Scott Parks, CEO and Founder of Parks Property Management, shares with us about having a PM company. How he does that with having Cystic Fibrosis and how he thrives. His transparency and positive attitude are uplifting. This is one spotlight you won't want to miss.
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Anne Lackey: Hi, I'm Anne Lackey, co-founder of HireSmartVAs, and I'm here today with Scott Parks. Scott is the CEO and founder of Parks Property Management and Parks Properties. And he is kind of self-described as a jack of all trades, and he does just about everything, from speaking to residents and assisting for the re-models of the rental. He's been in the real estate business for about 20 years, and he's been a realtor as well. And one of the things I love about Scott, and you're going to see this in our conversation today is his transparency. He's very unique, in that he has a genetic disorder called Cystic Fibrosis. We're going to talk a little bit about that and how that has affected his property management business and all of that. But he has a beautiful wife and an energetic son and he has three dogs, of course I have two dogs, I love that, I love our furry, four-legged animals, and he has what he calls an obscenely large fish tank. And so the interesting thing I love about working with Scott and as I've gotten to know him over time, again is just kind of his love of life, and how he really seems to care. And so Scott, welcome to the show today, I appreciate you being here.
Scott Parks: Yeah, thanks for having me, I appreciate it.
Anne Lackey: It's my pleasure. So kind of tell us a little bit about the history of you and Parks Property Management, and just kind of give us a little bit of an insight into your business.
Scott Parks: Yeah. Well, I want to start off talking about having that genetic disorder called Cystic Fibrosis. I was growing up with it all my life, it's genetic obviously. So I always knew that I was going to have a difficult time as an adult. So, at an early age I've always looked for businesses to be able to be flexible, and be able to take lots of time off if I need to for medical treatments. I knew my lifespan was going to be possibly much shorter than most. Luckily the average age is now, I think 42, and so I'm 37. I am currently listed for a double-lung transplant, and you'll notice my speaking, I'm much more labored. You're going to hear me probably cough a lot, it's just kind of what I have to go through each day. Getting involved in real estate young was really great because it gave me that flexibility, provided that great income and I've always been upfront with my clients to know that what I have and my challenges and my clients have been really welcoming with open arms with having that, and that's why I love the real estate industry. Going from real estate in my early years, to not being able to really do too much real estate now, and be able to move over into the property management. Been able to really be able to have that sustainable income growth, and be able to really see, "Wow, what an amazing business this is" because I can still have real estate sales as kind of like the frosting on the cake. And then I have my property management revenue and being able to leverage Anne and her team for bringing on a virtual assistant has just been really a stress reliever. I've been trying to bring people on myself locally and I don't do it well, it's not what I do. So that's been really great and I appreciate Anne for introducing me to our first VA and we're going to have much more in the future.
Anne Lackey: Well, I love to hear that. Obviously that's what I'm all about, I love helping business owners get the life they want, whatever that is. Again, some of my clients it's to grow faster, some of my clients it's to have more time, which is why I did it, to have more time with my family, which now is kind of put into now this new business, which we do together. My husband and I do everything together, so it's a lot of fun. But I remember early on and in our relationship we were scheduled for a meeting or interviews and I think you told me, "Hey, I got the call." And it was a call for what we, you had already done I think a dry run, right?
Scott Parks: Mm-hmm.
Anne Lackey: And this was a possible donation. And I remember praying for you and keeping my fingers crossed. I don't think that happened if my memory serves me well. But I mean what an interesting and spiritual thing for me to be a part of in your life just because I was touched just for that little bit of time where we were trying to find the right person to hire. And I got to experience and kind of walk with you a little bit on that journey. Clearly not fully, but I love the fact that you, again you're very open in helping me understand kind of what you were experiencing and that whole process and so thank you for being so transparent enough. So let's talk a little bit about your company, so you obviously have this sales side and you have the property management side, but they are two separate brokerage firms, correct?
Scott Parks: Well it's all under one umbrella. They're in the middle of being split into two. So we were, since 2011 Parks Properties and kind of doing both. Recently we've decided to split the two off into one Parks Properties it's just sales and now that management's a little bit larger, it has a different growth path, it's going to have a different team and that's going to be a separate entity.
Anne Lackey: So how many doors do you manage on the property management side? Because I think most of our clients are in that property management realm primarily. Certainly some also have sales teams but kind of share with us how many doors do you manage right now?
Scott Parks: So when we first started, we were closer to that 80 range and really looking at a lot of industries, large companies, we've decided to change our pricing structure and really get rid of those clients that are more headaches. So we've cut 20 doors, so we're closer to the 60 range now, mid 60s to low 60s and our income's dropped, but it's okay, it'll go back up when we start adding more doors on this new model. We've had a lot of challenges this year with just the changes on company corporate structuring, restructuring, bringing on the right team members. We haven't been able to grow as much as we've liked this year. And that's okay, we must figure that 2019 is going to be a year of change and preparation for a great 2020 growth.
Anne Lackey: That's great. So how many people do you have in office other than yourself? And of course we know you have a virtual team member as well, but share with me how are you structured?
Scott Parks: So we have two other sales agents and one of them also does all of our business development and he also does all of our move-in, move-out inspections and our biannual maintenance inspections.
Anne Lackey: So he's kind of utility player all-in-one?
Scott Parks: Yeah, yeah.
Anne Lackey: Okay. So when you and I first met and you were considering hiring virtual staff, what was the thing that kind of prompted you to go in that direction? I mean I know you said you had tried to hire locally and it wasn't working, but what made you think about the leap from in-house back to virtual?
Scott Parks: I think it was trying to find somebody that we could afford. Really it's that affordability and I didn't even really know that a HireSmart virtual outsourcing is out there. I mean I've used outsourcing for graphic design really since the mid-2000s.
Anne Lackey: Project-based, yeah. A lot of people are more familiar with that.
Scott Parks: Yeah, for websites and postcard development and things like that. I figured there is probably stuff out there for administration and you hear them when you talk to people, custom those supports. I just didn't know how that can be quantified in the management space.
Anne Lackey: Sure. Well the reason I want to do these Company Spotlight's though is to share with people kind of the success that our clients have had. And I have clients that are very big and I have clients that are very small and kind of everything in between. And I think that there's always this fear whenever you have a virtual team member. For you, what was the biggest fear that you had to overcome in order to move forward?
Scott Parks: I didn't really have a lot of fear to be honest. I like to try new things, I like to see how they can be a helping arm in the business. I think the biggest thing was the communication lines with having somebody overseas and whether or not my clients or investors, how they were going to react to that or tenants. And I'm going to tell you that was probably the biggest hurdle, and owners and residents don't even know she's in The Philippines, they don't.
Anne Lackey: I know, it's so funny to me, but I mean I get it. I remember back five years ago when I was first introduced and I thought, "I'm not so sure how people would react", and I can honestly say that whether it be mine or any of my clients I have never, and I do mean never had anybody say that there was a problem in understanding them or there was a problem in communication or that anybody was upset by talking to their virtual staff, I've just never had that. I hope it doesn't ever happen, I guess at some point it might. But yeah, I think people are just always a little nervous about that because they are used to outsourcing in other countries where it is very, very different. The language is different, the personalities are different, the level of service is different and so it kind of creates this fear, legitimately so, of how all of that's going to work. So tell people if you don't mind, what does Marie do for you? Because Marie's your virtual assistant, she's your team member. So tell us a little bit about, what are some of the tasks that she does for you?
