A very exciting episode! Peter Cook with Annapolis Property Services shares his experience and how he was nervous to get started with virtual staff. We discussed how he overcame that fear and now has embraced all the benefits that using virtual staff offers.

Want to know more about the great benefits of having a Virtual Employee? Book an appointment with me today and I’ll be happy to set things up for you!



ANNE: Hi, my name is Anne Lackey. I'm the co-founder of HireSmart Virtual Employees, and I have the pleasure of introducing and speaking with you, Peter Cook. Peter is the president of Annapolis Property Services. He is originally from Wales, so if you're like me, you've loved to hear him talk because he's got that wonderful accent. He moved to Annapolis in '99, was the general manager of Sunsail Vacations. In 2003, he realized that there was a need for long-term residential property management, and so he founded Annapolis Property Services. Of course, he is a licensed real estate agent. He has a NARPM member, and he is a graduate of Southampton University, and of course, he likes to sail. So welcome to the show, Peter. Thanks so much for being here.

PETER: And thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be with you.

ANNE: Well, I appreciate it. So you and I met about a year ago at a conference, and I remember very distinctly some of our conversations. We had several conversations over those couple of days, and I think you got super excited and nervous, and like, "I'm not sure if this'll work", took you a little bit to move it forward, to get your team on board. What was your initial thought when you got introduced to the concept of virtual assistance for your property management business?

PETER: So I loved the idea, but in full disclosure, I was super nervous. I was nervous that someone was working on the other side of the world. I was nervous about time zones. I was nervous about managing them. I was nervous about errors that may not get caught at the time and can come back, as we all know, can come back to bite you in six months, 12 months. So I was worried about control, probably is the biggest thing, and how you would manage someone on the other side of the world.

ANNE: So how did you get past that to make the leap to say, "Okay, I'll give it a try".

PETER: Truly, it's just the glowing reviews from anyone that you speak to that has a VA that you've hired was, they just said you had to do it. So Joe Haney, he's up in Baltimore. He had one. Everyone I spoke to just said, "You won't regret it". So that was the deciding factor, and obviously having talked with you and thought about it, it seemed to make sense to at least try it.

ANNE: So you just decided, "Okay, I'm going to go for it." How was the process when you first hired? Because again, you knew nothing. You've never done this before. And here we are, we're giving you basically an employee, but not. How was the process from order to hire to delivery? Share with our people, what were some of the bumps in the roads and what are some of the things that went smoother than you thought.

PETER: So smoother than you thought to start with, just the process. You obviously, you drilled us pretty hard on what we wanted from the VA, which was key. We didn't really want someone who answers the phone. We wanted a strong admin that had real good attention to detail and would just do all of our utility bills and all the stuff that no one liked to do here. Like lease renewals, move out letters, move in letters, chasing paperwork. So strong admin focused. And when you drilled this pretty hard, and we sort of left you to it, and the next thing you know, you'd scheduled a 90 minute window with three potential candidates to interview. So probably the easiest bit was, normally when we've interviewed, it's, you know you do the resumes, you do a D, you cycle through it all, and you do the first round of a phone interview, and then you narrow it down, and then you invite people in, and they don't show up or they go to the firm and change it. And so, hiring is a brutal process.

PETER: So when we first got on, we just schedule the 90 minutes with you. And you said you've got three people that are qualified. I'm like, no way. No way. I was excited and nervous because I'd never hired anyone basically using a webcam. I'd always met face to face, and it was weird. But you set it up perfectly. So basically, we interviewed three candidates, two of which were ideal. One, I think all three could have done the job, which was amazing. And we had the process now with what? Less than two hours. I think it was 90 minutes from start to finish, the whole process. So I mean anyone that can hire anyone faster than that, I just don't know how it's possible.

ANNE: So how much time do you think it saved you? Because you mentioned a lot of the things that people look at our placement fee, and they go, "Gosh, you know, that's a lot". And I'm like, for what I do, it's really not. But okay. Think about... So how much time would you normally spend with that process versus the 90 minutes?

PETER: Oh, I mean if you add it all up from writing the ad, because I'm just doing mental math here and stuff. You write the job description, which we already had. So you have to do that. Then, create the ad, list it, field all the resumes, do the phone interviews, set it up. I mean it, it's going to be 20 hours, has to be 20 hours, give or take. And it's a distraction from what we should be doing. That's the biggest thing. So probably 20 hours of senior people's time.

ANNE: And one of the things that I, especially a lot of our clients are property management companies, because I'm a broker owner myself and run my own PM firm. I liken what we do to the application process for tenants, right? So an individual owner could rent his property out, but probably shouldn't because they don't have the access to the assessments. They don't have access to the data that we, as professional property managers and me as a professional recruiter, have, right? I've got systems for that. Property managers have systems for that. And so, I think it's funny to me that we defend our placement fee of our tenants because we put so much time, energy, and effort, and sometimes people say, "Well, I don't want to pay a placement fee for a hire." So it's kind of funny, that dichotomy. How do you respond to people who might say that?

PETER: On the tenant placement fee? But just going back to the placement fee for a VA, it's, I don't want to quote your prices, but I think it's under 2000 bucks.

ANNE: Yeah, 24 95 is our stated price.

PETER: Right, money, it's incredibly well spent. And just money in general, I equate anything that we do through you as half the price of what it would cost to do here. And that would be, so the cost to recruit someone here is probably four grand, it's two; cost to have a full time employee here is 40 K, with you, it's less. It's about half price. So if anyone thinking about it, just think of, it's about half the price of what you would do to hire someone.

ANNE: So now you've gone through the hiring process. We've given you the person. Are they as good as you thought they were going to be?

PETER: They are incredible. So it's two. They're way better than we first, than I anticipated. And in full disclosure, they are about doubly efficient. So they are handling about double what someone would handle here. Probably because they are more efficient. They're not distracted. There's no distractions. They don't get caught up in the drama, which is a huge effect. And that they're not, they're just, just phenomenal, and it has it's costs up to, so they just, yeah, they crank through all the things that none of us here wanted to do.

ANNE: And are they happy working for you? Because that's the other question I get. Like, "I don't know that they would really want to work in the middle of the night" and "I don't know that they'd be happy". But what's your experience working with your people?

PETER: Yeah, I was super nervous. I'm like, "Am I going to ask someone to work through the night?" I was very much of the mindset that I'd like them to work their hours. I don't mind if they work over our nights because it's admin tasks, but you are very adamant they should work our hours, which now is phenomenal. I've become very comfortable with it. And AJ and Carl like it, all their friends do the same thing. They have a different lifestyle, but as, you know you are very adamant on the start, And you said to us, "Don't worry about what time it is there. Don't think about, they're working through the night. Just ignore that fact. That's just how they do it." And that's how it is. They're always happy. They seem happy. They haven't quit on us yet. They're great. We try and treat them well. We've made them part of the team.

PETER: They join our team meeting weekly on the webcam. They are buyers on our site. They've got their own email address. They're as much a team member as anyone sitting here. Got their own direct phone number. So we really try to incorporate them, which I think really makes a difference to them.

