Join us as we talk with Kent Grothe of PMI Northeast as he shared about managing HOAs in Atlanta and how he transitioned from Corporate to Business Owner. We talk about how he used HireSmart Virtual Employees to expand his reach and gain more customers and how he also has improved customer service too!
Want to know how to start with your virtual staff member too? Feel free to book an appointment with today so I can definitely help you all throughout the process!
Anne Lackey: Welcome. My name is Anne Lackey. I'm so excited to be talking with you guys today. And I want to introduce you to Kent Grothe, he is an owner and broker of PMI Northeast Atlanta. So some of you guys might not know, but there isn't a couple of franchises in the U.S. for property management. And of course, that just helps you get to your systems quicker and things like that. So he came into the property management business in 2016 after he left Corporate America. We'll certainly get into that. I want to find out more about that. And I guess he was traveling a lot and wanted some more quality of time with his family.
And of course, after three years, the company has grown and his wife and he has decided just to kind of open up their own business and have grown here in Atlanta. They're actually in my backyard, which is kind of fun. I get to see him on a regular basis. He's going to talk a little bit about being a part of a franchise. We don't have too many spotlights yet on our franchisees. So I've kind of really interested to know a little bit more about that. And certainly excited to find out more because he does a lot with HOA. So Kent, welcome to the program. Thank you so much for being here.
Kent Grothe: Thanks for having me and I appreciate it.
Anne Lackey: Oh, it's my pleasure. So we've been doing this for a couple of years now, I think, right?
Kent Grothe: We have. Yeah.
Anne Lackey: That is always exciting to me when I get to talk with veterans about how... Everybody's kind of bright and shiny the first year, but this really becomes a game changer. Year two, three, four. And one of the questions we have a lot of times is, what's the turnover rate? And when I tell people the turnover rate is usually very, very low, people don't believe me. So kind of share with us a little bit about your... First of all, your corporate experience, why you went into property management? Why you selected to buy a franchise? And then we'll kind of get into using staff. So start us off with a little bit of history, please.
Kent Grothe: Okay. So we started this... Actually about 2015 is when I really started looking into it, 2016 is when we got rolling. I had a very successful corporate career. I was a Vice President of a Fortune 500 company. A great job by a lot of measures except that I traveled quite a bit. And with a family that gets to be a bit difficult. And as my kids were getting older, my son was about to go into middle school, that's when it just hit me. I don't want to do this anymore.
So I told my wife, "I want to try something else. I want to find something different." And I actually didn't start off looking for a business. I started looking for one of those kind of jobs I had that didn't involve travel. They're kind of like a unicorn, they don't exist. So I just happened to run into a guy along the way that helps broker deals for franchises.
And I looked at several of them and thought, "I've been making money for a lot of other people for a long time. Maybe I should do this for myself." And that's how we got into this. So property manager was a natural fit. I had an operations background, that's what I've done my whole career. My wife, who's in the business with me, also has an accounting background.
Anne Lackey: Okay.
Kent Grothe: So a great foot as well, right? So that's how we got into it. We picked a franchise because I didn't have a property management background, so I needed something to give me some legitimacy in the beginning. I needed a brand. I didn't have a brand, I was just a guy. And so PMI gave me a large national brand to go out and sell with. Now it's transitioned over the years and now I sell us, PMI Northeast Atlanta, versus PMI the franchise, a lot more heavily because we have something to sell. We've got experience. We've got a local brand. So that's kind of how we got into the whole thing. I just wanted to quit traveling.
Anne Lackey: I believe you. I talked to my stepson all the time who's kind of on that same track that you're on. Traveling and he just had his second child. And it does, it wears on you because his kids are young too, and six months.
Kent Grothe: Yeah.
Anne Lackey: So when you're gone three out of five days and trying to manage that, it can definitely wear on you. And I do think when your kids get older, they miss you more.
Kent Grothe: Yeah.
Anne Lackey: You miss part of their growth. So I love the fact that you dedicated this to your family. So now, unlike maybe some of the other property management companies that focus on single-family residential homes, you have a little bit different focus in your business primarily. Tell us a little bit about why you chose that and what it is.
Kent Grothe: Okay. So we have... I don't know that we chose it, I think it chose us. But we... PMI offers you the opportunity to get into four different types of a property manager, right? So residential, association or HOA, commercial and vacation. And so I started off looking at association and residential because there's so much of both around us. And I think my corporate background is probably what helps me in those HOA meetings with those boards. Because I have a business background and operations background, my wife's got an accounting background. We're bringing a lot of the things they're looking for. A lot of these folks on HOA boards are business people, right? And so they... Those conversations sort of resonate a little better.
So we just naturally ended up in that space far more heavily. We do residential but very, very small, 34 homes. So a tiny residential business and a growing good size HOA business. So that's kind of... It did its... We didn't really pick it on purpose. Nowadays we are actually because we found that to be our strength, we are focusing in that direction.
Anne Lackey: Sure.
Kent Grothe: Yeah, and that's what our VA mostly does is our HOA business.
Anne Lackey: Okay. So let's transition it over to her. So she's been with you a little over two years now.
Kent Grothe: Yeah.
Anne Lackey: So what was that like? Kind of think back to two years ago when you were thinking about, "Gosh, what do I do? How do I grow?" What were some of your thought processes that you went through before you decided to hire virtually?
Kent Grothe: So the... You know as you grow, especially in HOA business, you have a lot more customers early on, right? Because every HOA you're picking up 50, 100, 200. The phone starts ringing and that gets to be... If you want to do well, you've got to provide good service. And that means you've got to answer that phone. You've got to return those phone calls. It got to be that time was just, it was a killer. We got big enough that there wasn't... There really weren't enough hours of the day to get everything done anymore.
And I was at... I remember, I don't know if you remember this one, but we met in Savannah at a conference, right? And sure enough, you told me, "Well, you're not going to do this right now. You're going to go home and you're not going to do it." You said. "Three months, six months down the road, you'll finally do it. And then after you get started, you're going to tell me, Anne, I should have done this a long time ago."
And you were right. That's exactly what I did. I didn't do it. I waited too long. I should have pulled the trigger way before I did and I definitely waited too long to do it. For us, it was a game changer. We'd hit the point where I could not grow anymore because I have to sleep at some point and the business was getting that busy. But it wasn't big enough that I could really justify a full boots on the ground fully loaded employee cost at Atlanta rates. It just wasn't there. This was the solution. And Carla has been with me a little over two years. She is awesome. I hope she's with me another 15.
Anne Lackey: She really loves working for you. I actually just talked to her not that long ago. So I love the fact when I can bring those matches together and provide a great career for the virtual professional as well as give relief to the business owner. It's so funny, you mentioned the story of our conversation. The conversation is the same conversation I had with myself when I look back five years ago. Gosh, it's hard to believe I've been doing this now for five years. I always say my biggest mistake was waiting too long to hire my first and my second biggest mistake was waiting too long to hire my second because... Out of fear.
And really when you break it down psychologically and financially you're like, well this is silly. Like it's so cost effective. I can actually have three VA's for the cost of one person and their productivity is so much higher than what I was getting. Now again, there may be better managers than me, I don't know. But I wasn't getting that type of productivity out of my in-house staff. And so it truly was a game changer for me. And so I loved the fact that my clients also feel that it really helped them in their journey and in their business.
So one of the questions that always comes up is, "Well that sounds great Anne, but realistically, what can they do?" So now that she's... Carla's been working for you for a couple of years, tell us what she does for you.
Kent Grothe: Anything you can do with a computer and a phone.
Anne Lackey: I say that too.
Kent Grothe: That's literally the answer. I mean it's anything you can teach them to do with a computer and a phone. So they're not physically here. So there's things they can't do. There are things you won't have them do in terms of maintain the separation of duties within your business. So they're not going to cut checks. Of course they're not here anyway, but even if they were. So there's things you're going to do that you wouldn't do in any normal business. But otherwise, the best and most important thing to do when you first bring on your VA is pick up that phone. That's the difference. Most property managers don't. If you've ever called another property manager, you figured out what they're mostly like. They don't answer the phone, they rarely ever call you back.