Scott Parks: So she does all of our maintenance stuff. So all the maintenance inquiries that come in from our residents. She's going to, and it's a learning process, because you don't become a property manager overnight, it takes years to understand that flow. And I will say she has picked it up probably better than I have to tell you honestly. And her retention has been amazing, of her knowledge. So she takes an inquiry that through AppFolio she'll find out, I just need to educate her a little better about, and she's new, she's only been with us for 60 days, approaching 90 days. So it's finding out where that maintenance needs to be placed. Finding out, do a little bit more diagnostics with the tenants directly and then to place it with the vendors and then following up with those vendors and make sure that they're getting scheduled. Following up with the invoices for those completed works, making sure that the job was done in a timely manner, she pulls all of our renewals. So anytime we have, we have a kind of a workflow right now. So we have 10 to 15 different tasks for renewals, social process, probably I think eight or nine of those tasks from pulling comps, and we've kind of gone over trainings on how to utilize some of our tools to pull comps. And then it goes over to me because the next stage is talking with the owners, that's a licensed activity here in California. Any lease negotiation goes through us with the tenants. But then she processes the renewal on AppFolio and that is really a licensed activity, but she does all the data entry and then I do the final execution. Once tenants review it and sign it, then I go through and make sure everything's checks and balances and I click sign.
Anne Lackey: And it's so simple too because I do the same thing. So I mean pulling all the data of all the CMAs, I don't need to do that, right? I just need to look at the data and make the interpretation of the data in the same way with the leases. So we run exactly the same way because again, a lot of times people just go, "Well, what can a virtual assistant do?" And I say, "Well anything that an unlicensed person can do in your state that doesn't require boots on the ground." So if it can be done with a computer and a phone and it's an unlicensed activity, which in my area is called ministerial acts, a virtual assistant is usually a good person to do those types of things. And like you said, it's hard to find people that want to work, hard to find people that are cheery that show up. One of the things I do want to talk about is maintenance coordination I think in property management is in fact the absolute hardest role that we have. Because literally nobody's happy. The tenant's not happy because something's broken, the owner's not happy because they have to actually pay to have something repaired, there's a time gap, the vendors sometimes drop the ball. Knowing how to, like you said, ask those diagnostic questions, even if you've got a checklist, which we help our clients with that checklist and kind of go through that with the virtual assistants as part of our training. The reality is sometimes things only come up once every three or four months and it's hard to remember. So I talk about this all the time and again to me it's not a virtual versus in-house thing, it's just understanding kind of just the dynamics of what we do and the reason I love our business is because it's never the same day twice, right? I mean there's always some crisis and something that needs to be addressed and something that's moving or changing. And I don't care whether you have 60 doors or 600 doors, it's all the same kind of interesting chaos. It's just a little bit on a bigger scale when you have more doors. So kind of tell our listeners a little bit about what was your biggest "a-ha" moment after Marie and you started working together? What was kind of when you went, "Wow, I didn't realize this. I thought it might be this, but I wasn't sure. And now, wow, that's amazing."?
Scott Parks: I think her intellectual, just knowledge just like her ... We have a hard time realizing that people overseas, they're really smart. And they can do a lot of stuff we had, sometimes even better. I had a property manager who wanted to go back, who's the person who does our inspections because I can't physically do them, I need somebody here to do them, so he's transitioning into sales in doing that inspection for me. She has learned what he was doing, it took him two and a half years. And she's picked it up so quickly and when I had, I did maybe three or four different comps on a renewal with her and then I asked her to do the next three that we had. Because we have all of our leases expiring in March through end of September. We don't allow our leases to go expire those four months in the winter months. So we have a lot of work during those months. So we had a lot of lease renewals and I had to go through them and the next few she nailed it, she nailed those comp reviews. So my confidence in her to be able to do that, that's a really analytical thing to do and she nailed it. She was able to realize that comps, and their sitting on Zillow for 30 plus days, those aren't really, they're overpriced in our area because things go really fast. If for her to be able to realize that, don't put a heavier weight on that, what that one's listed for and adjust, I think that was the biggest "a-ha".
Anne Lackey: So it's so interesting to me because that all goes back to my screening, right? I mean part of what I do to give you guys some great people is in the testing process and our 10-point hiring process. Because yes there are people overseas that are amazing, but there are also people that are not so amazing. And one of the things that our clients get the advantage of is I'm a very process-oriented person. I like to not let emotion come into hiring. I like to look at, just like with my tenants, I have a tenant scoring system. When they apply, they go through a scoring system. It's black or white, there's very little interpretation as to whether someone is qualified to rent or not. I do the same thing up in the hiring process for us. And one of the first things that we do is, I mean we work with a company called Criteria, which is if you ever didn't know anything about the employee testing software, they're one of the highest rated testing application platforms that are out there. And so we had to kind of go through a metrics of score. And so the first thing we do is we test people's basic math and English skills. And the score that we require for HireSmart is higher than what a U.S. property manager's score would be. Because there's a range and the range is this to this, and we slide that range over. So I love the fact that you've recognized that our people are smart and that's why we call it HireSmart, right? I mean that's part of the reason that we did that, because not only do we have smart VA's, but we have a smart process. All of that is kind of embedded in them, but also the Filipinos generally have four year degrees or more. When I looked at where should we go to find talent? Because again I mean there's Mexico, there's The Philippines, there's India, there's Russia, I mean there's China, there's all kinds of places where you can get outsourced labor. But once I started doing the research and realize kind of the best blend, kind of the super sauce for all of that, great English, education's highly represented. We could do a criminal background check, some of the countries you can't do criminal background checks. Well that was a deal breaker for me, right? The fact that we had people that cared and wanted to show up and all of that came out of The Philippines. And even though people have success in other places, when I did the testing, they score far superior than anybody else that I had as the overall score. So I love the fact that you recognize that. And then of course we also vet our candidates afterwards, so we make sure that, so we do CMAs as part of our certification process, we do lease renewals as part of our property management groups, all of those things. So even though they may not be done exactly the way you do it, they understand the thought process behind it. And I think that that certainly shortens that learning curve quite a bit to help. So how, on a scale from kind of zero, meaning it was outrageously hard to 10 it was super simple, how would you rate working with HireSmart in the whole process from order to delivery to ongoing support? Where would you put that on the scale?
Scott Parks: I don't think you could have made it easier to be honest.
Anne Lackey: Okay. So super simple, so probably a 10?
Scott Parks: Yeah, it was, unless you knew what my brain was doing, I don't know what would've made it easier.
Anne Lackey: So it was a good match, right? We got you some good candidates for the interview, felt comfortable with your decision.
Scott Parks: Yeah, I mean we had to do that second round of interviews, which I hear from you that it's unusual after we hire somebody that they back out after that week of training. But that second round of interviews, I had a really hard time deciding between two candidates. And if I had an extra, if I wasn't going through the corporate restructuring this year and I had some good growth, I would have taken both of my top two picks. And you ended up taking her because I found out.
Anne Lackey: I did.
Scott Parks: And when I talked to her recently, I actually said, "Dang it, I was going to go back to Anne and say, Hey, is she still available probably at the beginning of 2020?"
Anne Lackey: Yeah. Nope, she's not available. And yes I did scoop her up. And then part of the reason I scooped her up is I liked her answers to what you, and I actually think honestly, she's probably a better fit for my role than she would have been for yours anyway. So he's talking about Daphne, who's our client relationship manager that probably everybody has met at this point, and Daphne is amazing at loving people. And whether it be our VA's and making sure that they're happy to loving our clients and making sure they get whatever challenges that are resolved if I'm not available or getting me if it's something I need to do. And I think, surely she would have been great for you as far as doing the job and she would've done it well. But I think now that I know her, I think everything happens for a reason and I think you got who you were supposed to get and I picked her up because of the way she had interacted with you. And so she's in a role that is very dynamic, which I love.
