Hi I’m Lisa and I’m from affordable staff and today I have the pleasure of having a chat with the business owner and head of department for Harcourts Ballarat hi team how are you good thanks how are you thank you very good very good so firstly I’d like to say thank you very much for your time it’s been an experience in getting to know both of you over many years but to give some context for any of our viewers
Introducing Harcourts Ballarat
Hi I’m Lisa and I’m from affordable staff and today I have the pleasure of having a chat with the business owner and head of department for Harcourts Ballarat hi team how are you good thanks how are you thank you very good very good so firstly I’d like to say thank you very much for your time it’s been an experience in getting to know both of you over many years but to give some context for any of our viewers. Peter you’re the business owner yep one of one off so you’ve purchased the business a number of years ago yes and Lauren you’ve been with the business for how long nearly six years nearly six years at department head yeah where did you start in real estate uh where when uh eleven nearly twelve years ago as a receptionist and you’ve worked your way up through the different ranks of property management yeah so you both would have seen a number of changes during that time frame lots of changes lots of changes very good by design some by default yes very good um now we met a number of years ago initially uh from a business owner uh conference or meeting and you looked at outsourcing very high level back then what was your perception of outsourcing um I probably didn’t have a perception of outsourcing other than the wrong perception as it turned out in that sort of outsourcing was all about call centers or yes or sort of you know abdication of responsibility I suppose was one of my perceptions about outsourcing yes which in fact is not what you guys do.
What were you looking to achieve in outsourcing?
So, when we started talking again after so you initially found out about outsourcing a number of years ago and then a year ago or thereabouts you reached out to revisit outsourcing at that stage what were you looking to achieve?
I guess it was perhaps it’s worth going back a little bit in that in when I first met Damien and he spoke to a group of business owners about affordable staff and what they did yeah it just tweaked the possibility of what might be possible yes we then after we bought the business we had a really good young lady working for us who um met somebody and they lived two and a half three hours away from Ballarat and she wanted to go and live with this young man that she met and we really didn’t want to lose her from the business so we actually started her working off site so effectively we outsourced her work to Portland in Victoria yes um where we made that work so she worked from Portland for a couple of years yes um offside she would come to the office maybe one or two days every two or three weeks yes um she then met another young man who lived on the other end of the state um but we just ported her work to her new location so when covert hit we’d already had the experience of working somebody not in our office yes but doing all the jobs that she used to do in our office but just doing them remotely set her up with a full computer system so basically she had in wherever she was she had access to all the tech yes everything she needed um and she’d pop into the office every now and then just to you know touch base and maybe have a day or two in the office to type a few loose ends so we knew it could work yes so I think covert was probably the thing that changed everybody’s mindset and from our point of view and property management we all had to go and work from home so you know and being in Victoria was locked down not locked down locked down again not locked down we got sick and tired of packing up our computers came very quick at it yeah well that’s right like it was literally we did become really good at it because you a couple of those lockdowns we’ve got 24 hours notice so it was right guys if you come get your gear pack and do all your car off you go see you whenever yes but we would have a zoom meeting um and in those first couple lockdowns we had a zoom meeting every day we would check in with each other every day first thing in the morning some of them be in their pajamas you know they’d have the dog on their lap have a coffee it didn’t matter we were just that was more about checking in on people rather than the work yes but we soon realized we could do it from home which then opened up the opportunity well if we can do that from home why can’t we do it from somewhere else in the world which that led to that well we need some extra support yes um so rather than trying to find somebody with experience during covert who we can’t even meet face to face that led to me contacting you and saying okay let’s take the next let’s have a look that was sort of in probably April of 2021 and here we are 14 months later and yes it’s working really well.
Why did you choose Affordablestaff?
You’ve gone through the transition where you’ve been able to identify that outsourcing and communicating remotely with your team led you through to outsourcing through affordable staff so when you were looking at options for outsourcing was there a reason or what was the reason for you choosing affordable staff?
