In this episode, Jason Marcordes of Landmark Property Management, speaks with us about how he has been able to streamline his property management business by using virtual staff.
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Anne: Good afternoon! My name is Anne Lackey. I'm the co-founder of HireSmartVAs, and welcome to the show. I'm so excited to introduce to you Jason Marcordes. He is with Landmark Property Management, and they specialize in residential single-family and multifamily rental properties in the Chicago area. And they have kind of a nice balance of in-house staff and remote workers.
And so, Jason, welcome to the show. We are so excited to have you. Why don't you tell us a little bit about how you got started in property management?
Jason Marcordes: Like you said, I'm based out of Chicago, born and raised in the south suburbs. So, while I was going to school, actually my uncle had a property management company, so I started through the family business and then kind of went off on my own, worked for a couple of different companies, a larger corporate background, and then just at some point realized that I wanted to do it for myself and try to do it better.
There was a lot out of things that I saw that were done really well and a lot of things that I saw that weren't. So I wanted to give it a shot for myself and started my own company. I was the only person. It was kind of a solo operation for a long time, up until about a year ago. And from then until now, we have a total of nine people, including myself and about 300 doors.
Anne: Well, that's great. So I want to kind of roll back a little bit. You had said that there were some things that you wanted to do differently as you learn. What would you say was the one thing that you took away from working for some others that you wanted to change in your property management business?
Jason Marcordes: So, I think the biggest thing was just treating the set like it was our own, and then the communication piece as well. I saw a lot of investors, they would be ... If they have questions or they're calling and they couldn't get to the bottom of things, they weren't always 100% sure of what was going on. So those were the two things. I'm an investor myself, so just treating it like it's my own investment, and then also, full transparency and communication with the investor.
Anne: Very good. So, I guess you're an investor yourself, correct?
Jason Marcordes: I am, yes.
Anne: Yeah. I think ... I am, too. I came out of Corporate America, got into rental real estate for my retirement because 401(k)s, pension plans, are way out the door. I saw the handwriting on the wall pretty early.
And interestingly enough, my dad thought I was absolutely crazy. He's like, "Why don't you go work for a big company and get a nice, big, fat pension?" I'm like, "Dad, they don't give pensions out anymore" He didn't believe me.
Now, 20 years later he's like, "Oh, okay. I guess you got out smartly. You did what you did." And then we started our property management company because there really wasn't anybody that understood how to run an investment company.
And that's what I look at. I look at myself as an asset manager running the business. Sounds like you do the same thing. So that's something that we have in common.
So, you started with us about nine months ago, right?
Jason Marcordes: Yeah, absolutely. I think January 4th was the first day.
Anne: The day that'll live in infamy, apparently. You actually remember the day, which is fantastic. Most people are like, "Yeah, I don't know. It's been a while."
Jason Marcordes: I looked it up. Yeah, it's been just over nine months.
Anne: So, let me ask you, because this is a question that we get all the time. So, we have a lot of people that are very nervous about kind of engaging with us or thinking about remote hires and things like that. What was kind of your, I call it "an aha moment" where you went, "Wow, this is the best thing I ever did and they can do so much more than what I originally thought"? Kind of share with us a little bit about your journey in that process.
Jason Marcordes: Sure. There's a couple of aha moments, the first being our interviews, really. I'd used VAs before on a couple different third-party websites, and it wasn't a good experience. I was pretty unsuccessful. So, when we had our pre-interviews, I was kind of blown away on the quality of candidates and I think all three had master's degrees. I believe so. But they were all incredibly intelligent, communicated really well, and had some great skillsets. So that was the first that really opened my eyes and kind of blew me away.
And then the second is really just our VA Glory. When we started working with her, we weren't 100% sure what she was capable of, so we'd give her a task and see how it went, give her another. Everything we threw at her, she'd just knock it down and she was ... She's incredibly thorough and she was just, like I said, just knocking everything down quickly, quicker than our in-house staff could do it. And we were just super impressed.
So, those are the two big ones. But we continue every ... Like I said, every time we throw something else her way, we always want to see how she's going to do and she always impresses us.
Anne: Well, thank you for that. I have a lot of people that have had bad experiences with direct hires or, like you said, even using a third party. And it's so hard for me to share with people. My background is IT and HR, and I'm a process-driven person. And so when I do a placement, I'm looking at multiple data points. I'm looking at the client's requirements. I'm spending a lot of time trying to make that magical match. So, I'm so glad that you had such a good experience.
