Kylie Davis: (00:02)
Welcome to the PropTech podcast. It’s Kylie Davis here, and I’m delighted to be your host as we explore the brave new world where technology and real estate collide. I passionately believe we need to create and grow a sense of community between the innovators and real estate agents, and sharing our stories is a great way to do that, especially in these crazy times that we find ourselves in.
Kylie Davis: (00:23)
Now, the aim of each episode is to introduce listeners to a PropTech innovator who is pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and explore the issues and challenges raised by the tech, and how they can create amazing property experiences. And my guest in this episode is Kasey McDonald, from the Property Management Training Academy, PMTA, which specialises in training property managers on embracing new technology, and improving the processes and practises of PMs, and working with principals, especially, to understand the value of their PM divisions, and how much more they could be bringing into their businesses.
Kylie Davis: (00:59)
And this is really important, because we know that property management is actually the subscription revenue that keeps businesses afloat in real estate, and also that it’s one of the primary drivers of the value of a business when it comes to sale time.
Kylie Davis: (01:14)
Now, this is a really insightful conversation with a few really lovely laughs, that looks at why property management is an undervalued asset in so many real estate businesses. And we look at how to change that, and the influence that coronavirus has had on the technology adoption conversation. And you might be surprised, because kind of frighteningly, Kasey believes there’s a hardcore group of principals out there that are still not convinced about the benefits of cloud-based technology. So we talk through how that’s likely to play out for the industry, and how over the next few years, we’re going to see the gap grow between highly successful PM businesses and the tech laggards. So the wonderful Kasey McDonald, welcome to the PropTech podcast.
Kasey McDonald: (01:55)
Thank you for having me, Kylie. It’s lovely to actually see your beautiful face.
Kylie Davis: (02:01)
It’s fun, isn’t it? These interviews are actually some of the highlights of my day, because I can have days where I sit at my desk for a good 10 hours or more, and feel like I’m growing a chair out my butt.
Kasey McDonald: (02:18)
Like all of us, right?
Kylie Davis: (02:20)
Yeah, that’s right, that’s right.
Kasey McDonald: (02:23)
[inaudible 00:02:23] my best friend.
Kylie Davis: (02:26)
So Kasey, what’s the elevator pitch of PMTA?
Kasey McDonald: (02:29)
Yeah. PMTA is a consulting company, and I started this approximately five years ago. And it was really to look at the operational efficiencies, and streamlining process and procedures in property management divisions. But going, I suppose, to a higher scale of that, it’s looking at how principals can have a better understanding of how their property management division divisions are operating, at the grassroots, but also from a bottom profitability perspective. A lot don’t have that understanding and aren’t sure how they should be breaking it up from a different profit centre point of view, so I like to work with the property managers from a grassroots perspective, and really help them be more efficient and productive in their positions. And then, on the flip side, work with the principals so that they’re understanding the real value and importance of their property management team.
Kylie Davis: (03:25)
So let’s unpack that a little bit. What are the key reasons that principals don’t necessarily don’t understand property management? What’s the issue around that?
Kasey McDonald: (03:36)
There’s several, and it’s a great question, because there are definitely several. Probably the key one, which is fairly common, is that they’ve been a very successful salesperson and then they’ve decided to branch out and have their own real estate agency. They’re still very successful in selling real estate, but don’t understand that sales is not going to pay the bills for them, so they start a property management arm. They’ve got a great database, why not, right? They’re sick of handing over those leads, so they start. But the concern is that they don’t understand it or have never done it, so they put a property manager in, and they just say, “Okay, that’s your little baby, now you just do it.” And they focus on what they know best. They then continue that trend, unfortunately, and allowing the team really to operate, I suppose, at freewill and autonomously, and maybe not give them the support or guidance that, in some cases, property managers actually do need. And it’s that they need that leadership there, but they sort of don’t, I suppose, respect the leader sometimes, if that leader doesn’t understand, maybe, what they’re doing or what their day to day challenges and concerns us. So it’s definitely a big thing, salespeople opening real estate businesses and then having a property management arm.