Probably two and they were fairly fundamental basic reasons number one I’d already met Damien yes um and yourself yes uh in previous times and even in you know different spots and different jobs but also the fact that there were you know a couple of really good um referrals from current operations that were using affordable staff so to be honest listen we didn’t even really look at any other options yes it was just you guys ticked all the boxes and I think made it made it seem there was there was never a feeling of well what have we got ourselves into or we’ve signed up for this and now we’re left to sort it out or to learn how to do it and the reality is that all I did was make the decision let’s have a go at this Lauren is the one who has actually done 99 of the work in working with the VA’s yes implementing the systems and really importantly getting buy in from their staff yes like that’s been such a key part of it yeah the acceptance from those guys that this is a good thing and that comes down to the fact that the level of work that’s done particularly by the first instance yes was at such a high efficient level that all the property managers have gone that they love her like she is a godsend and how did we do our job before so that that made it really easy so that the transition was so simple from my perspective anyway it was simple yes um I know it probably wasn’t simple from Lauren’s perspective and I actually know how much work she put in behind the scenes after hours you know night times she put in heaps of work but the processes were already there from your end yes so all we had to do was tweak those tweak our systems yes to fit your processes or probably more tweaking your processes to fit our systems we didn’t actually have to change anything no just we just had to have a different mindset as to what tasks are we going to get done by the VA yes and what are we going to keep within the office perfect that actually leads into the next thing I’d love to find out.
What was your initial objective in outsourcing?
Initially when we started talking we were looking at the property management space and we implemented very successfully a full-time VA assisting the property management team so back to that initial conversation what was the initial objective what were the initial what was the initial objective behind implementing somebody with property management?
um just the unknown like they didn’t the property managers didn’t know what to expect neither did I but I guess the ultimate aim of the goal was to free up time rather than employing more property managers and diluting our talent pool because they’re hard to find rather than trying to find more property managers to work in Ballarat in our office or bringing in people who are already in the industry who you know they invariably seem to come with baggage problems that they’ve already got and they bring them to a new workplace because often it’s not the job that’s the problem it’s the person doing the job so we wanted to reduce the reliance I suppose on our guys having to do the repetitive albeit important but repetitive systemizable tasks which then frees time up for them to actually spend time on the things that really make a difference because those tasks have to be done yes regardless so if they can then spend more time dealing with the people behind the properties the landlords and the tenants and the contractors who are doing the maintenance work and building those relationships um that the properties themselves they don’t care who does the repetitive tasks they don’t have feelings but the people who own the properties do so that was the aim was to free up time for our current staff to be able to do more of those personal things rather than getting bogged down in paperwork data entry and those type of jobs perfect.
What are the benefits of having PM Virtual Assistants?
So far it’s been it’s been over 12 months since implementing your first VA I think we’re at three now what have been the benefits so far with the property management virtual assistants and I know we’ve got two in there one helping out with property management tasks and we’ve got another looking after compliance and social media and the array of things that they do but what have been the standout benefits to the to the business so far um the standout benefits from where I would see them is just relieving our property managers most of whom are quite young so they’re still learning where they fit into the whole system and the world and you know they’re not born with great communication skills you’re not born with all this knowledge you gain that over time but it’s given them time and extra time to develop those skills rather than getting so bogged down and weighed down and pressurized by the stuff that just has to be done yes so I think it’s made them happier it’s made them able to manage more properties than they would have otherwise which in turn has increased their ability to earn because we actually pay our property managers quite differently to what most officers do I think they’re actually paid on a on a performance and commission basis on top of their salary I think it’s done wonders for our retention yes um and I think you know the other undeniable part of this from a business perspective it’s actually helped our profitability fantastic when you when you reference retention of your staff yeah which well I think and by retaining the staff we retain the management yes because you know I think the biggest challenge when a property manager leaves is the upheaval that causes with some of the owners of the properties yes who take that opportunity to look elsewhere yes because they think well if I’ve got to change property manager why don’t I look at changing property managers full stop as in the office so yes but by not having that rotation of staff I think it’s really helped us maintain our consistency with our owners that’s a huge asset I speak with agencies every single day and one of the big and it’s I’m sure it’s not just in our industry but staff retention or even staff attribution refining new staff is the biggest problem so you’ve found a really uh a big benefit in outsourcing to be able to aid retention to aid retention and reduce actually reduce the need to go and find new stuff yes so that’s fantastic it’s a key thing and it costs us a lot of time and money.
What limitations have you found?