ANNE: It does.

PETER: They're not just a cog in this machine. They are, if you look at our about us, then their profiles are a part of the team page. So we put their picture up there, and we include them as part of the team. It's irrelevant that they're on the other side.

ANNE: And I love that, and I do try to tell people as much as you can integrate them. And I love the fact that they're in the team meetings. You know, I actually, the first day that a VA starts working for me, I literally take my iPad and walk them through the office so they can see what it looks like and introduce them to my one employee. Because I only have one. But you know, we had our property management meeting this morning as a matter of fact. And Bonnie, who is my pretended occupied VA remote team member. She's in that meeting. She takes detailed notes, so I don't have to. Who's responsible for what. What are the things that I need to be responsible for. So totally love that you guys are doing that too.

ANNE: What piece of advice would you give someone that is on the fence? Because I get a lot of people that says, "It sounds great, but I'm not going to move forward." So how would you, what would you share with them about your experience as to what they either need to be concerned about that they can think about in advance or alleviate their fears to move forward?

PETER: Yeah, so if this is the one that was my fear, but it is great is you have to be comfortable creating and sticking with the system. If you are just one of those people who don't like systems, who won't create and follow a system, the VA won't work. It's just, I say it wouldn't work; I think it'd be really challenging. It works really well when you have a system, which, in full disclosure, we didn't have five years ago. Now we've got systems for everything, and the stress levels, less mess ups and everything.

PETER: So I think everyone should have systems. But if you just one of those people that loves the chaos and likes to do it your own way and not write it down and just do things on the fly, how you just learnt it in your head. If you don't want to write down how you do things, you will struggle to get good value out of the VA because the VA is really good at following a process incredibly well, and they can even have the processes to do this. If A happens, good. You got a B and C, but you have to have a process for them to be really successful, will be my bit of advice.

ANNE: Okay. And I would agree with that. What I would say is, I have a lot of clients that don't have processes started, because again, they kind of all work on the fly, and I was honestly, I was that way myself. When I started five years ago, I had what I thought were systems. What I found out was not exactly the way I wanted to, and that's one of the things that I think is a benefit is that my VA made me a better business because it tested what I thought was a system that really wasn't a system. It was maybe a roadmap a little bit.

PETER: So that's exactly it, Anne. And so what it's done, by having a VA, forced us to tweak our systems and use our systems, and we moved every... We were half in the cloud and half on a server, and it forced us to get everything onto Google drive and really document. I use Google docs instead of half writing it down, half using Google docs. It forced us to follow a system, which has made us way more efficient and less stressed. So, to back up a VA, you just have to be willing to, if you don't have a system, you have to be willing to put one in place because that's how you get the most out of the VA.

ANNE: Totally agree with that. And one of the things I did too is I have my VAs responsible for maintaining it. And responsible for doing it or updating it or creating it. So like I said, when I got started, I had this kind of roadmap. My VA then put the structure underneath it to actually make it a system. So for those of you that maybe don't have a system yet, but you do have how it's done, even if it's in your head, you do have how it's done. Your VA can come up underneath you and create that additional support to make it a system. Because I totally agree. I think especially in property management because we're so litigious anyway, that anytime you go outside of the parameters, we've seen that happen a couple of times with you. Whether it's our screening process or our phone process, that's when we get into trouble.

ANNE: And I see that on the Facebook groups. I see that in the listservs. Like well, they said such and such and so and so. Or I knew I shouldn't do this, but I did because we went out of process. That's again, that's where trouble kind of ends up living in our world. So as much as you can, let your VA help you highlight what needs to be revamped or redone, and then give them, task them for changes. Like I know for me, our lists, our property MLS, changes their software all the time. You know, input fields, all kinds of stuff. It's not major things, but literally they'll get rid of one type of description and add a new one. I make Bonnie redo the screenshots, re-update that so that literally we're real time with any of the changes that happen in that software or happen in that business, so that I don't have to worry about it.

ANNE: Again, if I make a change in policy, let's say we have, we do have an issue with maybe a tenant fallout, meaning that they screened and they passed, but we had an issue. Well, I unpack and unravel that, and sometimes I will make a change to our system or our whatever. They're in charge of making sure that that new piece of information is notated on the website, is in the process. So I think that's great. What would you say was the biggest benefit, other than costs saving? Because we all know that that's it. That's obviously the number one reason to do that. But other than costs saving, what other benefits have you had by hiring your virtual staff?

PETER: So there's a number. I think the biggest thing that we noticed was we went through our peak season, the same as, we're on the East coast, so our busiest times are May, June, July, August. We do half the work of the year in three months of the year, same as everyone else. But historically, during that time, the admin and the processes like lease renewals, the non-times urgent stuff, gets dropped. And so we always used to get to the end of August and then have to pick up where we stopped doing what we're doing in June. Typically, you know, lease renewals and just getting ahead of maintenance and walkthroughs. So all the things that aren't immediately time sensitive always used to get dropped. And we'd spend all of September regrouping and picking up the pieces. And getting back into the process.

PETER: So the biggest thing was that with Carl and AJ, that they keep the machine running, so they don't get caught up in the drama. They don't get caught up in the move-ins, the move-outs, the this talent hasn't moved that. We're doing four... In our peak season, you know we're doing 40 turns in a month. So there's a lot of drama going on. They don't get caught up in it. They keep doing the lease renewals. They keep sending the move out letters. They keep following up with tenants who just moved in. They always got dropped. So they, seven days off, tenant moves in, they send them that how's it going list, which we've never done in August before because it got dropped, and they keep lease renewals. So we kept lease renewals rolling. So by the time we got to the end of August, we were already working on October, November lease renewals. So we're already half done. Just because they kept the machine running. They didn't care. No, not they didn't care, but they didn't know-

ANNE: They weren't impacted.

PETER: -not impacted. They just had a few more... They just, that was on Tuesday, they do lease renewals for the next time, and they send out move out letters, and they send out... So it just happened. So the machine kept running, and it really made everyone, it reduced the stress and really reduced the errors.

ANNE: So I would also imagine that your customer service was increased by that too because you're giving them, your clients, whether it be owners or residents, the attention that they deserve. They're not having to ask you for stuff. You're being proactive. Would you say that that was another benefit?

PETER: Yeah, absolutely. It just, we do what we, we kept doing what we aim to do all year, but it always felt, we always fell off as we got through. There was only so many hours in the day that people could do stuff. So something used to get dropped. Really this year, nothing got dropped. Probably the best example is the, we follow up the tenants once they'd been there seven days just to check it, and it's the correct thing to do, and they love it. We've never done it because it gets dropped because you don't have to do it.

ANNE: Right. It's the important but not urgent category.

PETER: That's it.

ANNE: It always gets in the Stephen Covey model. So totally get that. What else would you want to share with someone that, again, is thinking about it, or what else, what other words or nuggets would you share, things that you've learned or anything else that you think would be valuable?