Kasey McDonald: (04:50)
The second would be is that, I sort of touched on it on the last point, is that they’re not spending the time in their departments. So regardless of their experience, they’re not seeing, sometimes, that real true value that that property management division can really bring to their business, and that it’s an asset to them. They completely understand that it’s an asset, but they sometimes don’t understand that it could be an even better asset if it was operating really well. So spending time with their team, going to training with the team, just having a basic level of understanding of what they do every day, I think would be have far greater impact in their business. So they are definitely the two key elements that I see don’t happen very often, and I just really think that they should.
Kylie Davis: (05:38)
Yeah. So let’s summarise that. It’s kind of like a principal’s starting up a property management division because they know they should have one, but really abdicating responsibility around that because they don’t understand it. And letting it just kind of grow organically, and then ignoring it because they feel like they don’t really know what’s going on, and then it really not being the asset that it could be. Yeah, we see that a lot, don’t we? So tell us a little bit about your history in property management, what got you into training?
Kasey McDonald: (06:19)
I have 20 years in property management, or in the industry.
Kylie Davis: (06:19)
Did you start at like 12?
Kasey McDonald: (06:20)
I’m 40 this year, so I started when I had just left school, and I actually started in Darwin. So I’m originally from the Gold Coast, or northern New South Wales, Kingscliff, Tweed Heads area. And my dad’s in the construction games, so we had an opportunity to relocate to Darwin, and that’s where my career started in real estate. Some great opportunities out there, so I kind of just dived straight in. But thrown in the corner, like some of us have experienced throughout our careers, and it’s kind of like, “There’s a desk and a computer and away you go, don’t you know what you’re doing?” “No, I actually don’t, but I suppose I’ll figure it out.” So that’s how my career started, but I just really had a passion for it, I enjoyed the diversity of it every day. And different conversations and meeting different people, and all of those things. And that started to develop, then, into a more consulting role, where I got into some training and doing some PM conferencing events for a company.
Kasey McDonald: (07:29)
And then from that, I decided to progress and have my own agency. I did have this very small sales team of four, but the sole focus of my business was property management, that was my experience. So I organically grew that 227 in three years, so I know not huge, huge numbers, but I really wanted to do it right, and make sure everything was set up correctly. And then from that, there was just elements where I really felt I could keep supporting the industry, so I started at the end of owning the business of the agency, and I was doing some consulting in conjunction with Tara Bradbury, as we know from the BDM Academy. And was doing some growth stuff with her, and I suppose it sort of pushed me into it a little bit more, because that’s really my passion, that training education, that side of it really sort of stood out for me. So that’s why I dived back in, and here I am five years later.
Kylie Davis: (08:31)
Because it is one of those areas where training is enormously helpful and… Because there’s so much legislation that property managers are working under, and if they have been ignored, when you do give them some love and show them some attention, and show them different ways of doing things, I’ve always found they’re really quite receptive and excited by what’s going on.
Kylie Davis: (08:55)
So let’s talk about COVID-19 and how that’s playing out in property management. What are you seeing? What have property managers been experiencing?
Kasey McDonald: (09:04)
Yeah, I think across all states maybe, in the initial phases, it was the lack of clarity, obviously, from government. And a lot of miscommunication, a lot of misinformation out there, so it was creating more confusion. That, in turn, was then creating even more challenges, because you then have landlords and tenants making contact with you that may have not contacted you in a long time, so the types of telephone calls, and emails, and that dialogue was very, very different. So because we didn’t have clarity across the industry as a whole, I think across in some aspects, the conversations, that’s what the challenge was, was, “I don’t know really how to answer your question, because I can’t. I don’t have this from the government.”
Kasey McDonald: (09:49)
So I think, now that there definitely is clear-cut clarity for everyone, across all of the states, and they’ve really built that into legislation now, I’m starting to see that slow down of them coming up with those difficult conversations, or calling me, saying, “Kasey, I’ve got this, and I just don’t know how to answer it.” And to be quite honest, I was in the same position saying, “Well, I can’t give you the answer either, because we’re all in the same position right now. But maybe if we look at it like this, and just offer some kind of guidance or direct the tenant in this way.” So that’s the type of challenges, I think, the industry was really facing, and which now, we’ve overcome, slightly. I think we’re on the little rise of it, now that everyone’s made the legislation quite clear.
