David: David here from Affordable Staff and I have Damien.
Damien: Hi, David, how are you going? And today we’ve got Allison and Pauline from First National Neilson Partners. So, welcome.
Allison: Thank you. Thank you for having us.
David: And we’re actually over here in the Philippines at the moment, we’ve been here since, Sunday? And here we are Friday. You spent a week with your team. And we’ve been all around the Philippines and we’ve seen a whole bunch of stuff.
Allison: We have indeed.
David: And we just had some avocado ice cream before.
Allison: Yummo.
David: It was good?
Pauline: And we’ve learned the new flavor, ube.
David: Ube?
Allison: That’s the purple one if you didn’t know.
David: Yes, that’s right. And the ladies have been lovely enough to sit down with us and talk to us today about how they’ve been going with outsourcing and with their team member.

Why did you decide to outsource?

Allison: We needed an extra support for our team and we needed an affordable way of doing that. Logistically, it’s difficult to try and find room for another staff member in an office, so it seemed like the perfect solution for us.
David: How long ago did you start?
Allison: Three months, four months.

Why Did You Choose Us?

Allison: We actually got introduced to Eva at a property management conference last year in Sydney. Dot Hamilton introduced me to Eva and it just took off from there.
David: Fantastic, and Dot’s also a client as well who just happens to be here as well. We just went through and did our stretch break. In the office, we have stretch breaks that we do daily and Dot was leading us in an Australian song for the team which is fantastic.
Allison: What was that, Home Among The Gum Trees?
David: Home Among The Gum Trees.

How Important Is Trust When Outsourcing?

Allison: I think one of our bigger hurdles was being able to create a relationship with Carli and trust that she was capable of being able to do the work that we needed and she’s certainly proven herself to be more than that. She’s been a great asset so far, hasn’t she?
Pauline: And that takes time as well. So you need to be able to spend those first couple of months going through a variety of tasks till you get to the point of, “we don’t need to revisit the training anymore.” The property managers can then send the work direct.

How Have You Found Training Your Offshore Team Member?

Pauline: Look, it’s terrific. Where training is concerned, we’re already heavily involved in training our staff in our offices. So as department managers, or as directors, the big responsibility is making sure when you bring team members in, they learn our way because we have very strict procedures in place and it’s do it the right way the first time.
So you’re going to be spending time with staff members whether they’re sitting next to you at your own screen, or in this case, I was sitting at my screen, looking at Carli’s screen. And we could swap screens really easily.
David: That was using Zoom, was it?
Pauline: Yes. So I was watching how she was doing and speaking to her saying, “no, no, not that key, go over this way. Okay, let’s swap so you can watch what I’m doing and understand.” Cause sometimes instructions we think we’re really clear on could get, “Okay, just go to your other left.” So it’s just, “Watch me for a while” and then it all becomes clear. Any sort of system is going to be a little bit involved.

What Limitations Have You Found So Far In Outsourcing?

Allison: I think initially for me being technologically-challenged, thank you, learning all of these extra things like Zoom and Trello, for me that was quite a big deal. Because I’m not confident in that sort of thing, Carli actually ended up teaching me how to use that so that was terrific. It was bit of a role reversal. Probably more so for you.
Pauline: The only limitation we’ve got at the moment which we will be overcoming very shortly is phone line. That will assist in any follow-up that we need Carli to do on the next part of her journey of this education. Being able to pick up the phone, application processing for example. We’ve still got a long way to go in our training but it’s exciting.

What Did Your Local Staff Think When You Got Started?

Allison: We actually sat down, got all our team together and held a bit of a forum. We got in some pizza and we got in some beer and floated the idea. And then made them a part of it. We made a list of activities that we thought, “What can we outsource? What do we think needs to stay in-house?” And because they were made a part of it, and understood that reasons that we were wanting to do it, they were very supportive.
We did have one who’s in a slightly different role. Change is hard at any given time so she was a little bit worried and was concerned that that may impact on her role or whether tasks were going to be taken off her and things like that. But we’re still working with her and making her understand that this is for our benefit, it’s not to take anyone’s jobs away, it’s to enhance the team we have and make their jobs easier. So all in all, it’s been a very positive thing.

How Have You Found Working With Your Offshore Team Member?

