Do you know any successful, married property managers? We do.

Hoffman Realty is one of the most successful property management companies in the country, and as you’ll soon learn, the owners of that company have a marriage that most of us would envy.

Why is everything working so well?

We’re going to find out on today’s episode of The Property Management Show.

Our guests are MaryAnn Hoffman and Andrew Dougill from Hoffman Realty in Tampa, Florida. MaryAnn founded the company in 1988, right after she graduated from the University of South Florida. There were a lot of investors who wanted her to manage their properties, so she started the company. Later, she met Andrew and got married.

Now, these married property managers work together and they’re going to share some tips for success. If you’re a listener who is thinking about going into business with your partner or spouse, you’ll want to pay attention. The advice you hear will help you decide if it’s the right time. It will also help you plan for the potential rewards and challenges.

How Did These Married Property Managers Get Started?

MaryAnn was already in real estate when they got married, and Andrew was working for a large corporation as an engineer. He had a nice corner office downtown and even his own parking spot. Then, he got laid off in 2000, during the burst of the dot-com bubble. This was scary for MaryAnn who wondered if her business could support the both of them while he looked for a new job in his field.

They created something good from a bad situation.

MaryAnn needed a website and a lot of technical support. So, she suggested that Andrew work for her company while he looked for his next job.

She was concerned that he was giving up some huge potential career opportunities, but after 20 years as an engineer, Andrew stopped looking for a new job and really became involved in Hoffman Realty.

They realized they were having fun working together. So, they took the plunge and officially went into business together.

Establishing a Routine and Setting Boundaries as Married Property Managers

In his former job, Andrew did a lot of traveling and when he would return home, it was difficult for him and MaryAnn to fall back into the routine of being together. Now that they work together, there’s a lot more harmony around the house. The couple is really in sync and everything runs a lot smoother.

There’s more of a connection within their professional and personal relationship. If MaryAnn is having a bad day, Andrew gets it. There’s a lot more intimacy when you know what each person is going through and what they’re dealing with on a daily basis. They help each other, and they rely on their own individual strengths to keep the company – and the relationship – on track.

Setting boundaries is also important. Married property managers bringing in their spouse to work with them might be concerned that their partner will try to take over and change everything.

That’s not what you want.

Andrew and MaryAnn decided that they would separate which parts of the company they were each responsible for running. MaryAnn is the people person and makes routine decisions about the business. Andrew handles the technology and the high level decisions and everything related to their marketing systems and processes.

In 20 years, these married property managers haven’t stumbled, and it’s largely because of those clear boundaries.

MaryAnn says she admires Andrew’s ability to handle what he handles, and she loves managing her end of the business. She doesn’t flinch when angry owners yell, but she has no interest in figuring out why a computer isn’t working.

Their strengths are much different, and they use those differences to make their company run better.

An organizational chart is more important than ever when you’re married property managers, even if you’re the only two people in the company. Write your name in each box that represents your responsibilities, and make sure you’re not both in the same box.

That’s where conflicts can arise.

If you listened to our recent podcast with Melissa Prandi, you’ll remember what she said about putting together a great property management team. She said make sure you hire people with different strengths. At Hoffman Realty, Andrew and MaryAnn value the separate things that they each do best.

When you decide to work with a spouse or a partner, make sure you can identify which jobs you are each responsible for, and then don’t creep over into each other’s areas. If you have the same strengths and weaknesses at your spouse, maybe you shouldn’t work together. Or, you should be prepared to hire people who can fill in those blanks.

Do These Married Property Managers Ever Get Tired of Each Other?

Working as married property managers doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re together 24 hours a day and seven days a week. While there may be challenges to sharing both a home and a business, you can make it work.

MaryAnn and Andrew think it’s fun to be together. They like laughing about work things at home. They enjoy opening a bottle of wine when necessary to talk about challenges or issues that are happening at the office.

It’s also important to maintain separate identities outside of work. You each need your own passions and hobbies. For example, Andrew loves sports. He’s always at football games or watching hockey. MaryAnn has a great circle of her own friends and is very involved with her children.

You can’t be together all the time. MaryAnn and Andrew have managed not to bring work home unless they want to work on something together. They respect each other’s private time and passions.

When you have other interests, you’re not in danger of getting tired of each other at home or at the office.

Working together makes both of them happy. They have a good relationship in the workplace and romantically. Part of the reason is that they have their own separate identities when they’re not working or together.

