SIG Property Management – Hire Smart Virtual Assistants
In this episode of Company Spotlight, we feature SIG Property Management and Kyle shares with us about his company and how they are using virtual staff.
Feel free to book an appointment with today so I can help you strategize all throughout the process!
Anne: Good morning everybody, and HighSmart VAs, potential clients, as well as clients. I want to introduce you to Kyle Scott. He’s the operation manager at SIG Property Management, which was founded in 1991 with the intent of becoming a provider of world class service in property management. I love that he’s in our industry, and I love that they’ve been a client for a while. Part of what their innovative business model integrates customer service, which management disciplines. So we’re gonna talk a little bit about that; Kyle’s going to give us a little insight. Really what does that mean? He’s gonna pull back the curtain a little bit.
One of the things that I love about SIG Property Management is that they have kind of a goal to give their owners and residents the ultimate property management experience. I want to talk about what does that mean. What is that ultimate experience, and how do they do that? I always ask this question in anybody that I interview, because I always think it’s so super important. But when I ask Kyle to tell me what were they most proud of, or what was it that that kind of was the hallmark of SIG Property Management, he had said to gain as an active member of the community that they serve. So they obviously give back to the community. Then they have 800 doors and they’re growing like weeds, so I love that.
So Kyle, welcome. Thank you so much for being here. Why don’t you just go ahead and do a little bit more of an introduction or kind of explain some of what I talked about.
Kyle: Yeah, no, absolutely. You mentioned that we were growing, and we definitely are. We just actually passed 800 doors. We definitely are proud of being a very local resource for local landowners. We basically have been, like you said, in Glendale since 1981, so that’s 28 years. We’re very proud of our local presence. We’re members or affiliates of all the local Chambers of Commerce, all the different local chapters of NARPM and associations like that. We have a standing booth at our local Oktoberfest every year. We pride ourselves in being able to be members of the community and then being experts in the industry in the areas that we service as well.
Anne: You said you were a member of NARPM, because some of our clients may not be NARPM members. What has been the value of being an NARPM member to your organization?
Kyle: The biggest thing about NARPM is the exchange of information. If you’re not a member of NARPM, it’s super easy to join. There’s major chapters all over the country. But the benefit basically … Let’s say we have a meeting every month and we have different guest speakers on different aspects of the business. So we have the opportunity to hear from the bankers from the banks that represent us, or we have different people from different property management companies who maybe will talk about things that maybe you’re not used to. We don’t really work a lot with section eight, but we’ll have somebody come and speak about section eight. So that maybe there’s something that you don’t know a lot about, and then you can … If I have experience … For example, I have experience with VAs now. I may be able to go speak about it at NARPM and then other people who don’t know how that works can kind of learn from somebody else who’s doing the same thing that they do, sometimes in the same way that they do.
You can be with a management company with thousands of doors or just a couple of hundred doors, and the takeaways can be the same. So it’s a good resource, and it’s just nice networking as well. Like I said, like-minded people doing the same things you’re doing, facing the same challenges. There’s plenty of business to go around for property management, so it’s not like it’s cut throat competition. There’s a lot of collaboration, there’s a lot of, “How do you do this? How do you do that?” So it’s been a real benefit for us.
Anne: Yeah. I think it’s funny, because I’m a member of NARPM not only as an affiliate but as a professional member as well. NARPM’s probably one of the only organizations that I’ve been a part of where literally helping your competition is normal. Because we all have a different flavor or a different way we look at it or a different geography. Even if you’re in the same chapter, we just always feel like collectively we do better than just being a solopreneur out on our own. So I appreciate your take on that.
Kyle: Yeah. We had a speaker tell us a rising tide raises all ships, and that’s true. In property management, sometimes there’s a view from people that aren’t familiar with property management, that it’s like, “Oh, property managers and I don’t want to get into all that.” But something like only like 30% of properties that are susceptible to property management even consider property management, so there’s all these people out there that aren’t even thinking about using it for whatever reason. Maybe they don’t know it exists, or maybe they just aren’t confident in it. So if we can improve on the confidence issue, if we can all help each other have people realize that this is probably a good thing for them, then everybody can benefit from that.
Anne: Absolutely. Totally agree with that.
Let’s kind of turn it back to your organization. Love the fact that you’re in the community. I think that’s a great sales strategy, in addition just to being good business. I love that about you. But tell us a little bit more about kind of your strengths in the market, and then we want to kind of talk a little bit about how you’re structured.