So that is, if you want a game-changer from service, first thing you do is you get a decent phone system that they can pick up for you. Answer live during the day. People don't expect it. They're blown away. Then you'd give them access to your system so they can get in and answer questions.
And so most of our HOA calls, I never hear about, I don't see them. She resolves that first call, done. So someone calls up, they don't expect an answer, they got one. They don't expect somebody to be nice. They got that. And they don't expect to be helped. And they got that. They get off the phone and they're just like, "What happened? I can't believe this."
And so she can get in, she enters bills, she helps coordinate maintenance. So if we need, "Hey, get this vendor in touch with this tenant or in touch with whatever. Give them this gate code info for an HOA. Give them the address." She can do all that. Coordinate with vendors for us.
And I'll typically provide some guidance on, "Okay, here's the three I want you to call for that particular account. Call in this order, the first one that can take it, gets it." That kind of thing. Or get me bids. She's just getting me quotes and provides me the information.
She helps me with a lot of data entry. So as we bring on a new association... Still when you bring on a residential, you've got a lot of setup work to do. So you've got to enter a whole bunch of information. In our case, it's all the homeowners and the vendors and all that. But similar to if you're entering a lease or entering a new property. She can do all that kind of data entry for us and help us set up a new association. So really anything, again, that you can do with a computer and a phone. I don't think people get it.
Anne Lackey: They don't.
Kent Grothe: So Carla has... She's a college-educated, professional that works for me. So anything you can teach somebody in the office, you can teach her to do. You have to put time in, you have to take the time to create some instructions, whether they're... And I do a combination of written and video. So I'll often video, just do a screen capture of training or how I'm doing something, often while I'm on the phone with her. So I'll just record while I'm talking to her. And so I'll keep that, so she's got to back up for later. And for the next VA and the next VA. I'm building a library.
And then we also provide some written instruction. You've got to take the time, but you would do that for a local employee. It's no different. So anyway, what can they do? Pretty much everything.
Anne Lackey: I love that. And it's funny, I tell people the same thing too. Like they're just like your employees.
Kent Grothe: Yes.
Anne Lackey: Except with a lower bill rate, no payroll tax. No 1099, none of that. And other than that, you're training them the way that you want them done. You're investing the time. They're following whatever holiday schedule you've got or paid time off that you have. All of that's kind of the same. And the more you treat everybody kind of like the same way, the better results you have. So have those regular one-on-one meetings with them and talk with them and build that relationship with them.
And I think after, again, five years of doing this, I have seen that the clients either fall in one or two categories. The people that really win like yourself, embrace them as employees. Really truly care for them, know about their families, talk to them on a regular basis and they become that valued person. Or they are in the other camp, which I don't think is as successful, where they're just giving them tasks and they're really not investing in their people.
And I think that the clients that do that are really missing out on the real benefit of what this process has to offer.
Anne Lackey: Their VA's are not as engaged with them because they're not engaged with the work, right? You've got to be able to kind of wrap your whole self in this process and the more you invest in them and their training and their professional development. I mean a lot of them... Like I've put my VA's through specific courses because I want them to learn more about a particular topic. And I pay for that for them and I pay for the time. But it benefits me and my business because that's an additional skill set. And they love it. They love the fact that they are growing, that they are expanding their horizons and they rise to the top. And I also think one of the biggest misconceptions that people have is that they aren't smart. And that has never been my case. Share with us kind of your feedback on that.
Kent Grothe: Oh yeah. So again, Carla can learn things so quickly. That's what's really great about her. I can show her once. And unless it's a particularly complex task, that's it. I don't ever... And she'll look up the instructions she has. And I think the thing people miss too is initiative. So they're not just smart. She looks for work to do. So if she gets to a point where it's slow, she'll be going through our to-do list, looking at, "Hey, there's this task, can I do that?"
"Yes, thank you. Please do." Maybe I have to teach her how, but now she's just told me. Here's another skill I can teach her.
Anne Lackey: Sure.
Kent Grothe: So I think beyond just the fact that these are educated, smart people, they've got the initiative to want to work. They don't want to sit around doing nothing. They want to be busy.
Anne Lackey: They do.
Kent Grothe: And that's a big deal. And the other thing that, with the engagement piece you were talking about, that really reminded me of some stuff. I've gotten notes like when people send in their payments and things. I think I may have sent you one.
Anne Lackey: You did.
Kent Grothe: Little handwritten things like, "Oh thanks, Carla. You're awesome." From an HOA owner paying their bill. Who does that?
Anne Lackey: Right.
Kent Grothe: I have people that come in the office and they're like, "Is Carla here today?"
"No, she's working remote today." You know?
Anne Lackey: Yeah.
Kent Grothe: But they come in looking for her because they know her, they call her and they talk to her. She's the voice of PMI. So that engagement piece, if they're going to be on your phone and they're going to be working with your customers and your clients, that's a big deal. They need to be excited and to be happy. They need to know what's going on in the business. So I tell her every time we bring on a new client, that's a big win for us, every HOA is a significant win. So she knows about that. So that engagement piece is important. I get what you're saying, that people that don't do that, they're missing out. Absolutely. Because they become part of your brand.
Anne Lackey: Right, exactly. And it... Probably one of the most interesting things for me too is, like you said, their initiative, like they really want to work. And sometimes when I ask their opinion on something, like, "Well, what do you think? How do you think we should handle this?" I am blown away by the commentary that they bring. Things that I wouldn't have necessarily thought about, but because most of our VA's have been working at big call centers for big companies and big corporations, they're exposed to things that are all about metrics and how to do things faster and processes.
And it's just been surprising to me that some of my best ideas aren't from me. They're from my staff as we talk about a particular issue or item. And so I love the fact that you also engage with Carla in that as well. Looking back, what was kind of the hardest thing? So we talked about all the good stuff. Let's talk about-
Kent Grothe: Right.
Anne Lackey: ... Maybe what was a little bit of a challenge or what was something that you could help somebody realize or help them overcome? And how did you overcome whatever that was?
Kent Grothe: So I think one thing you get... I talked to a lot of our franchisees who are... They're small, they're growing, they're kind of that point where I was, where they're getting overloaded. And they always struggle with the cost piece. Like, "Ah, but that's X dollars a month. X dollars. X dollars."
I go, "Okay." So I always rock them through a little different way. "X dollars. That's fine. But let's look at on a daily basis. So take their hourly rate depending on whether you take this plan or that plan. Take the hourly rate, figure it out on an eight hour day. Okay. How many dollars is that?"
It's not very many. I say, "Okay. What's your time worth? So how many hours or minutes of your time does it take to pay one day's pay for that virtual professional to work for you? In my case, it's about 40 minutes."
She does about 40 minutes of my work. Whether it takes me off the phone. I am already happy. So they get hung up on the cost and they get hung up on, "I don't have 40 hours worth of extra work." You don't need 40 hours' worth of extra work. You just need a few hours in your day. You'll come up with 40 hours, don't worry, you'll come up the work once you figure out what they can do." Because they think they're just a phone machine. They don't really quite get it yet.
So I have to coach a lot of folks through that initial hurdle of don't obsess over 40 hours worth of tasks to manage, don't obsess over the cost. When you break it down and really look at it, the value it brings to your business by freeing you up to work on your business instead of doing... Answering the phone or whatever you're doing. It's huge. I mean it's just a no brainer when you can take the emotion out and really logically walk through it, you're just like, "Oh my gosh, why have I not?" That's what happened to me when I really looked at it. Like, "Why have I not done this yet? That was dumb."
Anne Lackey: And like I said, me too. The first one... Because I was worried about the same thing. Like do I have 40 hours worth of work? And finally I decided it was so painful for me that even if they were only busy 20 hours, I didn't care.
Kent Grothe: Absolutely, yeah.
Anne Lackey: And it was double the price. So basically I'm only getting... It's going to be double the price. I honestly didn't care because those were things that I didn't want to do and it was taking up my headspace and it was keeping me from doing what I really needed and wanted to do. Like you said, working on the business. So I love that.
