Is there any recent achievement you are proud of?
I would have to say that over the last couple years, our biggest achievement as a company is how we’ve dealt with COVID-19. I was a part of our executive team that helped steer our company to successfully weather that particular storm. It required us to think beyond ourselves and ask a critical question – how do our clients need us to deal with new problems due to COVID?
At the same time, making sure our staff was protected and cared for was probably the biggest thing we did as a company. We made sure everyone was able to work remotely safely. We took on projects that required a global response – for example, how our buildings would properly market themselves during COVID, the signage, working with our vendors and making sure they were protected, too, monitoring service levels, making sure the properties were clean, and finally, making sure all that was communicated on a frequent basis to our clients.
It wasn’t just one thing we did, I would say it’s a combination of initiatives. For instance, I helped our company think through how to best market our services as property managers who care, who are concerned, and who are on top of all the daily changes around COVID safety and response. Plus, we didn’t lose a single employee or a single account during this time.
Do you mind sharing some tips and tricks, how exactly you managed to achieve this?
One of the things that comes to mind is we communicated with our clients on a weekly basis. We kept everybody in the loop and provided updates on rents we collected each week, issues we encountered, and other relevant topics related to our client experience. This wasn’t easy – when you have to provide email updates on a weekly basis to 150-ish clients, that’s a lot of communication.
But that was probably one of the most significant things that our clients appreciated. It took a lot of time and we had to develop a task force that helped us put all the relevant information in for our correspondence(such as special reports from accounting, COVID-19 rules, etc.) and then get these emails out on a certain day of the week. We had to create an email schedule, templates, calendar, and adhere to it. It was a huge endeavor – and a critical piece to our success.
What sets NAI Elliott apart? Any best practices you could share with the property management community?
I would say it really comes down to two qualities – adaptability and collaboration.
What’s really unique about us is that while we are part of the NAI Global community, we also like to call ourselves boutique in the way that we are willing and able to adapt to our clients. I find that to be one of our great strengths is that we are still locally owned and still able to say, “yeah, we’ll change this and do it your way.” So, we have NAI Global resources, but we can also be nimble like the local, independently owned company that we are.
Collaborative team setup
We work in a highly collaborative team environment here, which is not the norm in the property management industry. A lot of times it’ll just be one property manager dealing with their portfolio buildings independently, but here at NAI Elliott, we have a team concept that we put a lot of energy into.
Here’s how it works: Each property is managed by a team – a manager, an assistant manager, and an accountant – assigned to that property. They handle the day-to-day business at that property, and that team is further supported by an outer ring of specialists – construction management, brokerage, lease administration, and asset managers.
This way, we have a core team – the three individuals who work directly with the property – and an outer ring of support for them. That’s why we are so collaborative – because this outer ring of support does things that allow the property team to focus on daily operations.
It’s unusual that we do that – and this is what makes us successful. What’s great about it is that our clients know that not only do they have the day to day taken care of, but also that day-to-day has a cushion which they can rely on for things that might be a little more strategic and require more expertise.
What makes a PM a “rising star”? How does one get noticed and distinguish herself in that way?
There are a lot of qualities and skills I can think of, but here are some of the most important ones.
Prioritize, delegate, and communicate – especially during a crisis.
The hard skills in property management itself can be taught, but the ability to clearly see what is urgent and important and what’s important but not urgent is the key success factor.
I recommend using the Eisenhower Decision matrix (AKA Urgent-Important matrix) to master the time management skills and develop a prioritization mindset.
Be a generalist.
As property managers, we have to know a little bit about a lot of things – the facilities, the systems, tenant relations, how tenants’ businesses work, building materials, thickness of asphalt, what paint to use on a brick building versus a wood building – the list goes on. We need to be familiar with all these things, and while we are not required to be experts in any of them, we do need to know what questions to ask in order to get the information we need.
That said, it helps to choose an area of interest and go deeper. Some people have more strength in the accounting area or in the facilities area – and some are really good at talking with tenants. One of the strengths of NAI Elliott is that we can adapt the success of the team based on each individual’s strength. We might have a team where an assistant does more tenant communication or another team where an assistant does more management reporting. We really try to identify the individual strengths so that the team can be successful.
Focus on building relationships early on
Leadership is 100% about relationships. You deal with different people, skill sets, and interests. You must be a good listener, communicate well, and gain trust. A property manager really has a lot of power and can control a tenant’s success. If you nurture relationships and use that power for good, there’s no stopping you.
Build the relationship, build the trust. That’s one of the things my mentor, Lou Elliott, NAI Elliott’s CEO, is so good at. He’ll enter a room and everyone just knows – here’s the person you can trust and what he’s telling you is in your best interest.
If someone wants to grow in this industry, they need to become that person. It’s about giving that aura of “that’s a person I want on my team.”