PETER: If you all just do it, as long as you're prepared to put a little... Write the job description well, really think what you want to do, and what they can do, to make sure that they have access to be able to do what you want them to do. If you're going to use them for any phone calls, make sure you've got a voice over IP phone system. Make sure you can set them up with an email. Make sure they can have access to everything that you want them to do. So if your documents are on a server, and they're not plant-based, and you want them to access them, think about that.

PETER: It was really good for us to have a deadline, like we knew we had to have everything in Google drive by January 1, so in December 1, we just moved everything. We spent the month trying to find documents, starting to move. But we had it all figured out. So it was really good for us to move it. So think about the things that you'll want them to do, and when you really put your mind to it, you could get them to do a lot of stuff that you just didn't think they could do. So we started out with utility bills, and we go, well, they could do that, they could do some letters maybe, and now they can do, AJ's started to do some maintenance requests. He's doing some account payables, account receivable, use property mail. And there's no reason that he can't do that. So there's, you really get into it. There's a lot more and more things they can do.

ANNE: Yeah, I think people are just nervous so they pick what they feel comfortable with. So how do you envision the change in your staff? So five years from now, what is your company look like as far as staffing, and how is that going to change do you think? Share with me your vision for growth and what do you look like in a few years from now?

PETER: Yeah. So we're in the lovely position that we're at 540 homes now. We're aiming to get to around 750, at about 10% growth. So every year, we've had double digit growth since we started, and we aim to keep doing that. We started down a little bit intentionally, just because of the demographics and the properties in the area we want to service. We're not growing the territory. We're just focusing on our... We're really just a specialist in the Annapolis area, so we're aiming at 10% growth, and we're really, we're looking to get to 750, which is effectively a 50% growth, with really not adding in any, maybe some extra people in maintenance, actual doers in maintenance as opposed to coordinating. But really, as we grow now, we just going to, we just outsource more, so we're not going to change our head count in the US.

PETER: As we keep doing more, we need more support. We just going to add in more backup support really, because the VAs do all the things that property managers don't like to do. So it's not even, it's hard to find someone that efficiently does snap utility bills, like literally, when we get, our water bills come in quarterly, and we get, we just had them last week, we had 215 water bills come in, like it was a stack. And they're mailed, they're not emailed, so you have to open each one.

PETER: So just our front desk, it just over... Everyone will groan because they all get dumped on different people's desks, and they get forgotten about, and then they became urgent because they're time sensitive, and they were late, and so everyone would always groan, and you'd always end up seeing people stay late, just to get it done. Now we just open them, scan 215, and then we can go. AJ does it all. They're gone. Like they come in, they get scanned, and they get put in the shredder. It's beautiful. It's the happiest day. It used to just be the black day, and then, and I'm sure anyone that does it, you come back, and you see these stack. It's just the dullest routine admin that you have to do, and if you don't do it, water gets shut off, and there's late fees. So it just took that problem away.

ANNE: Well, that's awesome. Well, Peter, thank you so much for being a part of our show today and sharing your knowledge. If you want to get in touch with Peter because you need property management services in Annapolis, his contact information will be on the next page, and we do appreciate your time, and hope you have a great rest of your day.

PETER: Thank you, Anne. It's a pleasure.


Lisa Doud Principal Broker of Doud Realty Services shares her experience and knowledge of how she is able to grow and scale her business. She started hiring a virtual employee and found them to be an amazing way to leverage her internal staff.

Want to start hiring your virtual staff member? Feel free to book an appointment with today so I can help you strategize all throughout the process!  


ANNE: Good morning. My name is Anne Lackey. I'm the co-founder of Hire Smart VA's and today we have a very special treat. We have Lisa Doud with Doud Realty services. She services in Virginia, the Hampton Roads area. One of the things I really love about Lisa, first of all, she's a really go-getter, and when you get to hear a little bit about her, kind of her story of how she got here, which we're going to be talking about, you'll just be amazed, and can see how her background has really helped her become an amazing property manager.

ANNE: She was in the Navy right after high school and she became, like most of us, she couldn't afford a house immediately, so she became a renter and had that experience of what it's like and what it's not supposed to be like. She then decided that she needed to purchase her first home, which she did at the age of 19, which kind of blows me away, but when you get to know Lisa, you see that when she gets focused on something, she is laser focused, and that's one of the things I really love about her. She got married at the age of 25 and now she had a home, he had a home, and so they decided neither one of those homes really worked for them and their situation, so they put them in rental service and bought a new home. And voila, property management kind of got started. So Lisa, why don't you tell us the rest of this story about kind of your catalyst into property management, if you will, and welcome to the show.

LISA: So as Ann was saying, my husband and I both had our own rental property, and at the time my husband was raised with his father, who was building their rental properties on their one acre lot in El Cajon, California, so he actually helped build those four houses that they use as rental properties, so for him, rental properties was no big deal. Repair and remodel was no big deal, and for me the electrical, because I was an electrician, interior communication electrician, I did all the electrical stuff anyways, so we became the renovating team. We bought homes, we fixed them up, and refinanced them and put renters in. We were able to do that for quite a bit of houses. We typically, right now we have more portfolio of single family rentals that we personally own, we have also two six-unit apartment buildings and then our office, which has three apartments above it that we all personally own.

ANNE: That's a great way to get started. It's funny, because I find that people are either in two camps in property management, they either are investors like yourself and myself and they get into the business because there's nobody better to manage those assets than ourselves, and by the way, we might as well manage other people that are like-minded, or there are people that actually chose property management as a profession, but have never really owned income-producing assets. So how do you think owning an income producing asset has made you be a better property manager?

LISA: Well, a lot of times when people ask me, "What can I get for my house for rent?" I can look at them and say, "Well, it doesn't matter what you want to get, this is what the market is," and then I explain to them as an owner you need to understand, get your accountant to do your depreciation schedule and things like that, because at the end of the day you're going to be able to deduct things you never were able to deduct before. Sometimes I can get my owners to calm down if they're having to come out-of-pocket monthly just by explaining to them the tax benefit situation, and I can personally speak from, I have to do this every year, make sure our accountant has the right information so that she depreciates what she needs to depreciate.

LISA: But, a lot of times if you don't know that, most property managers that don't ever have property of their own, they wouldn't know what the depreciation schedule is, or they wouldn't have any clue as to, "Hey, your LLC's need to be filed by March 15th, don't forget that." Because a lot of my owners are like, "Really?" Yes, trust me on that one. Personal tax returns are April 15, but LLC's are a month before, because obviously your schedule K's have to go onto your personal return. And then, people just look at me like, you really do know what you're talking about. I have to do it personally every year.

ANNE: Well, that's so true, and the other thing that I think a lot of people don't think about either, and this is something that we teach a lot is, so not only do you have the tax benefit, the appreciation, but you also have principal pay down, which if somebody else is paying that payment for you and adding a little bit to your savings account as the mortgage continues to get chunked down. And you know, that is kind of was mind blowing to me when I got started, I hadn't even thought about the fact that we're paying down a mortgage that has that equity in it, in addition to the cashflow, the tax benefits, and the appreciation, so that's awesome. So kind of fast forward into 2009 and tell us kind of a little bit more of your story.