So when it comes to outsourcing and implementing a new team member through affordable staff have you found any limitations as such as yet there’s limitations on we don’t get our vas to speak to clients um but that’s probably really the only thing is that yeah they don’t actually pick up a phone or anything everything else that I’ve like the processes that we’ve created um are exactly the same as what we do in the office yes so when you were to if you were to compare uh employing a local administration person and compare that to your experience with a virtual assistant do you think there’s any limitations internally as far as being able to train them or communicate with them no it’s really like easy when you are implementing processes because you guys just record um the zoom meeting of me doing something and then you create a Trello board for the VA that way and that’s all you really have to do fantastic yeah I’d have to jump in there and say that the training from where I sit and what I see the end result of yes is that your guys learn so quickly yeah and at such a detailed level yes that they it would be very hard for us to find somebody to work at that level of efficiency and detail um in the office like they would they would be right up there if they ever make a mistake once you point it out I don’t think it ever happens again absolutely and I’ll compliment that in saying that the communication is the key and it’s one of the things that we always talk to a new client when they’re considering outsourcing communication a relationship and you’re a been a pillar of how that’s best done so you’ve done very well yeah really we do genuinely treat the vas as any other member of staff but they are as important as valuable as respected as anybody working in our office building like that’s because they deliver so much efficiency the efficiency is remarkable it is and I think that that probably because our team don’t have the office distractions that your team do we actually say that that if we didn’t talk so much in the office okay I think you’re spread so thin you’ve got constant emails coming in you’ve got maintenance requests you’ve got somebody wanting you at reception so to have a team member through affordable staff without those distractions you’re always going to have a heightened level of efficiencies just because they don’t have those distractions and I’d like to think that affordable staff or virtual assistants would empower them to be able to relax when they’re in those situations where they’ve got a landlord wanting to see them at the front desk because we’ve hopefully taken away as much as we can yeah you know that they’re taking care of whatever tasks you’ve assigned them yeah when you know those basic fundamentals are being done regardless of what else is going on it does bring a level of um being able to relax and just know that even if everything fell apart in the office on a particular day the thing wouldn’t collapse because underneath the surface it’s all still happening we can then deal with the crisis yes get over it and pick up the pieces again and move on whereas in an office environment if there is something happens or even if somebody’s sick everything stops whereas in this instance the basics just keep going. That’s good.
How did the local team adapt to having a VA?
We have touched this a little bit but uh how have the team gone with working with a team member that’s not sitting next to them?
Um really good so the first day that Kay started with us um just to I guess break the ice I got Kay to share photos of her dogs lovely or Kenosha cats Jose has um everything it’s about dogs actually so got okay to send three photos of her cats and then we posted photos in teams of our animals and our pets oh it sounds like a nice warm welcome yes again Lauren’s Lawrence had a great job in incorporating the vas into the team and yes because of the job they do and how well they do it the rest of the team have embraced them with open arms like they really like I just love the fact that they’re on board so it’s challenging sometimes with the differences in cultural differences yes um you know I’ve never been to the Philippines they’ve never been to Australia so there’s things that we don’t sort of know and understand and but again you guys have been really good in explaining some of those things yes um that’s you know I’d love one day to be able to jump on plane and take Lauren and some of the others and go and meet these guys face to face like that’s how we feel about you know I think that we should definitely put that on the agenda and we will host you over there the cultural differences like I guess they’d it the conversations are just different when I was speaking um to Jose the other day I just said like how are you going and he thought I was asking where are you in your luck up in your work like what are you doing um like how many more properties do you have left to do for the compliance not like how are you yes but you know it’s a good learning experience for everybody and they’re getting exposed to our ways and we get exposed to theirs and it’s certainly working sounds perfect.
What advice would you give to someone considering outsourcing?
Now, if you were speaking to somebody that was in the early days of considering outsourcing what advice would you give to them?
Just make sure you speak to them on a daily basis and keep that communication up so they’re engaged and you don’t want them to leave and then have to retrain another VA yes yeah no different than any other stuff my advice would be that if you are thinking about it then don’t think about it just not saying go out tomorrow and employ a VA but start the conversation gather the information ask questions talk to other business owners ring us if you want to but you know there’s others that are using affordable staff and using them really effectively the model works my cynicism is gone um and well you know the fact that now within 12 months we’ve gone from none to three um and you know it’s quite possible by this time next year we might have four or five quite honestly it’s that could well be the case so you know they can’t do everything but that’s not the aim the aim is to do the things that can be done and they actually do them better than we can do them in the office which leads us to concentrate on the people things lovely well I’m going to say a very big thank you Lauren and peter for your time I really appreciate having your support so thank you and thank you for the offer for anybody that would like to have a chat with you no worries at all you’re welcome thanks Lisa.
For any viewers that would like to know more information please jump on our website www.affordablestaff.com.au and I’d love to have a chat to explore what we can do to help your business.