How to Best Structure Your Property Management Team and Organizational Workflow
January 10th, 2021
Want to grow your property management company?
Are you thinking about implementing a formal structural model to your property management company?
Maybe you’ve recently started managing properties or your business has been around for a while and you’re considering changing the organization’s structure.
Whichever juncture you’re currently at, there are many advantages to structuring or restructuring your business. For property management business owners, applying a formal structure while in the embryonic stage helps employees and clients to better understand the company’s vision. While for more established companies, restructuring can assist in reducing expenses and improving competitive advantage, helping you attract more leads and grow your business. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Besides these benefits, corporate structuring (or restructuring) can even provide solutions to many common problems that property management companies experience like poor service and high turnover rate.
Let’s take a look at some common property management issues along with reasons why a formal structuring can help to resolve or minimize them and make your company more successful than ever before.
Common Issues and How a Team Structure Can Help:
#1 - Giving Owners and Tenants Positive Customer Experiences
People often complain about the poor customer service they received from property management companies. We’re pretty sure that you don’t want your company to be one of those that frequently gets bad reviews.
Establishing a formal structure for your company can help to reduce or even eliminate the possibility of negative customer experiences and eventually lead to a better online reputation for your business.
Structuring properly helps employees to better understand the company's guidelines and their individual job requirements. Therefore, when employees gain clarity regarding what's expected of them, this helps to decrease the risk of operational blunders.
Additionally, it allows you and your staff to be able to place more focus on providing effective property management service and promptly responding to both owner and tenant concerns.
Providing efficient and effective service can help in developing long-term business relationships between clients and your company. This will make it easier for your company to focus on marketing and advertising when your local reputation is not holding you back from growth.
#2 - Team Performance
Let’s face it. No matter what field you’re in, there are times when teams lack motivation and don’t perform to the best of their ability. However, the implementation of a formal organizational structure can positively impact a variety of aspects including employees’ performance.
A well-operated company provides both the business and employees with a sense of purpose which typically equates to a healthy and balanced work culture and more motivated and productive employees.
#3 - Communication and Responsiveness
An issue that continues to plague our industry is one in which property managers are perceived as untrustworthy or uncaring. In many cases this is due to a lack of communication. Information is sometimes reported to landlords and/ or tenants incorrectly, late and in some cases not communicated at all.
A couple of common miscommunication related issues are property management service fee structures and property managers ""overspending" on maintenance, to name a few.
Developing a corporate structure compels you and your team to look at all aspects of your business in a bid to improve it. By doing this, clear guidelines should be developed and shared with clients for transparency and to ensure both parties are on the same page.
#4 - Workflow Management
Unfortunately, one common issue a lot of property management companies are known for is poor organization. Some of those problems include, not having an established system for tracking rent collection, neglecting regular inspections and responding to service requests in an untimely manner.
However, an established structure can assist you in setting up appropriate systems that are easily understood and provide clarity for the end-users. For example, using a property management software can provide tenants with an automated system to pay rent.
Having a formal structure for your property management business also helps to provide clarity and guidance about which employees are responsible for which tasks. This reduces the risk of inefficiency, increases productivity and assists in ensuring that the company is operating at optimal capacity.
So now that you’re sold on structuring (or restructuring) your business, you might still be harping on a few questions before jumping in.
The question at the forefront is likely - how do I start the structuring process? Don’t worry, we’ve compiled a list of the necessary aspects that should be considered.
How to Plan/Choose Your Company Structure:
Step 1 - Focus On Your Company Goals
Goals outline the outcomes that you and your employees are working towards achieving. All of your actionable plans should be aligned to your goals, such as your strategy, corporate brand image, and your organizational structure.
What aspects of property management do you want your company to be known for and excel at? These will help determine what structure is best for you.
Step 2 - Consider Your Client Persona
You can start by creating client personas. This can be done via research, using online surveys, social media groups or even relevant conversations with landlords, tenants and prospective clients.
For example, characteristics of a client persona for one group of prospective clients could be a 35 year old female who has inherited several properties, while another could be a 60 year old man who is a real estate investor.
By creating buying personas, you are more likely to better understand your customers and build an organizational structure that meets your target audience's needs. When your customers' needs are consistently met, you are likely to retain your clients on a long-term basis and gain competitive advantage over other property management companies.
Step 3 - Develop a Checklist
Consider your current operational processes. What are the issues that occur on a consistent basis? How can you and your team be more efficient? How can your operations be more robust? Discuss these concerns with your team. Take note of current problems and suggestions on how specific issues could be rectified. Align your organizational structure in accordance with solutions to those issues.
Step 4 - Choose and Establish a System/Structure
When you've completed your research and discussions with your team, it's time to choose a structure to put in place.
Don’t be afraid to try something new. Even if it doesn’t work, learn from your experiences and change the non-functioning aspects to ones that work for your company and clients’ needs.
Selecting the most suitable structure for your business is dependent on your company’s size, your team's strengths and weaknesses and the type of clients you serve.
Let’s thoroughly investigate each model so that you can decide which is the right one to position your business for success.
Departmental, Portfolio, or Hybrid Structure?
"Departmental" Organization Structure
This is the most common model that larger property management companies use. It’s also known as the silo or specialized model. In this structure, a staff member or a team’s responsibility is to execute tasks related to one specific area. These individuals are accountable for all properties the business manages in relation to their specific expertise.
Some examples of departments within property management companies include, maintenance, leasing and inspection, accounting, etc. So therefore, if a company manages 100 properties, the leasing department would execute all leasing related tasks for all of those properties.
How to Implement a Departmental Structure:
1. Create a detailed employee onboarding process for all staff inclusive of their job requirements, the company’s policies, history and values.
