Just like Paul, you too can recreate your internal business structure by hiring an excellent and experienced virtual employee with us today! Feel free to book an appointment today so I can help you set up from start to a new start!
In this episode, Paul White, with Real Property Management, East San Gabriel Valley, talks about his experience using a virtual staff and how things have changed for the better with his business.
Just like Paul, you too can recreate your internal business structure by hiring an excellent and experienced virtual employee with us today! Feel free to book an appointment today so I can help you set up from start to a new start!
Anne: Welcome to HireSmart Virtual Assistants' newest edition of Company Spotlight. We celebrate the best in our clients and want to recognize them for the leaders that they are. We hope you enjoy listening in, and that you're able to pick up some words of wisdom that you can apply in your own business. Welcome to the show.
Good morning everybody. My name is Anne Lackey. I am the co-founder of Hire Smart Virtual Assistants, and we are here today with Paul White. He is the president of Real Property Management in Pasadena and Thousand Oaks, California. He and his brother David own both offices in both locations. One of the things I like about Paul is that he grew up in Utah and he enjoys the mountains and great outdoors and moving to the peak city was a little bit of a change, but he's a country guy at heart. We were talking about that right before we got started. He has three boys, which is unbelievable. I have two little girl grandchildren and they keep me super busy. Ages six, three and 11 months. So he is super busy right now. In addition to that, on the side he runs a property management business of 400 units and has been doing that for eight years. So I'd like everybody to do a big welcome to Paul. Paul, thanks for joining us today.
Paul: Thank you. It's great to be here.
Anne: We are super excited to have you. So we've worked together, I think almost about a year now, maybe a little shy of a year. It is post-COVID. So life has changed for a lot of my clients in this environment. Why don't you just tell us a little bit about, I want to take you back to before we met. Share with me a little bit about what that was like, what you were feeling, why you were looking to hire. Give me a little bit of that background, if you can remember back that far.
Paul: I remember, because I used to be the one-man show. I used to be the actual employee for about six months. So then I, whatever, bought out my brother's partner and all that. So I continued to be the employee, taking care of everybody's little things here and there. And before I knew it, I knew that I saw that we had 150 work orders. I was closing out all the billing in it. I was on the phone for three, four hours a day, just trying to close things out. And I'm like, "Wait, hold on a second." I was in California as well, where the minimum wage keeps going up and up and up. But my fees, unfortunately, a lot of times are going down, down, down.
So anyways, I remember I reached out to you. I don't even remember where. It was Facebook or something, one of these groups, property management groups. And yeah, I remember I saw my work orders. I'm like, "Wait, there's someone who, I'd have to bring them on for eight hours a day." I was thinking like, "Oh man, eight hours, do I have enough?" It was kind of a commitment. I remember doing the interview process and I was like, "Oh man, this is how an actual interview goes." You helped me out with that. I've only been through, I think I've only been interviewed like two or three times ever for a job. Anyways, you helped me out with that and I guess you let me know that you'll have someone who will answer their phones. And I was sold from that point on.
The fact that someone would actually answer our phone calls. We were getting a lot of complaints about that as well. So it was the closing out things and then we got complaints because people weren't answering their phones and then they'd text back or they'd email back and owners are like, "I'm just wondering why nobody ever answered their phone."
Anne: So you hired one. How was it once they onboarded and started with you? How did your life change from that?
Paul: So the onboarding was great. I remember also, I mean, you wanted to make sure that my processes were done. I thought that they were done. Anyway, we brought on Umi, and right away I was blown away with how much she could actually get done. And she was keeping people in my office accountable. It was almost like, "Whoa, hold on a second. There's almost too much info." She's building up things. I gave her a massive list of about 300 work orders that needed to be fulfilled, figured out, notes, and she got back to me in like five, six hours, at the end of the day already, and she had already completed it. I'm like, "Well, I guess I need to figure out what we're going to do tomorrow," because she got way more done than my maintenance coordinator, who gets paid two or three times as much, was getting done because they visit in the office and all that.
So first day it was, "Whoa, she's finished everything. Now I need to figure out something for her to do tomorrow, basically." And it was getting the weekly process and the daily process of, I'd like for you to do this and then this, because I was realizing they're getting way more done than I thought because of my office staff here was getting done not as much.
Anne: It's funny, I hear that theme quite frequently. Actually, I had one of my clients who hired right before she went on a two week vacation to Thailand, and she gave what she thought was two weeks worth of work based on her experience of hiring locally, and the VA was done with all of it four days in on Thursday. So she literally had to stop her vacation in Thailand, come up with what the next week was going to look like, gave the VA the day off on that Friday, because she's like, "I can't come up with something in literally a few hours." So I think it's funny because people, I think around here a lot of times, like, "Well, it sounds good, but I just don't know how efficient they'd be or if their English is good enough or if they really can do the work. I just don't think some of this work can be done virtually." Well now COVID has actually taken that off the table. We're all working from home remotely. So it's a different set of skills, right?
Paul: Yeah, for sure. No, I'm sitting in a empty office right now because the rest of my office is who knows where now. Fortunately, because of the systems that I've put in place for my Vas, for Cheryl and Umi, now they actually, I asked them when all this started happening, I asked them, "So what is it exactly?" I mean, I probably should have come up with a better plan anyways. "Where did you learn how to do your reports so well?" Because their reports they send me each day are awesome. Well, I need to have my other people who aren't in the office, my office staff here in Pasadena and Thousand Oaks, I was like, "Hey, whoa." I didn't know. They were kind of working. Their hours were still about the same as they were. And I'm like, "Wait, hold on a second. This does not make sense."
So then I asked Umi to make me a little template of what she thinks would be useful. So she helped me as the boss of doing it versus me having to come up for them all on my own. So she did it. I asked her. A half hour later, she sent me this template, shared it with everybody. Now everybody in my office each day, even if some of them come in the office, some of them are going out to properties, they sent me a report each day and it's almost overwhelming them because our VA's been doing it forever. So I'm like, "Man, you guys are doing a way better job than my office staff here, who in theory I think would have better opportunity." That's what I thought initially.
