Growth has been the topic of our last few podcasts, and today we have a guest who can help provide some mutual mentorship and coaching with Alex, our host. Growing is easy, but putting a framework around growth to have a successful, profitable business with happy people is challenging.
It requires real leadership.
Steve Rozenberg hardly needs an introduction. He has been on this show previously, and there’s a good chance you already know who he is. Steve is the co-founder of Empire Industries, he’s a commercial airline pilot, and he’s an international speaker. We’re talking about how companies can sometimes choke on growth, especially if there’s not a structure in place to support it.
Steve will share the four specific things that he and his company are doing to make growth manageable.
These 4 things are:
- Develop a leadership team.
- Put together a scorecard.
- Provide Tier 1 and Tier 2 positions.
- Develop quarterly themes.
Leading versus Managing: Growth Depends on Vision and Structure
Growth is sexy, and everyone wants it. But, someone needs to steer the ship. If everyone in the company is rowing and no one is steering, you could be going in the wrong direction. Your company needs to have a structure in place to manage the growth.
As a leader, it’s up to you to show your team members what the vision is for the company. It’s easy to lose the vision and start managing. But, if you’re managing, you’re not leading. If you have found that you’re spending most of your time managing people and systems, then suddenly you’re doing a job – you’re not leading a company.
You cannot grow that way.
You should have a compelling story of what your company is doing.
When you’re hiring new team members, make sure you’re able to talk about what your company stands for. As a property management company, you’re providing solutions. You’re solving problems for your clients, and you’re trying to be the best customer service company in your area.
Create a Leadership Team
Every company should create a leadership team comprised of leaders from different departments who have a say in the company. These are individuals who can see the company’s vision.
At Empire Industries, Steve has a five-member leadership team, and they meet for an hour and a half every Tuesday morning. The first thing they talk about is the company’s scorecard. Everyone has to contribute to the discussion of the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). This is a 30,000-foot view. They’re not digging through the weeds; they’re simply checking to see if they’re on track or not on track.
Put Together a Scorecard
You don’t want to track any more than seven to 10 metrics. These are the things that can kill your company.
Focus on business metrics, not property management metrics. Look at the number of doors that have been gained or lost; the number of leads that are coming in; what your conversion rate is; how many doors you lost; how much money is in the bank.
Track these things weekly, and you’ll know if you’re on track to grow in a way that aligns with your vision.
Developing a Tier System
To get the most out of your team, you need to separate tactical roles from strategic roles.
Your property managers won’t be productive if they’re handling the 100 phone calls per day that come in from owners, tenants, and vendors. Steve and his company have divided tasks and responsibilities into three tiers.
Tier 3 is upper level management.
Tier 2 is strategic property management.
Tier 1 is the tactical response team; the people answering the phones and deciding what can be handled at that level and what needs to be escalated. Steve’s Tier 1 people are in Mexico, where he has a team of 16 people working directly for Empire Industries.
This system protects the time and productivity of your best team members. Property managers feel stressed and burnt out when they’re trying to manage properties and at the same time answer the same phone calls and solve the same problems.
You don’t need a property manager to respond to a tenant who can’t log into their portal or an owner who is confused about an HOA bill.
Losing property managers means losing money. When a property manager quits, that manager actually quit three months ago – you just didn’t know it. And, when you lose a property manager, you also lose a lot of very valuable knowledge about your clients and their properties.
Hiring someone new requires a training period. You might lose clients as well. The best way to retain your best property managers is by keeping them in strategic roles so they are productive and growing with your company; not answering 100 phone calls a day.
With a tier system in place, 80 percent of the work can be systemized. That takes a lot of pressure of your property managers, and your company can start growing the way it should.
But what about that single point of contact?
One of the challenges that you may face, whether you adopt a tier system like Steve or a squad system that you may have heard Alex talk about at Fourandhalf, is that clients speak to a lot of different people. They may get fussy with that, and ask who is really in charge of their account.
There is a perception that people want a single point of contact.
But, the reality is – people want their problems solved.
