to change.

I don’t know how much time we have, but there are a couple of things that you need to look at, regardless of whether you use virtual assistants, employees, or whether you are looking at that which are some of the challenges that come from working with a remote team, because remember, even if you’re planning to go back to an office, your staff is going to want to have more flexibility. Let’s just call it what it is. Not everybody wants to commute anymore. There are some that miss being in that environment, there’s a lot of guys that are like…

Mark: We’re happier.

Jason: Yeah, why should I spend time commuting? Why should I spend time driving to this? I think there are a lot fewer people doing face-to-face appointments, and they’ll just do it through Zoom or they’ll do it through Google Hangouts, Meet, or whatever.

Anne: Whatever works. What we’re finding is it is truly illuminating management problems. It’s illuminating communication problems. If you had a communication problem in the office, now you have a tremendous communication breakdown outside of the office.

Mark: If you have an operations failure in the office, boy, the failures are even bigger.

Anne: As managers, we need to look at what tools do we have on our tool belt. We help our clients with some of that because we understand years ago that we needed to equip our people to be good at this so that they would keep our people.

Mark: It is in software, it’s tools, it’s technology. There’s a lot of different pieces that go into that.

Anne: Looking at your management style and we like to manage personally using key performance indicators (KPIs) because that takes […] work out of it. I don’t have to worry if they’re working eight hours as long as the KPIs are done and they can get their job done in six, I’m happy to pay them for eight and let them do what they want to do, as long as my stuff’s getting done to a level that I expected.

That’s the easy button for management, if you don’t know about key performance indicators, I certainly encourage you to learn what that is, and how to do that, but it’s one of the things that we teach our clients to do very easily. There are some easy methodologies to do that, but we are seeing some communication breakdowns from people that don’t use us. We’re seeing some issues with management. The manager that was the nice guy, that was able to get people rah-rah-rah in the office because she was able to see them, that’s now changed. Now, work is starting to do great.

Mark: They can’t hide behind the curtain.

Anne: They can’t hide behind that personality anymore because work’s not getting done. That’s one cautionary tale that I will throw out to your listeners.

Jason: Results don’t lie.

Anne: They don’t, but it’s difficult to have conversations if you don’t have data, and a lot of times, people don’t want to track data because they think it’s too difficult. We teach our clients how to do it very simply, very easily, and very quickly. That’s the other thing. You’ve got to be able to get feedback daily to keep on top of it. If you wait for weeks or months, you are now in this huge hole of garbage that is very difficult to get out of. Make sense?

Jason: Makes sense. It’s been awesome having you here on the show. Maybe we can take just a few minutes, let’s talk about some opportunities right now and ways you think property managers have an opportunity to grow after COVID. We’ve touched on maybe doing webinars, I think you threw out there, the Airbnb. I think I have one client that added 24 doors in a month just from former Airbnbs by cold calling them and reaching out.

Obviously, you got to convince them probably to get the furniture out of the place, and make sure that these are good opportunities to manage, and that it’s going to rent effectively compared to what they’re paying because some of them were making a lot of money.

Mark: They were. You can offer a turnkey for that. I know you’ve got furniture and all, I’ll take care of making the donation, or I’ll get the local company that buys furniture and resells it. I don’t know if there’s a market for that right now, but I’ll get it picked up by Salvation Army or the kidney people, and you’ll get the receipt. I’ll take care of all of that and make it easy for you to let me manage your property long-term. The property managers that think that way are the ones that will be successful. We’ve been seeing that happen in Airbnb and a lot of them are coming back out of service.

Anne: One of the things we always recommend when we’re consulting with clients just in general is know your avatar. If you’re a short-term rental person and that’s your avatar, then you need to create a different marketing strategy around that, like how are you going to deal with that. If your avatar is long-term rentals and you want to gain business by going after short-term to convert them to long-term like Mark said, have a package, have a system, get your relationships put together. Right now interestingly enough, we have investors that are scared to death and are selling, and we have investors that are super excited and are buying.

