Keys to Managing the Manager

Once you have selected your property management company, you just sit back and let them manage your property, right? Wrong! Managing the manager takes planning and work, it is not an easy task but applying these guidelines and building systems to hold them accountable will go a long way when getting the property to operate efficiently and in executing your business plan.

1. Trust but verify

• A great example for this is when a unit is being renovated. Let’s say you have a unit that you’ve been told is “complete” but really there is still a few more touch up items left to do and it won’t actually be rent ready for two to three days. To the property management company this is not a big deal as it’s just a couple of days. But for the owner who is trying to identify the bottlenecks and how long each part of the process is taking, it could result in you looking into or being concerned about the wrong thing. You may think it’s taking too long to lease up when in reality the rehab just took longer than you were told. Part of the job of an asset manager is identifying bottlenecks and finding a solution to those bottlenecks. If you don’t verify, it’s tough to identify the right issues.

• Let’s look at another example. Visibility of signage is a key component to driving traffic to your property. In the evenings, it’s crucial that there is ample lighting throughout the property but also on the signage that is advertising your property. Most of the time, the staff is only on the property during daylight hours. It is not often they would be able to identify any issues with the lighting and may just assume it works if there are no complaints. It’s important to verify that your signage is visible and well lit. Again, you may think that the signage is just not working when in fact it could be the lighting that is your issue.

2. Push back and be in control

• This is your property, not the property management company’s. They are there to support you and execute your business plan. Do not be afraid to push back and be in control. Yes, they are the experienced experts, but they do not always have the right answers and are often stuck in their ways. If you want to see things done differently then you need to communicate that and guide them through the process and your expectations.

3. Things must be measurable and traceable

• If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. For example, if your leads for future tenants are down and you ask your property management company what they are going to do to drive more leads. “We will start marketing more” is not measurable, traceable or an acceptable answer. An acceptable answer and one that is both measurable and traceable is, “We will market on these 3 platforms, it will cost this much money and we will provide a report weekly that tracks the results so we can see which platform is performing the best and what your cost per lead and conversion is.” Again, if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. Your systems must be ones that allow you take make educated decisions.

4. Document all calls/meetings

• This is self-explanatory. Things get forgotten or slip through the cracks very easily, documenting conversations allows you to go back and keep track of things that need to get done and holds the property manager accountable. This goes back to things being traceable, you always want the ability to go back and look at past conversations and performance.

5. Be proactive, not reactive 

• If you are a syndicator, you are managing other people’s money, which means you better not be waiting for something to go wrong. You should instead be putting systems in place in advance to always reduce or eliminate risk. Do not wait for the property manager to be proactive or tell you when something is not right, most managers are very reactive. This is another way to separate yourself from your competition as it is natural to be reactive. Try to see and question things before they go wrong. Managing apartments is all about who puts out the most fires most efficiently and who reduces the amount of fires they have; you do this by being proactive.

6. Do not relax or become complacent

• Even when your property performs ahead of budget for a given month or better than expected, does not mean there are not opportunities to improve. You should always drill down, peel back the onion a layer further and be proactive even when things seemingly are going well. Just like they say, “Always be Closing,” you should also “Always be Improving.”

“ What gets measured gets done“

Peter Drucker