Anne: For those of you that are Hire Smart clients, or don't know what he's referencing, we teach as part of our process, what's called a close of business report. And every VA is taught about that through our process, because I think it's really important for people to understand what did get done that day. What did you do of value? Because you can't see that. It's not like when you're walking down the hall and you can see that Susie's in her office and yeah, she's sitting the computer, so she's got to be busy. She's certainly not looking at Facebook or anything else.
Anne: But there's that perception of, well, they're not working because you can't see that. So one of the things I implemented early on in our process is to teach the VAs how to do a close-of-business report and how to make it meaningful for the client so that they knew what was getting done every day. And the reason, again, this comes down to a philosophy. A lot of my competitors all about time tracking software and monitoring them and doing all that. And I think, we're not in elementary school anymore. This is my personal professional opinion. I don't do that with my in-house team. I certainly know that they're adults and need to be accountable for their production. So I don't have our VAs do time tracking software either for that main reason. So the close of business report, and it's something that I tell every VA has to be done. It has to be done well to give the clients the confidence of what's being done. So, yes. A close-of-business report for everybody is a good thing, especially now, right?
Paul: Yeah. I think even after this is, I mean, after people aren't virtual or working wherever they are, I think I'm still, even if they're in the room next door, I'm going to ask them for a close of business report because sometimes I wonder, I'm like, "What have they done all day?" Even though they've been sitting on the other side of the wall, I feel like they did like two or three calls. I'd go and look through my emails. We use Help Scout to see emails and that. We don't do the tracking. Look at me, look at your computer at any time. I'm not either, I have my kids I have to do that with. So yeah, I'm even going to institute it after, because it's so much ... I mean, even while they were still in ... They come in. I know that they're working on something. I see, oh, we did 10 lease renewals today. Oh, awesome. So I'm going to continue it for forever, now I've implemented it. So it's-
Anne: I actually do one myself and I use it for my planning. So every day, I look at what needs to be done for the week and my progress. Then I go ahead and pick three things that I know I need to get done the next day. So at the end of the day, I look at, did those three things get done, which in my case they typically do, but there are days that I have something on there I don't necessarily want to do, and maybe it'll slide a day, but I don't allow myself to slide much past that. And again, I think it's as much for keeping myself accountable for moving the business in the right direction. So I drink my own Kool-Aid. I make myself do it too. I mean, I actually don't send it to myself, but I actually do review the work that I do every day to make sure that I'm focusing on things that are moving the business forward. So if you're a CEO, highly recommend that you do that too. It'll just help you stay more focused and make sure that things get done.
So it sounds to me that you found my process of hiring and picking the people out and doing my certification was very easy. On a scale from one to 10, how would you rate it? 10 being super easy, one being super hard.
Paul: Compared to what I do, probably a 15. Like I said, I've been interviewed for two jobs ever. I got them. And they were like, "Okay, if someone gives you a dollar, you get 90 cents, or if something costs 90 cents, I give you a dollar. How much do you give back?" That's the type of interview I've been through. So I've always worked family business, entrepreneur stuff. So I'm like, how do I hire people? When we hire people in our office, I've Googled how to hire someone, and your help has been, you gave me some guidelines on some questions that are good. Obviously I adjusted them for me.
Anne: Of course.
Paul: So yeah. I mean, it was great. A 10., I mean, it was great. I mean, it was very easy. I thought it would be kind of weird, like, "Oh, we're going to schedule a call and interview people." And I'm like, "Oh man. Okay, here we go. People in the Philippines." But it was almost like they were a couple blocks away. I mean, I'm in Los Angeles where there's, I mean, millions of people from all over. So, it was very natural. Yeah, it was great.
Anne: Fantastic. I love to hear that. What didn't go as well as you had hoped? What stumbling blocks did you find as either right after the process or just you fumbled through and that you thought was, okay, I probably could have implemented this better or done better?
Paul: I feel like a little bit of it was letting our VAs know ... I feel like they've always had a supervisor boss, someone to report to, something like that, and I wasn't fully ready for them to be ... They still send me emails like, "Thank you, boss. Thank you for that" ... And things like that. I try not to be like the boss. Everybody's team members in our office. I try to do the Disney way. Like, "Okay. We're all not cast members, but team members." So, we brought on our second VA, Cheryl, right when I had my last baby, so 11 months ago, I guess ish. And I remember sometimes it was letting her know my timeframes of, "Hey, this is when I'm available." She'd call me or email or things like that. I had to like set my rules for, okay, and it's become way more productive for them as well.
At the end of the day in your close of business report, send me what things you need from me. Obviously, if it's an emergency, give me a call and I understand that. So it was the, "Hey, I'm trying to take care of my two other kids, older kids, while my wife's taking care of the baby. You guys are taking all the calls. Thank you so much." So it was setting those. And then also our office staff, letting them know that they need to help our virtual assistants, help Umi and Cheryl. They're in our meetings.
Paul: They're here, they're real people. And it was like, "You need to help them as well in your tasks because they're answering the phones." And they tried to take care of everything. They'd answer the phone. They tried to answer the question for the owner. They'd call me and ask how to help on that versus that's actually Josie's job. So it was the setting the actual true roles and getting ready for the, "These people actually respond to me all the time," and, "Whoa, hold on a second." So those were the two things, is getting our office staff more, "Hey, you need to help out. Not just ... You need to help them as well." And then also making sure that our VAs didn't take care of everything so our office staff didn't have anything to do. They didn't know how to, like lease questions, things like that. You need to be specially licensed for. Don't answer questions on leases. Tell them that you'll have somebody in our office call.
Anne: That's great. So what I take away from that is if I was working with somebody new, one of the things that I could do to help them is, with the onboarding process and part of what I've actually just recently added to my document that I have for onboarding is an introduction of teams and roles. So everybody gets introduced and this is their role and this is their responsibility. This is this person's responsibility. This is your responsibility. So that everybody's on the same playbook. I think that that's a great takeaway that I probably have improved over the last year. So I'm glad you brought that up because I do think a lot of times what we do is so successful, especially if we've got buy-in from everybody, but obviously not everybody can be in an interview and be chosen, but having an onboarding process that involves everybody on the team, I do think lends itself to be more successful. Because think about it. You wouldn't hire somebody in the office and just stick them in an office and never really tell them the hierarchy of who's there. You have to do it.
