Parks Property Management - HireSmart Virtual Employees

Scott Parks, CEO and Founder of Parks Property Management, shares with us about having a PM company. How he does that with having Cystic Fibrosis and how he thrives. His transparency and positive attitude are uplifting. This is one spotlight you won't want to miss.

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Anne Lackey: Hi, I'm Anne Lackey, co-founder of HireSmartVAs, and I'm here today with Scott Parks. Scott is the CEO and founder of Parks Property Management and Parks Properties. And he is kind of self-described as a jack of all trades, and he does just about everything, from speaking to residents and assisting for the re-models of the rental. He's been in the real estate business for about 20 years, and he's been a realtor as well. And one of the things I love about Scott, and you're going to see this in our conversation today is his transparency. He's very unique, in that he has a genetic disorder called Cystic Fibrosis. We're going to talk a little bit about that and how that has affected his property management business and all of that. But he has a beautiful wife and an energetic son and he has three dogs, of course I have two dogs, I love that, I love our furry, four-legged animals, and he has what he calls an obscenely large fish tank. And so the interesting thing I love about working with Scott and as I've gotten to know him over time, again is just kind of his love of life, and how he really seems to care. And so Scott, welcome to the show today, I appreciate you being here.

Scott Parks: Yeah, thanks for having me, I appreciate it.

Anne Lackey: It's my pleasure. So kind of tell us a little bit about the history of you and Parks Property Management, and just kind of give us a little bit of an insight into your business.

Scott Parks: Yeah. Well, I want to start off talking about having that genetic disorder called Cystic Fibrosis. I was growing up with it all my life, it's genetic obviously. So I always knew that I was going to have a difficult time as an adult. So, at an early age I've always looked for businesses to be able to be flexible, and be able to take lots of time off if I need to for medical treatments. I knew my lifespan was going to be possibly much shorter than most. Luckily the average age is now, I think 42, and so I'm 37. I am currently listed for a double-lung transplant, and you'll notice my speaking, I'm much more labored. You're going to hear me probably cough a lot, it's just kind of what I have to go through each day. Getting involved in real estate young was really great because it gave me that flexibility, provided that great income and I've always been upfront with my clients to know that what I have and my challenges and my clients have been really welcoming with open arms with having that, and that's why I love the real estate industry. Going from real estate in my early years, to not being able to really do too much real estate now, and be able to move over into the property management. Been able to really be able to have that sustainable income growth, and be able to really see, "Wow, what an amazing business this is" because I can still have real estate sales as kind of like the frosting on the cake. And then I have my property management revenue and being able to leverage Anne and her team for bringing on a virtual assistant has just been really a stress reliever. I've been trying to bring people on myself locally and I don't do it well, it's not what I do. So that's been really great and I appreciate Anne for introducing me to our first VA and we're going to have much more in the future.

Anne Lackey: Well, I love to hear that. Obviously that's what I'm all about, I love helping business owners get the life they want, whatever that is. Again, some of my clients it's to grow faster, some of my clients it's to have more time, which is why I did it, to have more time with my family, which now is kind of put into now this new business, which we do together. My husband and I do everything together, so it's a lot of fun. But I remember early on and in our relationship we were scheduled for a meeting or interviews and I think you told me, "Hey, I got the call." And it was a call for what we, you had already done I think a dry run, right?

Scott Parks: Mm-hmm.

Anne Lackey: And this was a possible donation. And I remember praying for you and keeping my fingers crossed. I don't think that happened if my memory serves me well. But I mean what an interesting and spiritual thing for me to be a part of in your life just because I was touched just for that little bit of time where we were trying to find the right person to hire. And I got to experience and kind of walk with you a little bit on that journey. Clearly not fully, but I love the fact that you, again you're very open in helping me understand kind of what you were experiencing and that whole process and so thank you for being so transparent enough. So let's talk a little bit about your company, so you obviously have this sales side and you have the property management side, but they are two separate brokerage firms, correct?