LISA: Well, 2009 I actually got my real estate license, because a lot of my husband's friends that were active duty as well at the time figured out that we had rental property. They were leaving the area and they needed somebody to manage their property. Legally, here in Virginia, you have to be a licensed real estate agent in order to manage property, so that's what I had to do. And don't get me wrong, I had to be an independent contractor under a broker for a while, but as soon as I did that, 2012 I was able to open Doud Realty.

LISA: And then, again, we already had about 150 units at the time when I opened Doud Realty, so the idea of starting from scratch, we really weren't. But we opened, and then right now we're roughly around 400 units. I've done, how should I say, a divesting of some owners that are not performing, or properties that are not performing, so we're probably less than 400 right now, but we're kind of right there. I think it's really important that you don't, if your, I guess, management style and your owner are not on the same page, I think it's important to sever that relationship before it goes south.

ANNE: Yeah, that's true, too. There's an owner for everybody, but it may not be me is kind of the way I look at it. Well, that's great. Let's kind of get into your structure, your staff structure. You manage approximately 400 doors at this point, a combination of single family and multifamily. What does your staff look like? Tell us a little bit about how you do the work.

LISA: I kind of pull from my military experience, the idea is everybody can do everything. We focus on primary jobs, but everybody knows how to do everything and we work as a team, because if I'm gone or somebody else is gone, the phone still needs to be answered. The application still needs to be processed. The lease still needs to be put out for signature, all that kind of stuff. Things have to be done. But I do have ... We all work as a team, but we have focuses, which we kind of our primary focus is in here. All emails come into a team account. We all look at what they're doing, and we help out accordingly.

ANNE: Okay. So for managing 400 doors, how many staff members do you have internally and how many virtual staff do you have?

LISA: So here in the office we have myself, plus there's, we have Priscilla, which is the office manager and accounting manager, we have Amanda, which I kind of call her my leasing/front office manager, and then Brittany and John are up there with her. And then Belinda as our virtual, and she actually fits up front with them because she does all the stuff that they do up front. Then on the accounting side, Clarissa sits in the accounting with Priscilla, and she puts all the bills in and she pays owners. She closes work orders out when the work order comes in, so that's more where Clarissa sits as a virtual employee.

LISA: And then, Nina has been a blessing to us because she's really been able to take hold of the maintenance coordinating. She obviously takes work orders over the phone, she routes the work order, she follows up with the work orders, makes sure they get finished. She makes sure to do an audit every month to make sure that the work orders are completed, or what's the status of this, and so it really has helped us a lot because we are able to focus the three people that are here in the office to be able to go out to meet new clients, we are able to go out to do these pest control things, run lock boxes. We don't have to worry about who's answering the phone. We don't have to worry about if work is not getting done because we're out doing all these pictures or whatever we're doing. So it really has helped quite a bit.

ANNE: How has your customer service and your life balance changed by bringing in ... because you're relatively new, or young, as a client of ours. I think we've been doing business probably right around about six months, I think, at this point, and so you've had enough experience that you know what works and then, of course, you've hopefully seen some benefits, so kind of share with us a little bit about what that looked like for you.

LISA: The biggest thing for us, and this is just crazy because you don't think about needing a communication tool when you're sitting here and you can yell at the person up front, "Hey, do this, do this." But the one thing I've found out is we use a communication tool called Basecamp, and it just puts your to-do list together and keeps track of who's doing what. But the one thing that was really shocking to me is, that not just for the virtual assistants, but for my entire staff, now we know what everybody's working on. We also can see who gets it done, and then there's also stuff in our, I guess, to-do lists that anybody can just pick and finish and do it and just check off and say it's done. But it has made it to where we can integrate very easily, see who's doing what, so we're not trying to do something somebody else has already done.

ANNE: So not wasting as much time.

LISA: Right.

ANNE: Fantastic. And so what kind of made you decide that virtual staff was something that you wanted to try? Because I have a lot of clients that are like, "I don't know. I just, I just, I'm not there yet. I just don't feel like I can." What was kind of that tipping point for you?

LISA: Well, as I had the conversation with you in the, I think it was ... Where are we at? Oh, San Diego at the NARPM conference. I said, "You know, I don't think I could just let that go." But the funny part to me is, I haven't let anything go. Once you can get past ... I mean, like I said with the communication tool, I mean, even if I didn't have virtual assistants, I would recommend the communication tool because now instead of me saying, "Hey, did you do this? Did you do this?", I have a written document where they can just check it and tell me it's done. I guess in a way, it doesn't matter whether you're virtual or you're right here in the office, we still have a record of what's being done.

LISA: And then the hard part for me was not being able to know what the virtual assistant was doing, but like I said, with the communication tool, I mean, in fact, I'm being pinged right now and I can see we have a group chat going on, and I can see that they're actively working and answering questions between everybody in the office right now. It's not like we're yelling down the hall, but we're still communicating as if we're all together, and I know that doesn't sound like a real big deal, but at the end of the day you have to communicate as a group and you have to be able to do it seamlessly, and to be honest with you, the communication tools work so much better because now I don't get, "What did you say?" from down the hall.

ANNE: That's funny. So I definitely think the Basecamp is one of your tools in your tool belt that you've utilized very, very effectively. I also heard you were, kind of interpreting what you're saying, is that your virtual staff and your internal staff really there's no difference. You're trying to treat everybody the same, they're very integrated into your business, and that is because of the Basecamp platform. What was kind of some of the things that you were hesitant about before you met me about using virtual staff, and how did you overcome that?

LISA: Well, like I said, the big thing was is not being able to see whether the stuff was getting done, not being able to make sure that it was being done the right way. How do you instruct somebody when you need to show them how to do something? How do you, you know, the physical? But like I said, we use Google, we use that Google Meet, and we can share screens and I can show anybody exactly what I want them to do, how to do it. I guess that two-way communication where you actually point to things and show them, that was one of the things that I was like, "Well, they're never going to be able to get it unless they can see what I'm doing." Well, they can see what I'm doing. So that part was a big thing for me to get over, but I think it was just not knowing what they were doing, and like I said, I have much better idea of what my staff is doing now then I did ever before.

ANNE: Yeah, I always say that when you bring on a virtual team member, it does force you to look at your policies, your processes, the way you work, and for me it made it a much more strong communication, because then it doesn't matter as much who's in the seat, as long as that that role is getting done and you know it's getting done. So, kudos to you for figuring that out earlier than later. Kind of, how has the dynamics in your office changed by having some of those tasks taken off of your in-house people? Have you seen any benefit to them by bringing in virtual staff?

LISA: Well, yeah, I guess the workload has lightened on them so that they can be out doing pictures, listings, whatever they need to be doing out of the office, and they don't have to worry about running back to get this done or that then, because I'll be honest with you right now, if John goes out and does a listing, he emails them or puts them on the Google drive, Belinda gets them and uploads them, and lists the property before he even gets back to the office. That's how the communication is working between our office, and that's really, I mean, we can get listings done, I mean from taking pictures to putting them on up, we can get listings done in probably two hours versus going to get the pictures, come back, put them in, write the writeup. It's amazing to me how it's working much more seamlessly now.

