I'm so excited to introduce you to Kevin Fletcher, President and Broker of PMI Prime Property Services, as he shared with us his advantage and challenges toward his journey managing his own PM Service and how he's able to take advantage of having a virtual employee for his business.
Want to know more about the great benefits of having a virtual employee for your business? Book an appointment with me today and I'll be happy to set things up for you!
Anne Lackey: Good morning, everybody! My name is Anne Lackey. I'm the co-founder of Hire Smart Virtual Employees. And today I have got somebody super, super special. I want to introduce you guys to Kevin Fletcher. Kevin is the president and broker a PMI Prime Property Services and his focus has really been on residential, commercial and association management. We're going to talk a little bit about association management. That's kind of a big thing that's kind of coming up, at least in my world. They've been in business for three and a half years. And so Kevin, welcome to the show. We're so excited to have you.
Kevin Fletcher: Hey good morning, Anne, glad to be here. Thank you.
Anne Lackey: Kind of give us a little bit of why property management? How'd you get started in the business? Kind of share with our listeners a little bit about kind of how you came to choose this as a profession?
Kevin Fletcher: Sure. I guess like a lot of other people that got into this business, it was kind of by accident, but I guess it's about four and a half years ago now, five years ago, kind of hit that point in my career where I had maxed out what I was doing in my corporate world. I was tired of traveling 25, 30% of the time. I live in kind of central New Jersey and my office was by the city so my commute was about four hours a day, four plus hours a day. I got to the point after many years of doing that and kind of reaching the apex of where I could go in that career, that I needed to change. And my wife and I did a lot of soul searching and trying to figure out, what would be a good fit?
Kevin Fletcher: I had done a lot of different things in the corporate world, but I've always enjoyed real estate in a previous life. I own several rental properties and I knew the challenges of trying to manage rental properties by yourself, working full time with a family, not having systems, not having processes, just kind of winging it. And it's by coincidence as we're talking about that, started going through my email and came across different business opportunities and franchise opportunities. And that was kind of how I got introduced to PMI or Property Management Inc. and started the journey to where we are today. And it's been an exciting journey and I'm really glad we did it.
Anne Lackey: Awesome.
Kevin Fletcher: Personally, it's made a big difference in our quality of life, which was the ultimate objective.
Anne Lackey: Absolutely. For those of you guys that are listening in here, one of the things I want you to take away from what Kevin said is it was with intention. He made an intention that he wanted a difference in his life for whatever reason. And I think when we do things with intention, we find the right opportunities. A lot of times, I coach and mentor a lot of young people because I think that's kind of the way I give back. And I always tell them, "Don't run away from something. Select going towards something. Don't just because something is not what you wanted, don't just jump ship." I think that's kind of a lot of our tendencies. We just want to get away from it and I always tell them, "Look, a lot of what you're going away from, you'll bring with you if you don't consciously figure out what it is that you want." I love the fact that you made that intention and started looking for opportunities. I have a question. Do you still buy your own real estate? Or do you just manage for others right now?
Kevin Fletcher: Right now we've been managing for others. We've actually, I've started up another company on the side. We're looking to start getting back into the investment area. I'm looking at some commercial properties and residential single, multifamily. We're definitely trying to take advantage of the, I guess, the downturn in the market. The good rates, but also recognizing, and this is the same philosophy in the property management business, is our goal is to try to bring the best quality properties to the tenant population.
Anne Lackey: Of course.
Kevin Fletcher: To give them a really positive experience. And we see there's a lot of slumlords out there. There's a lot of properties that are in really, really bad condition that people suffer with, unfortunately. And we're trying to help change that as much as possible.
Anne Lackey: Oh, I love that. Interesting, my husband and I have been in the rental real estates for 19 years and we also came out of corporate so you and I have that in common. I was an IT sales. I was a VP of an IT firm. And it kind of, just a little bit about my story, which is kind of inconsequential in this was, one of our friends got sick and subsequently died and it took a year because it was cancer. And I watched their family become financially destitute. And I said, my husband and I looked at each other, he was like, "That could have easily been us. Certainly. What do we need to do?" And so we actually started buying rental real estate and that's how we got started in property management.