Scott Parks: And I think it really does speak to your screening.
Anne Lackey: Thank you.
Scott Parks: Because the fact that I had a super hard time deciding between the two, they we're both super nervous obviously, I was nervous, everybody's nervous on this.
Anne Lackey: I know. I have told everybody take a deep breath.
Scott Parks: Yeah. But I think this really speaks to your screening.
Anne Lackey: Thank you for that. So what's the one piece of advice that you would give somebody who's thinking about using HireSmart? If you could tell yourself even what you know now back then, what would you tell yourself or what would you tell somebody else to help them make the decision?
Scott Parks: I think that if it just has been on your mind at all, just go for it. Trust the process, trust HireSmart and the team. Even if you don't have 40 hours worth of work together, it's going to release you from your activities to be able to maybe just hang out with your family more.
Anne Lackey: Yeah. It's so freeing, isn't it? When you know that the work's still getting done, people are still cared for, that's the biggest part for me is I want my tenants or my owners or whoever's trying to reach us to get a live person, to get somebody that can help them, even if they can't give the answer. Because sometimes I have to be involved or my boots on the ground person needs to be involved with this just to be able to have a warm body that says, "I listened to you, You're not having to leave a message in no man's land." Because I think really that's going to be one of the things that the branch us from other people, we actually want to talk to people. We actually don't mind having somebody that loves dancing around. Now if I have to answer the phone, it's not going to answer. I don't want to talk to you, but Bonnie loves that and that's important that I have somebody in that role. And I also think that that's going to change the way that people look at property management. We've kind of gone, the pendulum is swung so far to technology and so away from people that I think that that's going to come back the other way and help us grow a lot faster in the future.
Scott Parks: Mm-hmm, yeah.
Anne Lackey: So it has been my pleasure to talk with you. What other final thoughts or what other things would you want to share with our people or our listeners?
Scott Parks: Oh, that's a good one. I guess the biggest thing is that, making the decision to hire a virtual assistant. If it doesn't work out for some reason, it's not like you hired an $80,000 person that sits in your office. The risk is pretty low I think, and the reward could be humongous.
Anne Lackey: Well that actually brings up a good point is that because we're using a staffing company, they're never construed as our employees, so there's never any tax consequences, employee issues, right? And I know in some of the states some of them may have to buy insurance for employees and all these other regulations which when you're using a staffing company, regardless of whether it's here in the U.S. or whether it's in The Philippines, it doesn't really matter, the precedence is there that they are not employees, but the beautiful thing about what we do is they're just like employees. They show up when we need them to show up everyday at 8:30, they work their eight and a half hour shifts, five consecutive days. We direct them, we can do all the things that you can do with an employee.
Scott Parks: And I think that the hardest thing, when I was first looking for help a couple of years ago was I'm going to train with this person to do all this work. And then they're, because we're in California running this, they see the money and then they go out and want to do their own thing or they want to switch and be a real estate agent because they know they can make $100 to $200,000, walking in the park. That's what I was afraid of. That really fixes my ... hiring people overseas that are competent, that can do stuff. And it allows me to really then pay somebody really good money to maybe be property manager and they can manage then 150 units, no problem. If they have support staff and that's going to keep them from wanting to leave.
Anne Lackey: And burnout. Yeah, absolutely. I mean I remember when we, before we got started, I mean even I had phone duty on the weekends, because again I thought it was really important that we have weekend showings and that we do all that stuff. So all of us took a turn and that doesn't happen anymore. My phones are answered seven days a week, we have a live person touching them, following them, doing all the things that you would want a manager to do. But my staff in-house, my U.S. people don't ever have to do that. And that was a big gift and a big blessing for my team. And it means that again, the money I am saving, I can bonus, I can use that towards other things. Certainly we've increased our profitability as well, but it wasn't so much about that, it was about the customer experience, it was about taking care of my U.S. employees while also taking care of my Filipino workers. So that's a great add, thank you so much for that Scott. Well listen, it has been my pleasure to spend this time with you. I so appreciate you being here and being a part of our Company Spotlight, and if you want to get in touch with Scott, his details will be down below as well as on the Splash page here in just a few minutes. So thank you so much for joining us and have a great rest of your day.
Scott Parks: Great. Bye.
Join us as we talk with Bess of McCreary Realty about how she navigates running a 4th generation property management company, handles being diagnosed with thyroid cancer all while maintaining her positive attitude.
Want to know how to hire your virtual staff member? Feel free to book an appointment with today so I can help you strategize all throughout the process!
Anne Lackey: Welcome to the show. My name is Anne Lackey. I'm the co-founder of Hire Smart VAs. And today I have a fabulous guests. I'm so excited to have Bess McCreary Wozniak, that's always hard for me to say. Did I say it right Beth?
Beth M. W.: You were very close. Wozniak.
Anne Lackey: Wozniak. All right, so one of the most interesting and exciting things to talk about with Beth today is she is a fourth generation property manager. She's worked in the family business for a long time. She started as an administrative assistant in 2010 and kind of worked her way up to her current position, which is Vice President and Associate Broker at McCreary Property Management, right?
Beth M. W.: McCreary Realty Management.
Anne Lackey: Realty Management, I wasn't sure about that. She is a Vice President at McCreary Realty Management. And Beth has kind of an interesting background. I'm going to let her speak a little bit to that. I don't want to take all of her thunder away, but she has more credentials than you can count. She is an amazing person as well as a property manager. So Beth welcome to the show. Thank you so much for being here.
Beth M. W.: Thank you for having me.
Anne Lackey: So tell me what is it like to work in a fourth-generation business in general? I can't work with my family, of course I work with my husband, but I don't know that I could work with my whole family for that long. Share with me a little bit about the pluses and minuses of what that's been like.
Beth M. W.: So right now actually it is just me and my dad, Michael who are related. Everybody else in our business is just like family. But prior when I first started working kind of on and off in between my acting gigs, because that was my former career. So in-between acting gigs, I'd come back to Atlanta and I just work as an assistant here at the office. My aunt was still working at the office, so I was working with her as well. When my dad had joined the company, it was his grandfather, his four uncles, his mom, his dad, then his sister joined, and then later on his brother-in-law joined and it's just kind of been... and he's worked with cousins and stuff too. So I mean it's been an influx of family members. There for a while my sister worked with us as an administrative assistant when I moved into a property management role and and working with her was great. It's definitely a different dynamic and you have to have a certain personality. I think as you and Mark C. working together, you balance each other out and I think you definitely have to understand when we're at work, this is the type of relationship we have and when we're outside of work, this is the type of relationship we have. Now sometimes those lines do coincide, especially with me and my dad. I'll walk into his office and I'll say, "Okay, dad hat." Or I'll say, "President hat." I need to talk to you as my boss, I need to talk to you as my dad, whichever one it is. So we've definitely worked on balancing that as well.
Anne Lackey: So, okay, this is awesome. I love that. So everybody is still family-friendly though, right?
Beth M. W.: Yes, yes, absolutely.
Anne Lackey: Did you know for certain that was your legacy or that was what you were going to do or where you really thinking, I'm going to do this acting thing. I'm not going to be in the business? Share with me about your personal journey of making those decisions.