So, thank you for that. What advice would you give to someone who's possibly on the fence considering should I do this?
Paul: Well, it's funny. I talk to a lot of people who are on the fence because everybody's nervous. Obviously there's other virtual assistant companies and they are shopping around, and all that. And it's really talk to you, I guess, is the biggest thing. And then schedule a call with you, see how they can help you because you let, I mean even more things. And then also it's if you're ready. It's not a huge commitment. We recently, because of the pandemic going on, we had an office person who had to step away. We're like, "Maybe we need to hire ... The virtual assistants helping me way more, because I'm being way more involved." I don't have anything fun to be able to do. And we're almost looking to hire another person. So it's really just, I mean, I'm like, "Just do it."
It's funny. I've talked to someone for like two years and they have like 150 units and him and his wife run the whole thing and he's on the phone all day and he's getting calls from angry tenants. You can turn that over to someone else and your peace of mind, everything is a lot better.
Anne: Also because your service is better.
I mean, that's the thing. When you're trying to do everything, you can't give the time, energy and effort to the people that are calling in, who are your customers, that you really need to serve. So yeah, totally get it.
Yeah. No, I mean something even, there's people who call just to call. They just want to have someone to talk to and they don't need to talk to the owner of the company. Yeah. We have so many, frequent flyers is what we call them. We have our own frequent flyer miles thing in our door, just so everybody actually knows people who like to call all the time. And they just want to have someone to talk to. They don't even want anything taken care of. They just want someone to talk to. I used to get those every day. If you have a virtual assistant, they'll just listen to them.
Anne: They'll just be calling them.
Paul: I mean, obviously sometimes you still want them to do things. You still want them to work, but yeah. Anyways, it's just great. I mean, I'm on the phones way less. I know that it's taken care of. Something as well is I asked Cheryl in my office, I was going to meet someone, "Hey, do you mind calling them?" Because I was doing a couple other things. "Do you mind calling them, making sure that they can just send me a note letting me know." And I was talking to my brother. I'm like, "Isn't it awesome? We know Cheryl actually called them first and asked them." And she sent me a little note, "Hey, they're waiting for ya. Within the next hour sounds great." So it's actually knowing that they take care of the customers because sometimes I feel like people don't.
So yeah, our customer service has gone way up because they actually pick up the phone. So I think so much texting and emailing and all that going on. The actual phones, I'm a big phone guy, even though I'm young, but the fact that they actually pick up the phone is the best part.
Anne: Well, Paul, it's been a pleasure to talk with you today. If you guys are looking for property management services in Pasadena or Thousand Oaks, I highly recommend that you get in touch with Paul White and his team. His information will be at the bottom of this video. So make sure that you connect with him. Paul, thank you again so much for your time. We appreciate having you as a client.
Paul: Hey, thank you very much.
We’ve come across entrepreneurs who needed help delegating tasks. However; they were not sure what tasks can be delegated to a virtual employee. Thanks to the internet and the development of online tools, remote workers are now capable of doing more than ever before by knowing the tasks that you can delegate to your virtual employee.
Virtual Staff and remote workers have helped businesses grow by managing tasks from answering phone calls, accountings, setting appointments, taking care of their social media presence, and a whole lot more. They helped entrepreneurs free their time so they can dedicate more time to developing their business more.
In a previous article – How to Delegate Tasks – we have outlined the important steps a business owner has to take before assigning tasks to their staff. But how do you know which tasks you need help with? As a guide, you can ask yourself these questions and make a list:
Now that you have the list, you can then categorize them according to your virtual staff’s role and the level of difficulty. To guide you further, here are the common roles that a virtual employee can perform for your business:
In HireSmart Virtual Employees, we provide a step-by-step guide in helping you make the most of your virtual staff starting with choosing the right one and even helping with pre-training them as well! Book a free call with us to find out how.
In this episode of Company Spotlight, we’re so excited to introduce you to Melissa Prandi of Prandi Property Management as she talked about amazing business insights and strategies for scaling a Property Management business and how she was able to maximize our virtual employee service effectively for her business growth, especially during this crisis.
If you are looking to keep your business progressing despite the effect of the current outbreak, 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: Good evening, everybody. My name is Anne Lackey. I'm the co-founder of HireSmartVAs and I am so blessed to have Melissa Prandi, CEO of Prandi Property Management here with us today and she is an amazing person. If you've ever had an opportunity to learn a class or take a class from her, she is a leader in our industry. And so I wanted to spend some time with her today and share with you a little bit about how she's utilizing virtual staff in her business, especially in light of what's going on in today's world. She was one of my first clients. She was an early adopter. She's an innovator and she is an amazing, kind, caring person and I am thrilled not only to call her one of my favorite clients, but also a good friend. So Melissa, thanks for being here today. It looks like you are in a great place, right?
Melissa: You like my background?
Anne: I do.
Melissa: Well, Anne, first of all, and most importantly, I'm glad to hear that both you and Mark are doing well and you have been very careful and you're sheltered in place like we're supposed to be, so, we're both doing what we're supposed to be.
Melissa: What's been really interesting would be, and yes, I was an early adopter. I'm still old school. I print everything. I like to touch it and read it, but what's been really interesting is when I'd become a virtual President and CEO of my company, and I knew how to do that because I have virtual assistant.
Anne: Yeah. It's so funny because when I meet people at the trade shows and stuff and I say, "I can work anywhere in the world, it doesn't really matter as long as I've got internet and connection, I'm good," I think a lot of people, especially in property management, specifically, have been rooted in the fact that you have to be physically located and of course, so now with COVID-19, a lot of us are having to get on that virtual boat, right?
Melissa: You know, Anne, it's so true, but you know what else is really interesting? The other thing I found really interesting is I never encouraged my staff to work from home. I always want them in the office and they're missing each other, the team environment.