Kylie Davis: (10:36)
We’ve kind of bottomed out a little bit, it feels like, doesn’t it? Feels that we can at least breathe again. But that’s really interesting, isn’t it? Because property managers, typically, their job is extraordinarily busy already, with communication, because they are that kind of bottleneck of where all communication needs to go. And then you add X number of additional communications every day because you’ve got something like COVID, what’s it been like, in terms of-
Kylie Davis: (11:03)
Because you’ve got something like COVID, what’s it been like in terms of stress and how the industry’s coped with that?
Kasey McDonald: (11:10)
I’m seeing a vast variety of differences with the clients that I’m dealing with around stress and pressure. Some of it relates to the fact that they haven’t adapted or embraced technology, so they didn’t do that at the beginning phase. So prior even to COVID-19, they may not have made some of those tech changes. They may have researched, but then maybe they sat on their hands and thought, “Oh, we’re okay. Things are plotting along, and it’s all right. Things are working.” COVID-19 came in and they thought, “Wow, my gosh, we’ve got to really make a change now because there’s things that we can’t do.”
Kylie Davis: (11:47)
Kasey McDonald: (11:49)
It was like that. So they’re calling me and saying, “Well, Kasey, what software should we take on? Should we move to this cloud programme. How can we do our inspections? Oh my God, I’ve never done a walkthrough before. What do I do and how do I do it?” So there was those types of challenges and stresses and pressure, which of course now is moving away because becoming the norm.
Kasey McDonald: (12:10)
The pressure and stress was a lot on, how do we keep leasing these homes if we can’t do open for inspections? So really out of the box thinking, but a lot of it did revolve around out of the box. Are you using technology? What tech are you using? Is it still going to be the right tech for you right now? How are you structured? Are your staff going to work from home? So I created a list of all of those types of questions to work through with my clients to say, “Well, let’s start with number one first.” Let’s work out what that solution is going to be before we move to question number two, just to help them through that. Because yeah, there were principals who were very overwhelmed.
Kylie Davis: (12:50)
Kasey McDonald: (12:52)
What do we do? Can we allow staff to work from home? Do we not? How do we keep them accountable? So you can imagine. I just get a phone call and it would be 10 questions all rolled into one. I’d go, “Well, then slow down.” Let’s start marking your [crosstalk 00:13:05]. Yeah, and I’m sure that everyone who’s a trainer and consultant or even peers, I’m sure you’ve received calls from people who certainly do absolutely respect what you do and say, “Kylie, we’d love your advice.”
Kasey McDonald: (13:18)
So some of that, it was that, and it has been that definitely for the last month. And you’re happy to support people who take on board your advice and you really want to continue to support the industry as much as you can through this COVID-19. I think we’re over the hump now, as you said. We’ve bottomed out and we’re now getting back to normal business, and I am seeing that. My clients are now saying, “We haven’t had anyone infected or even contact us about this side of it, so that’s really great. So we’re just continuing with business as normal. But it’s been awesome. We implemented that technology you suggested, because guess what? We’ve had our best leasing month we’ve ever had.”
Kasey McDonald: (14:03)
So I think there’s been some positives that have come out of this. It’s not just, it’s been a negative. That’s what I keep telling them, focus on all of the great things. Focus on the really positive things you’ve changed your business, the efficiency level of your team now, all of that.
Kylie Davis: (14:21)
What do you think before COVID in the property management industry was the level of adoption around cloud based systems?
Kasey McDonald: (14:35)
Good question, but it’s a tricky question.
Kylie Davis: (14:37)
What I’m wanting to understand is, did they swap over? Have we seen a big uptake or move across? Or is the new normal, “Well, we’ve been avoiding changing for a really long time, we’ve been through this flurry of activity, and we’ve added these kinds of things on the top, but we can still keep doing it the way we’ve always done”?
Kasey McDonald: (15:00)
Look, I still do have clients and I know of other businesses that are still using console gateway, desktop programmed, server-based [crosstalk 00:00:15:09]. Obviously, console cloud has now been out for several years. They’re doing great advancements in their programme as well, but people are thinking that right now, they didn’t need to make that change. They’ve been able to set their business up, that staff haven’t needed to work from home. Their office space is big enough, they can still separate for social distancing. So there are some that have adapted that. Some have not allowed staff to work from home, so changing software hasn’t been a thing. I don’t know that it’s actually forced some people to make and embrace the technology change, whereas others, it certainly has. They’ve gone, “You know what? I just think we need to do this because if we don’t, we’ve been sitting on our hands now for 12 months, two years. We probably left it too late, but let’s do it.”