Beth M. W.: Yeah, so my dad was always great with us growing up. So I have an older brother and a younger sister and all three of us, he never pushed the family business on. And honestly, he never originally intended to be in it either. I don't know how many people really wake up and say, "I want to be a property manager when I grow up." You know? It's just not something that is glorified in any way as you're growing up when you're a kid, you want to be a policeman or a doctor or a firefighter or something... maybe just an astronaut, something that's going to get you notoriety in some way, shape or form. You don't realize that there are other careers that you can get notoriety in or be successful in, in a different way. So with me, I fell in love with acting, actually really fell in love with music when I was very young. Thought that that's where my path was going to go, was with singing and music performance. Then fell into acting in high school, got cast in a specific show, decided that's what I wanted to major in in college. So I went to college and I got my degree in theater and still continued singing and doing musicals and whatnot. But once I graduated from college, I fell into children's theater, that's where I started getting cast a lot was working with children and doing some directing, doing some education and still performing at the same time. There was one company I worked with where we actually directed and performed with the children, so that was a lot of fun. Like I said, in between those acting gigs, I would come home to Atlanta and my dad always had at least half days that he could give me just some work that he could-
Anne Lackey: There's always work to do.
Beth M. W.: Yes, there's always work to do. When my husband and I, we met in theater, working in one of our theaters, one of the theater companies we worked with in Ohio. When my husband and I had decided we wanted to settle down, have a family, we really thought long and hard about what that reality would look like if we continued acting, if we continued in theater where it's a little bit less of a sure thing as far as where your job is, how much you're going to be getting and how long that contract is because the contracts can be, because I had one contract that was only six weeks long. I had one contract that was nine months long. So it just depends on the company that you get with and what kind of work you're doing. Then we were at the time, long-distance too, he was in New York, I was in Atlanta. So we just kind of decided, I said, I actually like what I'm doing here at McCreary Realty and I think that I could be good at it. I think that my theater training and working with children can coincide with some of what we do here in property management.
Anne Lackey: Exactly.
Beth M. W.: Seeing new challenges and new things hit you in the face every day. So yeah, I mean, I talked to my dad about it. I said, "I want to give this a try." Just the more and more I worked in it and the more education I got within it, I got my license very shortly after he and I talked and then started getting started getting involved with NARPM and IREM and then also joined the Realtors Organization. So yeah, now I've gotten all my designations and it's been a lot of fun, actually, surprising.
Anne Lackey: I think improvisation is probably a skill most of us have that we just don't get paid for.
Beth M. W.: Yes, exactly. Exactly.
Anne Lackey: So I want to talk just a minute because your dad is an icon in the industry. I mean he's very well respected, been around a very long time. I mean truly he's a man that I admire and look up to even though I've been in the business 19 years myself. How is that, I won't say that you're under his shadow because I don't know, I think you truly have your own sunshine there. But I do think probably early in your career it was probably a little more challenging or difficult. Share with me a little bit about how that all worked and what he did to elevate you to be in the position that you are, because I do think that is part of it too. So it's you can see it alone but you have to have that support of somebody who's okay with letting you have some of that glory, right?
Beth M. W.: Absolutely. As you know, he's an educator in our industry and he is just a natural educator. That's originally what he was going to college for when he met my mom and was going for a degree in music education and didn't end up finishing that, but education has always been something he's been very about. So having him here in the office has just been wonderful because you know he's a wealth of knowledge. I wish I could just download his information on property management right to my brain. But one thing that he has always been a proponent of, because he's an educator, is continuing for any of his staff really, but definitely me in the position that I was moving towards, continuing my education, getting involved in the local organizations and making a name for myself within those organizations. Because there for a long time it was, "Oh, you're Michael McCreary's daughter." It was never, "Oh you're Beth." I didn't have my own identity there for three or four years maybe. That was okay. I'm very proud of my dad. It was hard in the day to day work here in our office because we'd have clients that would call and say, "Well no, I need to talk to your dad." And I'm like, "I'm not a child." You know?
Anne Lackey: It's hard though. I mean, interestingly enough, so most of you guys know I work with my husband Mark, and we're seen as the dynamic duo, like literally, if one of us shows up someplace without the other, they're like, where, where's... and I'm like, well, I'm here. I get that.
Beth M. W.: I still get that. I still, recently at the Southern States conference within two or three hours of us opening up registration, I had 15 questions of, "Where's your dad?"
Anne Lackey: But you do expect him to be at those kind of events. He’s iconic.
Beth M. W.: It's very common for him to be at them because usually, he's teaching, or he's leading a breakout session. But I would just say, "Well, I left him at home to run the business. Somebody's got to."
Anne Lackey: One of the things I love about both you and your dad is just your gentle spirit and you're always happy. I mean, I'm sure you're not always happy, but you certainly, you've had your challenges medically as well. I don't think that that's anything off-topic, hopefully not for you.
Beth M. W.: No, no.
Anne Lackey: So we watched you through some of that and I don't know if you want to talk about it or not, but I mean I think it's your positive attitude and both of you and your dad are just amazing to be around and that's why you all are infectious and I love it. So do you want to talk a little bit about that little bump in your road there and how you work that out?
Beth M. W.: Sure. Yeah, so it's actually been a long series of bumps because there for a while my husband and I were trying to get pregnant and struggled with that and had fertility issues that were all on my end as far as hormones. I'm not shy when it comes to talking about this stuff just because I think it needs to be talked about more. I think a lot of people's struggles and challenges don't get talked about enough and that's how we are able to relate to each other. That's how we're able to see each other all as human. So we struggled with that. We had a miscarriage with our first pregnancy and then I had to have a surgery in order for me to be able to carry a child at all. So had that surgery and now we have my son Declan. Yes, little spitfire and yes. But shortly after he was born, I noticed a very swollen lymph node on the side of my neck. I was like, "Well that's not right. Something's wrong there. I need to go to the doctor." You feel your lymph nodes and you can feel when they get a little swollen, but I saw this one, that's how swollen it was. So it took a lot of biopsies, there was a preliminary surgery that had a removal of some of the lymph nodes that were biopsied. Overall it took a year and eight months for them to diagnose and they finally found that it was thyroid cancer and that was February of 2018. So we're just a little over a year past now. I had to have surgery to remove my entire thyroid and they removed a total of 110 lymph nodes from the front and sides of my neck.
Anne Lackey: Wow.
Beth M. W.: I still have a bunch of lymph nodes. You have so many lymph nodes in your body, you have no idea.
Anne Lackey: That was a lot!
Beth M. W.: In the meantime I had been volunteering with both NARPM National and the local board here in Atlanta and working on Southern States Conference with Megan as the chair that year. I was doing marketing and I had to step back from my National Committee that I was on just because it was too much at that point. I had to be out of the office for two weeks for recovery from my surgery and then I had some periodic times where I had to be isolated for my radioactive iodine treatment. So that only three days each time I had to be isolated, but multiple doctor's appointments and whatnot and honestly... oh and I've had a scan and I am cancer free as of now.
Anne Lackey: Wow! So glad to hear that.
Beth M. W.: Yes. So I still have my doctor's appointments every three months and I will for the next four to five years. Then it'll be like every six months for a little while and then hopefully only yearly after that. But I've gone through a lot in my life prior that four to five year period of fertility and losing a child and surgery and then having a child and then cancer and all of that that went with that. I dealt with a lot personally when I was young. I think if I hadn't gone through what I went through when I was young, I think I would have struggled a little bit more in these last four to five years. But having a support system in my dad, I mean he's an amazing support system. My husband, my other immediate family that I have, my staff here, like I said, they're like family. Our bookkeeper, she's known me since I was six months old. Yeah, so I mean she is like another... she's like an aunt to me. Then we have other staff that have been here 12 years. So I've known them the whole time I've been working here as well. It was just like an extension of family to me. Then I've got a group of friends that are really close and it just all was very, very supportive. When I went to NARPM and said, "Hey guys, this is going on with me, I'm going to do my best to keep my word that I said I would be volunteering for these positions, but there will be times that I will not be able to do things." I also didn't know what this cancer story would look like for me either. I didn't know how the treatments would affect me. It's very different than chemo, which most cancer patients have to deal with this particular type of cancer. There wasn't a chemo treatment, it was this isolation and radioactive iodine. So I was radioactive for awhile. It actually didn't affect me too bad, I was pleasantly surprised and my doctors were very positive about everything too. So that really helped. I think just having the positive support system really, really helped me. I'm also just of the personality that's like life goes on and it doesn't stop because I had this thing happen to me, so I got to figure out how to pull up my bootstraps and keep going.