Scott Parks: Well it's all under one umbrella. They're in the middle of being split into two. So we were, since 2011 Parks Properties and kind of doing both. Recently we've decided to split the two off into one Parks Properties it's just sales and now that management's a little bit larger, it has a different growth path, it's going to have a different team and that's going to be a separate entity.

Anne Lackey: So how many doors do you manage on the property management side? Because I think most of our clients are in that property management realm primarily. Certainly some also have sales teams but kind of share with us how many doors do you manage right now?

Scott Parks: So when we first started, we were closer to that 80 range and really looking at a lot of industries, large companies, we've decided to change our pricing structure and really get rid of those clients that are more headaches. So we've cut 20 doors, so we're closer to the 60 range now, mid 60s to low 60s and our income's dropped, but it's okay, it'll go back up when we start adding more doors on this new model. We've had a lot of challenges this year with just the changes on company corporate structuring, restructuring, bringing on the right team members. We haven't been able to grow as much as we've liked this year. And that's okay, we must figure that 2019 is going to be a year of change and preparation for a great 2020 growth.

Anne Lackey: That's great. So how many people do you have in office other than yourself? And of course we know you have a virtual team member as well, but share with me how are you structured?

Scott Parks: So we have two other sales agents and one of them also does all of our business development and he also does all of our move-in, move-out inspections and our biannual maintenance inspections.

Anne Lackey: So he's kind of utility player all-in-one?

Scott Parks: Yeah, yeah.

Anne Lackey: Okay. So when you and I first met and you were considering hiring virtual staff, what was the thing that kind of prompted you to go in that direction? I mean I know you said you had tried to hire locally and it wasn't working, but what made you think about the leap from in-house back to virtual?

Scott Parks: I think it was trying to find somebody that we could afford. Really it's that affordability and I didn't even really know that a HireSmart virtual outsourcing is out there. I mean I've used outsourcing for graphic design really since the mid-2000s.

Anne Lackey: Project-based, yeah. A lot of people are more familiar with that.

Scott Parks: Yeah, for websites and postcard development and things like that. I figured there is probably stuff out there for administration and you hear them when you talk to people, custom those supports. I just didn't know how that can be quantified in the management space.

Anne Lackey: Sure. Well the reason I want to do these Company Spotlight's though is to share with people kind of the success that our clients have had. And I have clients that are very big and I have clients that are very small and kind of everything in between. And I think that there's always this fear whenever you have a virtual team member. For you, what was the biggest fear that you had to overcome in order to move forward?

Scott Parks: I didn't really have a lot of fear to be honest. I like to try new things, I like to see how they can be a helping arm in the business. I think the biggest thing was the communication lines with having somebody overseas and whether or not my clients or investors, how they were going to react to that or tenants. And I'm going to tell you that was probably the biggest hurdle, and owners and residents don't even know she's in The Philippines, they don't.

Anne Lackey: I know, it's so funny to me, but I mean I get it. I remember back five years ago when I was first introduced and I thought, "I'm not so sure how people would react", and I can honestly say that whether it be mine or any of my clients I have never, and I do mean never had anybody say that there was a problem in understanding them or there was a problem in communication or that anybody was upset by talking to their virtual staff, I've just never had that. I hope it doesn't ever happen, I guess at some point it might. But yeah, I think people are just always a little nervous about that because they are used to outsourcing in other countries where it is very, very different. The language is different, the personalities are different, the level of service is different and so it kind of creates this fear, legitimately so, of how all of that's going to work. So tell people if you don't mind, what does Marie do for you? Because Marie's your virtual assistant, she's your team member. So tell us a little bit about, what are some of the tasks that she does for you?