Anne Lackey: I always love to hear kind of people's journey and how they get there, but our core value, even now in our property management company, 19 years later is quality affordable homes. I'm not going to be in the top market. I'm not going to be in the bottom market, but my properties are going to look better than everybody's else in the price point. They're going to be safe, habitable. Repairs are non-negotiable, but because I'm an investor, I always look at the repairs and go, okay, from an investor standpoint, what's the ROI? If I spend a little bit more money now, what will that translate down the road? We're not always dealing with the cheapest repair but we always look at what are the options?
Anne Lackey: Kind of as an aside, one of the things we've been doing is going to luxury vinyl tile in a lot of our properties. Nice, they look like hardwoods, they wear like hardwoods. They're amazing. But of course we have a lot more shelf life than the regular stock vinyl and better than carpet, because it's just cleaner. Again, it's kind of just how do you manage it? I love the fact that you're kind of in that same mindset, because I think more landlords need to be in that mindset. Like you said, tons of slumlords. Now you said you're up in New Jersey, right?
Kevin Fletcher: Yep.
Anne Lackey: For those of you who are looking for timing, we're about Thanksgiving in 2020. I think we can all agree that 2020 has been kind of this really kind of freaky year. How has your processes changed? How have you changed? What in your business has been kind of impacted either enhanced because of a new process or really you've struggled with? Kind of open up about some of the changes that COVID has brought to you.
Kevin Fletcher: Sure. Actually I'll step back into 2019 a little bit because that was the time that I brought my VA on and that was also a real big challenge for me. It's a little bit of a backstory and it kind of ties into your story a little bit, how you got into the business. Just at the point in time that I was bringing on my virtual assistant, virtual team member, which I prefer to call it. That was the end of September and I had been dealing with the possibility of having cancer since February of that year and had gone through a lot of non-invasive tests throughout the year. And it kind of got to the point where, because all the tests were not ruling out cancer, I ended up having to go for a biopsy at the end of October.
Kevin Fletcher: At this point, my virtual team member had only been on for less than a month and I guess like a lot of other companies when you're growing from nothing and still struggling with not having processes fully documented and because I'd been doing so much myself, I had also kept a lot of stuff close to me in terms of activities that I was doing. Fast forward to the end of October, I go in for a biopsy, 24 hours later, I'm being rushed to the emergency room in severe septic shock. I spent four days in intensive care unit and was really on the brink of not being on the planet anymore. And that was really the first eye opener that here I am laying in a hospital bed while my wife as a business partner in the business, she's not involved in the business. She has her own career, not being able to make contact with the outside world and all the stuff that Kevin was doing, all of a sudden wasn't getting done anymore.
Kevin Fletcher: And here my poor virtual team member who's only been onboard for a month is wondering, where's Kevin? Why isn't answering his email? Why isn't he answering his phone? And that was really the first realization that I needed to have a team around me. The business had grown to a point where I can no longer do it myself. I had to have a team around me. Gladys is my virtual team member. I needed to transfer more stuff over her and trust her more, which the whole reason why I brought her on in the first place and really start being able to delegate and move into that managerial role within the company.
Kevin Fletcher: And that kind of put us on a pathway to realizing that we really needed to document processes more. We needed to have a checklist that we could collaboratively work with. We invested in some different tools for that and that was all really good. As we came into 2020, of course and I had also a secondary property manager, which was really helping out more at the association type activities. Then as COVID came in, because of a lot of the work we were doing, we ended up implementing OneDrive. We put all of our documents and forms and information on the OneDrive prior to COVID. We had invested in systems and apps that help us work more efficiently in the business. Really when COVID hit, the reality was it didn't impact us that much. We were able to move our operations aside.
Kevin Fletcher: By that point we were in what? Mid March, I guess when the governor shut down the state. For all intents and purposes, we had a VoIP phone system, which we had been using. It was relatively seamless. The advantage of being part of Property Management Inc., we had talked a lot about the challenges that all of us were having in terms of one, trying to go to more virtual team members. And more importantly, just as we bring in team members, do we have all the processes and everything documented so that we can turn things over much easily? And now we've invested in Process Street. We're actually rolling out Process Street across the PMI franchise. And that has been really a game changer.
Kevin Fletcher: It's setting up the stage where we can add more virtual team members with ease. Through Process Street, have all the instructions that a team member, whether they're virtual or local, may need to execute a task. And then again, be able to control that task from beginning to end consistently each and every time, no matter who does it and how often they do it. That was really, I think for me, that was kind of going back to that incident in 2019 and realizing that that was going to be the key to success and that I also had to step out of the way of trying to do everything so the company can be successful and grow.