ANNE: How's that benefited your clients?

LISA: Well, again, things go a lot faster. We are able to make sure we ... just to the point where we can follow up with things. We can remember to, "Hey, we need to do this, we need to do this." And again, we can put timelines in our Basecamp so that we know to come back to certain things. It's been really a positive experience for everybody, and I'll be honest with you, most of my employees do not know if they're calling us speaking to somebody in the Philippines or if they're calling to speak to us here in the office. They cannot tell.

ANNE: And that's what I always ... You know, everybody's always nervous about that, and I said, "You can't tell in my world either." I think that comes to making sure that you have a good hiring partner to make sure you've got good people. Let's kind of talk a little bit, if you don't mind, about kind of your experience with Hire Smart, and of course how that worked for you, and how easy was it or hard was it and what was your experience working with us?

LISA: Well, like I said, we came onboard immediately with two absolutely wonderful virtual employees, and I was so impressed and I just knew I needed a maintenance coordinator, so I did go ahead and ask for the maintenance coordinator, and it's great how you went ahead and got the people that you think would be the right for the job, vetted them, made sure they could speak English pretty well, made sure they could communicate and stuff like that, but you know, some people have skills that some people lack, and just a resume does not show you that. I remember for the one person that we did hire first for the maintenance coordinator position, she looked like she was going to be right on Johnny-on-the-spot. She had been a maintenance coordinator before, or maybe not quite a maintenance coordinator, but she had done maintenance before. Again, the resume looked better, and instead of going with what we felt we went with what the resume was.

LISA: Both the first two times we weren't exactly hiring two employees when we first called you, but we liked the way Belinda, just immediately she was our first interview, and the way she communicated, the way she spoke, the response she gave it was like, "Wow, that would be perfect to speak to people in the front office." And again, she is today speaking to ... people are asking leasing questions, owners are calling, she's taking that information, she's putting out the information that they need. And then like I said, Belinda was ... Sorry, Belinda was the first one we definitely hired. But then when we started looking, we were really hiring for the accounting assistant, and Clarissa, obviously, didn't have any experience in property management, but you she had a great resume. She was a very hard charger, she spoke very well. Just her presence was very professional, and again she's done nothing but amazing things since she's been here.

LISA: I will have to say that, when the third VA came on, I went to both of the two, and they were able to tell me, "No, the step by step instructions you gave were correct." So I was kind of confused as to maybe that third VA wasn't ... Maybe I did something, I didn't provide the information like I did for the first two. I said, "What is the disconnect?" And they said, "No, everything seems to be there." And I was like all right. I don't like to give up on people, but I just thought to myself that this is just not working. But then when we got our new VA, Nina, she is just on the spot. She communicates very well, and it's just amazing, because we didn't go with somebody that had property manager experience, we went with somebody who had organizational function. We went with somebody who was very detailed oriented, and that was the whole idea.

LISA: Don't get me wrong, we interviewed the three people that you provided, but again, Nina was the only one that stuck out as being super organizational, functional, attention to detail, and in the maintenance coordinator position, that's what we need. Learning the property management software, that's the easy part. It's just knowing how to make sure to stay in front of it, knowing how to anticipate what's going on. You can't teach that. That's something that somebody has to already has to know.

ANNE: Well, it's so interesting to me because I get lots of requests like, "Do they have property management experience?" and, "I only want somebody that has property management experience." Of course, you didn't ask for that. And of course, we looked at kind of a wide variety of things when we put a placement in front of a client. But I've gone back and looked at my numbers, and I am confident to say it makes absolutely no difference whether someone has property management experience or not. The only area that it helps, of course, is in the glossary and the terminology, which we provide to the VA's. But again, it still takes a little bit of time to kind of absorb some of that just because it's kind of a different language. I mean, a lot of things that we talk about, not necessarily normal, but some of my best hires have had nothing to do with property management. I always tell people don't let that kind of shine or not.

ANNE: And sometimes, I think personalities come into this. I mean, I know I've hired people in my organization that I thought I could get along with, but when push came to shove it just didn't meet my, kind of my communication tool, too. You're always going to have some of those things. Of course, we replaced the failed candidate for you at no additional charge, because that is part of our guarantee, provided that our clients fulfill a certain obligation, which of course you did. I'm grateful that we have finally found you somebody to help in that role and to be a blessing to you and the company. On a scale from one to 10 though, one being, "Man, it couldn't get any easier than this," versus 10 being, "It couldn't get any harder than this," how would you say the ease of use of our services was? I mean, how difficult was it for you to hire?

LISA: Oh, I would say it's definitely one, is the easiest possible, because I really didn't have to do anything except fill out the initial questionnaire what I was looking for, and then you guys took it from there. For me, it wasn't a stress of having to read all these resumes, because if I post a job anywhere I have 50 to 60 resumes and, now I've got to weed through them and I'm just overwhelmed because how do you find the needle in the haystack? Well, if you're bringing only three to me then that means I can read through them, and figure out what's the best one for me, instead of going through the needle in the haystack.

ANNE: Sure. What's the one advice you would give to someone who's either considering hiring virtually, or maybe is struggling or has had struggles in the past? Not somebody that maybe not used our services, but has been struggling with whether they should move forward with a virtual staff member?

LISA: Well, I would say look at your policies and procedures first. If you don't have a good structure and you don't have good step-by-step instructions, it doesn't matter whether you hire somebody in the office or virtually, you're not going to be able to get anybody to be on board. But, if you're on the fence about hiring virtually, the biggest thing that I can say to you is look at your dollars and cents, because when you look back at your budget, I am paying for virtually three people, but I'm paying what, I think it's about 6% of what worker's comp and everything else costs, less per person, than what I would have to pay, and again, truthfully I'm not trying to say anything negative, but a lot of people here in the United States feel entitled, and they feel entitled to a higher paycheck, which they do not have the qualification for it. So, the professional virtual assistant you're getting is college educated, they speak well, they can communicate well, and you have to look at the pricing. I mean, you can't get that anywhere in the United States.

ANNE: It was definitely a key component for me, too, five years ago when I got started. I think people are a little amazed that ... I mean I've been doing this in my own property management business now almost five years, and helping other people find talent for over four and a half, and we have a kind of a proven system and track record. Is there anything that you would want to add about what makes you ... How virtual staff has made you better in servicing your owners or attracting more business, kind of the secret sauce behind it for you?

LISA: I just think that communication-wise, I think we're doing a whole lot better. I know that that communication tool has been a huge help, but I think we all use it and we're all very conscious about who's doing what now. Even before that, before I had virtual employees, I had a rough idea of what was happening when I wasn't here, but I didn't, all at the same time. I knew certain things were getting done, but I couldn't see exactly what was getting done when, and it's really amazing to me now to see all these items being checked off the to do list during the day, whether they're here virtually, whether they're in the office. I am getting constant updates of what's going on and I really do like that.

ANNE: Well, that sounds great. For those of you who are interested in property management services in the Virginia Hampton Roads area, I certainly encourage you to get in touch with Lisa. Her contact information is down below. Lisa, thank you so much for your time today. We appreciate having you on the show, and certainly appreciate having you as a client. So thank you so much, and I look forward to talking with you again soon.