Anne Lackey: So you talked a lot about your staff and so I want to transition a little bit into this because you've been a client of mine for a little bit at this point and of course we've known each other for, I don't know, I don't even know when I first met you, I'm sure-
Beth M. W.: I know, yeah.
Anne Lackey: ... but we've known each other for at least a few years. So in the beginning, as it is with most of my clients, this virtual thing is very scary. Like I'm not sure that this is right for me. But you guys had a situation where it made sense at that point to at least experiment.
Beth M. W.: Yes, yeah.
Anne Lackey: Tell me a little bit about why you finally made the decision to try virtual staff and how has it been for you since you brought on board your virtual professionals?
Beth M. W.: So there were multiple different factors involved as you know. We were in a position where we lost yet another maintenance coordinator for multiple different reasons, we've gone through maintenance coordinators. It seems like we can't seem to hold onto one for more than two, maybe three years. So as a property manager, the maintenance is the bane of our existence and it's a tough position to fill. It's not a position that needs to be licensed within our company and the way we're structured and it's more administrative duties than it is, like I said, having to be licensed or any managerial type position. So I went to my dad and I said, "Hey, we, we need to come up with something fast. We're in our busy season, we need something and I don't have time to be both for an extended period of time. I just can't do that anymore with the way our office has been structured." I said, "We've got to figure something out." I said, "What would you think about using Hire Smart Virtual Assistants and having a virtual assistant, because that is something where it's not a team." We've used virtual assistants with another company in the past where it's a team of people that work overnight to do some administrative tasks. I said, "But this is one where we'll have somebody our hours and he or she will be designated to our team and to our office. They'll be a McCreary Realty management staff member at that point." I said, "So I think it's worth a try." We went with you and we hired Cathy after your vetting stuff, which was great. I mean, having just the three to interview and all three of them were great options and in the end we thought Cathy might be the best fit and so far everything has been working great with her. She's, gosh, she's like a go-getter. She's so eager to learn and always thankful, always thankful whenever we teach her a new thing because as you know, maintenance is a learning curve here in the States, let alone for somebody that doesn't live in the States and doesn't know how our houses even really look necessarily, let alone how they're built. So she actually sent a picture at one point through our chat system saying, "Is this a light bulb?" It was a picture of a light fixture. So she was like, "I've never seen one that looks like this." We said, we explained, "Oh no, that's the light fixture that goes around the bulb." We found some pictures that showed her how it looks and she was like, "Oh, that makes so much more sense. I've never seen anything like that." So it's stuff that we take for granted a little bit, but it's nice too because now I'm learning a little bit along with her too. I'm getting a little bit more in depth about how things work, how systems work within a home and then of course each home being very different as well. But yeah, it's been a really great thing for our office. I think one of the hardest things for us to adapt with it is that we do live answer our phones here. So not having that additional body here in our office has been a little bit different. But we have her phone set up so we're able to transfer phone calls to her for anybody that calls in for her as well. So that's really helpful. We're considering what we want to do when our front desk assistant, she's gotten her license and we're going to be moving her into a property management position. We're considering what we want to do with our office structure since Cathy has worked out so well, do we want to do another virtual assistant-
Anne Lackey: Yes!
Beth M. W.: Or... Yeah, right?
Anne Lackey: No, I'm just kidding.
Beth M. W.: Or do we want to do a virtual assistant and still have somebody in the office, that kind of thing. So we're going to actually be talking about that here in the next couple of months.
Anne Lackey: Well it's so interesting because you started on the maintenance side. I started on the leasing side for my business, and I can tell you I love the fact that our phone never rings. Bonnie takes them all. I don't have to worry about it, I don't hear it, it doesn't matter to me. Anyway, again, that's the one thing I love about virtual staff, you can craft it any way you want, whatever your personal pain point is or whatever your business problem is, you can fix that as long as it can be done with a computer and a phone. I know we need to wrap up here in a few minutes, but what was your biggest aha moment? You're like, "Wow, I didn't realize this when using virtual staff?" What was kind of your, "Whoa, wow, that's awesome?"
Beth M. W.: I think one of the biggest things for us is that we're getting more productivity than we had from a staff member, from any staff member in that position here in our office previously. As far as the followup with our vendors, so specifically obviously on the maintenance side. So I think that's one of the biggest things and now it's a little bit of a learning curve for our vendors. They're having to adapt to the way they've been working for some of our vendors 20 years because we've been working... we work with third party vendors and some of them we've been working with for 20 to 25 years. Some of them not quite as long, but still a long period of time. So they get used to one way of doing things and it can be hard to teach an old dog new tricks sometimes. So we're having to adapt. We also recently adopted a new maintenance coordination automation system. We did that before bringing on Cathy. So since she is virtual and they can't just come into our office and talk to a maintenance coordinator anymore, they are learning that they're having to go through that automation system, which we had been wanting them to do in the first place anyways, which is why we adopted it. So if anything, the aha moment has been, "Oh my gosh, we can actually do all this and have record of it now because it has to be that way because they don't have another choice." Then on top of it, the productivity, we're seeing faster turnaround times on all of our maintenance because Cathy's bugging the heck out of our vendors.
Anne Lackey: It's interesting, a lot of people say, well my virtual staff is so much more productive than anybody I've had and they don't realize that they're working in the middle of the night, there's no distraction. There is no water cooler, there is no excuse for stuff not getting done because they might as well work and move it along because it just makes their night go faster, their day or whatever. Kind of to wrap up, share with us if you had to give some words of wisdom to some people that are considering our services, because I think, my job also as an educator to share that this is an available platform for people. But a lot of people are nervous or scared and I remember what that's like. Honestly, I think back to five plus years ago, I think, man, how far I've come, but I can still remember that angst. What would you share to a colleague that is thinking about or considering it just to know? What would you tell them?
Beth M. W.: Yeah, there does have to be a little bit of prep involved as far as your systems and the way you do things. Just making sure that you know what you want them to do initially. For us with Cathy in particular, it's been, well with us, not really Cathy, it's totally us, but it's been, we do one thing and then we get her proficient on that and then we train her on another aspect of her job. So she's been getting eased into her position, which is I think nice for her too because there is so much education involved in the maintenance side. But gosh to a colleague that's nervous about it, I just say, just do it because good Lord, I was very nervous about it. Mostly what I was nervous about is not feeling prepared. I wasn't feeling prepared enough to train her properly. What if we were failing her and I didn't want to fail her, which she also felt I didn't want to fail McCreary. So I think we have found this symbiotic relationship where we can go back and forth and she asks the question and I'm like, "Ah, good training moment. Let's read on this." Or if something pops up that she problem solved, I jump in and I say, "Great problem-solving. This is a new thing that you've never done before and I think you handled it really well." Then I might, depending on what it is, obviously, I might offer guidance for something else, might offer guidance for something else to do in the future. But just do it because it's definitely been eye-opening as far as what we can accomplish in our business. Then it's also forced us to look at our systems and processes and find better ways.