Kasey McDonald: (15:54)
But in some of my conversations with the guys at PropertyMe, they’re obviously still selling and they’re still transitioning people over. But their information to me is that the decision timeframe has been slower than it has prior to COVID-19.
Kylie Davis: (16:12)
Interesting. Do we think that’s because of what, that a pandemic is a bad time to try to change horses? Or what’s the …
Kasey McDonald: (16:22)
I believe or that’s certainly my gut feeling as to why people haven’t wanted to make the change thinking, “Wow, there’s different conversations happening now. Maybe we’re busier than we were before.” Even though we may have reduced things like routine inspection tasks, as in physically driving to properties and doing them, we’re still maybe doing them, but we’re just doing them virtually. But we’re saving 15 minutes each inspection because we’re not having to drive there. So if you bet that 15 minutes, it’s now taken up by 10 telephone calls from concerned landlords.
Kylie Davis: (16:54)
Because we have [inaudible 00:16:54].
Kasey McDonald: (16:55)
So we haven’t saved time as such, but we’ve just got to look at how more effective we can be utilising our time with COVID-19 in play. I think that’s probably where they’ve gone, “Well, we really need to visit this and we need to see if it’s an option for us. But right now, do we need to make the change with so much going on?” My belief is that there will start to be a faster uptake now that things have bottomed out.
Kasey McDonald: (17:22)
We’ve got clear legislation, people are going to know what and how we need to handle it moving forward. I think that’s when they’ll go back and revisit again and say, “Right, what do we need to change now, and effectively change so maybe we can keep staff working from home? Maybe we don’t need an office anymore.”
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Kylie Davis: (18:48)
I’m always been fascinated by property management because it is the part of the real estate business where women congregate, because it is predominantly a female led section of our industry. And the ability to work from home as an employer by allowing your people to work from home when they have to, seems to me to offer an enormous opportunity for the industry to expand and increase who it’s employing and how it’s employing people, and give them access to better people who might be trying to juggle family responsibilities. What do you think around that?
Kasey McDonald: (19:27)
Yeah, look, I totally agree. And I think that some of the changes that we’ve had to make or how we’ve had to embrace new tech and do things differently outside of that box I suppose, I actually believe that moving forward, it’s going to remain the norm. We’ve all got maybe legislation that’s been amended til December. I definitely know that it’s Queensland til December. I’m not exactly sure in the other states, but if we think about it, why now would we change? If what we-
Kylie Davis: (19:56)
Kasey McDonald: (19:57)
… now as a new amendment works, and I’m not specifically talking about legislation, I’m talking about virtual routine inspection. I totally appreciate having been a property manager, that to go into a property and physically having that ear and eye and smell, touch, all of those elements absolutely still plays a part. But it doesn’t mean that we need to be present inside of someone’s walls four times a year.
Kasey McDonald: (20:24)
I’m not sure, so I think it’s going to be in case by case scenario, of course. But if we now have tech that can support us doing 360s, we can edit photos, we can do virtual inspections, all of these elements come together, I think what it’s going to bring back, and Kylie I know that you’ve shared some great stats in workshops you and I have done together before around communication and what really I suppose, landlords tenants and even prospects in our industry think of us, communication is rated really poorly. Or even the way they think of us is rated really poorly. I think this is going to be the chance for us to shine now and say, “We can do things differently, and we don’t need a pandemic in property management to prevent us from actually really managing your investment.” We can make sure it still maintains its value, the tenants are still paying their rent. We can still get maintenance done. It just may be that we do it slightly different now. But it means I can pick the phone up and have conversations, and that’s what I think is going to be the best thing out of this. The service levels should absolutely increase.
Kylie Davis: (21:30)
Yeah. And look, that’s a great point, isn’t it? Because while you may have had 10 landlords that you haven’t spoken to for ages call you because of COVID, you probably have 100 landlords out there who are worried about the same things, but just haven’t had time themselves to call you. And so having a communication strategy that talks to everybody in your database around what you’re doing and what’s happening and what that means for you can really up that, or amp up that level of care that people feel, that you’ve got their backs.