But what would be something that you would tell someone that maybe has had a bad experience in the past about why they should use HireSmart?
Jason Marcordes: I think you kind of hit the nail on the head. You guys are looking at it from a very data-driven standpoint and you guys do so much of the work. When we post ads, whether ... Well it's always been here in the US. But when we're posting ads, we get hundreds of resumes and most of them are unqualified or they're just not a good fit. So, you guys do all of that up front and kind of weed out a lot of candidates that aren't a fit. Do you guys do a lot of training on the front end and you guys really made it seamless.
Anne: Well, that's good. Thank you for that. I appreciate it. It's interesting. So let me just ... If you can, quantify it. How much time did you think that I saved you over you doing it yourself?
Jason Marcordes: That would be tough to quantify, to be honest. I think the real time savings is the fact that Glory was the right fit. And we didn't have to, because we've done this with other positions where you post the ad, you interview, hire the person, train them, it doesn't work out. And then three weeks, four weeks, five weeks, you're back to square one and you do it again and again and again. So that would be tough to say. But definitely hours, definitely a lot, a lot of time.
Anne: Yeah. So, let's just see if we can help kind of quantify that. If it takes four weeks for you to find out that someone really isn't a fit or doesn't have the skillset and you're paying them, let's just, for easy numbers, $10 an hour. Again, we're less than that, but still let's just use that because it's easy. And so that's 40 hours. $10 is 400 times, I don't know, four. So that's $1,600, right? Yeah, $1,600 right there. I don't know. I'm terrible at math. That's why I always have a calculator. Right there that just is now wasted and you have to start all over again.
And that doesn't take into account posting the ad, which takes at least an hour, slugging through hundreds of resumes, which is at least ... Even if you have a good filtering system, that's another hour to two hours.
Then you actually have to look at the other 50 resumes that might qualify, talk to them for 30 minutes, 40 minutes, or put them through some type of testing. So that's another, let's say, another four hours of just kind of going through. And then your final set of interviews, which could be anywhere from two to three.
So you've got a lot of your time invested as well as then your training and all that. And the good news is when you spend that much time training somebody else and they don't work, they get the benefit of that training and can move on. Whereas you've now done everything that you can do.
Jason Marcordes: Right. Yeah.
Anne: All right. So let's kind of ... So, tell us a little bit about what Glory's specific tasks are that they do for you.
Jason Marcordes: So, Glory does a lot for us, and I actually made a list here because I didn't want to forget anything. So, Glory does a lot on the accounting side. She pays some of the bills. She enters them in our software. She also does a lot with QuickBooks. She create leases. She sets up owner portals. She helps with the onboarding process, does a lot of data-entry stuff. She tracks our Section Eight inspections. And we have a couple of other things that we're going to be building out processes for and training her, and we're excited to see kind of where that's going to go.
Anne: Yeah. I think what I like about what you've done with Glory is you've treated her just like any other team member. That's, I think, probably what .... If I ever have anything that I want to just kind of share with the world it's treat them as you would anybody else.
They're not going to know everything about your company day one. They're going to be productive day one, but it just keeps getting better. The more energy that you spend with them, the more investment of time, the more you invest in that relationship, you're going to get that benefit multiple fold.
And I think there's a big misconception that VAs are remote and so they're all doing their own thing. And I'm like, "Well, certainly, they're off on their own, but they should be as an integrated part of your team and process as you possibly can."
And I think a lot of people are a little nervous about that, but it seems like that you've done that really well. You've helped her in kind of making her a part of your PM family and training her as she continues to grow in the role.
And that's the other thing, too. The more that you invest, not just in the task but in their career development, the happier they're going to be. Nobody wants to just be stuck in their position day in and day out. Everybody loves to learn new things or have new challenges that induce us. So, I really want to applaud you for having kind of a career path for her because I think it does help her become more invested in you and in the company.
So, tell me about the impact she's had on your business. What is it that you've been like, "Okay, this has been a no-brainer because if nothing else, I've gotten X"?
Jason Marcordes: One quick note on that, just to go back for a second.
Jason Marcordes: We all work remote, so I'm actually in a coworking space right now. So it was kind of a natural fit for us. And I know a lot of people have this fear of working remote and employees not being in an office. But I think that's the way for the future. And you should be able to have KPIs for employees to know whether or not your team is doing a good job or not. So, just want to throw that in there.
Anne: No, that's a great takeaway. Thank you for that.
Jason Marcordes: A lot of the big companies are already doing it, so it's something that people have to begin to get comfortable with.