Kyle: Okay. All right. Well again, I think our major strength in the market is that we’ve been right here, so we know the types of clientele, we know the area, we know the types of renters that are going to be applying for different types of properties in different areas. A lot of it is just, like I said, being the resource for somebody who’s local. Most of our property owners live right here. We have a large section of people that live in Sunland-Tujunga. We have a lot of properties up there. Most of the owners from Sunland-Tujunga live in Sunland-Tujunga.
We do have some owners that are across the country. But we know that people feel comfortable working with people who are next door, who are close to their property. So, knowing the area and knowing sort of the intricacies of the area is maybe our strong point. That with the fact that we have strived to work with the best management software there is, with the best people that there are qualified staff really, I think, gives us an edge.
Anne: Let’s talk a little bit about your company and the structure. How many people do you have managing those 800 doors?
Kyle: We currently have four property supervisors. Our units that we manage are single family homes, and then multifamily properties as well. So one supervisor may handle about 150 doors. Another may handle about 250 doors; around there. As we’re growing, we’re looking to have them handle more doors, which is where different types of technology and VAs come in handy.
Anne: Well, that sounds great. How has having virtual staff changed or improved your business? What have you seen?
Kyle: Well, we originally thought about doing a VA because we thought, well, we have a lot of tasks that are taking a lot of time from property supervisors. We have the property supervisors; we want them to be present at the properties. We wanted to give the clients the attention that they need. But along with that, there’s just some busy work in the office. So we thought, okay, well we can give some of these admin functions over to a VA.
But actually what we started doing … The VA that we have from HireSmart VAs actually handles our entire application process right now. Everybody who applies to one of our units is over 18 fills out an application. That actually goes to … Can I say her name?
Kyle: That goes to Ellie, and Ellie immediately actually starts working with all their information. If we get an application and it’s not complete, she’s reaching out, she’s collecting documents, she’s verifying the documents, she’s processing all that information. Then she’s actually giving us a full report on each tenant. So, we get an application in and then she works, and then the next thing you know, we have an entire report on an applicant and we can make a decision on whether or not we want to approve them based on that.
There are automatic services that do that. AppFolio even has a function that helps you do that. But this gives us the opportunity to have an actual person with actual reasoning capabilities to take a look. It’s not just a formula. Everything is being considered, and we know that because she does consistently solid work.
Anne: Well, that’s fabulous. You know, it’s interesting because obviously I support VAs in all areas of the property management business. It’s interesting to me to see kind of … It goes in waves of what people want. Actually, my monthly office hours is going to be on establishing an application process and protocol. That’s actually going to be this month’s topic, because I think people are utilizing them not as well in that area as they could. And so I love the fact that you are an expert in that and you’ve got that nailed down. Because there are, I think, people that are struggling with that, and I’m not really sure why. So I figured I would just drill down and share how we do it in our office, because Bonnie in my office also does application processing. Now, we still outsource the credit and some of the other functions. But again, just document collection and verification is a huge time if you do it properly.
Kyle: Absolutely. It requires focus. I mean look, our owners want their properties to be treated well, and they want to be treated well. But they also want to know that they have really good tenants inside their properties. Supervisors are dealing with 200 doors. We can’t have their attention split too far away from any given thing. We want good quality attention given to all these different areas, so by moving this particular process over to a VA, it’s making us sure of that process and then it’s also giving them the time that they need to work on the other processes they have to keep everybody happy and make sure the quality is still always perfect.
Anne: So that’s Ellie’s primary role. Does she do anything else in your organization?
Kyle: Well, yeah she does. I mean, she’ll keep track of property insurances. Are property insurances going to expire? She keeps track of utility usage. We monitor like water usage at all of our properties to see if there’s a spike and there may be a leak or something that somebody doesn’t even know to report. She does a number of other administrative … She even helps do some of the paperwork for our sales process as well, because we do real estate sales too. She’s able basically to fill in the blanks. Time to time, I’ll have a project where I want an Excel sheet thrown together and I don’t have the time to sit down and do it. I’ll just ask Ellie, and within a certain time she’ll come up with something. She’s very dedicated and helps us out anywhere you want to put her basically.