Anne: Yeah, absolutely.
Melissa: But it's amazing because now, there's 18 of us virtually working right now and I'm learning so much the one that doesn't have the tech skills, is now learning to do Zoom, is now learning to do more. In fact, first thing on Monday, we're going to be doing a Zoom with all of our VAs, just to see their smile, just to check in with them.
Anne: And I think that's so important. Let's talk a little bit about your culture and how you have embraced this because I know you told me a little story about your meeting last week and how you integrated your team. Tell everybody a little bit about what you did, which I thought was so fun.
Melissa: Well, we've got to keep the spirits up, right? I mean, right now, we're all going through changes and the changes are by the hour, by the day, sometimes by the minute. It's been a rough week. I've never been so happy to say TGIF.
Anne: Amen, sister.
Melissa: And looking forward to the weekend. We are close now on the weekends, which is unusual, but the things that we're trying to do is bring spirit and camaraderie in an office that already is a family environment. So in our office, in Marin County, just north of San Francisco, we actually have 15 of us and that's including myself, then we have three virtual assistants and we have had virtual assistants now for a long time, and we're adding a new one, but we'll talk about that later, but we'll talk about that in a minute.
Melissa: So, what we're doing is we've always had team meetings now. We're having weekly staff meetings where all of us are coming together. Last Tuesday, we needed spirit, we needed positivity, so we had the theme of an aloha staff meeting and everybody came together in a little hall where actually, I encouraged it. My son Matt, who's our VP and does a lot of our marketing and business development, he came in his board shorts carrying a surfboard and later put his dog on the surfboard, my grand dog. So, that was a really great spirit and I came in playing the Beach Boys music.
Anne: Of course, you did.
Melissa: I mean that's that fills my heart at a time that we're all going through so much, but the first thing I did was to tell my staff that I was not going to be furloughing anyone that even if it meant me taking a pay cut or no pay, that they came first and that they're important to me, and that we would be looking at all aspects, but we had support from each other and from their boss, me and also having Christine and Matt step up in this management role and helping. I'm so blessed to have Christine Gooden, who got Property Manager of the Year.
Melissa: And to have Matt, my son, who is jumping in and I never knew had talents that he's showing me through design. So, I think the spirit of the aloha theme, everybody write this down as you hear this because you should start a little fun in your meeting, we start with positive thoughts. So, we go around where every single person says one thing positive that they would like to share.
Anne: And I love that. I do the same thing. I always start off like, "Tell me something good," whether it be personal or professional, something that went right in your world, because the reality is, so often in company culture, I think you get stuck in, "Oh, we got to do this, we got to do this, and this is where we need to improve and go, go, go, go, go." And there is a time for that. I'm certainly not saying that there isn't, but it's so nice to take just that brief moment and say, "Tell me something good that's going on in your life." And that also elevates your staff a little bit more. It frameworks their mental state, so you actually have a better conversation, you have more ideas that flow. I think, I love that and we do that, too.
Anne: Tell me a little bit about, on a scale from zero, meaning it was super, super hard to go virtual from being in office to 10, it was the easiest thing in the world, it was almost seamless. Tell people where you would rate your company experience where this hall will be in place?
Melissa: I think that's an interesting question. Because for me, it was a 10 because I got out of the way, being not the tech savvy gal and not being that detailed, I'm lucky to have an operations VP, Christine who can put procedures in place, and Tony, who's our maintenance manager, he has two virtual assistants. And when Tony was hired, it was a brand new role. We didn't have the job as a maintenance manager, employee in management in our company. So I got to step out of the way and watch Tony shine and he embraced it. He was so grateful to have the support and he had to learn new things as we all did.
Melissa: So for me, I don't have anything but positive things to say. For me, it's a 10 because it's made my life easier and what it's done is train me. Okay, so let me give you an example why I say such a strong number because it needs to be backed up with facts and what I'll say to you is what I learned is every morning I only have one VA that reports to me directly and she is a rock star. She's my Christie and she's been with me since the beginning of time of virtual assistants and Christy checks in every single morning between the hours of 8:20 AM and 8:30 AM, my time, every morning and she has something nice to say, "Happy Friday Eve." I never heard of that before. On Thursday, she's, "Happy Friday morning," or whatever it is and I always respond back and every single day no matter where I am, we have that exchange. Now that's a 10 second, one-line, two-line thing.
Melissa: But what I learned and the one thing I wanted to share with you and anybody in our field is, it taught me how to jump in right now and what we're going through. The virtual assistants every day at the end of the day, give you what we call an EOD, end of day report. And guess what? Because I love those so much and I've gotten a format that I can read quickly and bullet points and my mind works at a mile and everybody has many things come out at a mile a minute. Well, because of that, I now have each one of my team members do an EOD working from home, sheltering in place. And I know exactly how I wanted to deliver it because we've been doing it already with our virtual assistants.
Anne: Were your staff open to that because I know a lot of people are afraid to ask their staff to do those types of reports, but now I think when we're not together every day, it's so important, so everybody knows what's going on or at least one person knows what everybody else is doing.
Melissa: So, that's a good question. EODs are just coming to Christine and I and each one of us. Sometimes I'm more on and quicker than Christine, but Christine and I respond to each and every one and not in length. Believe me, when 5:00 hits, my email is already coming in. I hear this ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding so I'm getting 17 of them, including one from Christine, but it allows us to see the need if there's support, they actually end with what their rating of the day is, a 1, 2, or 3.
Melissa: And like for example, my virtual assistant this week, Christie, the one I'm referring to, has given me a one, wo she wants more work. And my other one in the Maintenance Department said, "I'm happy to do some more projects if you like." And I said, "Oh, I love it. Are you kidding me? We've got some things for you to do."" We had to work on our landscaping and show us where we have landscapers on properties because our governor has decided we're not allowed to landscape anymore.
Melissa: That takes a long time to figure it all out, not every property has a landscaper paid by the management company or the owner. So, guess what? My virtual assistants took care of it for me and rapidly, so, it's amazing.