Kasey McDonald: (22:02)
Yeah, I do. I think now is the-
Kylie Davis: (22:03)
People feel that you’ve got their backs.
Kasey McDonald: (22:03)
Yeah. I think now’s the time for us to really step up with that communication strategy and really sit down collectively as a team and go, “Well, what does it look like for us moving forward?” And if we make amendments to our management authorities and present a new structure to our landlords and say, “We now have this great tech and tools and resources. We’ve seen it works through a pandemic, why can’t it work moving forward? So we’re going to do this and this now, instead of just this.” And I think that that’s where different service levels will start to increase. You’ll start to see potentially property managers and agencies fall away because others will just take this leaps and bounds and they will flourish with these changes and others won’t. So we’ll potentially see some rent rolls for sale, I think.
Kylie Davis: (22:56)
And I was really interested and slightly concerned about your comment before that there is this group or a lump of agencies out there who are going, “Oh, no. As long as the office is big enough, we can keep people here and we can hang on to some of these old practises and just do a few things on top to get us through.” What’s the future going to be like for those agencies going forward?
Kasey McDonald: (23:24)
Yeah, that’s a really good question. I mean, I wish I could actually have a crystal ball sometimes, but I think that what’s going to become the norm is tenants who may be in the past haven’t been okay with completing an online application, let’s just use that as one example. So there have been some tenants, regardless of age, and there’s a barrier have gone, “I’m not filling in that form online. I don’t want to do that.” For whatever reason. Now, that’s the only way that they can do it. So, it’s human nature that if we are given multiple options, of course we’re going to take what we believe is easiest for us, right?
Kylie Davis: (24:03)
Kasey McDonald: (24:04)
Now we’re presenting one or two platforms and saying, “Here online, you’ve got one form or you’ve got ten options, or maybe the business has built something in themselves. So there you go. Two options, maybe three, that’s it. But they’re all online. Choose which one?” “Oh, I can’t fill in an application and come to your office?” “No, the office doesn’t exist anymore.” So there’ll just be those types of things that they may struggle with if they are in an area where their clientele have been so used to coming to their office from.
Kylie Davis: (24:35)
Yeah. But I think too what we’re going to see is a gap between low-tech offices and high-tech offices or higher tech offices going forward. And that gap will actually be the talent pool that want to work for them because the best property managers are going to want to work for the agencies that have the best processes and technology in place that lets them focus on the work that’s important and also manage their own lives the best.
Kasey McDonald: (25:07)
Kylie Davis: (25:10)
Yeah. So… Sorry.
Kasey McDonald: (25:10)
[crosstalk 00:25:10] combination, as you said before, I think there will be a combination of that flexibility now, that principals will see that by having those right elements in place, they’ve got the right tools and resources, they’ve got great processes systems, all the staff are really working consistently. So saying to a team member, “Oh, well, you don’t have to come to the office every day, let’s work out what that looks like.” Maybe it’s a Zoom meeting at 9:00 o’clock every morning and every team member must be involved and maybe then it’s a check in at lunchtime, whatever the policies are. But I think it does allow for a little bit of extra balance across the industry in that regard. Less distraction, you can possibly get more work done, therefore, you’re more productive. So, I think we need to now look at some of these things as really positives for our industry.
Kylie Davis: (26:02)
Yeah, fantastic. So, what’s the technology that you’re seeing that is absolutely must-have right now?
Kasey McDonald: (26:10)
I’ll start from the marketing perspective. I definitely am still seeing advertised online, “No walkthrough videos.” I mean, if that’s the absolute minimum that you need to be doing right now, you need to be doing that. We’ve all got phone devices, so we can do walkthrough videos, but I actually believe that they need to take it to that next level, Kylie, and investing in a 360 camera and use your platforms like yourboxbrownie.com. They’ve just released their new platform. That’s a non-subscription based, or you can go to the likes of Virtual Tours Creator with Tom there, he’s got a fantastic product as well. He’s a subscription-based. So you’ve got two products in the market that offer an end result that’s the same, but it’s just how you want to work your business. You’ve got Matterport. So, there’s so many different elements to this, it’s just what’s going to work right for your business.