Anne: Well, interestingly enough, I've never had an office that receives residents or owners into my office, and I've been doing that for 19 years. So I was kind of on the bleeding edge of that, but I never wanted the interruption. I never wanted tenants just to come hang out with me or drop off their rent.
Anne: But that's kind of a new concept in property management because it's always been this local place where you go and you talk to Joe and Joe gives you the keys to your property and blah, blah blah, blah, blah. And so I think we're starting to see a real trend in that kind of diversity, which makes it a lot easier obviously to have remote team members. Regardless of whether your remote team members are here in the US or in the Philippines, it doesn't really matter as long as you have the systems.
And you mentioned about KPIs, and I want to touch on that. Kind of we'll go back to the other question in a minute. But KPIs are something that I think a lot of people struggle with. And I keep trying to tell people it's not hard and you should have KPIs and metrics for every position, including yours, in the business. So I have KPIs that I'm held responsible for as the president of the company. And then of course, I'm also the accounting person, so I wear a couple of different hats there.
But share with me how you developed your KPIs and what advice you would give to someone who maybe is new to that level of thinking.
Jason Marcordes: Sure. I think that the biggest key to success with the VA is going to come down to two things. The process itself, so building out that process. And then the KPIs, coming up with a few KPIs. You don't need a ton, but a few just to measure the success of that team member.
But basically I don't think it has to be anything overly complex. My VP of operations and I sit down, and we talk about what the task is at hand and we basically walk through it from Step A to Step Z and just document it, and then say, "What is the end goal here? What are we looking to do? And how do we measure that? Is it we're measuring by a certain metric?"
So that's what the KPI is that we're going to be tracking. And then we train the VA on that, just like we'd train any other staff member.
Anne: So, give an example of a KPI that you have for either Glory or anybody else in your office because I think people can really, once they hear one they go, "Oh, okay." And then I'll share one from my company, too.
Jason Marcordes: Sure. So, one of ours is, once we get the maintenance work order, maintenance has to carry that out within three days. So, basically from the time that it's entered into the system, it's assigned to our maintenance and is closed out, has to be in three days or less. So that's one way that we track, "Is our maintenance on track? Are we getting backed up here? Or are we overstaffed?" If we have everything being done same day, number one, we're super efficient. But number two, that means we have guys just sitting around not working to capacity.
Anne: So, how is that reported to you every day? So, obviously you've got a very short turnaround, three days to close out a work order. And I'm assuming that means the work's done and invoiced. Or the work's just assigned?
Jason Marcordes: The work is done and closed out. Invoiced is kind of a different ... That's a different one.
Anne: See, mine's two weeks invoiced because I want to see the money coming in. So we have 24 to 48 hours to schedule. Our tenants are a little bit slacker, so they're never going to get something done in three days. That just isn't happening in my market. So we have to give them the weekend kind of to give them that opportunity. But I want it done and billed in my office so I can close it out within 14 days. So that's something that I track.
But tell me, how does that get reported to you on a daily basis?
Jason Marcordes: So, that does not get reported to me on a daily basis. I report every, let's see, Tuesday, Thursday, and it's basically automatically done through our property management software. So it's super simple.
Anne: Okay. So, how do you know that the Glory's working every day?
Jason Marcordes: So, Glory checks in every day via Gmail chat. We should be Skyping more than we do. But she checks in every morning, and then we're talking throughout the day, whether it's via the chat email, and then like I said, occasionally we Skype.
And then she checks out two ways. She checks out via the chat, just saying, "Hey, I'm done for the day. See you later." And then she also sends me the close-of-business report, which is super nice. That has everything she did for the day. So that's another way to kind of track what she spent her time doing and kind of what she accomplished for the day.
Anne: So, have you made adjustments to your close-of-business report? For those of you that are new that maybe haven't experience with us, that's something that I teach all of our VAs to do is call it a close-of-business report. I call it a COB, and it's a way that I want our clients to know the productivity of a particular VA. And ideally they are tied to some type of KPI so that the client knows that the time is spent is valuable to them. And it doesn't really matter what's on there as long as you're happy that you got a productive day.
So, that's what a close-of-business report is that Jason's talking about it. And again, it's a key component to me because I can see if we've had two days, which have not been ... We always have bad day ... Every once in a while, we all have a bad day. Heck, I have a bad day.
So I always give them a couple of days. But if I see that on two days or more it's kind of a little light, we're at least having the conversation saying, "Hey, what's up? Do you need help? Do you need work? What's going on?"