Pauline: She is a delight to work with. It’s genuinely following up on instructions, going through tasks that have been sent from the other offices. A bit of quality control on a daily basis as well. Anything that I’ll ask to be changed, or we might even adjust our procedures because we found, “Could this procedure work really well when it’s just in our own office?” But because it’s now being done, being outsourced, and all by email, let’s make it a bit more user-friendly.
So we have adjusted certain procedures which she keeps such a beautiful log on so I never have to fear that she’d forget we updated. So I’m enjoying every moment of it and as soon as we go back, we’re taking that next step in further education.

How Do You Think Your Local Staff Would Think If They Weren’t Included In The Process?

Allison: Probably not quite as well. Look, I think most property managers would say that any help is good help so you know, they’re open to the concept of having somebody help them. This is a new concept for us as a management team and for them. So I think they needed to see our confidence in it. But to be involved in it and help decide what tasks they were comfortable in handing over, and be a part of the decision-making process, everyone’s involved in it, therefore, how can they not support it?

How Are Your Tasks Evolving Since Outsourcing?

Pauline: Evolving in a few different ways because you’re always going to have. Let’s start with the simple ones. Let’s see how we go, develop a little bit of the trust. Then it was, okay, that was a bit too simple, because Carli’s got a wonderful brain.
Allison: Yes, she’s very intelligent.
Pauline: So we tend to jump about five levels on what our first thoughts were. I’ve still got the list of the tasks that we had listed. Most of the ones haven’t been touched because now let’s concentrate on what she’s capable of.
So being able to create tenancies in our systems, being able to create the leases from the instructions we give her and from there, it’s even assisting with condition reports, which is really odd when somebody’s many thousands of miles away. But we’re in the middle of changing our system that we do our conditions reports on so we have information that needs to be transposed.
It’s, “Okay, Carli, these are the ones that are coming up for leasing soon. Can you please transpose them to the new system.” So we have just gone a lot of different avenues that we first didn’t anticipate.

What Difference Has Outsourcing Made For Your Business?

Allison: Release of the pressure valve probably for a lot of them. Keeping in mind we’ve got three offices so Carli is actually assisting 10 property managers across three different sites.
David: Wow.
Allison: So it’s certainly taking a bit of that pressure off. The whole idea with Carli is to have her do a lot of the administrative work, allowing the property managers more time to focus on the one-on-one client service tasks. So we’re hopeful. Three months in, four months in, it’s probably a little bit early to tell yet, but we’re hopeful that the client satisfaction and client service side will also go up as well as relieving the property managers of some stress.

How Do You See The Future Of The Industry In The Fight To Reduce Fees?

Pauline: How long is a piece of string? Our circumstances change every six months due to the availability of woodstock, the staffing levels at our competitors. So there is quite a bit of movement. So you’ll have six months where you’re not tending to fight as much to get the percentages that you deserve. The following six months, because a lot of the competitors have gone “Oh, we missed out on those” so they’ll drop them even further. And then we’re back to square one so it evolves constantly and I’m afraid, I can’t give you a straight answer.

Staff Retention And Burnout

Damien: You just touched on six months and staffing levels. Are you seeing a lot of staff not hanging around in these lower fee agencies?
Pauline: Absolutely.
Damien: Why do you think that is?
Pauline: Overload.
Allison: And that’s the thing. Good property managers are hard to find and they burn out. It’s that simple. The general turnover we see quite often on the resumes of people wanting to move. They’re moving every eight months or two years. And I think it’s that, “I can’t do it anymore. I’ll settle for somewhere else.” And change is as good as a holiday, but the job doesn’t change.
So this is where someone like Carli coming on board. That’s where it is a bit of a gamechanger and we’re hoping that you’ll leave a layout the job, the job becomes more enjoyable, and it’s more client-focused because somebody else is doing the background work. And you know, retention hopefully improves.

What Advice Would You Give To Business Considering Outsourcing?

Allison: This early, do it. Three months in, I’m saying do it. We’re hoping–I’m already planning this last week–it’s been very interesting. Where can I slip another one? Do it.
David: Yeah, I mean you guys really obviously invested that time as well as invested that money in coming over and seeing your team member so you saw it as something worthwhile.
Allison: Absolutely. And being such a different set-up, we wanted to both be here and understand how Carli works, what her environment’s like so that we can compromise and try and have a better understanding of what she’s doing and how she needs to work.
It’s interesting sitting on the other end, watching things come through. “Okay, we need to fine-tune that.” Cause it works for us on our end but it doesn’t necessarily–it could have been better here. So it’s been a real privilege to come. It’s been an eye-opener and next one you’re coming, let me know.