Anne: That's interesting. So one of the things that came out today for us because again, this shelter in place is this weird thing is the New Cares Act and which owners are on Fannie and Freddie and which ones aren't, and so somebody gave us a great tool, two websites. If anybody wants these websites feel free to connect with me, I'll be happy to give them to you, but it allows you to check to see if there is a backed mortgage on the properties. So obviously, we asked the owners and said, "Hey, this is what's happening." But sometimes they don't know or "I don't want to myself in trouble by charging a late fee if I'm not supposed, too."
Anne: So, part of what we have our VA doing is going through every property and checking on these to make sure, so I've got what the owner says, I've got what the website says and then if I see that there's a disconnect, because some of the owners own some of them, some of them are free and clear, and some of them may do have a key lock or some other type of thing that they just forget about, they don't they don't think about it. So that's something we're having our VAs do right now, just to make sure we're covered. And then like I said, if we see that there's a difference, we'll reach out to the owner and say, "This is what we found. Can you explain or can you verify?" It shows that we're really proactive.
Melissa: Well, and the one thing I can tell you that Christie is also doing a really good job for us is keeping up with our owners' insurance.
Anne: It's huge.
Melissa: So if you're talking about owner partner, she gives me at the end of every day, EOD gives a report about how she's doing getting all the new policies in place and she lists them out and she's outstanding at her job. So, the exciting news I'll have to share with everybody is that during this time when most people are pulling back, we decided this was opportunity and we're looking at opportunity because we're going to all need opportunity when we come out of this on the other end. And so we, as you know, hired our fourth virtual assistant, and we're so excited.
Anne: She starts Monday.
Melissa: Yeah, she's a rock star. I can't wait. I like rock stars. I got a lot of work for them.
Anne: You attract a lot of rock stars because you are the ultimate rock star. You're amazing.
Melissa: Thank you. So, the new VA that we're hiring for the purposes of the listeners is the virtual assistant is going to be in our accounting department. Now, my bookkeeping or accounting department is two people Raiden, who's been with me for 15 years. She started working for me on February the 14th, and she is a love and a good blessing for sure. And then Shirley, who this month on April the 7th, has her seven-year anniversary with us.
Melissa: And Shirley's younger and more innovative. Not that that matters, but I mean, in the technology world and Raiden follows. She has spreadsheets upon spreadsheets and binders, and slowly we've been pulling her over. Well, at the beginning of this year, unbeknownst to what we'd be going through, our number one goal as the management team looked at things was to change the way bookkeeping was run and guess what? We are changing the way bookkeeping, not by choice.
Melissa: And this virtual assistant might not have been blessed so easily, except for guess what? We're all virtual assistants now. So, I allowed the management team both Raiden, our manager, and the associate bookkeeper, Shirley, to announce it to the team her name, a little bit about her, and you should have seen the smiles. And really, it's a great thing. I hope we're going to add another one, so give us a little time but we'll be adding another one maybe as you suggested in the marketing world.
Anne: I totally think this is a time for all of us as property managers to step back from our businesses and look at, "If I could design my perfect business or my perfect world. What would that look like? What would I change?" Kind of putting everything else on the backburner, that kind of thing. This is a chance to re-innovate and re-energize and I also encourage everybody to look at those key players, those players that you know like for you, Christine and Tony. Wait, no, all of your staff is amazing.
Anne: Sometimes, honestly, I've talked with hundreds of property managers, sometimes their staff isn't so amazing. And so, now is a great time to just say, "What can I do differently?" And then those rock stars that you have in your organization, what can you do to underpin them and support them, so that they feel appreciated? So that they feel like they're utilizing their skill set in the very, very best way? And I know for me, Mark and I went to our employee and we said, "What can we take off your plate that would be more enjoyable for you, so that you could do more," and she gave us the list of what we hired for. So, basically, we gave her a virtual assistant, so that she could double the amount of doors that she could do, so that I didn't have to work in the property management business as much and I could focus on HireSmart.
Melissa: I think that's great. So, we actually did that with our Accounting Department, so we had Shirley, the one that's more innovative and technique savvy, because she was trying to take on more. And so we said, we learned this in one of the NARPM conferences, and it's through Mark Cunningham, who's based out of Colorado, and Mark has this thing that says, "Stop, continue and start. What can you stop doing? What should you continue to do or what do you love and want to continue to do? So stop, continue and start. What could you start doing differently?" And I like that, that I always think to in my own world.
Melissa: And Susan Albern, who you also know, used to be a Property Manager and now she's I'm working on some tools for property manager. So, Susan Albern is a good friend of mine and she came to do a little business coach consulting, but also to hang out, because that's what we as property managers do. And Susan said the same thing to me. She said to me, "Melissa, what are you doing that if something happens to you tomorrow when you no longer were able to do it, who would be able to do your job, who would be able to do that role?"
Melissa: Well, my first reaction, I got Christine and I got Matt, so that's great, but I can't give them more work without taking work away, so being able to get a virtual assistant, the support underneath Christine and Matt is also really important. So being able to say, "Okay, well, you know what, Christine? That's really great. You're doing that. Let's have Christie prepare that management fee review and let's have that spreadsheet done by her and delivered to you and then we can talk about it." And now suddenly, she's not sitting there looking at spreadsheets. She's doing support for my teams, so just really take a hard look.
Anne: Yeah. And again, it's a great time to do that. Some of us have a little more time on our hands because we're a little bit slower paced, right, wrong or indifferent even though we are in essential business. I know people, different states look at essential businesses differently, we still have jobs to do, but there's a lot of jobs that we are pausing right now. There's a lot of things that we aren't doing that are emergency, so it does give us some time to look at how can I strategically take advantage of what we're doing? And one of the things that I've been preaching about to my clients here, one-on-one is the individual owners out there that are self-managing, which is honestly, our biggest opportunity, everybody's like-
Melissa: Really, right?
