The Challenge for Regional Property Management Businesses? Making it a Career
What’s the key to avoiding a constant churn and turnover of regional property managers?
According to one Property Management company in Bundaberg, Queensland, the key is making it a viable career for your staff.
Intro: The Perfect Storm
5 years ago, Ainsley Driver, who runs McGrath Real Estate in Bundaberg, faced a massive staffing problem (a constant challenge for regional property management companies).
He needed to replace 4 staff members out of his small team at once. Staff burnout, maternity leave, and people relocating to the ‘big smoke’ had all aligned and created a perfect storm.
Ainsley knew this was a defining moment – and knew that “business as usual” wasn’t going to solve the problem.
He didn’t want to kick the can down the road anymore. He was sick of the can.
But what Ainsley was facing was not only a challenge for regional property management businesses such as his but part of a wider problem facing our regions.
A Wider Problem
Much has been made of how factors such as the Covid-19 lockdowns and the rising cost of living are causing more and more Australians to move to regional areas.
There is evidence to support this, with the Quarterly migration flows to regional areas averaging around 15 per cent higher in the past 12 months compared with the two years prior to the pandemic.
But despite this recent trend, experts warn not to expect a stark reversal of the decades-long trend of people leaving the regions for the big coastal cities.
Businesses in regional Australia are still struggling with recruitment and retaining staff.
Young people, in particular, are likely to leave the regions in droves; of the 180,000 who left between 2011-2016 for big cities, only 30% eventually returned to the regions.
The government has attempted to alleviate the regional skills shortage with the skilled-migrant visa policy designed to address the shortage of skilled workers in parts of the country desperate for workers.
However, that policy has not been an unqualified success, with recent studies have shown that the 60% of skilled migrants will leave the regions after 5 years.
A Defining Moment
Back to Ainsley’s perfect storm, replacing 4 staff at once. He gathered the remainder of his team and made a proposal.
He could either re-hire 4 new staff members and expect to be in the same situation in 6 months, OR he could partner with STAFFLINK to radically re-structure his business.
He wanted their buy-in to any decision he made.
He told them, “we can just re-employ and expect the same result again, or we can look at a new way of doing things. Is everybody up for it? Yes, it’s going to mean some changes.”
To help convince them, he flew his team down to another STAFFLINK-partnered real estate agency to witness first-hand what Ainsley hoped to achieve in his business.
He gave clear instructions to his staff. “Go and ask any questions you want and just talk to them and go ‘was it a better experience?'”
“I think that was key to getting the team on board. That made a huge difference.”
A Business Turned Around
Five years later, the initial investment Ainsley made to get his team on board paid dividends.
His business is now far more profitable than it was before. His wages-to-turnover ratio has dropped by a massive 20%, from sitting at around 60% to around 40% of turnover.
But crucially, he has also made the jobs and workload of his staff far more manageable.
“Really quickly, we actually discovered that it made a huge difference to the property managers’ workload. It started to make it fun. It started to turn it into a career because they weren’t coming back to 150 emails after they’d done X amount of inspections.”
“I actually found that they started spending more time on the things that they enjoyed, and they focused on relationships. It definitely revolutionised the way we do things.”
“Most of our PM’s now look at property management as a career. They’re also the top earners in our area. The other guys don’t even earn close to what our guys earn.”