Anne Lackey: What you talked about though, is such a repeatable thing. I talk to hundreds of CEOs a year and typically that's kind of what keeps them where they are. And while I tell them, "I can give you the best virtual team member on the planet, but if you won't let it go, you're always going to be stuck."
Kevin Fletcher: Exactly.
Anne Lackey: And so actually I did a training last week called Fire Yourself. And unfortunately it was a very small attendance because a lot of people they feel like if I'm doing it, I'm of value. They associate their time with what they're worth. And this is something I'm really trying to tell people, "You can own a business and it can run and you can lead it and not do everything." I work two hours a week in my property management business and that includes a one hour meeting a week. But I have the asset, the asset produces money, but I don't have to do it. Do I have to oversee it and make sure that it's running and that? And so one of the things that I love about your story is, you kind of had the wake up call kind of. By the way, congratulations, I assume you're healthy and safe and all that good stuff now?
Kevin Fletcher: Unfortunately, the cancer did come back positive and as a result, I'm still dealing with the infection a year later. I was almost re-hospitalized in the spring for it. It looks like based on the tests that we might be getting ahead of the curve assuming we're looking. Unfortunately we're going to have to do another biopsy in the fall. We're all a little nervous about that.
Anne Lackey: Well, if it's okay, I'll pray for you. I'm a woman of faith and so I do believe in the power of prayer. And I do believe that that hopefully will give you wisdom and your doctors wisdom and it doesn't necessarily cure everything, but it certainly doesn't hurt.
Kevin Fletcher: Absolutely.
Anne Lackey: If that's okay with you, I'd love to do that for you. It's actually kind of is interesting though, because as you face that, and as you're going through it, you have a wife. Like you said, she's not in the business. And we see this a lot. A lot of the business owners, they're really good at what they do and this was the same situation that Mark and I were kind of going through when we were kind of woken up. It's like, if my husband is sick, I don't want to have to worry that everything else is okay. And so, that's why 19 years ago we got into systems and having not trading time for money because that's where whenever you're trading time for money, you're always going to be stuck in how much time do you have to give to whatever it is?
Anne Lackey: And so I love the fact that you are starting to transition that to your team members. And of course, I assume you're happy with Gladys. Everything's going great there. And I love the fact that you're thinking about how do I incorporate more virtual people into this world? Into your world. And so for those of you who are listening that are like, yeah, that sounds great but I don't know if I'm ready for that.
Anne Lackey: What I would tell you, and again, Kevin, I'll have you speak to this, is you're never ready. Your processors are never going to be complete. At some point you just have to bite the bullet and go, you know what? We start here. This is where we start. It's okay. Don't expect perfection. It's like, I was telling this to somebody, I guess, Daphne, who she's my client relationship manager, for those of you who haven't met her, she's amazing.
Anne Lackey: But I had a mentoring session with her yesterday and I said, "My goal for you in 2021 is for you to have more confidence." She's very good at what she does, but she's a little unsure of herself. And so I told her yesterday, I said, "We don't have it all figured out." I said, "I'm just going to be dropping you in the deep end of the pool and say, 'Hey, figure it out. But trust me, I will not let you drown. I will be here for you. I would rather you make a decision and it be the wrong decision but if you made it based on our core values, which are relationships are the most important thing, we're good.'"
Anne Lackey: It's okay. And I think giving our people that permission to make mistakes and learn from them, is one of the best things we can do and not fix it for them. How are you? Okay, this happened, how are you going to fix it? How are you going to grow from this? And so if for those of you listening, I certainly encourage you to look at your staff and look at how can you grow them up? Because when you grow them up, then you can go to the next level yourself. If you're always kind of micromanaging, always hovering over your people and not giving them some structure to make those decisions on your behalf, then again, you're always going to be kind of tied into that.
Anne Lackey: Looking forward to 2021, what do you see as far as changes in the industry or changes in your business? Or kind of share with us what you believe 2021 has for us.
Kevin Fletcher: At least from our perspective, we're looking forward to a lot of growth for next year. We're looking to substantially grow the business. And again, that comes back to the realization that I need to step out of the way of the success of the business. I can't do it all myself. The past two weeks, we brought on two additional team members. One person locally for business development, one person for property management, which is going to help us also build out the commercial pillar and with Gladys and probably some other team members as we move forward, we're looking to really grow. We've got really, everything is in place now to make that happen. And this is a lot of, look back at what Gladys has done for us, our virtual team member, now kind of just take a step back and showcase what she's done.