The other thing that people go, "Well you got a recruiting and certification fee." So we get that quite a bit because you got other people that have call centers and you can pay as you go. Totally get that. But if you look at what you get from-
Kent Grothe: Yeah.
Anne Lackey: I mean I'm a trained recruiter, like if I was getting paid normal corporate dollars for these VA's, it would be so much more money. But our process works. There's a reason we have a 97.2% success rate in my placements. And people don't realize that the costs of you putting out resumes and screening and then hoping you get a good person and you don't have access to the same testing that we do. You don't have an access... And you don't know what you don't know. I mean, all of this stuff just kind of really blows my mind.
But our process is such that when I engage with a client, I get to know their needs. And I've done it so often, I know exactly kind of what personality profile they need for which position.
Kent Grothe: Right.
Anne Lackey: And then we do the criminal background check. That's probably been the most... Not every country can you do that. And I don't think people realize that. They think, "Well, I'll just hire." Well we're dealing with people's personal data. For me personally as a broker, I wanted to make sure that I've done everything that I can to keep it safe. Like I mean, again, you can... Stuff happens, we all understand that. But to the best of my ability, I want to make sure my client's data is as safe and secure as possible. So the criminal background check alone is worth the price of admission.
And then when I work with each placement, and I do, I mean I have a team that helps, but I personally know every VA that goes through our training program. I look at their work, I personally test their communication. So everybody that comes through our process, I've had a hand in there to make sure that they're good. And I think that that's the next piece. Like you're not getting just a room full of VA's and "Oh here's the next one. And yeah, they've been working with me part-time doing stuff. But here, they'll work for you."
I mean it's kind of a custom shoe versus a buy off the shelf. Like I customize my placements for my clients. And to me, the value in that is worth the price of admission too. And of course since you did it two years ago, we've even gotten even exponentially better and I was pretty good back then. Now I've got data to actually support my theory. So back then I was dealing with kind of some contextual theories and testing some stuff out. And now we've gone to an empirical testing where we are doing... We're using a Fortune 500 level type testing software that I've adapted for the. So I spent the last year and a half really kind of digging into the data. Because I like things that are duplicatable, repeatable and processes that work. And so whenever there's a failure, I kind of unpack all of that.
So I love the fact that you're helping other business owners understand the value of all that. And not only that, just their time. Because again, there's so much head space that we waste thinking about something that's relatively simple that if we had somebody else handle, it would allow us just to do so much more in our business and grow. But I think a lot of times, and I'm guilty of this too, we like to be busy and not necessarily productive.
Kent Grothe: Right.
Anne Lackey: And so I have to kind of catch myself in my own world and go, "Okay, am I doing busy work? Or am I doing something that actually is helping move the business forward?" So you're smarter than most of us, myself included in that. So fast forward another year from now, what is your... What does your business look like? What do you... What's your staff look like? Kind of share with us a little bit about what your vision is as you progress in the next year for growth.
Kent Grothe: So I would say in the next year... We're about to put the second boots on the ground job here. We've actually got a posting out. I anticipate if things go the rate they're going, we'll put one more on next year and probably a second virtual staff member sometime mid to late year, depends on how things go and how loaded Carla gets. And so I've talked to her regularly because I know she's going to hesitate to tell me. But I keep telling her, you got to let me know when you get too... Because you can't see them. So you can't see just how really busy they are. There's only so much oversight. So you've got to engage with them and make sure they understand, "It's okay. If you're too busy, you need to tell me. Because if you get loaded up too much then that affects the business. We can't grow." And so she gets it, she just is a people pleaser, that's her personality. So I keep in mind... Let me know.
Anne Lackey: One of the things we do to help that is, we are actually, every 90 days, reviewing that with every VA. So Daphne, who our client relationship manager-
Kent Grothe: Yeah, I know Daphne.
Anne Lackey: ... That I brought on board about 90 days ago, has really kind of embraced that role and has made it a point to have those regular scheduled meetings. Just to check in, make sure that there's nothing... Because they'll talk to her where they won't talk to me or you.
Kent Grothe: Right.
Anne Lackey: They're just... Not that they're afraid, but they just... They're not as open.
Kent Grothe: Yeah, we're the authority figures.
Anne Lackey: Right. But she can get the dirt. So I love that about her because she's very friendly and very nice and certainly I think that that's, again, another benefit that we help our clients. Because you don't really want people to be so busy that they burn out. That's-
Kent Grothe: Right.
Anne Lackey: And the VA's, from the scale of workability, tend to go more on that realm. Like they'll overwork themselves and then are lazy and don't work. Like you said, Carla likes to be busy, right?
Kent Grothe: She does.
Anne Lackey: So that's important. You know this... We're currently in the fall... Some of you may be watching this a little bit later. So in the fall as we go into the holidays, it's always, at least in my business, is a little bit lighter. And so one of the things that we're doing also is saying, "Now's a great time to catch up on those kind of projects that haven't been done." Insurance audits, making sure that vendors have all of the credentials that they need. All of those types of things that, again, we know we need to do but we just really haven't done yet because life kind of gets in the way. So are there any other types of projects like that that you have on your list for Carla to do that might be helpful to some of our listeners?
Kent Grothe: Sure. So the residential property managers are not going to love this, but we do leasing and management as part of our HOA business. So we provide some oversight for all the leased houses. And do we have a current lease? Do we know the current tenant contact info? Have they paid their leasing fee? Et cetera. And that is... That takes time. It's a bit tedious. But this is a good time of year to do it. Because the pools are all shut down, because in the summer we're dealing with pools, right?
Anne Lackey: Yes.
Kent Grothe: And it gets crazy busy for us with all that stuff. So now that's all behind us, and the landscaping, everything's settling down. We can get into those kinds of projects. On the residential side, of course, yeah it's the, let's make sure all that residential insurance, the renter's insurance is up to date. Check through all our vendors and make sure that the vendors aren't missing any COI's. Those kinds of things. So that's... It's a lot of that catch up stuff you can do in the off season. Same as you. Just different because it's a different from my business.
Anne Lackey: Sure, sure. Well and it goes through... This is always a chance for us to source out new vendors too. I want to have vendors on board and vetted before we get really busy in the spring. So we'll have... We'll try them on some jobs now, get them... Kind of test their waters so that when we get super busy in the spring, we know we've got a line of defense that is strong enough. So that's... Researching vendors is another big key for us. And very, very helpful as we, again, gear up for spring. Well Kent, what was one piece of advice or aha moment that you'd like to share with our listeners about using virtual staff?
Kent Grothe: Getting over that initial hump, that pay thing, people get hung up on that. They really need to stop and just think logically about what's your time worth? Because what you're buying in the beginning is you're buying your time back. Whether that's to grow your business, to spend time with your family, just to get some sleep. And all of us get to that point as you're growing a business, it's lonely at the top and you're where it all stops when you're the owner. And so you're going to get that busy and don't wait too long.
The other thing is having a fully trained staff member like Carla that when she's answering the phone, and can handle those questions for people, has really... I mean we have great online reviews. We have very happy customers or clients. And I just never really put that together in the beginning how big an impact. I was doing it to get my time back. But training her right has really made a huge impact on just how our business is perceived. And in HOA management, we're the bad guys. We're always the bad guys, but not everybody hates us. That's pretty good in the HOA world.
Anne Lackey: That is good. Because I don't know that we like you very much either as residential property managers.
Kent Grothe: Yeah, I know you don't. That's fine.
Anne Lackey: All those crazy things. So yeah, no, I get it.
Kent Grothe: Yeah. So I think that was the thing. Just the impact of having someone like that on the phone. And she is, I mean my VA, is a rock star. She is so great with customers. You just can't beat Carla. So I think I got your best one. So sorry everybody else.
Anne Lackey: I have all my clients feel that way. And a lot of them do so that... And they're perfect for them. That's what I say.
Kent Grothe: Yes, exactly.
Anne Lackey: Like your person is perfect for you. They wouldn't be necessarily well suited for somebody else. And I think, again, that comes down to my secret sauce of being able to find those right things. I think the good news about our processes, of course, I'll give you three. Anyone of those are talented enough to do the work. You can pick the one you like.
Kent Grothe: Exactly.
