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Retaining Employees and Clients in a Way that’s Purposeful and Profitable:
A Chat with Jan Leasure from Monterey Bay Property Management
Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a team who was in it for the long haul?
How do you define the long haul in property management? Is it 10 years or maybe 20 years?
What about 30 years? Is it possible?
It is. We’re talking to Jan Leasure, the owner of Monterey Bay Property Management. Her company has a great track record for employee retention, and they also do well with client retention and profitability.
Employee Retention – Why Do They Refuse to Leave?
Jan has employees who have been with her for decades. Thirty years, even.
What’s the secret?
There are a couple of things that impact this type of retention rate:
- Choosing the right person the first time. When you hire right at the beginning of your work relationship, you can count on longevity. This does not necessarily happen on sites like Indeed and ZipRecruiter. You’ll find great people there, but Jan has noticed that she has better luck hiring people that she knows in other ways. She looks for qualities and personality traits that she believes will match her company culture.
Jan has turned a golf pro into a property manager. She’s also hired a former nail salon owner, a former restaurateur, and a former physical therapist. This doesn’t always make sense, but their professional backgrounds aren’t as important as their fit with the company. It’s been highly successful. Choosing the right person at the beginning is a good way to start.
- Another tip to success is creating the right job for the right person. Over the years, Jan has created positions whether there’s an opening or not. It’s expensive to do that, but it means that when growth came quickly, there was a deep pool of talent to choose from in the company already.
Jan has never had a job opening at Monterey Bay Property Management.
She invests in her team before she has the work, creating opportunities and trusting that the work will show up eventually.
Identifying the Right Employee and Position
For Jan, there is always wisdom in starting new people at the front desk.
Everyone coming into the company starts there. It works well because they are on the firing line from the very beginning. They’re taught to answer the phone, find out what the person needs, and then ask that caller to hold while the right answer is sought. That shows a new employee how the wheels of the company will turn.
People learn by doing. You can give them a procedure manual or a checklist, but just by listening to the questions and finding the answers, a lot is learned. That’s training.
When Jan meets someone out in the world, what is it about that person that makes her want to hire them?
She hired the woman she saw in the restaurant time and time again because of the person’s sparkling personality. She was always on an even keel no matter what was happening. The temperament was always the same. That’s the attitude that’s so desperately needed in property management. We have to be unflappable. Customer service skills are much the same.
How do you approach someone not even looking to work for a property management company?
One day when Jan was being waited on by this woman, she engaged her in a conversation about how long she had worked there. Jan asked if she had ever thought about doing anything else. She pitched property management and they kept talking about it.
The interview process is different from any other typical job interview. Jan wants to know how they will fit into the company culture. They discuss problem-solving skills and talk about challenges. Once that step is complete, you hire them and you get them to a place where they feel like they can see themselves working there for 20 or 30 years.
Retaining the Employees You’ve Hired
Once you have the right employees in place, you need to lead them to the decision that they want to stay with you for the long term. This is done by understanding what each individual needs.
Before she became a real estate broker and a property manager, Jan was a teacher. One of the skills teachers have is the ability to evaluate each student based on their individual skills and abilities. From there, they can meet their individual needs.
She transferred those skills to her work in property management, and it helps her retain employees.
After someone has been in place for a while, they talk about what they like and what they don’t like. Adjustments are made.
Jan can clearly remember a specific situation where she thought an employee would make a great reservation agent for her vacation rental operation. But, she had no interest or intention to do that. The employee is still with the company, however, as a bookkeeper.
Some people are fine without a periodic check-in and other employees need that ongoing conversation. Instead of having one process for everyone, Jan nurtures and coaches her team individually, depending on their unique needs.
Compensation and Employee Retention
When you’re willing to restructure things to meet the needs of your employees, you’re more likely to retain them. People have children while here. They may need to work from home. They may want to bring the baby into the office.
The ProfitCoach team believed Jan over-compensated her employees when it came to salary and money. She agrees that her salaries are probably some of the highest in the country for what they do. She doesn’t mind. She sees it as trading longevity for compensation. It’s a math problem, and she’s willing to work out the math.
Monterey Bay Property Management is very profitable. The balancing act is necessary; if she’s spending on employees, she cannot spend in other places.
What surprised Jan was that when she asked employees what they valued most, she learned that flexibility is more important than money. They want to be able to work from home or from the office. They want to choose their own hours.
Jan rarely says no to any requests for time off. In fact, she wishes her employees would take more time off.
This is good business. When you give people a little bit, they give back a lot. It builds tremendous loyalty.
Employee retention translates into owner retention. The company does not typically leave because they’re dissatisfied or looking for a better deal. When they leave, it’s because they’re selling the property or moving into it themselves.
Outrageous Customer Service
T. Scott Gross wrote a series of books years ago surrounding the idea of providing positively outrageous service. The idea is that you go the extra mile, do the unexpected, and provide great service as a result.
Here’s an example from Jan:
One year, on Thanksgiving, a tenant’s oven was not working. The tenant was trying to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. Jan was able to send a repair man out to look at the oven, but the part could not be ordered until the following Monday.
That wasn’t going to work for the tenant.
Rather than apologize and do nothing more, Jan had a solution.
She took the tenant’s turkey to her house and cooked the bird for that tenant.
People don’t forget that. It’s an example of positively outrageous customer service, and that story is still being told today by the tenant and anyone else who was involved.
Answering the phone doesn’t seem like it should be outrageous – but in this day and age, it is.
Find your own way of providing positively outrageous customer service. You’ll notice a change in your retention.
Jan also writes a newsletter every month for her owners. It goes out with their statement. The newsletter isn’t fancy; it’s not in a prescribed template. It’s simply information on what’s going on in the market and what she expects to happen. She’s an investor too, so it’s written from that standpoint.
Employees and Profitability
Here’s an example of outrageous customer service for her employees: Jan has helped some of her employees establish their own property management businesses.
You might think that in their small market, this cannibalizes her own profit.
Yes, and no.
She did cannibalize her own portfolio to help her employees get started. She leased them some of her accounts, which meant a small fee was still coming in on those properties.
Monterey Bay is a small area, but there’s enough business out there for everyone. Jan wants to help train the next generation of property management leaders. She’s launching them into the market and into their own businesses.
It’s another strategy that supports retention. Employees see Jan supporting their teammates. They know she’ll be there for them when they need help. Employee loyalty is something every business should aspire to.
It’s a question of how fulfilled you want to be.
Jan says she’s fulfilled by this way of doing business. Some people grow for growth’s sake. They want to see how big their business can get. That doesn’t have to be you. Jan wants to grow so she can help others do great things.
There’s not just one way to do things.
Jan acknowledges that her way is not for everyone. She has enough and she’s living the quality of life she wants while facilitating success for others.
If you’d like to talk about managing employee and owner retention or if you have thoughts on today’s podcast, please contact us at Fourandhalf.