Kyle Crown is the President of Crown Commercial PM. He holds a B.S. in business from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
I’m in the habit of writing long article introductions, but sometimes the best way to share advice with colleagues is simply to say, “Here are some things I do that I think you should do, too.” So without further ado, here are five habits that have helped me streamline my commercial property management. Unlike some common habits, these can make you money (and save your clients some, too).
1. Automated Scheduling
Your memory is not to be trusted. Enter everything (and I mean everything) business-related into a master calendar, and set reminders using the same software. I use Outlook, and it guarantees that I’ll never have to call an owner to tell them a clogged rain gutter caused roof damage because we forgot to clear out drains and downspouts at their building. Forgetting should be impossible at a 21st-century property management company. When you’ve got an important call in five minutes, you should hear so many alarms you think the building’s on fire. Like my dad always says, “I’ve never regretted writing something down to remember it, but I’ve often regretted not doing so.”
2. Regular Inspections
Once you’ve chosen a software platform and gotten into the habit of automated scheduling, go ahead and schedule regular inspections of all the commercial properties you manage. We inspect each property twice annually, and we encourage owners to walk the buildings with us. Inspections at commercial properties can turn up all sorts of tenant violations and damages, including unpermitted residential use, so it’s important to carry them out every six months. It helps them see firsthand the state of their asset and the attention to detail we put into our assessments. It also gives them an insight into why we may or may not request specific repairs.
3. Preventative Maintenance
Speaking of repairs, I highly recommend getting into the habit of preventative maintenance. Our maintenance branch emphasizes this philosophy. The premise is simple: Maintain an owner’s property in such a way that paying a small amount now will save them a large amount in the future. For instance, our preferred HVAC vendors walk through every one of the commercial units we manage to replace filters, check freon levels and generally tighten everything up. This prevents damages that could necessitate the replacement of entire HVAC units in the long run, which would cost exponentially more. You’d rather have a mechanic who prevents an engine problem than one who just fixes your car after it breaks down, right?
4. Understand Owner Goals
Some owners might look at you funny if you ask them what their goals are for their property — after all, isn’t every rental owner’s goal to increase their profits? However, knowing exactly what a specific owner has in mind for their property in the long term can help you better tailor your service to their expectations. Maybe their goals have changed over the years since they first signed with you. Maybe they’d just like to talk about how your service could improve in general. Regardless, starting a conversation with the owners you represent can only lead to positive developments.
5. Go The Extra Mile
Often, what makes a property manager great is their ability to be more than just a property manager. You don’t need to wash an owner’s car and mow their lawn, but any way you can help them with the care of their commercial property, you should. Assess your own abilities and brainstorm services you can offer clients that other managers might not be able to. Refer them to the best insurance agent any of your clients has. Review pro-forma analyses for them. Whatever it is that your unique skill set can provide in the way of “extra credit,” go out and do it.
While motivation is key to maintaining a thriving business, many productivity experts have reached the conclusion in recent years that forming good habits is even more important. So get into a rhythm and create enough “muscle memory” that these practices become second nature for you. Once they’re habits, you can build on them even further.