LISA: All right, take care.

Our Company Spotlight features another Atlanta property management and community association management firm that leverages staff for growth. Learn how Jen Talley with Backyard Realty Group as she talks about her experience in hiring her own virtual staff and how it helps her move things effectively!

If you want to learn more about hiring your very own virtual staff member, always feel free to book an appointment with me and I will help you strategize all throughout the process!



Anne: Hey everybody. Welcome to the show. My name is Anne Lackey. I am the co-founder of Hire Smart VAs and I have a wonderful friend and guest today. We have Jen Tali. She is an RMP and an MPMC, which for those of you that may not be within, you don't know what that means, but let me tell you it's a lot of dedicated time, energy and effort. She's an associate broker for Backyard Realty Group, Tali Community Management and has over a decade of experience working within real estate in the Metro Atlanta area. Of course, she's a licensed broker, has a real estate team and she's an investor like me, so I always love talking with other investors that are doing fun stuff. She oversees the rental division, real estate division and marketing for Backyard Realty Group and Tali Community Management. She specialized with working with investors all over the world and her team helps them find them, fix them and then put them into buy and hold, and she manages them after the purchase. And so, kind of that well-rounded person. But you know what? She also has a husband and a baby. Well, not so much a baby anymore. She's getting to be what? She's how old Jen?

Jen: She'll be two in a month.

Anne: Yeah, I know it. Times flies-

Jen: Time flies, yes.

Anne: And she also has a dog named Bella. So Jen, welcome to the show. We're so excited to have you. And why didn't you just ... Did I miss anything or did I get it all?

Jen: No, I think that was pretty good and I appreciate it. Thanks for having me on, looking forward to it. And I think you covered just about everything.

Anne: Well I'll tell you, I've worked with Jen professionally in different committees and just had the opportunity to work with her. And then, of course, she became a client this year and I've been thrilled to have her as a client. And one of the things I love about Jen is once she finally makes a decision, she's like me, she just goes full force ahead, right? She just loves to embrace whatever the decision it is. And so, you started out with one and then very quickly ... How many VAs do you have now?

Jen: We have four currently. We have three in our community management division and we have one in our maintenance company.

Anne: Yeah, so-

Jen: I'm sure we'll have more soon.

Anne: Which I love to hear. Tell us a little bit about your thought process of why you decided to go virtual and what have you found the benefits to be? And then I'll go back to what was that catalyst.

Jen: Yeah. So, our decision to do VAs was probably a little bit different than maybe some. We ran out of space. So, we were growing and growing and growing in our community management division and we got to the point where we had two people sharing offices, we had to keep adding cubicles. And really, having another brick and mortar location just didn't a lot of sense for us. I mean, since the brick and mortar is going away, continuing to put offices in places didn't really make sense. So, we started transitioning some of our managers to be remote and said, "Okay, well it makes sense to get some of our admin remote as well so we can still have chairs and stuff here for the admin that we do need to have in our brick and mortar locations.", And so that's really the reason why, and we were growing very quickly.

Jen: We have about 130 homeowner associations, so that's roughly between 25,000 and 30,000 doors. And so, we are constantly bringing them on every month, so we had to bring in more hands-on deck.

Anne: So, one of the common questions I get from people, and this is all over the place, is what can they do? Because I know what they can do, but a lot of times they don't trust what I have to say. So, I always like to ask our clients, what do you have your virtual assistants doing and how do you find working with them versus working with in house staff? What's the pros and cons, and what's the benefit?

Jen: Yeah. At first, we weren't sure what we could have VAs do either. So, that took a little bit of conversations of course with you and research. And actually, they're doing the same positions that we have people in our office doing. So, it's not just a data entry, it's not just a behind the scenes. They're speaking to board members, they're speaking to clients and they're in executive admin roles. So, we have people who are doing very high level community management admin work. We have one VA working in accounting. And when you have 130 different homeowners associations and some of them have two, three different bank accounts, you're working with hundreds of bank accounts, and she's doing awesome. And we have other admin that are doing our ACC requests, being assistants to our managers. I mean, really anything that we have someone in the office doing. Of course, not the required license positions, but other than that, we've pretty much figured that we can put them in that role just through a very extensive training.

Jen: So, we've put them through the same training that we put anyone that comes into our office through. So, typically if an admin is hired, they're not usually working on their own until over probably a month and a half, six, seven weeks. And so, all of our VAs went through a six week training with me after their one week with you. So, they went through quite a bit of training, but they know just as much as anybody else here in the office. They catch on very fast.

Jen: I would say I really like the team. The team aspect is one of my favorite parts of working with the VA. They love being a part of the team. We make them a part of the team. So, if we're having team meetings, they're remoted in, we get them on the phone. They're treated just like as if they were in the office. We just can't see them all the time. But I think having that inclusion really helps. And that's really one of my favorite parts, is just how grateful they are to be on the team. I think that is a huge difference, their work ethic and attitude. Of course, we have great people in our office as well, but I think that it helps everybody to have such a great attitude, such a positive energy every day.

Anne: So, how did your internal staff embrace the virtual? Did you have any pushback when you got started? Has it been something that was fairly easy? Share with ... Because that was another big concern that people have is my staff is going to freak out. So, share with me a little bit about that process for you.

Jen: Of course, yeah. I think with any kind of change you're always going to have uncertainty. People are always going to feel uncertain about it, and that did happen. We sat everybody down, we talked and just let everybody know. Everyone knew we were out of chairs, we were out of space, so at some point in time we were going to have to go remote. So, people understood that that was coming. And of course, it did take a little bit of change because we're not used to Skyping, we're not used to video conference. Those are all things that came about with moving some of our managers remote and then also bringing in remote admin. And so, that took some getting used to, handing around the webcam and saying, "Okay, who's calling who?" and passing the microphone around. But overall I think it's gone very well. I don't have a lot of complaints on that regard. It was quite smooth.

Jen: But I think the important part is communication. You always have to be communicating with your team. You need to make your team a part of the process. And one of the things that we do, and part of that six week training, is all of the people here in our office are all contributing to that training. So, they're not sitting there speaking to me on video all day. Actually, they probably speak to me on video the least amount. And they report to me because it's going through and they're literally doing Skype with each different person in the office. So, they got to speak to everybody, learn their personalities and I think that helped on both sides. It's going to help your VA feel a part of the team, get to know everybody, but then it allows your other staff to become comfortable with the process.

Anne: Well, I think that's very important. It's one of the things that I have a mantra about, is treat them like you would normally treat a new hire. Just like you said, you put them through the same new hire training. Because I find that when there are challenges or problems, one of two things happens. When I talk to the business owner and I say, "Well, tell me a little bit about their training pro-"

Anne: "Well, you know, I didn't really sit down with them." I'm like, it's hard. That's why we're having the challenge, right? You've got to have, you've got to treat them as much as you can, like an employee where you're putting them through. You probably wouldn't have a brand new employee train another brand new employee, and I see that too. They'll have a great experience with VA number one, so VA number two, they're just like, Oh VA number one just train VA number two. And I'm like, you don't make that same relationship. You don't have those same connections. So, try to be consistent and you'll have the consistent results.