If you have a problem with your phone, and your carrier is AT&T, do you want to talk to the same person every time you call AT&T, or do you just want your phone problem fixed?
Your phone probably rings for one of two reasons: leads or problems. If your clients understand that your experts are going to solve their problems, they won’t expect to talk to the same person all the time.
Your maintenance guy isn’t going to solve a client’s accounting issue.
A single point of contact may sound ideal, but if your company has a whole maintenance department dedicated to repairs and vendors and follow up, your clients who call with a repair issue will want to talk to that department, not their assigned property manager. Those are the experts, and if you communicate this to your clients, and set up the expectations so they know how you operate, everyone will be prepared.
Let them know how you operate. Property managers don’t have to take 100 calls a day. They don’t have to do data entry. The tier system works.
If someone at the Tier 1 level is having trouble answering a client’s question or solving the problem to their satisfaction, that person can always schedule a meeting with the property manager. Maybe an owner calls irate because of a $25 HOA bill. Instead of trying to track down the property manager right away, your Tier 1 person can look at the manager’s schedule, and offer the owner a meeting time. Then, the client gets a chance to calm down and the property manager can prepare for the meeting and do a little research ahead of time. You’re being proactive.
Back to the Leadership Team and the Scorecard
When an issue is escalated to Tier 3, and the same problem shows up in a leadership meeting two weeks in a row, it goes on the Issue List. The entire leadership team is responsible for deciding what’s acceptable and what needs to be fixed. If something is becoming a problem, get it on your scorecard and address it.
You should be measuring everything. Measure how many phone calls the front office is getting, and track why people are calling. Measure every marketing campaign.
In the leadership meetings, there’s no need to discuss the details of those marketing campaigns, but you do want to know how many opportunities are showing up, what your conversion rate is, and how long it takes to close a client. You need to know how many contracts you sign on a weekly basis.
Developing Quarterly Themes
Finally, task your leadership team to come up with a quarterly theme. This theme should reflect what you’re struggling with the most at any given time. Maybe it’s communication or maintenance. Fix it once, and fix it forever. This is no time for Band-Aids.
If your company is struggling with maintenance and you have lots of open tickets and you can’t seem to keep your owners happy with the way maintenance is being performed, you can identify this as a quarterly theme. Focus your whole leadership team on maintenance and talk about what you can do to increase maintenance efficiencies, how to decrease customer complaints on maintenance, and how to increase turn time.
With the whole company working on the theme, the problem will quickly go away.
Your core values should require you to fix whatever problems are hindering your growth. The brain works best in 90 day increments, so choose a quarterly theme and start focusing on a new theme every 90 days. It’s a good way to decide if you’re on track or off track, and the leadership team is collaborating to help solve these issues. This is a good way to demonstrate you believe in the company’s vision and core.
Leaders ask questions, so prepare to hear from your employees on how to solve these quarterly themes.
Southwest Airlines has a slogan: Bags Fly Free. It wasn’t the CEO who came up with that; it was a maintenance technician. Don’t let your ego trick you into thinking you are the only one with good ideas for your company.
Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
Growth is stressful and scary.
Adding to that stress is the fact that in property management, you don’t start seeing revenue that matches your growth for several months. You might be growing, but what if you can’t pay your bills? It’s time to take a loan, perhaps. Whatever you do – make sure it’s in your plan.
Sticking to the plan can be a challenge, especially when there are opportunities to do other things. Be disciplined. If it’s not in the plan, you need to say no to that particular opportunity, or you need to re-write the plan.
Mental toughness is required to say no to juicy opportunities that are not aligned with your direction and purpose. The most successful people in the world say no more than they say yes. That’s a pretty common theme in the stories of super-successful people. They protect their time.
As an entrepreneur, you will grind away until you build the business that you want. Just remember to be flexible. You have to change with the business, and you have to grow with the company. The things that get you to $5 million are not the same things that get you to $50 million. You’ll need to read different books, and network with different people. Your actions will dictate where you go.
If you want to talk to Steve about how he’s been leading his company to growth, contact him through his website at empireindustriesllc.com. You can always contact Alex at Fourandhalf if you have any questions or need any direction.