Harcourts Adlington Case Study

Introducing Harcourts Adlington

Lisa: Hi, I’m Lisa from Affordable Staff and today I’m having a chat with Jane from Harcourts Adlington. Hi Jane, how are you?

Jane: Hi, Lisa I’m well very well thank you.

Lisa: Firstly thank you for taking some time to catch up with me today I know you’re a busy lady we’re got the Harcourts kickstart program and I believe that you have a nice little spot of property management guest speaker.

Jane: Well, I wouldn’t say guest speaker but um I am on the panel, so we’ll just see that’s this afternoon so yeah that’s a bit exciting it’s very nice to be recognized to be able to be asked to be on that panel, yeah that’s really exciting.

What made you consider outsourcing?

Lisa: Taking us back to when we first had a chat some months ago 12 months uh what had you starting to consider outsourcing?

Jane: We were trying to find staff to help run the business I suppose the property management team we had one one person with a lot of experience and one really really new green property manager and the fact that property management is really just process a certain part of it i’m not down playing  it but a certain part of property management is a process you just follow a process and we because we we work in a very very small business if we were going to hire a property manager they needed to do the training and we struggled to find someone who wanted to do that training so we looked at what um process we could outsource to um and that’s when we contacted you we thought well maybe that’s that’s an option we can outsource some of these mundane tasks that happen every day um and just get them done so and I think the first when I first contacted you and the first thing that you did was you sent through some slides of what other people use that really opened my eyes as what other outsource other real estate agents used virtual assistants for um and that really opened my eyes so spend a bit of time looking at that yes so and your operations manager of the office been there four and a half years yeah four and a bit years um the office was bought by the owner in 2018 so yeah four and a half years so and Stuart uh brought you in to try and create some structure and as opposed to all of the things that make it a successful business that’s right and process yes big a big thing on process and process is always um part of the new new guidelines from a fair trading perspective is supervision guidelines say you must have a process for everything that you do in the office so um that sort of also well we didn’t we we probably probably i would say 90 95 to 100 we have a process for things that we do now which is um and a lot of that process is done by our virtual assistant like yes and the setting up of that was so easy.

Lisa: Well that’s really cool!

What was your initial goal in outsourcing?

Lisa: Initially when you assessed virtual assistants in outsourcing and you opted to follow through with it what uh in a nice what was the goal well in an ideal world what was the what did you want to achieve?

Jane: Initially when we first signed up with you we hadn’t didn’t even think about using our virtual assistant for property management okay. We wanted to achieve professionalism in sales and Harcourts had just rolled out a really very professional process around pre-listing kits and proposal kits for sales properties we struggled with the sales agents they couldn’t they couldn’t or they wouldn’t come to the party on using that yes whether it was time or technology but we couldn’t get them to use those pre-listing and proposal right send them out to the clients so initially we thought okay let’s get a virtual assistant write a process around that we only brought the virtual assistant on for four hours a day if you remember right um so for the first six weeks I think he was four hours a day we set our processes up he worked 100 on sales yes um answering inquiries or yes doing the process answering inquiries and doing these um pre-lists and pros and proposals we had such a big feedback from our clients in regard to how professional they looked and how quick they came and that was a big big win very big win so yeah that was what we wanted i think more around professionalism yes and um consistency just making sure the same thing happens for every client who comes in they all get the same documents sent to them and we knew it was going to happen.

Lisa: Yeah fantastic.

Why did you choose Affordablestaff?

Lisa: I’d love to ask why did you choose Affordable Staff?

Jane: I had spoken to a number of people, I just found Affordable Staff was approachable and helpful and not selling I mean not I suppose you were selling but there’s a difference between a selling a sales agent that you believe in one that you don’t and I really found that I believed what you were saying and talked to a few people who I think I did talk to somebody actually I did two people two companies or two Harcourts agencies that used affordable staff as well um and they were like glowing comments so I think that was what really pushed us to that. Yeah you were very approachable very available whenever we needed you and yeah I was very happy with that so yes Stuart and I decided that this was the way to go that’s fantastic we do try to make sure that every customer feels like that they are only customer because we’re very much about a people business we have to make sure that everybody feels comfortable because it can be quite a daunting a daunting thing to try and integrate yes it can be and what worried us the most was that was what our staff were going to say when they found out that we had someone working in the Philippines yes doing their work for them um we did get some negative comments yes but since there’s been nothing none since initial negative comments but um the virtual assistant is so good at what he does there’s no negative comments now they just love him.