Anne: So, I love the fact that you have embraced it and you've shared with your staff and made them a part of it. Because again, that is part of what makes it successful is that cohesion of team, and the only way you get that is by that communication and having those communication loops. So, as I would have expected you are the professional in that as well, so kudos to you and your team for for doing that.

Anne: Have there been any challenges? Has there been anything that you like, okay, well I wasn't prepared for this, or this was a little bit of a bump in the road?

Jen: Honestly, not so much. We have been very, very blessed and very lucky with the interview process. I mean, typically if we're going to hire someone here, you're usually going to go through multiple interviews. You're going to have your first interview and you're going to have a second interview with maybe two senior managers and possibly maybe a third. We're going to verify references. There's a whole process, but this just fell a lot easier if I'm being honest. I know you've vetted them a lot, so you've already went through interviews with them, so we just came in on the end. And the last two times we had such a hard time choosing between the three people we interviewed because we just really liked them all. And so, it was really just coming down to the one that we clicked with the most in all reality. But I really just think the positive attitude that they have really helps. And the fact that we have a training program established, so when they come in they're not sitting there, they're not just twiddling their thumbs. They have stuff that they're starting on right at 8:30 AM on that first Monday. We really didn't hit a lot of bumps.

Jen: My biggest, I guess challenge I would say was, and it really has nothing to do with the VA, more so our side, is we were bringing one in to be a manager's assistant and so you're on the phone a lot. And so, typically we would have an admin shadow our receptionist. We get anywhere from 10,000 to 12,000 phone calls a month coming in our office, so our receptionist, that's purely her job is answering the phones. There's a little bit of administrative work, but it's purely customer service. And so, we would always have our admin sit with them so that way they can hear the phone calls, hear how we answer, get the consistency. That was my biggest challenge is how am I going to do this remotely? How can I get them trained without just having them sit and listen to recordings all day?

Jen: So, our phone system company actually has a really cool option where they could barge into phone calls. So, we got the VA set up to where they could barge in and listen to anybody's phone calls that we set up the extensions for that and they could hear how they were answering the phone, what kind of phone calls they were getting, who they were transferring to. And then we would block out certain times of the day to just purely barge into phone calls and listen.

Jen: I'd say that was probably my biggest challenge on the training side, but otherwise we really have not hit any bumps yet. Knock on wood, everything has went fairly smooth.

Anne: Well, that's great. For those of you that don't have the barge feature though, let me just share because I do think it's important to have people listen to calls, isn't it?

Jen: Yes.

Anne: Actually, I just did an office hours about how to create a call flow and how to deal with this, because we do do a lot of receptionist placements and people don't know how to necessarily train their people with that. And so, I went through a little training with our clients of how to do that. If anybody's interested in that, certainly feel free to reach back out to me and I'll give it to you.

Anne: But one of the things that I think is important, because I didn't have that feature in my system and I don't know that a lot of people would, is I actually do make my VAs listen to X number of calls a day. So, they're calls either that I've done, that a previous VA's done, whatever, because we record every phone call that comes in.

Anne: And then we have what's called an FAQ. So, we have a written document that talks about these are the commonly asked questions and here's the response. And they can use that response via email if it comes in via email or they can do it verbally. It doesn't matter, because these are pre-approved canned messages that we have developed because I want the consistency across the board. And so, it sounds daunting to put that stuff together. But honestly, when you think about the fact that if you've been recording calls for a while, you probably have those FAQ kits covered. And if you have them recorded, you can actually have your VA, before they go live on the phone, listen to those and actually start writing down the answers themselves, and that helps retain the learning. So, for those of you that are thinking, oh my gosh, I don't have that as an option, that's something else.

Anne: The other thing that I recommend that they do is listen to their own calls. So, once you do have them on the phone, listen to their own calls and rate themselves. How do they feel they addressed the concerns of the caller from 1 to 10? And you'll be interested to know that when I've done this, most of the time the VAs score themselves a lot lower than what I would've scored them. I mean, I thought they handled it fine, but they see things in themselves, but it allows them to improve too. So, those are just some tips. But of course I love that barge feature. I'll have to figure out from you later what system you have and how that works.

Anne: So you decided to move forward. You have four now. How do you see the roles evolving as you go into a full year's worth of using virtual assistants? Or how has that changed your staffing and planning purposes as you continue to grow?

Jen: Yeah. I mean, it's really set us up into a position to be able to grow faster because like I said, we don't have the space to keep adding people. And so, we kept going, well do we slow down? What do we do? And so, this is going to give us the option to grow faster and continue at the pace we are and pick it up a little bit.

Jen: I would say the roles, I definitely would like to eventually make one of our VAs the head VA that is in charge of our other remote people checking in on them and taking that workload off of myself. And I think we have definitely qualified people of doing that. Also, bringing them in to help with some training after they are fully confident in their positions. We first started in February, so our oldest VA will have a year under her belt in February. And so, at that point then she'll be more comfortable in the role that she could actually be helping with some of putting the training together for our future people.

Jen: I'm in the process of building out a learning management system to where we can make it online, and that would be something they could help with. And then of course possibly bringing in other roles that we don't have here currently that we could make into a VA role is something we're looking at as well.

Anne: Well, that sounds great. It was a true game changer for me, and of course I'm much smaller than you are and in my property management business, but just being able to have the freedom of doing what I want to do in the business I think is probably one of the most ... for me, the biggest benefit of incorporating that. And I would definitely tell you, you should have an executive admin that works as your right hand, because that was one of the things that makes my life just so much better. If I need something, I either have Hannah or Daphne, depending on which part of the business I need help with, and they got it. I don't have to worry about it. I know they'll call customers, they'll do whatever. They're like a mini me. And it truly does allow you to do more of the creative or whatever it is you want to do, or sales or whatever you you enjoy. Swing that hammer, do those renos, right?

Jen: Yeah. I'm definitely excited to get to that point. We're getting there-

Anne: There you go.

Jen: Slowly but surely.

Anne: So, what other things would you like to share with some of your fellow executives as far as things that you think they should know about incorporating staff or just anything else that you think it would be important for them to know if they're considering going virtual?

Jen: Yeah. I would say go for it. Make the decision, and when you make the decision put everything into it. It's going to take a little bit of time and effort on your part in the beginning because you need to put together clearly defined roles and responsibilities if you don't already have that and put together training for them, because I think it's important to start it off on the right foot and to set a good first impression for your company as well as for the VA. And so, I spent probably a good two, two and a half weeks before our first VA came on really ironing out the process.

Jen: We were very lucky in October of last year, we actually redid all of our policies and procedures, and we had someone come in and shadow every person in the office and write out step by step how they do processes. So, we already had a lot of training information, so I was able to just compile it into one document that this VA would need for their position.

Jen: But spending the time to do that I think is super important because it's going to help you set up for a longterm relationship. When they come in and they feel like, okay, this is awesome. They have their stuff together, everything's good. I feel like it helps that first impression on both ends.