Anne Lackey: Does it get any simpler? Pick the one you like. And they're like, "Well, I don't know."
I'm like, "Well, they're all good. So pick the one you like." Well Kent, thank you so much. For those of you that are looking for HOA services in Atlanta, I encourage you to get in touch with Kent and his information is to follow right after this message. So thanks so much and have a great rest of your day.
Kent Grothe: Thanks Anne. I enjoyed it.
Meet my granddaughter Aria. She and I had a fun time this Christmas decorating gingerbread men. Sadly I didn’t get a full picture of her masterpiece as it is challenging just getting a picture together.
One of the amazing things about 2-year-olds is that they think their creations are masterpieces. They work very hard to get it the way they want it, and they see it exactly as they want to see it. From their perspective, it is perfect.
As an adult, we see the creations for what they are – a work in progress and a step toward learning motor skills and concepts. We know that the next year we will have better results because she has grown and improved her motor skills, improved her eye/hand coordination, and she is able to sit longer than the year before.
She will have learned from her experiences and be able to apply those experiences for an even better outcome as she grows older and becomes more experienced.
Now you may be asking yourself, what in the world does this have to do with Virtual Employees and hiring staff. You see there are a lot of virtual staffing companies out there to choose from. Many of them are a lot like Aria – not mature in the business, some have never even owned a business, some are like Aria, just starting out. They haven’t learned enough because they haven’t experienced enough of the issues and drama.
At HireSmart Virtual Employeees, we have the depth of experience not only in owning and running multiple businesses over 15+ years but having placed staff for hundreds of clients. We have learned from over 8000 applicants what will and won’t be successful in a wide variety of roles. Our “gingerbread” VEs certainly aren’t perfect, we are always learning and growing, but we have a proven system with results to back it up.
Don’t take our word for it. Here are some of our clients who share their results and how their lives were improved because of having us as a staffing partner in their business.
Courtney shares this about her Virtual Employee:
“She has taken such a huge workload off Carly, and her day-to-day tasks that we can pass off in automation. We've given her stuff that I never even thought we would be able to give somebody that is in another country. We give it to her, and she does it perfectly, and with ease. She just does it.”
Kent talks about his:
“For us, it was a game-changer. We'd hit the point where I could not grow anymore because I have to sleep at some point and the business was getting that busy. But it wasn't big enough that I could really justify a full boot on the ground fully loaded employee cost at Atlanta rates. It just wasn't there. This was the solution. And Karla has been with me a little over two years. She is awesome. I hope she's with me another 15.”
Are you ready to find out if hiring a virtual employee is right for you? Let’s chat. Click and you can book a time to speak with me.
In this episode of Company Spotlight, we're so excited to feature Olimpia Gire of Noble Real Estate Services' as she talks about her strategy on scaling a Property Management business and how she was able to utilize our virtual employee service effectively for her business growth.
If you are looking to grow your business and want to avoid the chaos of a wrong hire, I'm always here to help! Feel free to book an appointment with me 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 HireSmartVAs and today I have a great treat for you. I have Olympia Guyer, she is the broker/owner of Noble Real Estate Services and she and her husband Jason have been together and doing real estate since 2008 in property management. Now they both have had tons of other real estate experience before that. They currently manage over 700 properties in the Chula Vista or South Bay area. And one of the things that I love about Olympia specifically is she is a first-generation U.S. citizen, so she brings a different perspective to property management. She was born at Mercy hospital and raised in Chula Vista. So she's a true native to that area and so she knows everything that there needs to know because she graduated from Buena Vista High School and went to Southwestern College. She earned her degree in Business Administration. So Olympia, welcome to the show, we're so happy to have you.
Olympia Guyer: Hi.
Anne Lackey: So I met you, I guess it's been about a year ago now at one of the property management conferences.
Olympia Guyer: Yes.
Anne Lackey: And I know you had 1000 questions, I remember you very well. I remember those first conversations because Olympia would come to talk to me for a little bit and then she would go away and then she'd think about something and she'd come back and she goes, "Okay, I have some more questions." And so that's kind of how you process information but eventually, you decided that this might be something for you that you could do. So share with our listeners a little bit about kind of your thought process and how you went from being very nervous and scared to pulling the trigger and hiring your first VA, which you've had probably about almost a full year now, I think with her. So tell everybody kind of how you got over that initial inertia of "Oh my gosh, this is scary."
Olympia Guyer: Yes, it was very scary but I had actually met your husband at a previous seminar.
Anne Lackey: Oh, okay.
Olympia Guyer: I think at the NARPM conference and two companies were next to each other. And so I would go to him and I'd go to the other one, "Well, why are you this way? Why are you this way?" And then Neil, right? Your husband he's...
Anne Lackey: Well Mark's my husband, Neil's my business partner.
Olympia Guyer: Oh, okay. So what's your husband's name?
Anne Lackey: Mark.
Olympia Guyer: Mark. Mark was very soft-spoken and I thought... so I didn't sign up, but it was like, "Okay, we didn't renew it." So then when I met you and I love the  that you are. And I said, "Okay, well I think this lady's for real." Because I talked to a lot of people. You were probably like the fourth company that I interviewed and I'm getting older and very weary and fearful, and I'm not as trusting as I used to be when I was younger. So when I met you, you're like a fireball to me and I thought, "Okay, well I think she's on the right path." And so I signed up. I signed up right there once I met you.
Anne Lackey: Wow. Well thank you, I appreciate the compliment. Yeah. I always tell people, people either really gravitate to Mark or they gravitate to me because we are very different in our approach. I mean I think we're both get-driven kind of people, but he is much like you said, softer about that or like, "You just need to do it. There's no better way to do it."
Olympia Guyer: One of the things that you said that made me jump is that I told you I'm very scared and you said, "I was very scared and we did it with no one behind us, I'm going to hold your hand." And I was like, "Oh you are? Is that okay?" Then I felt like I could trust you.
Anne Lackey: Did I fulfill that promise for you?
Olympia Guyer: Yes.
Anne Lackey: Okay.
Olympia Guyer: Well, you actually held my hand a little bit more than I wanted to. I appreciate that though because you're very precise.
Anne Lackey: Yeah. So I always want to make sure I deliver on the promises that...
Olympia Guyer: You totally delivered on the promises. Yes, I appreciate that.
Anne Lackey: Because that's something that I think you hit on right away is that certainly there are lots of different opportunities and things that can go great or not great when you're dealing with staff. Because again, we're dealing with human capital, right? And I don't care whether your human capital is a tenant who you've screened really well and they move into a home and they have a car accident and now can't pay, right? I mean it's kind of that same kind of thing where you have a staff member that gets ill, it's kind of the same thing. I really have a lot of parallels between what I do in staffing and what we do in property management because again, we're dealing with human capital, but it's always been really important for me to be able, just whether it be in my property management company or whether it be in HireSmart to be able to say without a doubt that says, "Look, we're not perfect, but I will make it right." I will do everything I can to make sure that our clients are super happy. And I will give you as much information as you want. Like you said, probably a little bit more, but that just, information is power for me and I think the more information you have, whether you use it or not, does it really matter? You at least then can make those decisions. So I'm really very happy that you're a year in at this point and feeling great about the success of what I've done for you, so thank you for that. Kind of share with us a little bit, because this is a question that comes up all the time. What does your virtual assistant do for you? Because that's probably the number one question I get is like well it sounds good but really can they do everything? Are you telling me they can do stuff that they can't do? So tell us a little bit about some of the tasks that you have done with your virtual professional.
Olympia Guyer: We work with ShowMojo and we have another virtual company that's our leasing line that I'm trying to wean out because I did sign up with both of you at the same time and they were more of leasing and you were more the back office. But I'm more comfortable with the way that you work and what we're using now, our virtual lady in the Philippines, she does all of our follow-ups and she does all of our ads.
Olympia Guyer: And I time her and it was very difficult to have those ads done here at the office. And we have three people on staff and everyone, I had a schedule for each one of them, they were supposed to do an hour. I don't know how I could not get a full hour from all three in an eight-hour day. That was 24 hours, not one hour. So now I have the virtual assistant that by the way, I think I did tell you I want to get a new one, another one.