Anne: Well, that’s great. I always love to hear that. Like I said, I say that all the time because that’s how I feel about my virtual staff. But I love it when our clients are that engaged and embrace the movement, I call it.
What was kind of the biggest a-ha moment that you had with your virtual staff? I mean, what was it that you went, “Wow, I’m so glad I did this”?
Kyle: Well, like I said, I think when we initially took her on, it was … Well, we needed some sort of regular admin tasks taken care of. We were trying to like get it off … I mean, there wasn’t a, say, computer program to do it. So I thought, well, we want somebody kind of working in the background. The original intention, because she was halfway around the world, was that, okay, well she’s obviously going to just be working in the background.
But I guess your a-ha moment would be once she started kind of … Every time you gave her a task, she was very good about coming back with feedback about how she would’ve done it or suggestions for improvement. Then our confidence in her grew more and more. We were actually working with another company that actually handled application processing all together, and it was a group of people. There was a team of people working on the applications. But their consistency and their quality was not up to standard. I would have to jump in every time anyway and say, “You missed this, you missed that.” We basically moved it on over to Ellie, thinking that she had the time, she had the dedication. I guess the a-ha moment was sort of the realization that she wasn’t just this person working in the background. She was an actual member of the team who actually brought reason and thought and dedication to the role. So rather than thinking of her as a VA or somebody who works in the background, she’s very much a member of the team.
Anne: I love to hear that, because I always tell people, the more you change your mindset of the fact that this is a team member, the fact that they’re located outside of your office should have no bearing. Right? The more you meet with that person, the more the relationship develops, the more time you invest in that relationship, the better return you’re going to actually have. That’s, I think probably for me, one of the challenges I have in trying to work with a new client, is saying to them, “Treat them just like you would any other team member.” “How do I train them?” “Just like you would any team member.”
Kyle: Yeah, no, exactly. Yeah.
Anne: You’re doing it on your computer. They’re able to see your computer. The technology that’s available these days is amazing. So thank you for that.
You shared a little bit about the impact that Ellie’s had on your company. Clearly you’ve had a cost savings, not only just from an employee standpoint because your labor rates are higher, but of course it costs you. But you’ve actually replaced a vendor that you were working as well, so that cost of that monthly outlay of cash that you had, you were able to kind of offset that.
One of the biggest things too … And again, when people are just kind of getting started with virtual staff or maybe they’re a younger organization, not as mature as yours, not have as many doors … I had this conversation yesterday, and they’re like, “Well I just don’t know that I’m ready for somebody full time.” I said, “Well obviously, how many doors do you have?” Because that’s a kind of a metrics there. They were a fairly shy … I think they only had 40 or 50 doors. I said, “So you have some options. You can go to a call center type environment and get the task done and pay.” When you’re small, that makes sense to some degree. Because again, most of them charges a dollar per door or some amount of per door. We have smaller doors; your cost may be less than what it is to pay for the recruiting and training and all the screening that I do, plus then the hourly rate.
But there comes a point in time in your business where you are going to be limited, and it becomes more expensive to use all these different providers rather than bringing in that dedicated team member.
Kyle: Yeah, yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Anne: Thank you for bringing that up. What would be the one piece of advice that you would give another business owner who’s kind of on the fence about whether they should use a full time dedicated virtual staff or not? Kind of, what would you tell them?
Anne: If your pain point is dealing … I mean, our pain point really was dealing with the amount of time that was being dedicated on certain tasks when the person that we had is qualified to do other things. Like you said, as you grow, the rent increase process. You got 50 doors. Going through your 50 doors and assessing rents for each of that will take you a couple of hours. You got 800 doors, there needs to be an actual process from top to bottom about how you’re systematically going to go through and do all of that work. Then so somebody needs to be on top of that process. Somebody needs to lend time and attention to that process. Then there’s just like the physical work that goes along with it.
With a virtual assistant, they can’t mail out notices, but they can do everything to prepare it so that you’re doing the actual work that you’re qualified to do. I say a surgeon, for example … They don’t prep the patient. You know what I mean? They don’t sterilize the equipment. They have a nurse prep the equipment. They have a nurse sterilize the equipment. They go in, they do what they’re good at, and then they leave, and then the nurse continues to go ahead and finish up the process.