So, from your perspective, that close-of-business report is valuable so that you know what she's worked on. Do you have them tied to KPIs or no?
Jason Marcordes: Most of them, no, we do not.
Anne: Okay. But you still feel comfortable that you're getting the value?
Jason Marcordes: Oh, absolutely. And she's honest. She'll tell me literally right in her close-of-business report whether it was a busy day or she had some free time. And we're working on that, trying to figure out what is the right amount of work. And it's really on us to kind of adjust. Like I said, we're trying to work on some other things to throw her way. But like I said, it's just an ongoing conversation like you'd have with any other employee.
Anne: Yeah. Well, and for me, I always have what I call filler work, work that always needs to be done but isn't time-sensitive, so whether that's auditing insurance or doing some research of clients or whatever. Whatever that is, it doesn't really matter, but always have something to kind of keep them busy when I'm not available to give them more work. And right now we're heading into slow season.
And I think it actually makes the VAs more nervous when they're slow because they're afraid they're going to get fired. So I always have to tell my team, "It's okay. This is a normal slowdown. We've got plenty of work. There's no worry here," because unfortunately they've been conditioned over the years that as soon as it slows down, they're going to get cut and then they have no job and no healthcare and none of that.
So I always make sure I'm sharing with them what to expect because I actually have a newer VA running my pre ... So, I segment my business into pre-tenant occupied and post-tenant occupied. And so Bonnie takes care of everything, pre-tenant occupied. And we don't have a whole lot of listings because we're almost at 100% vacancy. We don't have a whole lot of that pre-tenant occupied stuff to do right now. And I just told her, "It's perfectly normal, perfectly fine. Don't panic."
But that's something interesting from a cultural standpoint that I've had to really think about is that, wow, that's a true, innate fear for them and I need to address that.
So, what would be the one piece of advice that you would give somebody who's considering using a remote team member? What would you share? What's the big nugget that you could have them take away?
Jason Marcordes: Honestly, I would just tell him to jump in and ...
Anne: Just do it, just like Nike.
Jason Marcordes: I think I met you at NARPM. It was probably San Diego. Prior to that, man, I'd been thinking about a VA for so long, for literally years.
Yeah, I would say jump in. That’s a year. People all around the world are doing it and they're making it work and adding a huge part of their team by a VA. So, I would just say, "Jump in, do it, and you'll kind of work the fears out as you go."
Anne: Yeah, it's hard to prepare people for that. It's so funny because I tell them. I was like, "I remember what that's like." It's now almost been over five years since I first did this in my company. And I can tell you, I still remember that fear. But what I try to tell people is, "You know what? While I remember and understand the emotions that go along with that, I didn't have somebody like me to help them through this process." I had to figure all this stuff out all on my own. And now after four-plus years of helping other people, got a good process down. I know what you need before you even know you need it. So it's so much easier.
Jason Marcordes: And honestly, it's not going to get any easier than working with you guys. You guys make it so easy, and it's awesome. And then there's always ... If you ever do have any issues, which we really didn't, you guys have always been there in case we need anything. I think this is going to be as easy as it gets for people. So, like I said, jump in, make it happen, be willing to dedicate some time to building out processes and documenting everything you're doing. But other than that, jump in.
Anne: Well, I think that that's probably one of the scariest parts for people is they feel like they have to be perfect. And I tell them, "Done is better than perfect. You can change your processes. You can adapt them. It doesn't really need to be 100% ready."
And your VA actually can bring a lot of those resources and experiences to make it better than you ever could do on your own anyway because we're just too close to it. At least I am. I'm super close to what I do every day, and I know what I'm doing in my head, and I skip like five steps. A VA will help raise their hand and go, "Okay, we're missing stuff here. What else do I need to know?"
Jason Marcordes: Yeah, absolutely. And if you just take a little bit of extra time to document it, just literally next time I do this I'm going to just write Step One through step 12, just write them all out, you can send that to the VA and then naturally that VA is going to ask questions. And then you can already begin to revise that process.
And we have processes we've revised three, four, five, six times. You're always getting better and better and revising. So I wouldn't wait until you're perfect. That'll never happen. We're always changing and getting better.
Anne: Well, Jason, I appreciate your words of wisdom today. Thank you so much for being a part of our show. And certainly, we're always here to help you if you need anything.
If you guys want to get in touch with Jason, his information is going to be on the slide next to us. And thank you so much for joining us and have a great rest of your day.