Anne: Exactly, it's not your it's not the other professional member, it is the people that are self-managing that don't have the tools and resources. They're not going to be able to easily navigate this type of a landscape and so we've been thinking about how can we help our clients come up with innovative marketing plans, techniques, and then have that virtual assistant again underpin and gird that, so that they can be well-positioned when this comes out.
Melissa: That's an area that we'll want to be focused on once we get through this month of April, onboard our newest Evangeline. Is that how he said it, Evangeline?
Anne: That's right. Yeah.
Melissa: So, when we onboard her, then we can actually turn and navigate in the month of May to look at where we can support new business and marketing, so as you develop that, we'd be very interested because that's on our next radar with all this growths and opportunity.
Melissa: Let me just tell you a quick little story, so we had a client meeting this morning. I've had two. One is a realtor who's been a very good friend of mine. His wife's in the Rotary with me and I love her to death, her name is Helen. And Helen and Ted had been managing their own property. Ted is a realtor and sells multi-unit buildings and he always peppers me with questions. Questions, questions, questions, and I'm like, "Okay," and I always answer him out of respect, but he also refers us a lot of business.
Melissa: So yesterday, I got the email, it said, "Hey, Melissa, what do you think about taking over all our properties that we've been self-managing?" I said, "We're going to see." "And we might just do it temporarily for three months." And he told me what he'd pay and I can't say that, but he told me what he would pay. It was a nice fee, but I said, "You know what? I'm not interested." I said, "What I'd be interested in as a minimum six months, because once it's gone from your hands in six months, you're never changing."
Anne: You're never going back. Right. No, you're smart with that.
Melissa: Oh, yeah.
Anne: One of the innovative things that we did, Mark and I did in our business, too, especially that I think is really effective right now is... well, let me back up. Mark and I are investors. That's how we got started in this business in 2001. We bought our own properties, we self-managed. We were one of those self-managed people, but we tend to do things by processes and procedures that we were-
Melissa: I do because you speak our language to help me with my virtual assistants. You speak the property management language.
Anne: Oh, absolutely. So, we started our brokerage in 2005, so I had four years there of really learning the ropes before I ever tried to manage somebody else's. I wanted to make sure we had that that background, but because of that, we have a lot of investor relationships and one of the things that we decided to do, actually a couple of years ago to help enhance our portfolio was to do, financials only. So, some of the people that have bigger complexes or whatever, they still want to be involved in it for a lot of reasons.
Anne: Some of them have pension plans and other income that they need that that real estate professional designation from the IRS, they need to maintain that. And you can't really self-manage or you can't hire it out to your property manager and get your hours and credentials for that. So, by doing a financials only, it allowed them to get a lot of the heavy lifting and the reporting and the chasing and the collections and all of that off their plate while they're still able to do the maintenance or the tenant move in, or whatever else that they liked to do.
Anne: So it's a way for, again, thinking differently, thinking outside of the box. What can you offer that value to a particular marketplace that makes sense? And so I think we're going to find that a lot of the independent landlords are going to need guidance and so one of the things I thought of, just off the top of my head as I've been going through that this week, too, is helping with the eviction process once it's able to be done. I mean, it's not a moneymaker, but again, it's a starting of the relationship. And a lot of times I think sometimes-
Melissa: You're putting out a hand to shake, a hand to help out.
Melissa: Helping them.
Anne: Oh, that's too much liability. It's not if you frame it correctly, right? I mean, you have to make sure you're taking care of yourself and it does have to make some financial sense, but I think as we go into this next phase of business and property management, the property managers that are going to win are those that serve, that are willing to get their hands a little dirty.
Melissa: Yeah. I think, it's focus. Absolutely. That came up a lot about the personal touch and making personal phone calls. So, two other points. One is the second call that I had with a client today was a client that was a managed client, it was a few years and he had a challenging tenant, but before all this happened, he decided to take back his and then managed it himself. Super nice guy, never was upset, everything's fine, just hung up on him. And we were going over a couple of things because his tenants have been known to be paying late and he doesn't like to do anything about it, so now he gets to deal with it. And so afterwards, Christine and I just were on a call with him going through a couple of things and he called back to Christine and he said, "Boy, did I pick the wrong time to self-manage. I might be coming back. Would you take me back?" And Christine said, "Absolutely." He goes, "Well, let me talk to my wife, and we'll get back to you next week."
Melissa: Okay, so that's going to be a very common thing, plus we do a lot of lease onlys. Some people called it replacement. All those people are getting our newsletter and what I'd recommend to the viewers and the property managers today is we did a two-minute clip video to our owners and I was trying to test it out what the best way to do it. We did it through Zoom, but we figured out another thing called QuickTime. We did it through QuickTime, second time and so we use Zoom.
Melissa: Christine helped me. I had the script on and I tried to wing it without a script. I can do this with you because we're friends and we're on the same world, but I've tried it and it didn't work. So Christine developed the script. I read the script, it's about two minutes and six seconds, probably a little bit. Two minutes for the first one is fine. The next one will be a little bit less than crisp and delivered message. And we put it into YouTube, put it in our YouTube channel and delivered it this week to our clients and we are getting such positive response from that video.
Melissa: I fought video. I've never ever sent my clients a video. Guess what? I'm going to be doing a lot more. But I'm already like, "Christine, give me a script. I want to do a video today. I got to get ready for Anne's call, so get me a script. I'm going to do a tenant video."
Anne: Yeah. No, I mean, it's great innovation, right? We have time we have the resources to learn a little bit, get new technology and those types of things. And I just think that the people that are going to come out the other side are those that get themselves out of what they're familiar with. There's an investor friend of ours. I'll just talk about this because it makes me laugh. He is always about creative ideas when it comes to real estate, creative structuring, finance all of that and so he has a T-shirt that he wears that says, "What box?" It's like, "There is no box." So, you're not even thinking outside the box because there is no box. What box are you talking about? And I love that because that's the mentality I think we need to be right now is what box? The world is our apple. That's figure it out.
Melissa: Don't count all the walls, right? Not counting all the walls?
