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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.
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.