Jen: But I'd say go for it. Change is good, it's needed. We're in a different time. Remote is the new thing and there's nothing wrong with it. A lot of people are like, well, I'm not sure if that's the right option. But you know, in the grand scheme of things, give it a try. We thought about it for years. Wish we would have started sooner. However, we had to wait for the right time. We had to wait for it to feel right. We had to wait for us to be pushed into that position, because it is different if it's something you've never had in your office before, but it's okay. With the technology that we have these days, why not use it? I think there's just so many ways that you can incorporate someone virtually with your software, with Skype, video conferencing. You have pretty much all the tools you need, most of them are free, in order to be able to do it.

Anne: Well, I love that. And so, again I think it's such a, ... I love talking to my clients because they always help me figure out new things, and certainly I love the idea of your LMS, which stands for learning management system. It's usually a tutorial or online. That's a big investment. But again, as you're growing, it makes sense for your whole team to be on the same page and make sure that everything is documented the way it needs to be. So, I love that you're an innovator and always thinking about how to improve processes. I'm a process person too, so I can totally appreciate another good process girl. So, that's exciting.

Anne: Now, you work with your husband and your father-in-law-

Jen: And my mother-in-law-

Anne: And your mother-in-law. Didn't know that she was in there as well. So, truly a family business. So, we're going to take it a little bit out of VAs and into family. What has been the biggest challenge just in general with working with family and staff, and how do you balance that?

Jen: Yeah. A family affair can be difficult sometimes, but it's also awesome. The fact that you get to work with people that you love and trust daily of course is always a benefit. We have 30 staff members total, so of course a large chunk of them are not family. But we do a lot of things because they're like family. We do a lot of office events and gatherings. But I mean, it does present its challenges to separate personal from business. You don't truly ever go on vacation without talking about something, because you're in the car, you're driving and now all of a sudden your business planning on your way to Florida-

Anne: The best time to actually business plan-

Jen: It is-

Anne: Take six hour drives and knocked all kinds of stuff out.

Jen: Yes. Yeah, you actually can, getting away and just ... But it never turns itself off. But we all are kind of those people in all reality like that's how we function. Jason and I have worked together for 11 years now and probably 98% of the time we're on the same page. So, we just have a very good working relationship. And the awesome thing about all of us is that we have key people above each division that we love and trust and can do it together. I also have my brother-in-law who works here, my cousin. My uncle at one point worked here, my dad worked here. So, we truly had a family affair and it's great. It's good to know some day hopefully Olivia may decide that she wants to work here, and if not I'm sure she'll be earning an allowance while she's going to school working here at least. But yeah, I really do enjoy it. I think that's one the best things about the company.

Anne: Sure. Well, and of course I work with my husband and people are like, I don't know that I could work with my husband. I'm like, well, it's a joy for me. It sounds like it's a joy for you as well. I don't know that I could have worked with in laws. I don't think I could have done that. But you know, unfortunately now they're both passed, so it's not even an option. But ... this is what I love about what we do, right? We work hard, we play hard. We just love what we do so much. I mean, truly there wouldn't be another choice for me.

Anne: Now, you have a new responsibility coming up next year. You are the incoming president, I believe, of Atlanta chapter, right?

Jen: I am, yes for 2020.

Anne: And so, how do you envision your reign as president next year? I mean, share with us a little bit of foreshadowing of what's to come.

Jen: Yeah. Well, I hope it goes well. We'll start with that.

Anne: It will go well. Anything you touch goes great, so that's not-

Jen: Well, I appreciate that for sure. I'm really excited and honored to have been nominated and chosen because I didn't exactly submit my name into that hat, so I feel very blessed and honored for that. And it makes me feel good that the rest of the chapter feels confident in that decision, and I'm excited. I'm really looking forward to trying out some new things.

Jen: So, one of my goals is to implement our very first Atlanta chapter Day on the Hill at the Capitol in Georgia. And although we are a small ... Well Atlanta is the largest chapter in for a city chapter. However, compared to the Georgia Association of Realtors or the Community Association Institute, we are quite a small organization. And so, our voice hasn't been heard and I really would like to see that changed and get us in front of some people to help us with some of the legislation that's a little bit outdated, needs to be updated and fixed. And so, that's my biggest focus. I can't say that legislative and civics was on my top subjects in school, so it's learning process for me, but it's exciting because it's something new that I've never really dealt with before. And there's a ton of support, which makes me very excited about it. There's so many brokers and people who have joined the committee to be a part of it, so I'm very excited about what we're going to be able to do.

Anne: Well Jen, thank you so much for being with us. And if you are looking for a community association management firm or rentals, certainly I would tell you to reach out to Jen Tali and her staff. Her contact information will be at the end of this video. And we are super thankful to have you with us. Thank you again Jen, for joining us-

Jen: Thank you. I appreciate it.


In this episode, Mark and I were featured in I Am CEO with Gresham Harkless Jr., to discuss how we can help businesses take their leverage by providing top-notch virtual employees!

Click here to listen.

Feel free to book an appointment today so we can also discuss with this great option and how virtual employees can make a change into your business.

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A Company Values Statement is what drives the employee’s motivation providing worth to their expertise, loyalty, and contribution to the business. Whether it be a small or large enterprise, one of the biggest factors that separate a good company and the not-so-well-developed ones are clearly defined values.

What is the importance of and how does a company create a Values Statement? Well, as the business owner, it’s your opportunity to define the company’s goals, culture, objectives, the importance of your people and how it gives value to your employees and customers.

A comprehensive and well-built values statement serve as a great instrument that hooks your audience for understanding, developing, sharing fundamental objectives, and must be expressed in just a paragraph or two that can answer questions people have about your business and about you. Combined with a Mission Statement, your Company Values Statement should give your clients and staff a very good picture of what is important to you.

With years of experience as a REALTOR, property manager, and a business owner of multiple businesses, I’ve discovered a useful process for developing a values statement and boils down to these 3 steps:

Your customer’s life has become better because of your business

Think about the big things that make your customer’s life better, and put yourself as one of the greatest contributors of those things. Don’t undervalue your business. Offering a trustworthy service and gaining reputable claims from your customers could be your contribution to the world. Use those underlined benefits to detail the factors that make your business special for your target customer.

How your business affects the life of your employees

The second priority to look for when establishing values statement is by adding how you give importance to people who represent the business and how it affects their lives working with your company. Showcasing your employees as the most valuable brand ambassadors promotes a competitive difference between a genuinely productive company and just a large group.

How the business impacts you

It is also important to dedicate yourself to your business values statement. By telling people how your business was started, how it helped you with your personal and career growth, and how do see yourself or the importance of the business years from now. Always remember that your patience, perseverance, and dedication count and many people will look after your progression visualizing the whole assembly by reading over your passion and a strong interest in your organization.

Need some inspiration?

Here is our example of Value Statement, Core Values, and our Standards of Professionalism.

Here is an example from Digital Marketer:

Here is an example from Ben & Jerry's:

Be Unique, Stand Out, & Make it Your Own!

To Your Success!

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