Under the Hood, Part II: The ‘No Property Left Behind’ System
Don’t worry, there are no standardized tests here — just accountability done right.
Continuing this month’s theme of ‘behind the scenes at Royal Rose Properties,’ we’re going to give you a glimpse this week into the system that Royal Rose Properties uses to make sure that every property gets attention when it needs it.
But First, A Word about Western Australia
Quietly, and unbeknownst to most everyone in the US, the property management industry has exploded over the past several years in western Australia. When we looked carefully into why, we found that the boom coincided with a very unusual partner: the rise of the Business Process Consultant industry. In fact, there are Business Process Consultants in western Australia that exclusively serve property management companies!
A Business Process Consultant is literally someone who has the job of telling a business how they could make their processes better. Well, we read some pretty scathing research that showed that many BPCs don’t actually do much besides inspire a business to look at their own processes, and we decided to skip the part where we pay someone hundreds of dollars an hour and just step back and look at where our own processes could be improved from the get-go.
What we discovered was that the most common reason our owners were getting aggravated with us was that relatively minor events like “someone is on vacation” too-often resulted in some property-related event or status change going unnoticed , which in turn resulted in the property slipping between the cracks because there was no one around to re-notice it. Thus, the “No Property Left Behind” (NPLB) system was born.
How It Works
The property management software we use, PropertyWare, allows us to create all different kinds of custom fields We’ve leveraged this powerful feature into an almost insane number of custom tracking fields and corresponding reports. So many in fact, that we got the attention of Propertyware and they invited one of our owners to speak at PropertyWare’s annual conference about using custom fields.
The software side of our NPLB system is comprised of four custom fields:
- The “Status” field, which is limited to one of several generic statuses, like ‘In Maintenance’ or ‘Needs Inspection,”
- The “Notes” field, which is used to add relevant details to the Status field but more importantly is used to record what is supposed to happen next for each property,
- The “Last Checked On” field, which is for dates only, and tells anyone looking exactly when the property was last examined by the person doing NPLB tracking, and
- The “Check Back On” field, which is for dates only, and tells the person doing NPLB tracking when they need to check back on the property’s status.
The genius of the system comes with PropertyWare’s ability to create reports using custom fields as data. Every day, our NPLB tracking person logs on and immediately runs the report of all properties that don’t have happy tenants living in them, and then sorts that report by Check Back On date. Instantly, all properties that need to be checked up on that day rise to the top. And every day, that day’s entire list of check-back-today properties is (surprise!) checked on.
What a ‘Check’ Looks Like
The NPLB checker examines the Status and Notes fields, and determines what the next expected step was for the property. Then, they check the property’s Conversation Log (a PropertyWare feature that records discussions between the owners, tenants, vendors, and staff) to see if there has been any unexpected developments with the property since the last check-in.
Based on that information, they determine whether or not the property has made a satisfactory amount of progress since the last check-in. If it has, they set the Status and Notes fields appropriately, copy that day’s date into the Last Checked On field, and determine an appropriate Check Back Date.
If the property hasn’t been progressing to their satisfaction (we’ll discuss what that means in a moment), they figure out where the holdup is, and they send an alert to whatever department is in charge of eliminating that holdup. For example, if we’re waiting for a contractor to come back with a bid on a work order, the Maintenance Department gets an email saying “Hey, please ask this contractor how long it will take for them to get us a bid.” Or if we’re waiting on an owner to approve that bid, the Marketing Department gets an email saying “Hey, please remind this owner that we can’t proceed without their approval.” Then the four fields are updated, and the next property in line gets checked up on.
How We Determine a Check-Back Date
That leaves the last outstanding question of “How do you determine an appropriate check-back date?” There is no hard-and-fast answer to that question, because circumstances are naturally unique to each property. But a crucial part of the NPLB system is the (ongoing) creation of a Generic Expected Timeline, which looks something like this:
This timeline gives each stage of the process a barely-reasonable minimum number of days to get completed — which means it also gives the NPLB tracker a reasonable minimum number of days to wait before checking back on a property. Obviously, circumstances may cause significant variance in individual check-back dates, but the timeline is a vital ‘default’ to use to make sure properties are being take care of at the most efficient (barely-)reasonable rate.
With the No-Property-Left-Behind system in place, Royal Rose Properties is admittedly still far from perfect — but we have a lot fewer aggravated calls from owners, and that added level of efficiency and service to our clients is worth all the effort and more!