Scott Parks: So she does all of our maintenance stuff. So all the maintenance inquiries that come in from our residents. She's going to, and it's a learning process, because you don't become a property manager overnight, it takes years to understand that flow. And I will say she has picked it up probably better than I have to tell you honestly. And her retention has been amazing, of her knowledge. So she takes an inquiry that through AppFolio she'll find out, I just need to educate her a little better about, and she's new, she's only been with us for 60 days, approaching 90 days. So it's finding out where that maintenance needs to be placed. Finding out, do a little bit more diagnostics with the tenants directly and then to place it with the vendors and then following up with those vendors and make sure that they're getting scheduled. Following up with the invoices for those completed works, making sure that the job was done in a timely manner, she pulls all of our renewals. So anytime we have, we have a kind of a workflow right now. So we have 10 to 15 different tasks for renewals, social process, probably I think eight or nine of those tasks from pulling comps, and we've kind of gone over trainings on how to utilize some of our tools to pull comps. And then it goes over to me because the next stage is talking with the owners, that's a licensed activity here in California. Any lease negotiation goes through us with the tenants. But then she processes the renewal on AppFolio and that is really a licensed activity, but she does all the data entry and then I do the final execution. Once tenants review it and sign it, then I go through and make sure everything's checks and balances and I click sign.

Anne Lackey: And it's so simple too because I do the same thing. So I mean pulling all the data of all the CMAs, I don't need to do that, right? I just need to look at the data and make the interpretation of the data in the same way with the leases. So we run exactly the same way because again, a lot of times people just go, "Well, what can a virtual assistant do?" And I say, "Well anything that an unlicensed person can do in your state that doesn't require boots on the ground." So if it can be done with a computer and a phone and it's an unlicensed activity, which in my area is called ministerial acts, a virtual assistant is usually a good person to do those types of things. And like you said, it's hard to find people that want to work, hard to find people that are cheery that show up. One of the things I do want to talk about is maintenance coordination I think in property management is in fact the absolute hardest role that we have. Because literally nobody's happy. The tenant's not happy because something's broken, the owner's not happy because they have to actually pay to have something repaired, there's a time gap, the vendors sometimes drop the ball. Knowing how to, like you said, ask those diagnostic questions, even if you've got a checklist, which we help our clients with that checklist and kind of go through that with the virtual assistants as part of our training. The reality is sometimes things only come up once every three or four months and it's hard to remember. So I talk about this all the time and again to me it's not a virtual versus in-house thing, it's just understanding kind of just the dynamics of what we do and the reason I love our business is because it's never the same day twice, right? I mean there's always some crisis and something that needs to be addressed and something that's moving or changing. And I don't care whether you have 60 doors or 600 doors, it's all the same kind of interesting chaos. It's just a little bit on a bigger scale when you have more doors. So kind of tell our listeners a little bit about what was your biggest "a-ha" moment after Marie and you started working together? What was kind of when you went, "Wow, I didn't realize this. I thought it might be this, but I wasn't sure. And now, wow, that's amazing."?

Scott Parks: I think her intellectual, just knowledge just like her ... We have a hard time realizing that people overseas, they're really smart. And they can do a lot of stuff we had, sometimes even better. I had a property manager who wanted to go back, who's the person who does our inspections because I can't physically do them, I need somebody here to do them, so he's transitioning into sales in doing that inspection for me. She has learned what he was doing, it took him two and a half years. And she's picked it up so quickly and when I had, I did maybe three or four different comps on a renewal with her and then I asked her to do the next three that we had. Because we have all of our leases expiring in March through end of September. We don't allow our leases to go expire those four months in the winter months. So we have a lot of work during those months. So we had a lot of lease renewals and I had to go through them and the next few she nailed it, she nailed those comp reviews. So my confidence in her to be able to do that, that's a really analytical thing to do and she nailed it. She was able to realize that comps, and their sitting on Zillow for 30 plus days, those aren't really, they're overpriced in our area because things go really fast. If for her to be able to realize that, don't put a heavier weight on that, what that one's listed for and adjust, I think that was the biggest "a-ha".