Melissa: We got a new foundation. I'm actually so excited. As hard as difficult as this is for everyone and my heart just breaks and aches and watching a video clip today of the whole San Francisco area with not a human being around, it's tough. But on the other hand, I feel like it's a new lease on life. I think forever that what I'm seeing the change is that the commercial platform forever, the brick and mortar forever has changed. It will not go back to normal because I can have people all over the world and doing the same work that we're doing right now, this is going to forever change how we look at business.
Anne: Well, one of the biggest problems I've had, period, in selling my service is the fact that it can be done virtually, like literally, that's always been that, "What? No, that just can't be done." And I'm like, "It can, whether you're comfortable doing it or not." And so I'm thinking, this is going to really explode my business in a couple of months.
Melissa: I hope you're ready.
Anne: I actually am. I've had a couple of good sales calls in the last day or two. Innovative property managers that are willing to make an investment in their company and see this as an opportunity to restructure or change stuff around or elevate or plant the seeds. There's not a whole lot of selling necessarily going on right now because it's difficult, but you can plant those seeds. I don't think we'll ever be back to business as usual. I call it business as unusual because I think you're right. I think we're totally, completely changed.
Melissa: This is never normal.
Anne: Right. Exactly. We're in property management. No two days are over the same.
Melissa: One other thing that I was going to mention one is even NARPM National, so Gail and the team, the leadership team, they've all jumped in to look at how we're teaching, so the NARPM is forever changed and we're going to be offering more classes through the National Association of Residential Property Managers, which we both are very active with. I'm a past National President and I'm currently is instructor, as you mentioned, you took your first student class, getting your designation with me and you just took your last one. So, things are going to change the way we deliver education even faster and more rapidly than we ever, ever believed.
Anne: Yeah, that's it. It's funny that you say that. So, I submitted my form for my RPM, literally. Well, actually, I didn't. Mark did it because he's being so good to me. He knows I'm so busy, so he actually did it. And I'm waiting on the board approval at this point. So Mark then says to me, "Okay. Well, are you ready to get your MPM?" I'm like, "Well, I just-"
Melissa: Let me breathe. Well, just so people know. RPM is a designation in NARPM. It's a Residential Property Manager, but what's really important and some people go, "Well, the world doesn't know about the designations." I said, "Yeah? But the world of the 5,000 plus, plus, plus of property managers and colleagues and the world of all the vendors like yourself know about it." So I'm going to get a referral, I'm going to lead by example and then the first thing I do is look for someone with a designation. In order to give a referral out, I go down the list, I go to the area and either I pop up the list. If I don't know anybody, but I know a lot of the people in NARPM.
Anne: You do?
Melissa: But I don't know all of them. So, if I was going to Atlanta, I'd go to Atlanta and then I'd go down the list to see, who has designations and those are the top people that come to the cream rises to the top, those are the people I choose to give my referrals to and we all get a lot of referrals. That means they take it seriously and they've been through training like you and I have.
Anne: And I think it's so important that we continue to invest in our education and learn. Again, we've not had a total shift, right? We were prepared for that because we have virtual staff. We've been working virtually for years. Our in-house staff, it was a little bit more challenging, but again, we had the tools and foundation to make that easier. And so the same thing goes through, again, NARPM as an institution, like you said, they're always looking to be better.
Anne: I sit on the National Vendor Council and I love those meetings because it talks about how we as vendors support the organization and we bring ideas and I love the fact that we're heard versus some other organizations where we're literally off in a corner and they want our money and that's it, so we're big NARPM fans for sure.
Melissa: Well, and I think the leadership, so this past Tuesday morning, and Gail was with past President Andrea Caldwell out of San Jose, his idea was 3to bring all the past national presidents together and support Kelly, who's our current National President of Washington State and the president elect happened to be on the call. They were doing their call through Zoom. And all of a sudden, can you imagine Kelly's face? It was a surprise.
Melissa: Literally to have almost every single past national president present to support her and she was choked up. Well, I get choked up just thinking about it. That's camaraderie.
Anne: Well, that's hard for her.
Anne: I mean, this is unprecedented, right? We've had to cancel broker owner, all of that stuff.
Melissa: And I was the national president when 9/11 hit.
Anne: Oh, no. I did not know that. Wow.
Melissa: Yeah. So, it was the week before convention, the week before. I mean, I was supposed to get on a plane in a couple of days. So we were going to Kansas City and literally within minutes, after we all settled and caught our breath out, not a minute, so maybe a day and we were all stunned. But I pulled together as the President of NARPM, all the board. We had 14 Board of Directors at that time, only one wasn't able to get on the call, 13 of us got on the call, and only one of those 13 wanted to cancel it all together.
Melissa: We agreed to postpone. We moved the convention to end of November. It was a tough time, but we moved it to the end of November. We didn't have a clause in our contract at that time to let us out because of that and a lot of people didn't have it.
Melissa: So we were obligated, but we came together and during that time, from the time that we changed the meeting, to the time that we arrived, the emotions were high, but we lost our fourth National President Rocky Maxwell to cancer, so I got hit with two. We opened our conventions a little early with a memorial service and I had my head on the table in tears. I mean, he was like a mentor. He was one of the strongest mentors in my life in the property management associates in the world of property management.
Melissa: So, we had a lot of much, but we came together as a group, which we're doing right now. We're coming together as a group to share. I always tell you that I have some good EODs to share samples of, I have really good job descriptions as you do, and I always am looking for you to give me more information on what you're using VAs for. The virtual system can do so much, but I'm always willing to share with your clients and my colleagues and I do.
Anne: Yeah and I always appreciate that about you. You're so supportive. In closing, share with everybody a little bit about where you see the future going. This is the beginning of this, right? Well, I think we have a little bit longer to go unfortunately. I wish I could say it will be over tomorrow, but I think we've got a lot more time. Share with everybody a little bit about the future of property management as you see it today and what hope can you give people to hold the faith?
Melissa: Thank you. Well, if I had that little crystal ball.
Melissa: And I could predict I would say, this is probably one of the bigger opportunities I've ever seen in my career. I think that the world has changed, but I think the way we do business has changed. And I see it as I'm now going to be able to support my staff even more because they're going to be bought into virtual systems more than they've ever been before.