Mark: […] sales transaction. Though the property manager doesn’t have a sales component in their business, they need to have an alignment with the referral program to somebody that does sales. I mean I’m selling two houses a month this year.

Anne: Without trying, without marketing.

Mark: Yeah, these are my investors. They just say I want to sell, and I’ll say I want to make the commission. No problem.

Anne: It’s about having a strategy, being able to implement that strategy. and figuring out what are the resources that you need to create that strategy. We think using virtual employees and virtual assistants is a great way to maximize all of that because right now, it is kind of intense. If you’re going to do research for short-term rentals, there’s not a database you can necessarily easily pull from. You’ve got to go search for them, talk to them.

Having that marketing strategy based on what it is that you want to do, having a value proposition that speaks to the pain that the person is dealing with, all are very important. Having a website that actually can capture those leads and make you look professional which is what you guys do is also part of that. You have this well-rounded marketing plan.

Mark: We have our VA do all the research. Maybe it’s calling everybody that’s on Craigslist or ads out there and saying, you may be tired of being a manager, you should go to this webinar we have coming up. It’s how to be a better manager and how to deal with the current […]. We can do all those invitations to get people into our webinars that are going to show them they don’t need to be doing this anymore. There’s a lot of different ways that property managers can grow their business right now, but they need to think smart and make those investments.

Anne: And HireSmart.

Jason: And they need to HireSmart. Awesome. It’s great to see you guys again. I’m glad you guys are doing well there over near Atlanta. Keep me apprised as to your next idea.

Anne: We always have them.

Jason: You always have them. That’s as crazy entrepreneurs. We always are coming up with new stuff. I’ll let you guys go and I appreciate you guys coming on. Your website is?

Anne: http://www.hiresmartvas.com

Jason: All right. Thanks, Mark, thanks, Anne.

Mark: Thank you very much.

Anne: Welcome. Thank you, Jason. We appreciate you.

Jason: Awesome to have them on. If you are a property management entrepreneur, and you’re wanting to add doors, and you’re wanting to build a business that you actually enjoy, that you love, that is built around you, this is what we do at DoorGrow. Reach out, I guarantee that we’re going to make your business better in some way, shape, or form, and you’re going to love it.

Even if you feel like you hate it now, maybe you’re thinking you want out of it, you’re feeling like it’s uncomfortable, you’re probably just doing the wrong things in that business, and you may need some VAs that might be a solution for sure. We can help clean up the frontend of your business and help you get the business in alignment with you.

Reach out, check us out at doorgrow.com, and make sure you join our Facebook group. We’ve got an awesome community there, and people that are helpers, that are givers, and you can get to that by going to doorgrowclub.com. Mark and Anne are in that group. We’ve got lots of other really cool property management entrepreneurs that are willing to contribute and help you out. Until next time everyone. To our mutual growth. Bye, everybody.

You just listened to the DoorGrow Show. We are building a community of the savviest property management entrepreneurs on the planet, in the DoorGrow Club. Join your fellow DoorGrow Hackers at doorgrowclub.com.

Listen, everyone is doing the same stuff. SEO, PPC, pay-per-lead, content, social, direct mail, and they still struggle to grow. At DoorGrow, we solve your biggest challenge getting deals and growing your business. Find out more at doorgrow.com.

Find any show notes or links from today’s episode on our blog at doorgrow.com. To get notified of future events and news, subscribe to our newsletter at doorgrow.com/subscribe. Until next time, take what you’ve learned and start DoorGrow hacking your business and your life.

Enjoyed this episode on property management growth strategies? Get equipped with more content like it by exploring past episodes of the #DoorGrowShow.

Jason Hull

Jason's mission is "to inspire others to love true principles." This means he enjoys digging up gold nuggets of wisdom & sharing them with property managers to help them improve their business. He founded OpenPotion, DoorGrow, & GatherKudos.

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