2. Employ persons that are specialists in their role. As a small business, you might start with one person for each area -- for example, an individual for accounting, another for maintenance etc. As your company expands, hire more people accordingly.
3. Develop a chain of command that includes information about guidelines and reporting directives.
Advantages of the Departmental Structure:
As individuals and/or teams are focused on one specific area related to property
management - like advertising rental properties online and filling vacancies - they become experts in that role due to performing the same or similar tasks daily.
It can promote a suitable environment for junior employees to do on-the-job training and gain knowledge from senior/ specialized individuals.
It increases accessibility and efficiency for clients as they can get further information on an issue from multiple employees who specialize in the same area.
By a team of individuals all executing tasks in the same specialization, if one person is sick, the job still gets done.
The departmental structure fosters a work culture that promotes growth and efficiency. However, there are several issues frequently associated with this model.
Disadvantages of the Departmental Structure:
Since each department works solely on their specialized area, staff are sometimes unaware of what other employees are doing. Thereby, this can result in communication problems (hence the reason why the alternative name to department model is the silo model).
On the clients’ end, communicating with different departmental staff every time they contact the company can become frustrating.
Staff may not perform at optimal capacity if they have a heavy workload.
In order to build trust and keep everyone on the same page with access to everything going on, property managers should have a modern and effective company website they can link up with some cloud based property management software. This will provide staff, landlords and tenants with real-time information. For example, if a tenant submits a work order online for a plumber about a leaky pipe in their apartment, they can get notification statuses about the issue until it’s resolved.
In the property management field, along with having a lot of tasks to do, everything always seems urgent. However, employees should be provided with assistance (administrative or otherwise) as needed.
"Portfolio" Organization Structure
In this model, each employee is responsible for executing all the property management functions for a small portfolio of properties.
In other words, one staff member handles inspections, maintenance and repairs, manages financial records, attracts and screens tenants and all other communication and tasks associated with any properties in their "portfolio". This is why the portfolio structure is also called the 1:1 model -- one person manages every aspect of the properties they are in charge of.
The portfolio structure can be used by both small and more established companies.
Small companies may be more inclined to use the portfolio model as they would likely just hire a few employees, or become a property manager themselves and start out alone.
Therefore, each property manager would handle a small group of properties/units. As the business expands, they may opt to morph into the departmental model. In more established companies, it may be difficult to maintain the departmental model on a long-term basis if the company manages a significantly large number of properties.
This can be especially problematic if those properties have special/unique circumstances. In cases like this, the portfolio model offers clients more individualized attention.
How to Implement a Portfolio Structure:
1. Create a detailed employee onboarding process for all staff inclusive of their job requirements, the company’s policies, history and values.
2. Cross-train staff to ensure that each of your employees would be able to expertly manage all aspects of property management.
3. Make sure all property managers have the resources and contacts they need to be able to coordinate tasks with vendors, etc.
4. Routinely monitor staff to ensure clients are receiving a high quality of service and good communication with their property manager.
Advantages of the Portfolio Structure:
Landlords can discuss their concerns directly with the person managing their property.
Generally, clients receive a greater level of care as the property manager associated with their portfolio would be very familiar with their needs.
Facilitates a more efficient and systematic process as properties are assigned to individuals.
Provides the opportunity for clients to trust their property manager, and by extension the associated property management company.
Increases the level of accountability as property managers are fully responsible for their assigned property. Therefore, individuals cannot try to shift responsibility to someone else.
Disadvantages of the Portfolio Structure:
Landlords only have one person to discuss their property related issues. If their property manager is ill or out of office, response time might be slower.
A property manager might not necessarily be a "jack of all trades". In other words, they might be experts in some property management related areas, but not all. However, with this model, an individual is expected to execute and/or facilitate all property-related tasks. This could lead to their quality of work being subpar. And low-quality work could negatively affect the company's reputation.
A property manager who is responsible for a myriad of tasks and a heavy workload may experience burnout.
An organizational chart should be prepared for situations in which the property manager is not in office. Additionally, the company should also use property management software so that other property managers could keep abreast of any issues with properties that are not assigned to them if needed.
Ensure that property managers have been properly trained and experienced to handle all issues associated with the property assigned to them. Consider putting any property managers through education programs to become certified or designated in the industry to expand knowledge and skills.
Create a work culture that motivates rather than frustrates staff. Employers can motivate staff by rewarding them for outstanding performance, sharing successes with the team and allowing flexible work schedules.
"Hybrid" Organization Structure
A business can also choose to blend the departmental and portfolio model. In this light, a company selects characteristics from both structures that best suits their business needs.
For instance, a property management company could either outsource or have an assistant that does all the tasks related to handling prospective tenants.
In other words, these tasks can start from marketing the property and screening tenants all the way up to collecting the deposit and first month’s rent. While the property manager facilitates maintenance and repairs, maintains financial records, handles all landlord and tenant queries and any other property-related issues that may occur.
In this light, the property manager is still providing landlords and tenants with individualized attention by handling all tasks associated with the property (like the portfolio model). However, someone is still assisting with some tasks (similar to the departmental model).
In conclusion, the best structure for your property management company is dependent on your location, team, clientele, type of properties and other factors specific to your business.
This article, along with those factors, should assist you in the decision making process for selecting the best structure.
Constructing an effective and suitable framework not only allows you to focus on your company’s issues but it provides you the opportunity to solve many problems that you might not have tried to resolve otherwise.
By hiring the right people for your company and providing the necessary training and resources, you would empower your team. Satisfied workers lead to increases in operational efficiency, provide better tenant and landlord experiences, and helps your company be ready to focus on growth and sales.
If you need any help with growing your property management company and being found online by property owners, contact us today at Goodjuju for a free analysis!