Kevin Fletcher: When she came on board, really the first objective was, well, if you can answer the phone for me, that will help a lot. She started taking all the calls. And again, because we're hitting different business pillars, we have different systems in place. Of course you had to learn the systems. Well, she's gotten to the point now where she is the primary face to our current owners, association board members and residents. When they have a question about their account or the status of a payment or maintenance, whatever it is. She's taken all that off and done a phenomenal job with it. She has taken over a lot of the back end data entry. We use Propertyware as our core system she's handling. We built out a 120 day lease renewal process and she's driving that entire process right now from front to back. Everything about the renewals, getting the owner confirmation, whether they want to renew or what have you.
Kevin Fletcher: Again, that entire process is now completely off my shoulders. She's taken over all of the maintenance. We've implemented Property Meld and things like that. She's taken ownership of that application to help build it out and make sure it's running correctly and set up. She's overseeing all of our maintenance partnerings. We've implemented ActiveCampaign as our CRM. She's helped build out automation. All of these things that needed to get done for us to kind of be where we are today to really grow the business and we kind of call those foundation building blocks, she was instrumental in. And there's no way I could've done it done by myself because of all the other stuff I was trying to do. And now, as we kind of get ready to jump into hopefully a non COVID 2021 without masks, she's been instrumental in helping us get Process Street set up and review the processes and that, fine tune them as we need to locally.
Kevin Fletcher: And my goal for her is to be able to transition her into, especially as we bring on more team members, to try to develop her into a managerial type role. And I've talked to her about that in the past. And she's, I guess kind of like Daphne. She's like, "Me? Really?" But, she's demonstrated and this came out in the interview as well. She had the right personality. She has a phenomenal personality and her personality was a good fit for me and I think for the climate that we're trying to create here. She has the knowledge, even though she doesn't feel like she has the knowledge, but we're always helping to build that. And she is resourceful. Whatever I throw at her, even if she doesn't know how to do it, she's like, "Oh, you know what? I'll research that." Or, "I'll look on YouTube and see if there's some instructions on that." Or, "I'll reach out to if we have a contact person in corporate to do it."
Kevin Fletcher: I really feel like anything that needs to get done, I can entrust with her, which is probably the most important aspect of that relationship and not have to worry about it. I don't have to micromanage her. And again, as we start moving into 2021 and we're looking at that potential increase in business, more maintenance, more doors, more and more and more, I really feel like I have a solid team member that's there that I can count on.
Anne Lackey: I love that.
Kevin Fletcher: And vice versa.
Anne Lackey: And that's one of the things, again, just from a takeaway standpoint, I want to make sure everybody heard this, they will rise to the level that you expect of them. Especially hire smart virtual employees. I do a very excessive screening process, vetting process, interview process. We spend a lot of time to curate the right people for our clients because what's right for Kevin is not necessarily right for Susie is not right for Jason. But I think I can give you a great person, but if you're not willing to train them up, if you're not willing to invest, I call it mentorship. Really, because that's what it is and giving them a career path that says, "I want you to manage more people. I believe in you and here's what has to happen for that to take place."
Anne Lackey: I love the fact that you are looking long range and that you're including her in that thought process and then equipping her, help figuring out what does she need? It's sort of like what I was just saying with Daphne, it's okay to make mistakes. You've earned my trust. I love you. I love how you think. I think you're amazing. What tools do you need from me to help you feel more confident? And then just constantly meeting with them on a regular basis and reaffirming those things and correcting when you need to. But I think specifically for Filipino virtual employees, which is all that we source, they're very sensitive. That's a generalization of course, but with a little bit of love, with a little bit of mentorship, there's nothing they can't do as long as it can be done with the computer or phone. Seriously, at this point, we're placing property managers, we're placing accounting people, we're placing maintenance coordinator. All, literally every department. In the HOA division, we're doing literally community association managers where they own a community and they are the focal point for that community. I just love that.
Anne Lackey: Kevin, what else would you share with me? Is there anything else you would want to kind of share with our people listening in?
Kevin Fletcher: Kind of coming back to your 2021 objective as well. The other thing we're implementing, I've talked to Gladys about this and the team here, is we're implementing the Entrepreneurial Operating System or EOS.