Kasey McDonald: (27:01)
But at a minimum now, I believe we need to have that. We need to be having floor plans, the best photos, walkthrough videos, 360 videos, but some still have not adapted to that, even with these changes. So, I see that as a concern for the industry moving forward, if you’re not willing to really take that… [SmallTech 00:27:21] … I think that’s really [Monotech 00:27:23], right?
Kylie Davis: (27:25)
Kasey McDonald: (27:25)
That’s making [crosstalk 00:27:26]
Kylie Davis: (27:26)
That’s not going to disrupt you. It’s just to improve this.
Kasey McDonald: (27:28)
… That’s right. And people sitting on their hands and not willing to go and buy a camera for $600. Wow guys, come on. So, that’s the number one point. If you haven’t made that change, you absolutely need to invest in one of those devices and really research the platform that’s going to work best for you. The second thing is that you really need to get off of your server-based trust account programme into the cloud.
Kylie Davis: (27:54)
Please God, do that now.
Kasey McDonald: (27:58)
Now, for some businesses, that’s a big change but it doesn’t have to be if you undertake the right training, you have everyone onboard with that in the initial phases. So it’s not like going, “I’m going to flick your light switch on today and all of a sudden I’ve got a new programme,” have a plan with it and say, “Okay, if 1 July is D-Day, then we’ve got three months now to really embed this, understand that programme, get it set up properly, make sure our data’s correct, tell our clientele how it’s going to work for them.” Instead of on the day that it happens, everyone goes, “Oh my God, I didn’t know how to use it.”
Kylie Davis: (28:40)
And, “It doesn’t work. It’s failing.”
Kasey McDonald: (28:41)
“Looks like [crosstalk 00:28:41] used it before. Where’s [inaudible 00:06:43]” freak out moment. That’s because as an individual, you don’t take the time as a property manager to actually undertake the training yourself, you know?
Kylie Davis: (28:54)
Kasey McDonald: (28:55)
The principle [inaudible 00:28:56] I’m going to give you this great tool and resource so that you’re more efficient in your job. Our clients love what we’re doing from a service perspective, it reduces our expenses, right? So there’s three positive things in this and a property manager just doesn’t, “I don’t care. I’ll just look at that at the day it goes live.” And next minute you go from rest to PropertyMe or PropertyTree and you’re like, “I don’t know how to do anything. Oh my God, how am I going to [inaudible 00:29:19] job today?” You know?
Kylie Davis: (29:23)
Yeah. Change management is something that I think we need to really work on as an industry. It’s a skill that we really need to build some muscle in, I think.
Kasey McDonald: (29:32)
Absolutely. And probably the third tech now that of course that we’re saying, and it’s obviously come out because of COVID-19, is around the digital virtual inspections. And I think that there’s been a lot of our providers who have certainly released great tools around this. Now, you need to research which one’s going to work the most effective for you. If you’re already utilising that programme, then jump on board with what they’re offering you to be able to continue to perform that task for your clients, both landlords and tenants from that point of view.
Kasey McDonald: (30:06)
But I’m really actually liking that tech that’s coming out, that electronic signing, the Queensland book bought out their one touch for their tenancy signing so you don’t specifically have to use DocuSign if you don’t wish to because they’ve built in something into their product now. So, that sort of tech absolutely is going to make you so much more productive and be more efficient, get better results faster. And we’ve got to really take that on board.
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Kylie Davis: (31:40)
Property management is not the only industry that’s been disrupted by all these changes and also COVID, what’s happening in the training space?
Kasey McDonald: (31:51)
Well, very different. Well-
Kylie Davis: (31:53)
Kasey McDonald: (31:54)
… Nervous laugh. Yeah, a lot of the consulting and training I was doing, pushing aside conference and workshop events, was face-to-face interaction in businesses. So it was really working with them on change management. It was supporting them through the transition of one programme to another programme. It was auditing their grant role and really looking at those operational inefficiencies where we… Have they got the right structure? And you can’t do that like this because I can’t see how their business is operating. I can’t sit and listen to conversations that every team member is having. And by me sitting in the space where all the property managers, where I was able to do that, and pick up good conversations, bad conversations, poor communication in regards to email templates, all of those things, so that’s where things have really changed for me because it’s gone from non-face-to-face to now trying to still deliver a service training wise remotely in this way, which is quite difficult-
Kasey McDonald: (33:03)
… wise remotely in this way, which is quite difficult. Even I’ve had people say, “Can you still a rent roll due diligence remotely?” Well, I can look at the data, but there’s things where you need to check in vials. You need to check that management agreement, unless you’ve got everything electronic or can’t do those types of tasks. So yeah, there’s definitely from a training perspective, it’s changed personally for me. So, just had to consider how do I continue to scale my business and look at operational inefficiencies. And that’s where I’ve really worked hard over the last month in conjunction with some of my clients to build their workflows online. So, utilising Trello and… Or if they wanted to use the likes of Airtable, but most of them are starting with Trello because they haven’t experienced it before. So it’s the base level in, and we build all of their workflows for them online.