Anne Lackey: No, but I'm happy to help with that.
Olympia Guyer: Yes. Not a new one, but another one. And I'm very happy with the way she follows up because the other company doesn't do a follow-up. So we get a list of people and she calls everybody and pre-qualifies them. She knows our scripts and does the ads.
Anne Lackey: So that's great. So she's actually probably reduced your vacancy then if she's able to do that type of follow-up. Would you say that that was part of the success?
Olympia Guyer: Yes. It's very rare that we have things in standing inventory. We work on three-day turnover, so we're quick. And if something happens, yeah, my husband's on Skype with her and "We're going to do this." So she's very attentive to that and I think she's caught on with our philosophy of getting things occupied quickly. I've seen other companies that wait like 30 days, 45 days for a vacancy. Like if we have five days vacant, it's too much. So she's really helped us in that, yes.
Anne Lackey: Well that's great. I wish I could say I was a five-day occupant, it kind of depends on the time of year. Right now some of mine are lingering a little bit longer than I like. Even though we do the same thing. Like Bonnie gets a viewing, she calls the next day, "Did you see it? Did you ..." Because we do total self showing without ShowMojo or any of the other tools. And so she'll ask, "Are you going to apply? Blah blah blah blah blah." And that really does shorten that time period because they think, "Oh if you're this attentive with showing, aren't you also going to be attentive with my maintenance and are you going to care about all the other things that go on?" Because I think tenants are still a little nervous about that. Is this company going to take care of my requests in a timely manner? How are they going to treat me? Am I a person or am I number? So I know for me it was a huge game-changer. Well, that's awesome. So she does a lot of the pre-listing type stuff and all the follow-up. And I think something else that you said that was very kind of interesting and telltale is that she gets stuff done that you couldn't get anybody in your office to do.
Olympia Guyer: Nobody. I mean it was like pulling hair. It was like, I said so many times, "Okay if you guys don't do the ads, I don't need you." It was just like that's our lifeline. And now it's taken off the stress. We do have a lot of work to do and they still are very busy. We have that time to give the ads and now our virtual assistant works the morning as soon as she clocks in at 8:30 and before lunch and then goes to lunch and then puts ads up again.
Anne Lackey: Yeah. So you've got a nice routine for her as well of time blocking, which is always helpful. I don't care what role you are in a company, if you don't time block and have certain things at certain times you'll be pulled in a thousand different directions, so that's really smart. How has that impacted your company? I mean again, we talked a little bit about shortening the vacancies a little bit more and taking that load off, but what other kinds of surprises have come from hiring virtually versus hiring someone locally?
Olympia Guyer: Well, we did have a fourth person in the office and sometimes my staff says, "We need a fourth person." And I said, "Yeah, she's in the Philippines." So I really like it. I mean payroll has gone down, taxes have gone down. I don't have to worry that she's going to call in sick. Actually, our lady has never called in sick.
Anne Lackey: It's rare, It depends. Sometimes in the high typhoon season, it happens, but to me, it's a lot rarer than it was locally.
Olympia Guyer: But locally, I mean the state makes you give them three days off to be out sick. And so it's an expected part of the game. But she hasn't and it's really nice that she is here when we are out. So like for the holidays, we had her work during our holiday time because we do still have a lot of showings during the holidays. So she kept on going and I always think of the business as a train. So the train didn't slow down, it kept ongoing. And that was a big plus because we couldn't have had that with someone here in the office.
Anne Lackey: Good. Good, good, good. So what advice would you give to someone that's considering hiring a virtual professional? Let's say they were where you are a year ago, what would you tell them?
Olympia Guyer: I would say give them a little bit of work. If you are a skeptic as I am, give them a little bit of work and then see what they will produce and it's scary because you see the people in the office and you see them Facebook, the telephone, a million things. And what would I do is I have my staff upfront, so they kind of babysit each other. They're on Skype when she's on Skype and if there are any questions, they're communicating and all three of my staff are on Skype with her. And so that helps her to come into the office and feel more part of the whole team. But I think giving her small things, at first what I wanted to do was to give her my tech reconciliations because that's what I do. And it was just like, "Oh my God, if I could give this away." But I haven't done that yet, I am still very skeptical of that. You hear so many stories, I tell my husband, Donny and Marie worked since they were three and they're still working because somebody took all their money or Elton John like you'd think that he'd have all this security and his manager took all his money so I hang onto those thoughts so I just give a little bit, a little bit, a little bit. But I've been very happy with the process with our young lady. Sometimes I think things happen because we're human. Like we can't get rid of that and we get into a rut. So sometimes I jump on, "Hey, how are you? What's happening?" And she'll perk up and ... I do a lot of those surprises, maybe not as often, but I think it's really ... one other thing that I saw another property manager, very well-known and he was saying about virtual assistant and he said that his employees in the office said, "Why do you have them?" Like maybe they were feeling a little bit like they were going to have their job taken away and the man said: "They don't call in sick, I don't have to deal with vacations, and whenever I ask anything they say yes right away." And so that made me think too like, "Yeah that's really, that's what happens.' And I don't know if it's part of your training or the part of that we got lucky with our virtual assistant but I think it has a lot with you because of the other companies that I interviewed, they were a little bit laid back and I'm not too much of a laid back person, actually, there's nothing laid back about me. So probably in your interviewing and selecting this person it really worked out for us.
Anne Lackey: Well that is probably the biggest difference. I don't have a room full of VA's that I say, "Here's three, pick which one you like." I mean I actually go in the source, in hand, handpick, interview, do all of that. Do the background check because you talked about security and one of the things that I think is super important is that we do an FBI level background check on all of our staff. And you can't do that in every country. It's very transparent, that's just not doable but that was important to me. And the other thing that I realized when I was going through this myself is that there are over a million workers in the Philippines working for U.S. companies. Well that's huge, right? I mean the Chase, the financials of the world pick the Philippines to have their call center, they're probably pretty smart. Why feel right? Those were all some of the factors that we went through when we were trying to figure out what country to use, because there's several, and some are actually cheaper than the Philippines, but the Philippines had the nicest blend of English-speaking, cultural fit, price point. I mean there's certainly not, again not the cheapest, but their labor rate is very cost-effective. And we could have a huge social impact. Last year we gifted all of our VA's healthcare for them after the five months of service. So that reflects itself in the retention for our clients, right? Because it's a need. It's very expensive for them to get on their own, we actually just got a nice thank you letter literally over the weekend that said, "This has been such a blessing for my family. I wouldn't be able to have had this happen. It was a medical condition that was fixed over the weekend had we not had these resources. So thank you for taking care of us." And again that kind of goes to our core values of always wanting to deliver what we promise, which is we want to pay our people very well, we want them to be engaged and really kind of connect with our clients in a way. So they are really considered employees without the employee implication.
Olympia Guyer: Yeah.
Anne Lackey: Instead of all the other stuff. So what other last piece of advice would you give someone or would you want to tell the world about it and then we'll kind of close out the interview?
Olympia Guyer:Well, one thing that we're working towards is to send her one of our phones and have her work on our database. And we've had a lot of growing pains in the office, I haven't had time for that. But I think if I do that, it will be huge because we do have maintenance and it's interesting that people complain about maintenance and it's a moneymaker for us. So I want people to get maintenance, it's not that I don't want. And interestingly enough, people complain because they don't get maintenance, but it's a moneymaker for us, we're contractors as well. So that's my next step. But I have been truly very happy and right now the holidays and it's been crazy, but I make time because I'm really appreciative of you, of the way you are. And even though you seem like, but you're very sweet. I appreciate that. I really feel comfortable with you, that my stuff is being taken care of and that you're responsible for it.
Anne Lackey: Well, thank you Olimpia. Well listen, if you guys want to have a great property manager in the South Bay area, I certainly would recommend that you reach out to Olympia and her team and her details are going to be at the bottom of this screen as well as on this next slide. So thank you so much for being a part of our family and we do appreciate it.
Olympia Guyer: Thank you, yes.