Anne Lackey: So it's so interesting to me because that all goes back to my screening, right? I mean part of what I do to give you guys some great people is in the testing process and our 10-point hiring process. Because yes there are people overseas that are amazing, but there are also people that are not so amazing. And one of the things that our clients get the advantage of is I'm a very process-oriented person. I like to not let emotion come into hiring. I like to look at, just like with my tenants, I have a tenant scoring system. When they apply, they go through a scoring system. It's black or white, there's very little interpretation as to whether someone is qualified to rent or not. I do the same thing up in the hiring process for us. And one of the first things that we do is, I mean we work with a company called Criteria, which is if you ever didn't know anything about the employee testing software, they're one of the highest rated testing application platforms that are out there. And so we had to kind of go through a metrics of score. And so the first thing we do is we test people's basic math and English skills. And the score that we require for HireSmart is higher than what a U.S. property manager's score would be. Because there's a range and the range is this to this, and we slide that range over. So I love the fact that you've recognized that our people are smart and that's why we call it HireSmart, right? I mean that's part of the reason that we did that, because not only do we have smart VA's, but we have a smart process. All of that is kind of embedded in them, but also the Filipinos generally have four year degrees or more. When I looked at where should we go to find talent? Because again I mean there's Mexico, there's The Philippines, there's India, there's Russia, I mean there's China, there's all kinds of places where you can get outsourced labor. But once I started doing the research and realize kind of the best blend, kind of the super sauce for all of that, great English, education's highly represented. We could do a criminal background check, some of the countries you can't do criminal background checks. Well that was a deal breaker for me, right? The fact that we had people that cared and wanted to show up and all of that came out of The Philippines. And even though people have success in other places, when I did the testing, they score far superior than anybody else that I had as the overall score. So I love the fact that you recognize that. And then of course we also vet our candidates afterwards, so we make sure that, so we do CMAs as part of our certification process, we do lease renewals as part of our property management groups, all of those things. So even though they may not be done exactly the way you do it, they understand the thought process behind it. And I think that that certainly shortens that learning curve quite a bit to help. So how, on a scale from kind of zero, meaning it was outrageously hard to 10 it was super simple, how would you rate working with HireSmart in the whole process from order to delivery to ongoing support? Where would you put that on the scale?

Scott Parks: I don't think you could have made it easier to be honest.

Anne Lackey: Okay. So super simple, so probably a 10?

Scott Parks: Yeah, it was, unless you knew what my brain was doing, I don't know what would've made it easier.

Anne Lackey: So it was a good match, right? We got you some good candidates for the interview, felt comfortable with your decision.

Scott Parks: Yeah, I mean we had to do that second round of interviews, which I hear from you that it's unusual after we hire somebody that they back out after that week of training. But that second round of interviews, I had a really hard time deciding between two candidates. And if I had an extra, if I wasn't going through the corporate restructuring this year and I had some good growth, I would have taken both of my top two picks. And you ended up taking her because I found out.

Anne Lackey: I did.

Scott Parks: And when I talked to her recently, I actually said, "Dang it, I was going to go back to Anne and say, Hey, is she still available probably at the beginning of 2020?"

Anne Lackey: Yeah. Nope, she's not available. And yes I did scoop her up. And then part of the reason I scooped her up is I liked her answers to what you, and I actually think honestly, she's probably a better fit for my role than she would have been for yours anyway. So he's talking about Daphne, who's our client relationship manager that probably everybody has met at this point, and Daphne is amazing at loving people. And whether it be our VA's and making sure that they're happy to loving our clients and making sure they get whatever challenges that are resolved if I'm not available or getting me if it's something I need to do. And I think, surely she would have been great for you as far as doing the job and she would've done it well. But I think now that I know her, I think everything happens for a reason and I think you got who you were supposed to get and I picked her up because of the way she had interacted with you. And so she's in a role that is very dynamic, which I love.

Scott Parks: And I think it really does speak to your screening.

Anne Lackey: Thank you.

Scott Parks: Because the fact that I had a super hard time deciding between the two, they we're both super nervous obviously, I was nervous, everybody's nervous on this.

Anne Lackey: I know. I have told everybody take a deep breath.