Melissa: Come on, my bookkeeping, if I had done this a year ago, even a month ago or let's say, because we already planned to do it as the first of the year, but if I had done this before we were in this state, they would have given me resistance and the smiles on their face. I wasn't quite sure how to do it from the accounting standpoint and now I'm sorry that I didn't do it sooner. So, I think that is one piece. I think the way that that I see business today has changed in the light of opportunity and thinking like, "How am I going to get through the storm? How much savings do I have? Can I do it?" And I'm a believer. And I think that attitude, that positivity will absolutely navigate for positive change moving forward.
Melissa: I think we're going to lose some clients, let's just say that. They're going to move back into the home, but I've already seen the flow in a short period of time of people coming to us. My son was getting four and five calls a day and he's like, "I can't come out to your house, but let's talk on the phone. Let's do a virtual call." And he's still getting inquiries for new business, so we've got to be ramped up and ready.
Anne: Yeah, I think so, too. And like I said, for me, I think it's going to be about business as unusual. What box? How can I serve? What are the needs of the people out there? What are they? They don't know about the eviction process. They don't know what they can and can't charge. They don't know what the 120 Federal ban is and what it means to them. And so I think those of us, you and I are both educators, we love to teach, we love to serve, and I think that that helps us because we're able to see needs in a marketplace where maybe some others aren't.
Anne: So for those of you that are listening, pay attention to what you're hearing. Listen to what the inquiries are in your business. Tenants are a little crazy right now, too, because they can't find places. How can you serve them to find person? So, one of the things we're doing and we've done this for years, but now it really comes to being super important is we do Matterport Chartres where literally they can walk through the whole house and it gives the floor plan and everything like that. And I innovated that when Mark and I were introduced to that, probably three years ago and I have my own Matterport channel, but I always pay a photographer to go because I don't have the staff and time to do it myself.
Melissa: Hire a professional photographer like I do.
Anne: I don't have a professional photographer.
Melissa: I have a professional photographer.
Anne: I'm not that good. We all know our strengths, but I can pay them to do it and then load it up in my system where I own the intellectual property, so I can use it year after year after year, so I can do it once and then as long as I manage the house, is still good. Yeah, the paint may be changed a little bit here or there, but the structure of the house, the floorplan, the size, all that's done. And so we're finding that that has really helped us in today's market. So, think about other things like that, that you can innovate and change what you're doing.
Melissa: And I want to end with three tips and a secret.
Anne: Do it, let's go.
Melissa: So, three tips and a secret. The first one is for everybody to write down their stop, start and continue.
Anne: Love that.
Melissa: Make a list of what they can stop doing and what the virtual assistant can help them with. The second one is, what I said earlier, which is to look at what would happen if you no longer could do the business as the president, CEO or the managing broker or any of your management. What would happen if that person or myself as a president and CEO could no longer do the business the way I could, something happen to my health, knock on wood, or maybe I don't want to. Okay, so that's two. The third one would be to look forward in the future positively on the way that you're going to grow your business and be ready for it as we come out through the other side. Be positive, think positive, come up with some new marketing ideas and gear it up right now to be ready when we turn this corner to take on clients and not turn them away, but you can serve them by being ready. Now the secret.
Anne: All right.
Melissa: The secret is, I love to travel, I speak and teach and I always support my staff. I check my email every day, I respond to my teams, so that I can be a NARPM instructor. My husband lives on the East Coast, I can go visit him, and I travel a lot for fun. And today I'm coming from you from Cuoco, the big island of Hawaii, where I'm sheltered in place and able to run my business through my virtual assistants and my awesome Prandi team just like I was sitting at my desk,
Anne: And you are amazing at what you do and for anybody-
Melissa: That's not far from real, by the way.
Anne: I know. It's great. If somebody wanted to reach out to you, Melissa, what would be the best fit for them to connect with you?
Melissa: So the start would be to email me and I like to talk to people personally on the phone. So email is best, it's Melissa, M-E-L-I-S-S-A @prandi, P-R-A-N-D-I, prop, P-R-O-P, email@example.com and just know that I love to share and I appreciate you, Anne and Mark and just making me change the way I look at how I can do business today. I really think, I'm excited to have some new things and Evangeline to start.
Anne: Well, we are very thankful to have you as an early adopter to our business and certainly like I said as a client and a friend and I encourage you guys to think about again what Melissa has shared with you today, think about how to do business differently. What box? There is no box, so think about that.
Anne: And certainly if I can help in any way, my name is Anne Lackey and I'm at hiresmartvas.com, so it's firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always set an appointment by going /appointment and my online calendar is there and I encourage you to use it, even if you're not necessarily ready for VA.
Anne: If you just started having a business problem and you're thinking about staff, we solve those problems in a wide variety of ways and sometimes my solution is if we're not a good fit for you, I have one of those to speak to that they're just not ready for us right now, and I get it, but I hopefully left them a little bit better off than before they met me. That's one of our core values that we have at HireSmart is to always give a little bit extra. And so anyway, feel free to reach out to me as well. Thank you again, Melissa, for your time.
Melissa: You have these amazing books as tools, so don't forget your resources because that helped me understand some better things. It's a very quick, easy read, so don't forget that. That's something that you offer that a lot of people don't.
Anne: Well, thank you for that. Yes, if you want my streamline your property management business, I'm certainly happy to give those as well. You can again, email me and say, "Give me the book," and I'll be happy to do that.
Anne: We're actually working with on our fourth book, as you know. It was going to debut in Hawaii and unfortunately, because of some of the things that have happened, we're still in the process of putting that out, but we will have our newest book. I think we called it... I don't remember. It's a policy and procedures kind of manual to help businesses think about how to right size and how to innovate their processes. And so some of the things that have happened here recently have come into that, but you were kind enough to do the foreword for that and we are super excited to get that launched here in the next couple of weeks, so that will be something as well.
Anne: Again, everybody, thank you so much. Melissa, you are a treat and I do appreciate you very much for being here and helping our followers.
Melissa: Be well. Be healthy.
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