Do you depend on the person or the process? Many times when there is a breakdown in the virtual staff’s performance, the issue is not the person, but in the process. The good news is that there is hope. Developing a process for your virtual staff member can seem daunting at first, so we are going to break down the steps for you. Even better is you can task your virtual staff member with helping to document the process by making checklists and other helpful guides. Once you have a solid process, anyone should be able to complete the task making it less dependent on the person completing it.
The only way to develop a process that your newly hired Virtual Employee can follow, especially if it involves a complex task, is to execute an accurate and comprehensive training session. We have a 4 step process for creating processes in our office.
HISTORY & CONNECTIONS
One effective way to help your new hire absorb the task is to share how it fits into the business and why it is important. Understanding how the task fits into the overall business and who is involved helps for understanding.
Before the start of the training, you can arrange a brief introduction that covers the history of the task, how it fits into the overall business, review the business objectives, and some other facts about why this task is important. Think of it as you’re providing them the backbone of your business and sharing them the importance of their role.
If you don’t already have a written process or checklist, we recommend recording yourself or other staff member doing the task from beginning to end. If you don’t have a screen capture software like Camtasia, then you can at least take share screens of the steps. Ideally, you are doing this while you are working on the task anyway, so you don’t have to create additional work for yourself.
If you need to know your best options for applications with share screen feature, check out our previous topic about Tools for Your Virtual Employee.
Once you have the screen capture, label it properly and place in a location that everyone who may need it can access it. I like to set training folders up based on the overall process. For example, if we are preparing lease documents for renewals, I would have a folder called Lease Preparation and then under that have New Lease Set Up and another folder called Lease Renewals.
After I have the training video done, I have my virtual professional create a checklist of either items or questions and sources of where to get the data required.
Pull together a list of complete resources. Things like where to find the data, which team member is available to assist with this task if there are questions, and where completed work should be sent for review, all need documentation as well. Ideally, they should practice the task while under your supervision several times before they work on a “real” file.
It is perfectly acceptable to have your virtual professional pull these things together for you while you are teaching the task.
Finally, always remain patient. While you have done this task many times, this is very new to your Virtual Professional. Remember that it’s natural for anyone to get confused or frustrated when they are in learning mode. Make yourself available, check in and encourage your new hire to ask questions until they have completed the task with no errors several times.
In most part, depending on the gravity of the tasks. It takes approximately 7 to 10 times of doing the activity before true mastery can even begin. Depending on the time between completing the task, this could take days, weeks or months. In the end, the more comfortable you can make your employee feel in his/her new environment, the more accurate and reliable he/she can become.
Without proper guidance and education, your virtual staff member will not be able to perform at the level you expect. Therefore, it is an investment in your business to make the tasks as repeatable and replicable as possible. A written process makes that happen. I know as busy business people, we tend to keep everything in our heads, and it is not natural to write these things down. However not doing so keeps you a slave to your business and will not allow you the freedom to grow.
We all know that starting a new position can be stressful to anyone, but as a manager, I often make the transition a whole lot smoother by following these guidelines whenever a new hire comes in. Should you need more tips and information on how to get your Virtual Employee for your business, feel free to book an appointment with me today!
Another exciting episode! Justin Dean founder of Dean Dewitt Shares Insights on How To Grow a Property Management Business. Since 2005, Justin has navigated volatile real estate markets to come out on top. He will share his journey and experience as well as some best practices.
Just like Justin, you too can enjoy the benefits of improving some areas in your business by hiring a virtual employee! Book an appointment with me today and I’ll be happy to set things up for you!
Anne Lackey: Hi there, I'm Anne Lackey, co-founder of Hire Smart VAs. And today I have a wonderful guest. We have the president of Dean DeWitt, Justin Dean. And what I love about Justin is, first of all, he works in a great location. He's in St. Petersburg, Florida, which is actually one of my favorite places to go. He's been in professional property management. I think he has about a thousand units under management. Is that still right?
Justin Dean: Yeah, that's correct.
Anne Lackey: Okay. And he's been in the business as long as I have, in 2005. So I guess 2005 was a great year to start property management businesses because that's when I did too. He is the president or was the president of NARPM, the National Association of Residential Property Managers in the Tampa Bay chapter from 2017 and 18. And he sits on the council for leasing and property management for the Pinellas Realtor Organization. So what I love about Justin is he loves to embrace things fairly quickly, and when he does, he goes all in.
So that's what I've known after working with him for several years now. So Justin, welcome to the program, we're glad to have you here.
Justin Dean: Thank you.
Anne Lackey: All right. So tell us a little bit about, so you've obviously been in property management for a long time here. You've seen a lot of changes. We both made it through the boom and bust and boom again. So it's always been a lot of fun, at least in my world. And I know in Florida it's even a little bit crazier. But tell us a little bit about your specialty and how you got started in property management.
Justin Dean: Sure. So I think with like a lot of us, maybe we started out in sales. I had my small commercial brokerage. And within that brokerage I was doing a lot of smaller multifamily buildings. And when the market tanks, people weren't buying properties, people definitely weren't buying commercial properties. And I had to figure out what I was going to do. So I had a realtor suggest to me that I manage a house for him. And I said, I don't think I'm interested. And he said, I promise you won't regret it. And so I started out with one home. And I managed it, and I didn't know what I was doing. And I learned a whole lot with that one home, but I had a very patient owner that was a broker out in California that had been a part of management in the past.
And so he helped me along. And so from there, since I wasn't selling anything anymore, I decided to seek out and offer my services to other owners in the area. So again, in 2000, well in 2005 the market was still okay. So we were working with investors some. I guess the market didn't crash until around 2007, 2008 was when it got real bad. But I met with every owner, met with every owner, told them about my services. Back then I was one guy and I told them it was personal care, customized attention, et cetera. And as we grew my pitch grew, my pitch grew to, hey there is power in volume, I can leverage the amount of business I do with our local vendors, et cetera. And so my pitch changed, but I always met with my owners. And one by one we've grown our portfolio to a thousand units.
The way I manage properties is I'm a department style management, so I have different departments that handle different aspects of what needs to be done on every property we manage, I don't have one person assigned to one property, which is somewhat common portfolio management. So I knew I always wanted to do that. My goal growing this big, quite frankly, it's not about money. I could probably make as much money or more with half these properties. Me, the motivation was time. I'm married, I have three daughters and they grow up fast, and so I wanted to have a staff. I wanted to be able to have the option to not show up. Now I work hard and I do show up every day, but if I have something that needs to be done, if I have one of my daughter's school event or something that I do have the option to be there for them. And so that was one of the main motivations to growing that the company to where I'm at today.
Anne Lackey: So what would you say was one of your aha moments or things that you went, wow, this was something I didn't realize that happened or that you learned to along the way in your journey? What was something that you could say that you could give to another property manager about their journey?
Justin Dean: Sure. Well first off I wasted a good, I don't know how long I've been a member of NARPM, but I wasted three to five years of time in not being a member of NARPM. And just, quite frankly, when I first started I had a management fee. That was it. I didn't even know there was a lease fee. I didn't know what I was doing. And so I was trying to figure it out all on my own and I realized that there's thousands of people, friendly people, that are willing to share how they do things successfully. And that if I didn't join NARPM I wouldn't be in business today. I would be working my tail off for a fraction of the money and getting myself in trouble at every turn. So I mean, you probably hear it a lot. I think that most NARPM members sing the praises of NARPM, but there's a reason why, it is hands down the number one thing that I've done to change my business.
Anne Lackey: Sure. Well and I appreciate you saying that because of course a lot of our clients are NARPM members as well. We're an affinity partner and I'm a professional member, an affiliate member, and an affinity member. So I definitely am all on NARPM all the time as well. And I think that that's important. You know, one of the things I find interesting about NARPM versus other organizations that I'm in, is that we will without a doubt help a competitor, like you said, with either their experience or language or fee structure. It doesn't really matter. Even though they're competitors, the reality is we all tend to, most of us anyway, have a tendency to say, there's plenty of business out there. And what resonates with me and my philosophy is not the same as you. And that's okay, we're still good.