How did the local team adapt to having a VA?

Lisa: Now if I remember correctly you had a senior property manager who is a little bit I’ll say old school set in their ways and we come across this scenario quite often a little bit hesitant to relinquish some of the tasks or entrust a virtual assistant. How’s that going?

Jane: Well, it was tough to start with um and you’re right she was she is set in her ways um but it is around trust um and the trust comes from the fact that like she’s the end line she’s the between the client the prop the client the landlords and the process really if the process is wrong she’s going to cop it from the landlord so um we’ve managed to take tasks off her that I didn’t think we would be able to um like simple things like loading invoices she was very not I’ve got to do it I need to know now it’s good I need to know that it’s done right and all that so our virtual assistant now does loads all the invoices I had a comment from her yesterday she came into the office and she said oh my god Manny is so good he is the best and I thought well that’s really good for her to say that to me who has we thought she would struggle with the fact that we’re going to another country to start with giving a task out to someone who’s not sitting in the office with her but yeah  she’s very happy and it is all around that trust absolutely and accountability and I find that the staff if like the virtual assistants are accountable for what they do so if they make a mistake they accept it and they move on and fix it and that’s what you need you don’t want someone to hide what they’ve done and think oh I won’t do that you know you know what I’m saying absolutely

Lisa: I  think that’s the trust it’s really around trust absolutely I love that your virtual assistant’s name is Manuel but you so all of you so affectionately calling Manny the relationship has certainly grown yes and will you do what call him Manny I’m not sure how you spell how you spell Manny I think a lot of emails get sent across to him with different forms of the spelling but he just answers to them all he is so professional and so lovely.

How did you find integrating the local team and an offshore VA?

Lisa: How we found the communication with integrating somebody that’s not in the office as far as the local team with Manny?

Jane: Well we have, Manny’s only setting on one meeting with us so um because they know exactly what he does exactly what his tasks are they know exactly how to engage him yes and that a lot of work went into that as well we set up um email templates for our sales staff so they know exactly what information that they need to send to many to get him to do a particular task and he and he gets that email it’s got everything he needs he just goes ahead and does it and sends it straight back to them um so we’ve included him in one meeting as I said just so that he could see the staff that he’s working with and they could see him. Probably maybe next month I might just get him involved in another meeting or in the property management meeting I just think the communication really works and he’s quite confident now, if they do it wrong if the salespeople do it wrong I say to him go back and tell them to get you the information like they can’t just send you something that you have no idea what you they want so he’s confident enough he just goes back I need this document for me to go further so he knows I think because we did the templates he knows what he needs they know what he needs to have and if they don’t give it to him he’s going back and saying you need to give me this information so the communication is really good

Lisa: I love that it sounds like he is very much a part of the team he is very much a part and they very they just love the way that he does things

Jane: Yeah he’s very much part of the team

Lisa: That’s cool.

What direct results have you found?

Lisa: Referring to the original goals that you had set what do you think what have been the results that you have found that have been beneficial to the business?

Jane: Apart from the professionalism yes um we’ve had some feedback back from the um from the client saying you know this is very professional um and quick, benefits in regard to from the property manager property management perspective we’ve actually now implemented he’s doing a lot of those map processes as well and that’s giving our property managers more time to do other things. Interesting. though I can’t see where their spare time is they’ve been giving a lot of stuff is gone yes but they seem to have been able to maybe there was more tasks in behind there that they hadn’t been doing because they’re still busy but we’re still working through there’s a lot more that we can hand over yes and we’re gradually working that through um but I think it’s a time thing, giving um them more time to think about and quality time and quality because we know it’s done right and if it’s not right like if an invoice is sent to him and it’s not right he comes back and says this needs to be fixed and that’s good yeah so I think it but getting to that stage was a lot of hard work