Kasey McDonald: (33:54)
Then I’m training them on that. I’m making sure their communications right through property MES or property trees, and really supporting them from that front, running their staff meetings for them. So I’m sort of diving in being that support person for the principal a little bit more than probably on the grassroots with the PMs.
Kylie Davis: (34:13)
Right. Because I think it’s… there’s still a role, isn’t there, for a trainer or coach or a consultant to be working with the team on even planning now how you’re going to change in the next couple of months once you through all of this, and working out a change programme.
Kasey McDonald: (34:33)
There absolutely is still a role for us in the industry. And it’s just I suppose how each individual office wishes to see how we fit in. And I appreciate that there are some businesses that may have lost income. So, right now for them, it’s about keeping their staff on board and maybe it’s not about engaging the services of us. However, I still actually feel it’s very valid because we can help them then look at, well, how do we restructure once this is over? How do we make sure we’re keeping all of your team members busy if maybe income’s less, and yes, there’s all of these government incentives, but you are right. There’s still very important role for training trainers, and for you to have that coach.
Kasey McDonald: (35:21)
Sometimes it’s just a matter of venting, Kylie, and you can have a bad day during this. Like I said in the beginning, I have some principals who just call and say, “Oh my God, Kasey, I just don’t know today. I’m really overwhelmed.” And so I’ll just go, “It’s fine. In a brief, tell me what’s happened.” How about I jump in, I’ll organise a quick meeting with the team for the end of the day, and we can all finish on an amazing note. And so just having someone who could just do that for 10 minutes is just even valuable right now.
Kylie Davis: (35:49)
Yeah. Yeah. So, Kasey, what do you think the next five years holds for property management?
Kasey McDonald: (35:55)
I think that the way we’re doing things probably now, or how COVID-19 has forced us to make them positive, I think really positive changes, I don’t think these changes have been negative for our industry. In fact, I think we should have been doing them a long time ago. I think that that’s what will be the new norm for us. I do believe that we’ll move away from office fronts for property management, and it will allow that flexibility to work from home. There will be still those accountability levels, of course, but because everything’s online, we will be able to be more transparent across what we’re doing.
Kasey McDonald: (36:33)
I feel sometimes there’s an element now where we can maybe still hide things and put it under the carpet and move it to the corner and pretend we did it, but we didn’t really do it. Whereas once we’re all in the Cloud and everything’s online, it’s very transparent. So I feel that that’s what’s going to happen and will continue to happen. It’s going to see those, as you indicated before, that aren’t willing to really go on this ride, they’ll move out of the industry, whether that’s staff, business owners, et cetera. So it’s going to allow for more opportunities for those who really want to be successful in this position.
Kylie Davis: (37:12)
Yeah. And it really is sort of the shakedown, isn’t it, where we get to test and learn about what works in tech, and adopt some of the best tech and, and then match it when we’re all allowed to meet again with some of the best of the human practises and come up with something much stronger, right?
Kasey McDonald: (37:30)
Yeah. And I think it’s that collaboration that will need to certainly happen. You know, I don’t think there’ll be conferences, et cetera for the rest of this year. We’ve probably all come to terms with that, but we’ll all be all itching to get to one in 2021.
Kylie Davis: (37:44)
Conference attendance going to go through the roof in 2021.
Kasey McDonald: (37:46)
But what’s going to happen is exactly that. I think that’s what it will be. “Right. What did everyone do in 2020? What tech did you use? How did it work? Why not? How? And then what human touch did you have? How do we look at bringing that all together to be creating even better systems and processes for our property management divisions? Or the industry as a whole, I think.” That’s what we’ll probably see it at conference events, that really looking into the future, and those that will attend will be those that really want to continue to move their businesses in that way. Those that don’t will always sit on their hands in regards to this type of thing.