Anne Lackey: I do think a virtual assistant for me specifically has made me a better business. I know what kind of job, I have a system, the system may need to be tweaked and whatever and other things that again, constantly evolving in our property management. But for me, having a virtual assistant allowed me to walk away.
Beth M. W.: Yeah.
Anne Lackey: I don't have to worry about my... and I tell people I only work two hours a week in the business as a broker. They go, "Huh?" It's because we built our business around these things and the systems weren't always perfect. That's the other thing that I tried to tell people. It's like, "Getting things done is better than perfect. Start someplace and let your VA come alongside you to help you with it. Because they'll tell you where you're weak." I mean, very, very easily they'll say, well, I don't understand, or I need help or they'll make a mistake.
Beth M. W.: Yeah.
Anne Lackey: so you just know, again training moment, I've got to fix that process.
Beth M. W.: Yep.
Anne Lackey: Well Beth thank you so much for being on with us today. I so just appreciate you as a person and as a colleague and certainly as a client, and I'm just appreciative of the time that you spent with us today. So if you guys want to get in touch with Beth, her contact information is at the end of this video and I look forward to you connecting with her. She's an amazing person, so thank you for your time today and have a great rest of your day.
Beth M. W.: Thank you.
In this episode, Jason Marcordes of Landmark Property Management, speaks with us about how he has been able to streamline his property management business by using virtual staff.
Embrace a huge change in your business and recreate the value of time while enjoying your business by hiring an excellent virtual employee with us today! Feel free to book an appointment with today so I can help you set up from start to a new start!
Anne: Good afternoon! My name is Anne Lackey. I'm the co-founder of HireSmartVAs, and welcome to the show. I'm so excited to introduce to you Jason Marcordes. He is with Landmark Property Management, and they specialize in residential single-family and multifamily rental properties in the Chicago area. And they have kind of a nice balance of in-house staff and remote workers.
And so, Jason, welcome to the show. We are so excited to have you. Why don't you tell us a little bit about how you got started in property management?
Jason Marcordes: Like you said, I'm based out of Chicago, born and raised in the south suburbs. So, while I was going to school, actually my uncle had a property management company, so I started through the family business and then kind of went off on my own, worked for a couple of different companies, a larger corporate background, and then just at some point realized that I wanted to do it for myself and try to do it better.
There was a lot out of things that I saw that were done really well and a lot of things that I saw that weren't. So I wanted to give it a shot for myself and started my own company. I was the only person. It was kind of a solo operation for a long time, up until about a year ago. And from then until now, we have a total of nine people, including myself and about 300 doors.
Anne: Well, that's great. So I want to kind of roll back a little bit. You had said that there were some things that you wanted to do differently as you learn. What would you say was the one thing that you took away from working for some others that you wanted to change in your property management business?
Jason Marcordes: So, I think the biggest thing was just treating the set like it was our own, and then the communication piece as well. I saw a lot of investors, they would be ... If they have questions or they're calling and they couldn't get to the bottom of things, they weren't always 100% sure of what was going on. So those were the two things. I'm an investor myself, so just treating it like it's my own investment, and then also, full transparency and communication with the investor.
Anne: Very good. So, I guess you're an investor yourself, correct?
Jason Marcordes: I am, yes.
Anne: Yeah. I think ... I am, too. I came out of Corporate America, got into rental real estate for my retirement because 401(k)s, pension plans, are way out the door. I saw the handwriting on the wall pretty early.
And interestingly enough, my dad thought I was absolutely crazy. He's like, "Why don't you go work for a big company and get a nice, big, fat pension?" I'm like, "Dad, they don't give pensions out anymore" He didn't believe me.
Now, 20 years later he's like, "Oh, okay. I guess you got out smartly. You did what you did." And then we started our property management company because there really wasn't anybody that understood how to run an investment company.
And that's what I look at. I look at myself as an asset manager running the business. Sounds like you do the same thing. So that's something that we have in common.
So, you started with us about nine months ago, right?
Jason Marcordes: Yeah, absolutely. I think January 4th was the first day.
Anne: The day that'll live in infamy, apparently. You actually remember the day, which is fantastic. Most people are like, "Yeah, I don't know. It's been a while."
Jason Marcordes: I looked it up. Yeah, it's been just over nine months.
Anne: So, let me ask you, because this is a question that we get all the time. So, we have a lot of people that are very nervous about kind of engaging with us or thinking about remote hires and things like that. What was kind of your, I call it "an aha moment" where you went, "Wow, this is the best thing I ever did and they can do so much more than what I originally thought"? Kind of share with us a little bit about your journey in that process.
Jason Marcordes: Sure. There's a couple of aha moments, the first being our interviews, really. I'd used VAs before on a couple different third-party websites, and it wasn't a good experience. I was pretty unsuccessful. So, when we had our pre-interviews, I was kind of blown away on the quality of candidates and I think all three had master's degrees. I believe so. But they were all incredibly intelligent, communicated really well, and had some great skillsets. So that was the first that really opened my eyes and kind of blew me away.
And then the second is really just our VA Glory. When we started working with her, we weren't 100% sure what she was capable of, so we'd give her a task and see how it went, give her another. Everything we threw at her, she'd just knock it down and she was ... She's incredibly thorough and she was just, like I said, just knocking everything down quickly, quicker than our in-house staff could do it. And we were just super impressed.
So, those are the two big ones. But we continue every ... Like I said, every time we throw something else her way, we always want to see how she's going to do and she always impresses us.
Anne: Well, thank you for that. I have a lot of people that have had bad experiences with direct hires or, like you said, even using a third party. And it's so hard for me to share with people. My background is IT and HR, and I'm a process-driven person. And so when I do a placement, I'm looking at multiple data points. I'm looking at the client's requirements. I'm spending a lot of time trying to make that magical match. So, I'm so glad that you had such a good experience.
But what would be something that you would tell someone that maybe has had a bad experience in the past about why they should use HireSmart?
Jason Marcordes: I think you kind of hit the nail on the head. You guys are looking at it from a very data-driven standpoint and you guys do so much of the work. When we post ads, whether ... Well it's always been here in the US. But when we're posting ads, we get hundreds of resumes and most of them are unqualified or they're just not a good fit. So, you guys do all of that up front and kind of weed out a lot of candidates that aren't a fit. Do you guys do a lot of training on the front end and you guys really made it seamless.
Anne: Well, that's good. Thank you for that. I appreciate it. It's interesting. So let me just ... If you can, quantify it. How much time did you think that I saved you over you doing it yourself?
Jason Marcordes: That would be tough to quantify, to be honest. I think the real time savings is the fact that Glory was the right fit. And we didn't have to, because we've done this with other positions where you post the ad, you interview, hire the person, train them, it doesn't work out. And then three weeks, four weeks, five weeks, you're back to square one and you do it again and again and again. So that would be tough to say. But definitely hours, definitely a lot, a lot of time.
Anne: Yeah. So, let's just see if we can help kind of quantify that. If it takes four weeks for you to find out that someone really isn't a fit or doesn't have the skillset and you're paying them, let's just, for easy numbers, $10 an hour. Again, we're less than that, but still let's just use that because it's easy. And so that's 40 hours. $10 is 400 times, I don't know, four. So that's $1,600, right? Yeah, $1,600 right there. I don't know. I'm terrible at math. That's why I always have a calculator. Right there that just is now wasted and you have to start all over again.
And that doesn't take into account posting the ad, which takes at least an hour, slugging through hundreds of resumes, which is at least ... Even if you have a good filtering system, that's another hour to two hours.