Lisa:  And I have to compliment you for that I think there’s a lot of your background prior to being within the property management and real estate space that has attributed to where you have really assisted Harcourts Adlington and that is to look at as you said before property management is very much around processes and virtual assistants with processors I think is the winning key within your office and I think you have certainly attributed a lot to that

Jane: Yes, it did it was a lot of work in the beginning but it was work that needed to happen and the initial set up when we first had that meeting yes was it gabby was that gabby who was the process lady and we would um I think we did a couple things and you videoed it and she and she came up with the initial process yes but then after that I just wrote all the process yes because it was for me to understand what he needed to do to make sure it was right and Manny just took it all on like and yes I would spend the time.

What advice would you give to someone considering outsourcing?

Lisa: So, my last question for you is if you were to be speaking to somebody that was in a similar position to you 12 months ago and they were considering outsourcing what advice would you give to them?

Jane: I think be open-minded, outsourcing is not a bad thing. Outsourcing in the past has been you’ve you’re giving up jobs Australian jobs and sending them overseas it’s not around it’s not about that you’re actually giving jobs to people who need them they may not be in Australia, but they definitely need them, and they do the job well.

What I like the most is there’s no HR , I don’t need to do anything in regard to HR you interview you do all the work you do all the KPI’s around what Manny does you tell him that he’s doing a good job doing a bad job I don’t have to get involved in any of that that is number one for me because HR and people management is not the nicest part of anyone’s job and you don’t always have enough time to do it properly so that’s a really big thing so um always also think about think outside the square in regard to what you can hand over there’s things that you can hand over that you think you can’t but you definitely can yes and in the back of my mind now I’m thinking there’s more that I can give to my virtual assistant I just need to work out the process around it because you need to understand that virtual assistants can’t be have any interaction with the clients it’s all back end so um there’s a few things that I’d like him to do I just need to work out the process around not having that interaction with the client yeah I think it is around being open-minded thinking outside the square giving it a go yes because if it doesn’t work you haven’t lost anything absolutely not you’ve actually gained if it doesn’t work because you’ve done process yes having a process in an organization is key and so if you’ve spent six months working on your processes and you’ve got them there and your virtual assistant doesn’t work you haven’t lost anything you’ve got your process.

Lisa: I agree yeah.

Outsourcing is NOT taking jobs from Australia.

Lisa: I think one of the things that we talked about earlier is around you mentioned outsourcing is not necessarily taking positions away but I’m finding and I think your business is definitely another one that I would complement it’s around trying to support your local team with I think a lot of the great resignation talk and whatnot we want to make sure that we keep valued staff happy in their roles supported yes alleviate some of the things that are really more beneficial to an outsourced virtual assistant to allow them to enjoy what they’re doing

Jane: that’s right and it’s the type of mundane tasks that they don’t want to have to do every day that is done by a virtual assistant and you don’t get any complaints no they do the work and it’s very some of it I think in our situation Manny is very lucky because he does so much different every day is different. So he’s not just doing lease renewals every day in and eight hours a day the same process he’s got to think and he’s very good at that and he might do 20 different processes a day and then next day he might do 40 that I haven’t even done like he hadn’t done for a week like it’s very varied and I think he’s very lucky in that regard.

Lisa: Well we’re lucky to be working with you too.

Jane: Thank you Lisa.

Lisa: No, thank you. Good luck today with the panel. I look forward to hearing you speak and I look forward to hopefully seeing you in a few awards tonight at the quarterly awards

Jane: Yes, that’s going to be interesting to see how the team works see what happens yep lovely thank you

Lisa: Well that’s it from Lisa from affordable staff thank you jane really appreciate your time if any of our watchers do uh have any questions or if you’re in a similar position to jane and you’d like to talk to me about some of the benefits that perhaps we can instill in your business please jump on our website www.affordabletaff.com.au

I look forward to speaking with you.