Justin Dean: 100%. I am probably talking to a, quote unquote, "competitor" on a weekly basis and we're helping each other out. I couldn't agree with what you said more. That is how it works. And I had been a part of the sales side of real estate, it is not like that at all. It's very secretive. You ask anyone for help and they kind of laugh at you. And I thought that would be my experience with any professional organization based off of my experience with the Florida Association of Realtors and my local realtor association. But it could have been further from the truth with NARPM, so it's been a great experience.
Anne Lackey: Well I appreciate that. So lets transition a little bit about how we got started with each other. Gosh, I want to say it's been two and a half years ago. I think maybe even longer than that. I'm not sure. So what made you decide to hire virtually? Tell us a little bit about that journey.
Justin Dean: Sure. So as we grew I was looking for ways to grow efficiently. And originally I was looking for a solution for a lot of the routine, mundane tasks that were having to be done at the office, scanning paperwork, entering numbers into our system for bills, things like that. And so I met you at one of our conferences, and there was, I would say somewhat of just maybe the start of a buzz as far as virtual assistants. I don't think it was really mainstream with us property managers at the time. And so I wanted to look into it. Obviously we had conversations. I'll tell you, my initial approach was, I just want someone that can, again, take the bills or whatever that come in and just enter them into our system. They don't need to talk to anyone, it's going to be very straight forward. There shouldn't be any questions. And they'll free us up to do some other things that we need to be here. You know, boots on the ground, taking care of things. So that's why I started considering the VA. And it kind of went from there.
Anne Lackey: And so now fast forward, what is that? So to somebody that never talks to a client, how did that evolve?
Justin Dean: Yeah. So the first person in that you helped me hire, and to be clear, I know you did offer different services. I think you still do. But I used Hire Smart VAs to not only help me identify the correct virtual assistant to hire, but also to train them. And I think that's money well spent. They kind of hit the ground running. So the interview process, you brought me multiple candidates. And I got to say, it's never a easy choice. Usually one will stand out a little more. But I always sit there thinking, any one of these people could do the job.
Anne Lackey: That's what I strive for every time.
Justin Dean: And it's, who do I think is going to do the best? Or something like that. And so anyway, with the first VA, Russ, we hired Russ and you trained Russ and he came onboard. And we started giving him those routine tasks. And I will tell you, my memory isn't that great. I don't know exactly from when he was hired, but it wasn't too soon after he was hired that I started asking him to do more and more. And I realized that what you brought to my team was someone that was intelligent, that was hardworking, great ethics, a good communicator, and that I didn't need to limit them. Russ now today, absolutely on a daily basis speaks with owners, speaks with tenants, obviously speaks with staff inside the office. As far as the outside world goes, Russ is another member of my team. He's an employee of mine. He has his own extension, he has his own email. And he operates like anyone else that's working in this building.
Anne Lackey: Yeah, well and that is always what we hope. I mean honestly that is the goal. I actually just took the time to look up. He started in June, 2017. So definitely been there over the two year. And that's probably one of the questions I get a lot is, well what's your turnover rate? I'm like, we don't really have a whole lot of turnover.
Justin Dean: So we're now at one, two, three, six-
Anne Lackey: Seven.
Justin Dean: Seven VAs? One, two, three, four, five, six, seven VAs at this time. And everyone that has started here, day one of employment. Now there's a couple, Anne, again, you do a great job. I think there's one, maybe two that you called me and said, hey, you know what, they're not getting through the training. Glad you made that call. And then we had to go back to interviewing. But obviously you saw that in the beginning and we didn't have a challenge when they were handed over to us. But everyone that started with us is still here today. Again, they're a great team.
Every morning, I treat them like an employee, I can't stress that enough. And I don't know how other people that use virtual assistants, how they utilize them and how they interact with them, but they're absolutely a member of the team. I think they value that. We definitely value that. Every morning there's a quick chat, every morning there's a good morning today, one of our VAs had a birthday. We wish them a happy birthday. Have a little bit of fun and then we all go to work.
And every one of the VAs, they take a lot of pride and ownership in their position. You know, if it's five o'clock and their job's not done, they're going to put in the time to get that job done. So they all work hard. They all appreciate the job. And I'm guessing here, based off of some of the resumes we saw, I think that maybe they were just another cog in the machine. And here they are an individual that has absolute responsibilities and, again, they're treated like everyone else that works directly with my company.
Anne Lackey: So one of the things that we do, just because it's important to me that we have good relationships with our clients, but we also have good relationships with our VAs. We survey the VAs. And I have to tell you, Justin, your VAs absolutely love working for you. And I think the reason that they do is exactly what you said. You treat them like the valued team members that they are, they feel that. They, again, want to take that ownership. And I say this to people all the time, and again, everybody runs their business differently so I don't get a chance to necessarily connect with them like you and I have as far as this. Really, you get the better results when you do that. And like I said, every time I talk to one of your people, they are just thankful that they are with you.
They love your job, they love being there, they love that teamwork. So kudos to you for really creating that environment. I think that is one of the best key to successes that you can do. Because in property management it doesn't matter whether it's turnover in your inventory or your staff or your virtual staff, it's expensive. I mean, even at the rates that we're paying, which are very low, it's still very, very expensive time-wise for your staff to retrain them and to do all that. Whereas, if you can just invest just a little bit into your people, the VAs will stay forever.
Justin Dean: They will. And again, I never worked with a VA from the Philippines before. I get the sense now that I have seven VAs, that their culture there, they want to do a good job, and these are smart people and so on. And quite frankly, geez, if I could fly them over here and have them working in the office-
Anne Lackey: But change them.
Justin Dean: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But they're fantastic. And the only limitation is literally that they're not here. But for the jobs at hand, I have my VAs handling maintenance issues. I have my VAs handling renewals. I have my VAs handling delinquencies. They use Google street view, they look at the photos we have and the ads we have on the property so that they understand, to a certain extent, what the property looks like and all. But I mean, that is the only limitations that they can't drive over to a property. But quite frankly, I got a thousand rentals, I can't tell you the last time I actually got in a car and drove over to one of my properties either. And I've got staff here that does it, but as long as you're set up right, it's not a requirement.
Anne Lackey: Yeah, no, I totally, again, run my property management the same way. A much smaller scale, fortunately for me. So tell me a little bit about, how did your staff embrace, or share with me a little bit about that. You know, when you bring on the first one, I think that's probably the hardest thing, because again, you don't know what you don't know. Is this going to work? How did your staff react to the decision to bring in a virtual worker? And how, again, fast forward then two years from now, how do they feel about it now?
Justin Dean: Well, so again, so the people in the office have come and go, right? Some of my VAs already had been here longer than some of my staff in my office. So for a lot of my employees, this is just how it's been. And so my first VA I think it was more like, hey, they were going to help me on some projects. And it was all like, I'm doing this and it wasn't, I'm changing everything that's happening and the way we run our business. But once I say, and not because I'm the owner of the company, but once I'm like, wow, again Russ was our first hire. Russ, I can't believe how much you can get done and he's hard working, et cetera. I think the rest of my staff is like, why can't I have one?
And so as it is today, they don't all report to me. Most of them report to someone else in the company, but I still check in with them on a daily basis. But there's a team leader, they're a part of the team, it's usually two VAs and a lead property manager that work together. And so they couldn't do their jobs without them. I mean, it would be impossible. The way my company's set up, I've got three property managers for a thousand units. The only way that's possible is with these virtual assistants.
Anne Lackey: Yeah. I'm glad you talked it because I say it all the time, I mean, I have one property manager for 200 doors and then everything else is done. And I can have another capacity if I wanted to, which I don't. I could easily add another 75 doors with little hiccups in my processes in my business. But a lot of people are like, well, I just don't think that that's doable. And I'm like, it is when you've got the right people and the right processes and you've got good documentation.
Justin Dean: You're absolutely right. And Anne, hiring the first VA, obviously there's a bigger learning curve for us and the VA. But ever since after that one, every hire since him is easier and easier because, quite frankly, I talk to them and talk to them about the big picture about my company, Dean & DeWitt Property Management, our core values, our mission, how we do things, how we go about things. And then I turn them over to another VA who's been doing this for a while and say, teach them what you know. And they do a great job doing it. So it gets easier and easier to bring on VAs.