Anne Lackey: EOS, yeah.
Kevin Fletcher: And we've talked to some of our other franchises in the network that are larger than we are today, have implemented that and really talked about what a game changer it is, but also how it helps to develop the accountability and the growth at the, I'm going to call it the business unit level. We've talked about that and it was kind of interesting when I had the discussion with Gladys last week, because we're also trying to figure out how to get her to book now.
Anne Lackey: We can help you with that.
Kevin Fletcher: But you could see her light up with the fact that she's going to have an instrumental role in and helping to design where we go. For example, the community, as we kind of restructure with the new team members, once they're up and running, my goal is to try to move her into more of that community manager type role as one of her primaries versus being more of the administrative assistant. It was interesting to see how appreciative she is of the opportunity. And a personally, my wife happens to be Filipino. When I work with and we meet every morning, so to your point with the time investment, we meet every morning for 30 minutes and most times she has questions and we run through the questions and some days we just talk, we do it, we have some relationship building. And because I have an understanding of the culture and in the area and stuff, it's really helped too.
Kevin Fletcher: And just that time. You can see she's appreciative of, unlike maybe some of her previous employers, actually getting to know her as a person. And I think the other side of that is she had some recent medical issues and just a simple thing like covering the time off. Not docking her time off. A simple little thing. I guess for us in the US, we would look at that and again, we don't offer sick pay, but a lot of people would say, "Well, you're hourly so no, you weren't working. You're not getting paid." But especially in the Filipino culture, that little token meant so much to her. And you can see the impact. I can see where she has gone above and beyond in certain areas just because she's so appreciative.
Anne Lackey: It's an investment. It's an investment in your people. And again, I think the more you invest in people, whether they be local or virtual, it doesn't matter, but the more you invest just in people, the better your results. Again, Daphne and I have this kind of repartee a week ago because I'd rolled out my 2021 KPIs for her, and she's a little nervous. That's okay. I'm good with that. If she like, "Easy peasy," I'd be like, "Okay, well, we need to ratchet that up a little bit." But I wanted to give her something I knew she could do. That's the other thing, you don't want to set goals so far that they can't reach them because then you're setting yourself up for failure all the time.
Kevin Fletcher: Exactly.
Anne Lackey: I always pull the target a little bit closer because I think success breeds success. I wanted something that was very, very doable, but a stretch. And so her conversation was, "What happens if I don't meet these?" And I said, "It'll be my fault." And she's like, "Well, what do you mean?" I said, "If you don't reach the goals, it's my fault." And that was very, she could not quite get that. And I said to her, "What you don't understand is a leader takes responsibility for all the failures. If you are lazy because you're not doing your work, that's my fault. I've allowed that to happen. If you can't reach them because you don't have the skills, that's my fault. I've either put you in a position that wasn't right or I didn't equip you enough to do that." And she was like, she still couldn't get her head around it.
Anne Lackey: I was like, "Daphne, I'm telling you, I have full confidence in you. I know you can do this. Is it going to be hard? Yes. That's what life is about. I want to stretch you to your capabilities. But if you fail, it's not your fault as long as you're doing your best, communicating what the challenges are, we will fix them." And I think she's still processing that in her mind. She still hasn't quite figured that out. But I truly believe that. I believe people rise to the expectation that you give them, but you have to equip them. You have to give them everything that they need.
Anne Lackey: I am looking forward to a fabulous 2021 as well, and certainly wish you much health and happiness. We will be claiming that for you and super excited to hear about your expansion and growth. We are here to help you when you're ready. Because what you're going to find is the two people that you've hired are going to need support and they're going to need people. I love the fact that you're doing that. And again, EOS is from the book Traction for those of you who don't know. Great read. Lots of great things to implement. We have not done all of EOS, but we certainly have parts of that incorporated into all of our businesses, because the better your processes are, the easier it is to be able to scale.
Anne Lackey: Kevin, thank you so much for being with us today. I appreciate you and I'm thankful for you as a client and thankful for you coming and spending some time with us today. If you want to reach Kevin and talk to him because you have property management needs in his area, his contact information is down below. Feel free to connect with him and see if he would be a good fit for your community or for your rental property or commercial. You never know. We're kind of getting into that as well. Thank you so much for being here and have a great rest of your day.
Kevin Fletcher: Okay, thanks Anne.