If you’re a professional property manager, you may have noticed a new type of owner in the market. This class of owner is confident in every aspect of their investments. They don’t have to stress the minutia of day-to-day work on their properties. They live in a state of certainty regarding the direction of their assets, and they out-earn their competitors hand-over-fist. But the owners I’m describing aren’t some species created in a lab for the sole purpose of profiting on rental property. They’re not hyper-educated prodigies of real estate. They don’t all wear the same sunglasses, and the truth is, they don’t know anything you don’t, except maybe for one thing: they know that no owner can afford to settle for management that’s less than excellent. Their secret is that, rather than hiring the bare minimum, they’ve chosen property managers they can depend on as trusted advisors. If you don’t offer your clients that type of confidence, you should strive to.
At the core of this concept is the value of collaboration. Collaboration between an owner and a manager creates greater trust and improves the manager’s ability to help clients take action. Think of your collaborative skills as your bedside manner, how you approach interactions, especially conflict. Collaboration—the willingness not only to offer explanations, but to truly listen to clients—is a powerful tool to help move past conflicts or disagreements. The challenge for most of us property managers is that we too quickly get wrapped around the axle, believing that we know the right answer. That’s counterproductive.
The Trusted Advisor
Instead, a trusted advisor makes sure to give their clients opportunities to contribute to solutions. A trusted advisor offers the chance to share ideas while both sides discover the best course of action as they move forward together.
One simple phrase that proves useful in conversations with property owners is, “Let’s just explore some ideas here.” This can help bring about a fair interchange—not just one side speaking its piece. And let’s be honest: it’s not a property manager’s place to impose their opinions. The manager is there to serve and suggest to the owner, who will make the final call. Some owners won’t take advantage of the opportunity that comes with a property manager who can provide value in unconventional ways, and of course that is their right. All you can do is build your own understanding and expertise to the point where you can offer more services than the typical manager does—how they employ your services is up to them. But there’s a special satisfaction that comes from truly collaborating on ideas with a client, in that you arrive together on a certain path for repairs, remodels, or other property-related decisions. This all defines a consultative approach to property management: providing not only top-notch management service, but sound and savvy counsel whenever the client needs it.
Often in sports, you’ll hear experts and scouts talk about the importance of intangibles: the things about a prospect that make them valuable but can’t be quantified on a stat sheet. Things like leadership, humility, and critical thinking skills under pressure. Of course, the known and quantifiable elements of a potential signee are usually the main focus, but when considering two players who are statistically comparable, intangibles can give one of them the edge. And just as intangibles can set an athlete apart, they can set a property manager apart. You can make yourself valuable to your clients in ways that aren’t strictly reflected in your monthly report to them. I always tell my colleagues in property management, if you want to be consultative, you have to be impartial. This can be more difficult in practice than it sounds in theory. But at the end of the day, if a client knows that your absolute conviction is to see them come through their current crises in the best way possible, without having your own vision blurred by any biases or partialities, you can deliver new heights of service.
Our industry’s main driver is creating value, and owners know that a long-term partnership with a trusted advisor will do just that. Building trust is always worth the work.
David Crown is the C.E.O. of Los Angeles Property Management Group, and has over twenty-five years of experience managing all types of income properties. A hands-on leader who has managed properties in 16 states, Mr. Crown has been asked to serve as an expert witness in property management matters, and currently serves on the Forbes Real Estate Council. He can be reached directly at 323-433-5254.