Anne Lackey: Sure. So that actually is an interesting thing. So I've had mixed bags with that. I've had mixed bags with VAs training other Vas.
Justin Dean: Right.
Anne Lackey: And I've had, again, it's probably been about so my general guideline is kind of what you said. You start with them, you spend the time and then you have the other person fill in behind you. But you still drive that training.
Justin Dean: Let me be clear. I maybe said it like it's too simplistic. Like oh, I spend a couple hours with them and then they're off. No, there's absolutely oversight. But that you had talked about turnover and how costly it is and how I was talking to you about how important my time is. To be able to lean on the veteran VAs when I bring on a new VA, it really, really is helpful. They are not responsible for training that new VA, but they are definitely a part of training that new virtual assistant, and I think that really helps us out a whole lot.
Anne Lackey: Absolutely. I've got another client up in the DC area that works on a pod structure. And so they've got a VA that's actually the team lead of a rentals division, and they've got a homeowners association division. So they have two team leads, one for each department. And that's worked out very well too. So again, the department heads, who are obviously the clients, do the initial, just like what you were saying. But then they have these team leads that can anchor them and that way they have a little bit of the safe place to go and ask questions and get that development. So that is another scenario that has worked out really well as I've seen it.
And it's been interesting to me, it's almost been five years since I did this in my property management business. It's so hard. It is like, time just keeps flying on. And it really was one of the absolute best decisions I ever made.
Justin Dean: Oh, sorry.
Anne Lackey: That's okay. In my business, because what it allowed me to do is, I only work two hours a week in my property management business. I mean that's it. And that does include an hour meeting. People are like, really? Like, yeah, really. Because I love Hire Smart, that's where I really love and that's where my attention is in helping people like you find those great raw talent. And you're absolutely right. And I think one of the things that I made the decision early on when I started Hire Smart four and a half years ago, that certification piece, that one week of really working elbow to elbow is the reason that we've had such success.
Because they're soft skills, right? You can't always test that. I mean I have a great testing model and great interviews, but until you actually work with somebody for more than an hour, or two hours, five hours a day, you don't really see how their work ethic is. And while in general, the Filipino work culture is great, you still have some people over there that aren't necessarily as motivated. Right? So interestingly enough, now we have a little bit more competition in what we do. And I do think that is probably the one thing that I do that nobody else does, is really spend that time. And then what we've gotten from the testing scores and stuff has really helped too.
Justin Dean: Anne, I am certain that if you didn't offer that training side of it, that I wouldn't have all the VAs I have today, because I wouldn't have been able to prepare them properly. Because I'm running a company and I'm trying to find time to also get them prepared. It would've been a completely different experience for them and for me. So yeah. And I know you offer both services, but-
Anne Lackey: Actually, no, at this point we do certification only. That's it.
Justin Dean: Good for you, because-
Anne Lackey: Only full service. Because the reality for me is, I can't protect the quality of the people without spending that time with them. I just can't. So we actually stopped doing that probably about the time that you started. That's all that we offer. It's a full service.
Justin Dean: Yeah. Well I never even questioned it after I learned the program. And I mean, I wouldn't have done if I thought it was, again, seven times and I've gone through the program with you each time. It wasn't like, oh, I'm going to learn what Anne does and I'm going to do it myself. Absolutely not. Every single time it's the same process. So there's great value to that.
Anne Lackey: Well thank you. I appreciate that. And I definitely, I've run my numbers and feel very strongly that is the thing that makes us unique and the thing that really helps us with our success rate. And we have a 97.2% success rate after certification. So I think that's pretty strong in and of itself of the way that we work. What advice would you share with someone who's maybe on the fence of, should I do this, should I not? Because believe it or not, while it is much more commonly accepted, there's still a ton of people that are nervous and scared and don't want to move forward. So what would you say?
Justin Dean: Yeah. I mean I guess some of my... First off I thought there was going to be a cultural and language barrier. These VAs, they watch the same TV shows we watch. They know the same lingo, the same slang. There's a slight accent, but it wouldn't be any different from someone that could be working inside my building anyway.
Anne Lackey: Right.
Justin Dean: So by all appearances, or for my tenants to my owners, they don't know the difference. And so that was one thing. It was one reason why I was like, ah, I don't know, how am I going to explain how this person I've hired, this overseas person that no one even knows. And oftentimes people walk in my office and in the last, while I'm here to see one of the... Sometime I'm like, oh, you know what, they work remotely, let me get you in touch with them by phone or via phone or whatever.
So all my staff is trained. And it's just, quite frankly, they work remotely. It's not that they work in the Philippines or overseas or that, they work remotely. That's it. But yeah, so everyone from the outside, everyone thinks they're part of the team. So that was one concern was just, what would people think? Was it going to be obvious? It's not obvious. These RVAs get along great with us, and they can communicate very well. And then I think the other thing was just, what could I trust them to do? And again, we've been talking about this work ethic. And they're intelligent people. And they will figure it out. I mean, they have a solution oriented mentality. Now, like you said, I'm sure not every Filipino has that work ethic and just like every other country.
But you are definitely identifying and bringing to me people that are problem solvers. That they, to a certain extent, may feel bad asking me for help. I'm like, don't worry about it. You know? Feel free to ask for help. They will take the time to try to figure it out on their own and they'd come to me with just, my gosh, I wish every person in my company had that same attitude. And so, yeah, I think that a lot of the not knowing, I've never dealt with this before. Like those were some concerns I had and none of that came true.
Anne Lackey: It's interesting that you say that. So culturally the Filipinos I think overall are very prideful. Like you said, they like to figure stuff out. So part of the training, it goes back to the certification. I have had to rework and rewire them a little bit to say, don't spend more than X number of time trying to figure it out on your own. Like don't go down a rabbit hole five hours from now and still be stuck. Raise yourself up and ask the question. We would much rather you do that, right? Notate the answer and then move on.
But don't make mistake again. That's what's I always tell them, you can ask me any question, there's no question that's off the table. Ask me whatever questions you want. Write down a good note. When you asked me the same question again I'm going to tell you what my response is, which is, we've had this discussion, what did I say? And if I have to ask you the third time, the thing is, you know the answer, go research your notes. And if you asked me a fourth, you're done. We're done. I won't allow that.
Justin Dean: Yeah, they definitely will come and be like, oh I'm sorry boss, I should have known. But it doesn't happen much. And I don't give them a hard time, because again, they do what you said, they research it themselves and then come to me.
Anne Lackey: Yeah. Well Justin, Justin Dean, always kind of get that. Justin, tell everybody a little bit about your specialty in the St. Petersburg area so that in case they are looking for services, they know who to come to.
Justin Dean: Oh sure. So our niche, we have, again, a thousand rentals. We're kind of split with single family homes and condos, but we also manage small apartment buildings that need offsite management. Meaning, it wouldn't make no financial sense to have an onsite manager at these apartment buildings. So we're heavy into our investors, we love our investors. We understand the financials behind investments, what their goals are. And they change depending on each investor. So I think what really separates us is two things is that we understand the investment side of real estate, we understand the numbers. And then the second thing is that we have a robust maintenance department. If you're an investor, I think every owner is very sensitive to repairs and expenses. We had a little conversation about that before we started this interview. And so I have 10 to 15 full-time maintenance technicians at any given time.
We save our owners lots of money by having in-house maintenance, and they love it. We're not having to go to a outside contractor for everything. We still do with a lot of business with outside vendors, but all those little things or make readies or minor repairs we can take care of. We don't have to worry about scheduling with an outside vendor, we handle it all. If there's an issue, and sometimes there is, I can send my guy back out there without arguing with an outside vendor. So I think those are the two big things is that we're very investor friendly and that we do handle a lot of maintenance in-house.
Anne Lackey: Oh, that's great. So Justin's information is going to be at the end of this video, and certainly if you're looking for property management services in the St. Pete area, I would encourage you to use Justin and his team. They're fabulous, including my seven VAs. And you never know which one you're talking to you on the phone. So thank you so much for being here with us, Justin, and have a great rest of your day.
Justin Dean: Thanks Anne.