Kylie Davis: (38:30)
Yeah. And so look, it would be remiss if we’d had a conversation about tech in real estate and didn’t just touch briefly on AI. Is AI a step too far at the moment for most property managers or what’s your view around AI and property management?
Kasey McDonald: (38:44)
Oh, look, I think so. I think it’s how we view AI. There’s certain levels of automation that’s already in play in some of our programmes that we’re using. I think it’s what tasks or what elements of AI is potentially built in. So, I would know that if I was a BDM right now in the industry and I could have the likes of RiTA with the fantastic Sarah Bell, I just absolutely loved that lady. But if I could have that in the background and it was just pushing me, okay, you got to call this person today. And I didn’t have to remember, there was all of that, those extra elements that were happening behind the scenes and all I physically needed to do was pick the phone up and confirm that appointment, or physically talk to that client.
Kasey McDonald: (39:35)
I do believe I would be far more successful as a BDM than what I was back 10 years ago, even. So I think it’s as to what stage. I definitely think growth from a growth perspective right now, it really plays a part. But if then we can look at the automation inside of some of our programmes, because I still know people aren’t using the automation inside of PropertyMe. They’ve got all of their emails sitting in hold and it goes to an outbox, So at the end of the day they go and send them all. It wasn’t built for that reason. You shouldn’t use the programme if that’s how you’re going to use it. So, I think it’s probably more so that property managers don’t really understand it.
Kylie Davis: (40:17)
We need to learn to manage the exceptions rather than trying to manage all the rules, don’t we? Which comes into that change management conversation.
Kasey McDonald: (40:26)
Yeah. Well I think looking at all of what you use and going, right. What can we automate? What tasks do we still physically need to do as people? And you know, it’s that, that I probably think people should really sit down and do. Then getting contact with the likes of Sarah and say, “Hey, what can RiTA do to help us? This is where we think we need to automate in our business, can RiTA support that?”
Kylie Davis: (40:50)
Yeah. Fantastic. Kasey McDonald. It’s been fantastic talking to you. All the best I’m getting through COVID-19. Big shout out to everyone. You need training more than ever, and you need coaching more than ever at this time. It’s not the time to scale back. It’s the time to lean in. So thank you so much for your time.
Kasey McDonald: (41:08)
You’re very welcome. Thank you for having me and you as well, stay safe.
Kylie Davis: (41:14)
So that was Kasey McDonald and I really enjoyed this conversation and the exploration of the issues that are affecting property management right now. It has been an extraordinarily challenging time. And despite the fact that we’re all pretty exhausted and just want to rest, now is actually the time when we need to lean in to the changes that are being demanded of us. We still have a little bit to go. We are always at risk of delaying change in our business because we think the time is not right, but the time to change is never perfect. And you never know when a global pandemic or something else major, completely out of your control, is going to sideswipe you. So the best we can do is to get our own house order so that we address everything we can control, and that we’re well positioned for the external events that we can’t control.
Kylie Davis: (42:03)
Now, if you’re a PM working in a legacy business, do whatever you can now, as we come out of COVID-19, to make your principal understand the importance of upgrading property management inside your agency. It’s my really passionate belief that highly capable property management teams are going to be the heart and soul of real estate agencies over the next few years. They are the powerhouses of sales leads. They will drive new revenue streams and excellent customer experiences for renters and investors, but they can only do that if they’re working at optimum efficiency and peak performance.
Kylie Davis: (42:40)
So PM’s, you are not an add on to the sales function of the business. It’s time for us all to lean in and step up. And as Kasey said, it’s our time to shine. So now if you have enjoyed this episode of the PropTech Podcast, I would love you to tell your friends or drop me a line either via email LinkedIn or on our Facebook page. You can follow this podcast on Spotify, Google Podcast, Anchor and Apple iTunes. I’d like to thank my audio support Charlie Hollins. And this week Sam Holland, the fabulous Jill Escudero, and our sponsors Direct Connect, making moving easy, and HomePrezzo turning your data into amazing marketing content. And don’t forget to check out the free content HomePrezzo’s offering to agents to support your digital marketing. So thanks everyone. Stay safe until next week. Keep on PropTeching.