Then you actually have to look at the other 50 resumes that might qualify, talk to them for 30 minutes, 40 minutes, or put them through some type of testing. So that's another, let's say, another four hours of just kind of going through. And then your final set of interviews, which could be anywhere from two to three.
So you've got a lot of your time invested as well as then your training and all that. And the good news is when you spend that much time training somebody else and they don't work, they get the benefit of that training and can move on. Whereas you've now done everything that you can do.
Jason Marcordes: Right. Yeah.
Anne: All right. So let's kind of ... So, tell us a little bit about what Glory's specific tasks are that they do for you.
Jason Marcordes: So, Glory does a lot for us, and I actually made a list here because I didn't want to forget anything. So, Glory does a lot on the accounting side. She pays some of the bills. She enters them in our software. She also does a lot with QuickBooks. She create leases. She sets up owner portals. She helps with the onboarding process, does a lot of data-entry stuff. She tracks our Section Eight inspections. And we have a couple of other things that we're going to be building out processes for and training her, and we're excited to see kind of where that's going to go.
Anne: Yeah. I think what I like about what you've done with Glory is you've treated her just like any other team member. That's, I think, probably what .... If I ever have anything that I want to just kind of share with the world it's treat them as you would anybody else.
They're not going to know everything about your company day one. They're going to be productive day one, but it just keeps getting better. The more energy that you spend with them, the more investment of time, the more you invest in that relationship, you're going to get that benefit multiple fold.
And I think there's a big misconception that VAs are remote and so they're all doing their own thing. And I'm like, "Well, certainly, they're off on their own, but they should be as an integrated part of your team and process as you possibly can."
And I think a lot of people are a little nervous about that, but it seems like that you've done that really well. You've helped her in kind of making her a part of your PM family and training her as she continues to grow in the role.
And that's the other thing, too. The more that you invest, not just in the task but in their career development, the happier they're going to be. Nobody wants to just be stuck in their position day in and day out. Everybody loves to learn new things or have new challenges that induce us. So, I really want to applaud you for having kind of a career path for her because I think it does help her become more invested in you and in the company.
So, tell me about the impact she's had on your business. What is it that you've been like, "Okay, this has been a no-brainer because if nothing else, I've gotten X"?
Jason Marcordes: One quick note on that, just to go back for a second.
Jason Marcordes: We all work remote, so I'm actually in a coworking space right now. So it was kind of a natural fit for us. And I know a lot of people have this fear of working remote and employees not being in an office. But I think that's the way for the future. And you should be able to have KPIs for employees to know whether or not your team is doing a good job or not. So, just want to throw that in there.
Anne: No, that's a great takeaway. Thank you for that.
Jason Marcordes: A lot of the big companies are already doing it, so it's something that people have to begin to get comfortable with.
Anne: Well, interestingly enough, I've never had an office that receives residents or owners into my office, and I've been doing that for 19 years. So I was kind of on the bleeding edge of that, but I never wanted the interruption. I never wanted tenants just to come hang out with me or drop off their rent.
Anne: But that's kind of a new concept in property management because it's always been this local place where you go and you talk to Joe and Joe gives you the keys to your property and blah, blah blah, blah, blah. And so I think we're starting to see a real trend in that kind of diversity, which makes it a lot easier obviously to have remote team members. Regardless of whether your remote team members are here in the US or in the Philippines, it doesn't really matter as long as you have the systems.
And you mentioned about KPIs, and I want to touch on that. Kind of we'll go back to the other question in a minute. But KPIs are something that I think a lot of people struggle with. And I keep trying to tell people it's not hard and you should have KPIs and metrics for every position, including yours, in the business. So I have KPIs that I'm held responsible for as the president of the company. And then of course, I'm also the accounting person, so I wear a couple of different hats there.
But share with me how you developed your KPIs and what advice you would give to someone who maybe is new to that level of thinking.
Jason Marcordes: Sure. I think that the biggest key to success with the VA is going to come down to two things. The process itself, so building out that process. And then the KPIs, coming up with a few KPIs. You don't need a ton, but a few just to measure the success of that team member.
But basically I don't think it has to be anything overly complex. My VP of operations and I sit down, and we talk about what the task is at hand and we basically walk through it from Step A to Step Z and just document it, and then say, "What is the end goal here? What are we looking to do? And how do we measure that? Is it we're measuring by a certain metric?"
So that's what the KPI is that we're going to be tracking. And then we train the VA on that, just like we'd train any other staff member.
Anne: So, give an example of a KPI that you have for either Glory or anybody else in your office because I think people can really, once they hear one they go, "Oh, okay." And then I'll share one from my company, too.
Jason Marcordes: Sure. So, one of ours is, once we get the maintenance work order, maintenance has to carry that out within three days. So, basically from the time that it's entered into the system, it's assigned to our maintenance and is closed out, has to be in three days or less. So that's one way that we track, "Is our maintenance on track? Are we getting backed up here? Or are we overstaffed?" If we have everything being done same day, number one, we're super efficient. But number two, that means we have guys just sitting around not working to capacity.
Anne: So, how is that reported to you every day? So, obviously you've got a very short turnaround, three days to close out a work order. And I'm assuming that means the work's done and invoiced. Or the work's just assigned?
Jason Marcordes: The work is done and closed out. Invoiced is kind of a different ... That's a different one.
Anne: See, mine's two weeks invoiced because I want to see the money coming in. So we have 24 to 48 hours to schedule. Our tenants are a little bit slacker, so they're never going to get something done in three days. That just isn't happening in my market. So we have to give them the weekend kind of to give them that opportunity. But I want it done and billed in my office so I can close it out within 14 days. So that's something that I track.
But tell me, how does that get reported to you on a daily basis?
Jason Marcordes: So, that does not get reported to me on a daily basis. I report every, let's see, Tuesday, Thursday, and it's basically automatically done through our property management software. So it's super simple.
Anne: Okay. So, how do you know that the Glory's working every day?
Jason Marcordes: So, Glory checks in every day via Gmail chat. We should be Skyping more than we do. But she checks in every morning, and then we're talking throughout the day, whether it's via the chat email, and then like I said, occasionally we Skype.
And then she checks out two ways. She checks out via the chat, just saying, "Hey, I'm done for the day. See you later." And then she also sends me the close-of-business report, which is super nice. That has everything she did for the day. So that's another way to kind of track what she spent her time doing and kind of what she accomplished for the day.
Anne: So, have you made adjustments to your close-of-business report? For those of you that are new that maybe haven't experience with us, that's something that I teach all of our VAs to do is call it a close-of-business report. I call it a COB, and it's a way that I want our clients to know the productivity of a particular VA. And ideally they are tied to some type of KPI so that the client knows that the time is spent is valuable to them. And it doesn't really matter what's on there as long as you're happy that you got a productive day.
So, that's what a close-of-business report is that Jason's talking about it. And again, it's a key component to me because I can see if we've had two days, which have not been ... We always have bad day ... Every once in a while, we all have a bad day. Heck, I have a bad day.
So I always give them a couple of days. But if I see that on two days or more it's kind of a little light, we're at least having the conversation saying, "Hey, what's up? Do you need help? Do you need work? What's going on?"
So, from your perspective, that close-of-business report is valuable so that you know what she's worked on. Do you have them tied to KPIs or no?
Jason Marcordes: Most of them, no, we do not.
Anne: Okay. But you still feel comfortable that you're getting the value?
Jason Marcordes: Oh, absolutely. And she's honest. She'll tell me literally right in her close-of-business report whether it was a busy day or she had some free time. And we're working on that, trying to figure out what is the right amount of work. And it's really on us to kind of adjust. Like I said, we're trying to work on some other things to throw her way. But like I said, it's just an ongoing conversation like you'd have with any other employee.
