This week on The Property Management Show podcast, we’re treated to an amazing entrepreneur who has been doing property management for 36 years. We’re talking to Melissa Prandi, the owner of Prandi Property Management, and we’re picking her brain for some wisdom on running a property management business successfully.
Founding Story: Prandi Property Management in Marin County
Melissa started as a receptionist in the company she now owns when she was 19 years old. She got her real estate license and began doing property management. The company she worked for managed about 100 properties as a side business. The original owner was a CPA, and could see from his clients’ cash flow reports that better rental management was needed. Melissa bought the company at the age of 25, and it’s now the go-to property management company in Marin County. Prandi Property Management has over 600 doors.
Getting Started: Approaching the First Couple of Years in Business
Most 25-year-olds know hard work, and that’s about it. Melissa didn’t waste time getting the word out, and that’s the best way to get your new company growing.
Let everyone know what you’re doing. Reach out to family and friends who have rentals. In the beginning stages, you need to let everyone know that you’re available to manage rental properties.
While you’re talking about what you do, get educated. Take classes. Learn from people who have been doing this for a long time.
Melissa took a two-day residential property management class from the one person who was teaching residential property management 30 years ago. She took that class seven times.
Why? Because she found she was learning from other students in the room just as much as she was learning from the teacher.
NARPM is an excellent resource for classes. Get educated, and make it as much of a hustle as gathering new clients. If you want to start strong and grow your business, you have to be obsessed with educating yourself.
Integration into the Business Community: You Have to Participate
Join associations. Network with other business professionals. Volunteer your time.
You can put in hours and hours of volunteer work on something as simple as a town parade, for example. People will inevitably ask you what you do. When you say you manage properties, they will perhaps have a rental property, or they’ll know someone who owns rental property. When you participate in your local community, you get to know people and their needs. These are all potential clients.
Everyone will be sending you referrals.
Start in your local market. Teach a college class. Conduct an investor panel. Learn about leadership. All of these things will bring you new business.
Many people don’t realize that one of the advantages of public speaking at NARPM and elsewhere is that you get a lot of exposure in person and even online. It’s called “link juice.” So you may think that you aren’t actually gaining new business when you’re busy conducting presentations to your colleagues.
But, you are.
You’re promoting yourself, and Google will notice. When you’re listed in authoritative sites like NARPM, your local chamber, and business journals, your own website will begin to propagate in search results. Google gives a lot of value to these websites that include your name, bio and website.
This is an under-appreciated value.
Networking and presenting also establishes you as an expert in your own field. That’s going to generate referrals.
Some of the resources for education and networking that you may be missing through NARPM and other associations include:
- Designation courses through NARPM.
- Property Management 101 through NARPM.
- Speaking and leadership courses through the National Speakers Association.
- Local colleges, chambers of commerce and other professional business groups.
How Growth Happens: Moving from 100 Units to 250
Prandi Property Management doubled in size over about two years. The referrals kept coming in, from Melissa’s personal connections and her work on nonprofit boards and in associations. Some of the other things she did included an ad in the yellow pages and marketing postcards. She still does the postcards today.
With the high number of referrals Melissa was receiving, you may wonder if she was paying a referral fee.
Gift cards and personal appreciation always seemed better. The top realtors she talked to didn’t care about the money as much as they cared about their clients being well-cared for.
Personal touches matter. Handwritten note cards and coffee dates nurtured current relationships and brought in new business.
Another idea; visiting realtors at their open houses. Melissa would stop by, especially if that realtor had referred a client. She would bring a flower or a plant, and the relationships and referrals would grow naturally.
Realtors have team meetings or monthly and weekly meetings. If you can get yourself in front of those meetings – not necessarily to pitch your business, but to provide information and education – you’ll notice a lot of new business rolling in. Get to know the managers at those larger real estate companies.
This is a path for growth.
Growing a Property Management Business as an Introvert
This may sound easy to someone with an outgoing, Type A personality. Some people, however, are more introverted. It requires a little extra effort to feel comfortable in public settings. Leadership classes will help. Pushing yourself into situations that are outside your comfort zone will also help.
You don’t have to start a public speaking career in front of thousands of people. Start just by introducing a colleague at an event. Practice by talking about something you love. Baby steps are important. It’s possible to teach yourself how to be more outgoing.
Because, if you truly believe in what you build and you know that you’re improving peoples’ lives, you’ll overcome that nervousness. You will always run into complainers and naysayers in this business, but if your service is good and you’re coming from the right place (your heart), you’ll find that you’re able to be a little less introverted when the need arises.
This is a useful skill to impart to your team, as well. Your team needs to be out there, talking to people. Your staff has to be comfortable talking about your business and what you do.
Give everyone personal notecards. Keep it simple and include your company logo. Handwritten notes are unusual in business today, and they will be noticed and appreciated. Thank someone for a referral this way. Old fashioned thank you notes go a long way, and it’s a perfect tool for introverts.
Managing Your Time and Your Team: Hiring for Growth
Hiring people complementary to your own skill set will help you grow your business even while you’re networking and attending events and doubling the size of your portfolio.