Time Management and Work/Life Balance

Working together also allows MaryAnn and Andrew to balance their time better. When she was doing real estate and property management but Andrew was working his corporate job, he would rarely understand why she had to take work calls on the weekends. He didn’t understand then what he understands now. If an owner calls at 7:30 in the morning and is ready to sign a management agreement, MaryAnn is ready to get over to the property, and while Andrew might have once suggested that it wait – he now understands the urgency.

Andrew says that when they had separate careers, it was difficult to understand the work/life balance challenges of the other person. Now, they understand each other completely.

They can also be as flexible as they want with their schedules. Sometimes they’ll take a few days off where they check their emails and handle urgent business early in the day and then spend time bike riding or swimming.

When One Manages the Other

In the beginning, MaryAnn was Andrew’s boss. He didn’t know the industry, and he had to learn a lot.

For example, Andrew has a need to fix things right away. MaryAnn had to coach him in and show him that sometimes people just want to be heard. If they’re upset and complaining, you need to let them keep talking because the problem they’ve called to complain about isn’t always the real problem. You need to give it time and dig a little deeper.

It’s possible to give feedback without being negative and critical. This is something you should set up as a rule. They give each other structured feedback in a way that doesn’t blame or accuse. They adopted the same practice with their employees. It’s effective and it’s kind. It also helps their employees. They can understand things from many different sides and attack a problem without feeling defensive.

MaryAnn, who has a psychology degree, says it’s important to say:

“When you do ______, I feel _______.”

People you disagree with aren’t necessarily doing something wrong. They may just do things differently.

Figuring out the Financials

One of the most important things for married property managers to think about when they go into business together isn’t necessarily the company or the relationship – it’s financial security. When both of you are in one industry and there’s a downturn, you’re both going to be affected.

This happened from 2007 to 2009 when things became difficult in the real estate world. Andrew and MaryAnn had a nest egg, but they were concerned about keeping the company afloat, and they stopped spending money that they didn’t have to spend.

The couple had just completed construction on a house that they planned to move into, but MaryAnn had a gut feeling that they should sell it. So, they did, and they made a great profit. That profit saw them through the hard times of the real estate downturn.

When you work together, you don’t have any diversity of income. That can be a risk, and you might not realize how likely it is to happen.

A lot of this will be completely out of your control. In 2017, it looked like Tampa was going to sustain a direct hit from Hurricane Irma as a category 5 storm. The hurricane turned and the Tampa area got soaked but they were spared the damage they were expecting. It would have been devastating to Hoffman Realty and many of the properties they manage. A lot of property managers in Tampa were wondering if they would be out of business after that hurricane.

The lesson? Plan for what will happen if and when both incomes are lost.

Things to Consider Before you Work Together

Andrew and MaryAnn have some things for couples to think about before they go into a property management business together.

  • Do you get along now?
  • Do you enjoy working long hours?
  • Are you ready to hire more people?
  • Do you have insurance?
  • Are you financially secured for this risk?

You have to get along already. If you don’t, this isn’t going to fix your relationship.

Andrew suggests putting your foot in the water before you take the plunge. He helped out in the business while he was still looking for other work. So try it out if you can. Have a Plan B if it turns out you’re not meant to do this together.

The insurance is a big deal. When Andrew worked as an engineer, they enjoyed his corporate benefits. When he joined Hoffman Realty, they had to find health insurance and other benefits. Make sure your company is profitable enough to offer strong salaries and good benefits. What will you do for retirement? Think about the long term.

MaryAnn recommends having enough money saved to get through at least two years of an industry downturn. When they suffered through the slow period, they wanted to preserve the business. They cared about paying their employees even when business was lacking. Make sure you’re in a strong position personally and as a company.

Making a Family Business Attractive to Owners

Another benefit to working together is that owners love the idea of working with a family business.

They feel better about leaving their biggest asset in the hands of a locally owned and family-run company. Everyone tells Andrew and MaryAnn that they want local management, not a huge national company.

Most owners know that a family business is going to care about their reputation within the community. When Hoffman Realty selects vendors, they always look for mom and pop businesses instead of huge companies where the customer seems to matter less.

While Andrew is often the face that potential owners see in the blogs and marketing videos created by Hoffman Realty, they are moving to a new, larger space and the plan is to have MaryAnn more visible as well. They also want to have their employees contribute to future blogs and marketing materials.

It’s hard, though, because Andrew’s British accent makes him sound like he knows what he’s talking about.

Of course he does know what he’s talking about, and so does MaryAnn. If you have any questions about how to work with your spouse or run a successful business while maintaining a successful marriage, these two are the people to speak with. You can contact them at Hoffman Realty.

Thanks for joining us. Be sure to contact us at Fourandhalf if you have any questions about growing and marketing your property management business.