Anne: Yeah. Well, and for me, I always have what I call filler work, work that always needs to be done but isn't time-sensitive, so whether that's auditing insurance or doing some research of clients or whatever. Whatever that is, it doesn't really matter, but always have something to kind of keep them busy when I'm not available to give them more work. And right now we're heading into slow season.
And I think it actually makes the VAs more nervous when they're slow because they're afraid they're going to get fired. So I always have to tell my team, "It's okay. This is a normal slowdown. We've got plenty of work. There's no worry here," because unfortunately they've been conditioned over the years that as soon as it slows down, they're going to get cut and then they have no job and no healthcare and none of that.
So I always make sure I'm sharing with them what to expect because I actually have a newer VA running my pre ... So, I segment my business into pre-tenant occupied and post-tenant occupied. And so Bonnie takes care of everything, pre-tenant occupied. And we don't have a whole lot of listings because we're almost at 100% vacancy. We don't have a whole lot of that pre-tenant occupied stuff to do right now. And I just told her, "It's perfectly normal, perfectly fine. Don't panic."
But that's something interesting from a cultural standpoint that I've had to really think about is that, wow, that's a true, innate fear for them and I need to address that.
So, what would be the one piece of advice that you would give somebody who's considering using a remote team member? What would you share? What's the big nugget that you could have them take away?
Jason Marcordes: Honestly, I would just tell him to jump in and ...
Anne: Just do it, just like Nike.
Jason Marcordes: I think I met you at NARPM. It was probably San Diego. Prior to that, man, I'd been thinking about a VA for so long, for literally years.
Yeah, I would say jump in. That’s a year. People all around the world are doing it and they're making it work and adding a huge part of their team by a VA. So, I would just say, "Jump in, do it, and you'll kind of work the fears out as you go."
Anne: Yeah, it's hard to prepare people for that. It's so funny because I tell them. I was like, "I remember what that's like." It's now almost been over five years since I first did this in my company. And I can tell you, I still remember that fear. But what I try to tell people is, "You know what? While I remember and understand the emotions that go along with that, I didn't have somebody like me to help them through this process." I had to figure all this stuff out all on my own. And now after four-plus years of helping other people, got a good process down. I know what you need before you even know you need it. So it's so much easier.
Jason Marcordes: And honestly, it's not going to get any easier than working with you guys. You guys make it so easy, and it's awesome. And then there's always ... If you ever do have any issues, which we really didn't, you guys have always been there in case we need anything. I think this is going to be as easy as it gets for people. So, like I said, jump in, make it happen, be willing to dedicate some time to building out processes and documenting everything you're doing. But other than that, jump in.
Anne: Well, I think that that's probably one of the scariest parts for people is they feel like they have to be perfect. And I tell them, "Done is better than perfect. You can change your processes. You can adapt them. It doesn't really need to be 100% ready."
And your VA actually can bring a lot of those resources and experiences to make it better than you ever could do on your own anyway because we're just too close to it. At least I am. I'm super close to what I do every day, and I know what I'm doing in my head, and I skip like five steps. A VA will help raise their hand and go, "Okay, we're missing stuff here. What else do I need to know?"
Jason Marcordes: Yeah, absolutely. And if you just take a little bit of extra time to document it, just literally next time I do this I'm going to just write Step One through step 12, just write them all out, you can send that to the VA and then naturally that VA is going to ask questions. And then you can already begin to revise that process.
And we have processes we've revised three, four, five, six times. You're always getting better and better and revising. So I wouldn't wait until you're perfect. That'll never happen. We're always changing and getting better.
Anne: Well, Jason, I appreciate your words of wisdom today. Thank you so much for being a part of our show. And certainly, we're always here to help you if you need anything.
If you guys want to get in touch with Jason, his information is going to be on the slide next to us. And thank you so much for joining us and have a great rest of your day.
To provide you with helpful tips and tricks and meaningful content, I wanted to share with you some things that I have found have helped me in managing and getting the most out of my virtual employees (VE).
#1 – Have clear expectations of what you want from them.
Do you have set KPI’s (key performance indicators) for their role? Have you shared your expectations with your virtual employee? Are you giving them weekly feedback on how they are doing?
When talking with leaders & managers, I find that many times expectations are not clearly defined. I know I used to not be super clear in expectations back in the day. Often, we are so busy keeping the boat from filling up and drowning us that is becomes a low priority. Now, in my business, we have very clear priorities and KPIs for each role in the organization. This has really helped me understand the value that my virtual staff members bring to me and my organization every day.
It is almost impossible for anyone to meet an expectation that has never been communicated to them. This applies to staff, friends, & significant others. Your virtual staff has been trained and conditioned to give you a daily recap of their progress for the day. Take a minute and read the report. Are you happy with it? If not, ask them to track what is important. If you see a particularly productive day – tell them. Which brings me to the next tip.
#2 – Appreciate your Staff
Your virtual staff wants you to be happy with them and their performance. Make sure you share some of the successes with them.
For me this was a particularly challenging task. In the beginning, I actually had to put it in my calendar to provide positive feedback weekly to get me in the habit. (Please don’t judge me – I am a very busy “D” personality who used to believe that if I wasn’t complaining – it was OK and everyone should certainly understand that.)
Theriza my very first virtual employee really helped me grow in this area. She needed more positive feedback and basically forced me into the habit. I am thankful she did. It has made me more aware of my communication style and allowed me to be a better overall person because of it. Now I am still not the flowery language type, but I do make an effort to provide both positive feedback as well as corrective feedback.
Don’t be like that friend, family member or customer who only calls to complain. Remember that they are people just like you and sometimes a nice pat on the back goes a long way to building a great relationship.
#3 – Provide constructive criticism
At some point, your virtual employee is going to make a mistake. It is inevitable. I certainly make my fair share of them too. How you handle it will determine the quality of the working relationship you have with you virtual employee and the rest of your staff.
When my virtual employee makes a mistake, I categorize it into 1 of 2 categories. A training issue on my part or a flaw in the execution on his/her part.
Training issues. Most of the time when my virtual employee makes a mistake it is because I had a flaw in my process, training, or communication. These mistakes help me refine my skills as a manager and help me be a better business owner. I look at the hole in the system, repair it and move on.
An example of this might be. My virtual employee tells a prospective applicant that the home is available when in fact, a qualified applicant recently secured the home. I break down the flaw. Did my internal people update the spreadsheet? Did we not communicate to take it off market? Where was the breakdown? Once I determine the breakdown, I can fix it. Advise my virtual employee of the new process and evaluate the new process.
But let’s say using the example above, we followed the process and she just missed it. We are all prone to error. I would ask her – why did she not review the information before frustrating a potential tenant? I would continue to ask questions until I fully understood what happened. Maybe she was tired, having a bad day or whatever the issue was. I then share that providing accurate information is really important to me and ask her what can she do to help make sure that this doesn’t happen again?
I involve her in the training and process development to help her problem solve herself. She learns from it and sometimes she has a better idea of a way it can be handled. Allowing your virtual employee to be part of the troubleshooting process can have huge rewards.
Make your virtual employee a valuable member of your team. Engage them in your business. Give them ownership of their tasks and expect greatness.
For over 2 years now, we have been helping clients find and select quality virtual employees. It has been an honor to help our US clients find quality staff and to help our virtual employees find reputable clients and long-term careers. If you ever have a question or concern about your virtual staff, please reach out to me. I am here to help you. You don’t have to figure it out on your own.
To your success!
Co-Founder – HireSmart Virtual Employees