Scott Parks: Yeah. But I think this really speaks to your screening.

Anne Lackey: Thank you for that. So what's the one piece of advice that you would give somebody who's thinking about using HireSmart? If you could tell yourself even what you know now back then, what would you tell yourself or what would you tell somebody else to help them make the decision?

Scott Parks: I think that if it just has been on your mind at all, just go for it. Trust the process, trust HireSmart and the team. Even if you don't have 40 hours worth of work together, it's going to release you from your activities to be able to maybe just hang out with your family more.

Anne Lackey: Yeah. It's so freeing, isn't it? When you know that the work's still getting done, people are still cared for, that's the biggest part for me is I want my tenants or my owners or whoever's trying to reach us to get a live person, to get somebody that can help them, even if they can't give the answer. Because sometimes I have to be involved or my boots on the ground person needs to be involved with this just to be able to have a warm body that says, "I listened to you, You're not having to leave a message in no man's land." Because I think really that's going to be one of the things that the branch us from other people, we actually want to talk to people. We actually don't mind having somebody that loves dancing around. Now if I have to answer the phone, it's not going to answer. I don't want to talk to you, but Bonnie loves that and that's important that I have somebody in that role. And I also think that that's going to change the way that people look at property management. We've kind of gone, the pendulum is swung so far to technology and so away from people that I think that that's going to come back the other way and help us grow a lot faster in the future.

Scott Parks: Mm-hmm, yeah.

Anne Lackey: So it has been my pleasure to talk with you. What other final thoughts or what other things would you want to share with our people or our listeners?

Scott Parks: Oh, that's a good one. I guess the biggest thing is that, making the decision to hire a virtual assistant. If it doesn't work out for some reason, it's not like you hired an $80,000 person that sits in your office. The risk is pretty low I think, and the reward could be humongous.

Anne Lackey: Well that actually brings up a good point is that because we're using a staffing company, they're never construed as our employees, so there's never any tax consequences, employee issues, right? And I know in some of the states some of them may have to buy insurance for employees and all these other regulations which when you're using a staffing company, regardless of whether it's here in the U.S. or whether it's in The Philippines, it doesn't really matter, the precedence is there that they are not employees, but the beautiful thing about what we do is they're just like employees. They show up when we need them to show up everyday at 8:30, they work their eight and a half hour shifts, five consecutive days. We direct them, we can do all the things that you can do with an employee.

Scott Parks: And I think that the hardest thing, when I was first looking for help a couple of years ago was I'm going to train with this person to do all this work. And then they're, because we're in California running this, they see the money and then they go out and want to do their own thing or they want to switch and be a real estate agent because they know they can make $100 to $200,000, walking in the park. That's what I was afraid of. That really fixes my ... hiring people overseas that are competent, that can do stuff. And it allows me to really then pay somebody really good money to maybe be property manager and they can manage then 150 units, no problem. If they have support staff and that's going to keep them from wanting to leave.

Anne Lackey: And burnout. Yeah, absolutely. I mean I remember when we, before we got started, I mean even I had phone duty on the weekends, because again I thought it was really important that we have weekend showings and that we do all that stuff. So all of us took a turn and that doesn't happen anymore. My phones are answered seven days a week, we have a live person touching them, following them, doing all the things that you would want a manager to do. But my staff in-house, my U.S. people don't ever have to do that. And that was a big gift and a big blessing for my team. And it means that again, the money I am saving, I can bonus, I can use that towards other things. Certainly we've increased our profitability as well, but it wasn't so much about that, it was about the customer experience, it was about taking care of my U.S. employees while also taking care of my Filipino workers. So that's a great add, thank you so much for that Scott. Well listen, it has been my pleasure to spend this time with you. I so appreciate you being here and being a part of our Company Spotlight, and if you want to get in touch with Scott, his details will be down below as well as on the Splash page here in just a few minutes. So thank you so much for joining us and have a great rest of your day.

Scott Parks: Great. Bye.

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