Melissa admits that she worked seven days a week, 10 hours a day. She also knows she’s a visionary who needs help filling in the gaps and managing the operations of her business.
Staffing is important. Know what you need.
When you put together a good team, you have to keep them. Turnover hurts, and having key positions filled is critical to smart growth and management. Take care of your staff.
Two things will help with staff retention:
- Flexibility. Life happens. Many good employees will value flexibility over money. Give your employees the flexibility they need to have a life.
- Respect. If you respect your employees, they’ll respect you back. And, they’ll stay.
Be willing to hire all sorts of help. Virtual assistants can become indispensable. High school and college students in the summer can help with scanning and filing to keep you ahead of busy periods.
Intentional Growth versus Organic Growth
You can make a good living managing 250 properties. Why would you keep growing?
For Melissa, the growth of Prandi was organic, and happened because of her existing relationships. Another NARPM member was preparing to go on maternity leave and didn’t know what to do with her 85 property management clients. Melissa took them over for a year and collected the management fees. After that year, the original property manager sold her the business. So, suddenly she had 85 more doors to manage.
Responding to this type of growth and acquisition takes time and strategy. It’s not an easy process, and no one should tell you it is.
Training made a difference.
Melissa hired people, and the training process was to have them shadow her. They sat in her office and watched and listened. They learned quickly, especially since they could jump in and handle things as they happened.
The full-time staff at Prandi Property Management included Melissa, her assistant Dana and one bookkeeper. With the acquisition of new business, Dana got a license and became the lead property manager. They hired an assistant to support both Melissa and Dana. Four people managed 300 properties.
That’s pretty efficient, especially when you consider this was before the days of property management software and automation.
You have to know when to get out of the way. Business owners do not have to have their hands in everything. Most entrepreneurs are guilty of trying to touch everything in the business. But, you don’t have to. It’s your baby and it feels personal, but you have to let that baby go out into the world and make its own way.
Systems for Growth and Management that Have Been Retained
Everyone adapts to growth by changing and improving their systems.
But, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
Melissa has retained a lot of the tools and processes that have been working for her over the last 30-plus years.
Answering Phones Live
Phones are answered by a live person, Monday through Friday. Even if it’s a virtual assistant, the call is transferred right away whenever necessary. It’s critical to capture new potential clients this way.
Prospect Client Lead Sheet | Discovery
The discovery process is done by hand at Prandi, using a prospect client lead sheet which is green (to signify money), and it’s used to interview the client. This form tracks:
- Why they’re calling. What they need help with.
- Who referred them. How they heard about Prandi Property Management.
- What kind of information they can provide about the property.
The form has changed over the years, but it’s still used, and you need this type of discovery form. After it’s written up, staff members will load it into the property management software.
A prospect doesn’t want to hear you typing away on a keyboard. This makes it easy to gather information.
Discovery is your most important part of the process. No one listens anymore because no one cares. Everyone is so quick to give their sales pitch and move on. This is an amazing way to get to know someone and whether you want to manage their property.
Visiting the Prospective Property
The next form is a two sided form, and it’s yellow. This form goes out to the property.
Matt, Melissa’s son and business development manager, will go out to visit the property and talk to the owner. A second person goes along to take care of this form. There’s a lot of detail and it captures everything about the property, from whether there’s a gas stove in the kitchen to the garage space. It includes all the details you want. From this form, someone can write an ad and do the follow up. Then, it goes into the system.
Know Your Market and Your Properties
Not every property manager is willing to go to the property before signing a management contract. Some managers will sign a client with the property unseen.
This depends on your market. Marin County is unique. The rents are high, and so are the expectations.
High-end rents mean high-end owners and high-end tenants. When you’re in that market, those properties have a high demand and there are lots of expectations.
The rental average in Marin County is over $5,000 a month. Property managers there make a lot of money to do their job. Melissa never signs a client without seeing the property because every home is different. There are no tract homes or new developments in Marin County. Each home is unique.
So, it depends on your location. If most of the properties you manage are like thousands of other properties and you know the neighborhoods and the schools, maybe you don’t have to see the home before you sign the client. But, with high-end rentals, the personal touch seems to be everything.
Leave Yourself Open to Growth Opportunities
Don’t be afraid of not managing the property.
What does this mean? It means you can offer a lease-only service. Eventually, you can convert that client into full-service management. This is an opportunity a lot of managers don’t take advantage of, but it’s another example of organic growth.
When you have lease-only clients, track those lease expirations. Sixty days before the lease expires, you can reach out to the client. Ask if they’d like a renewal lease drawn up or if you can do a property evaluation for them. Stay in front of those clients.
There’s a lot of wisdom in this conversation with Melissa, and she has generously agreed to make the forms she discussed available to listeners of The Property Management Show. Don’t hesitate to download the form, and if you have questions, contact Melissa at Prandi Property Management.
If you have questions for the show or comments about it, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Mention the podcast somewhere in the subject line, and Alex will get back to you.
Thanks for being with us.