So we have licensed real estate agents who are qualified to take a look at market rates and assess market rates. Well, that’s what they need to get in and get and get done. Then there’s no reason why you can’t outsource that other work to be done and ready to go, so that when somebody just comes in, all they need to do is take a list of … They put in their specialized work. But somebody needs to prep now that work that they’re looking at. We’ve found that having a virtual assistant do that saves us in the office a lot of time. Also there’s a cost-saving element to it as well, because you could be paying somebody much more than that, and then you feel more of a need to pressure them to find things to do around the office, and you end up giving people more busywork than anything sometimes. So you have a full-time employee here filled with busy work because you’re trying to get them things to do. Whereas you’ve got a VA over there who’s completely dedicated and working on those functions for you all the time.
Anne: Thank you so much for that. As far as the HireSmart process, you went through the hiring process. Share with our listeners a little bit about how hard or how easy was that process. Do you even remember? It’s been a while.
Kyle: I remember. I remember, because it was the first time we did it. I remember that we talked to you about generally what we were looking for, and I think your process was you brought us three different people that we sort of interviewed in succession. It was much easier because … Well, our interview process, to be totally honest, we’re maybe a little too thorough and we’ll do multiple rounds of interviews. It takes us quite a while to find the right person that we’re looking for. But I think that we focus on things, we focus on certain details. You were focusing on sort of those details for us. So when it came time for us to interview, we basically just had to kind of pick the … We already knew they were qualified, we already knew they passed your test. We already knew they were going to get training in property management. So really it was just about the person that we felt like we jelled with the most. You know what I mean? Then so we did; we picked the person that we just kind of like working with the most, knowing that the qualifications were already there.
We felt like it was super simple. It was fun, actually. Interviews can be really sort of … Like, I always kind of dread it. Then the person gets there, and then if it’s a good person, cool. If it’s not, you feel like, what did I get myself into? But in your case though, it was fun. We just met three nice people, and we met the one that we thought worked best with us, and she’s worked out great.
Anne: When you’re looking to hire locally, what’s the timeframe that it would take you to find that … To go through that process?
Kyle: Well, I mean, you’ve got to put out ads. If you’re putting it on Craigslist or Indeed, you’re sorting through tens and dozens and dozens of resumes. You’re looking for different hit points. Then you have to whittle them down, and then you have to schedule them, get them in. We’re looking at a week of interviews. That’s time from our company, away from the company that we’re not spending. Then like I said, and then we usually do a second round of interviews too. So we’re looking at a couple of weeks’ worth of time that is just lost searching for someone. Ideally it ends up with somebody who works well for your team. But there’s a lot of time and effort put into that. So this process was exponentially simpler than a regular employee.
Anne: Yeah, because we can get people and have client interview set up in seven to 10 days. Sometimes it takes them a little longer to schedule based on their schedule. But I mean, I am ready in seven to 10 days to at least put the candidates out there.
Kyle: Right. But you know what though? Maybe I could get that done faster, but I’d spend a lot of my time and effort doing it. Like I said … Okay fine, the time went by. I was still able to do my work. When you were ready, we came and we met and we were able to talk to the right people.
Anne: And it took less than two hours, right?
Kyle: Oh, yeah. It was only a half an hour per, right? Yeah, exactly. That was it.
Anne: So that’s the other win.
Well, is there any piece of advice that you’d like to add, Kyle? Anything else that you would want to share with either other property managers or business owners? Just in general and/or specifically regarding virtual staff.
Kyle: Well like I said, virtual staff has worked out well for us. Our VA, actually, was employee of the month last month. We really do; we think of them as a member of the team. And I think that’s the trick.
Anne: It is.
Kyle: Because you can’t just look at them as background work. You have to make the effort to make them included, make sure the rest of the office knows that they’re included as a part of the team as well, and to value their work. I mean, sometimes I feel bad. She’s halfway around the world, and I see everybody else day to day and we see each other face to face, and she’s over there just kind of sitting there doing her work. So sometimes it’s a struggle. You have to make sure to reach out and maintain that contact. But when you do, I mean, the return is really good.
So I guess my advice if you hire one is make the time initially to make sure that they’re trained properly. Because if you train them properly then … Just like any other employee, it all starts with proper training and education. Make sure you’re set up for it. Video’s great, because I’m a face to face type of person. So make sure you have that capability. And then-
Anne: It’s free to use Skype. I mean, again, there’s Google Hangouts, there’s Skype. There’s so much technology.
Kyle: It’s totally easy. We didn’t have one before, like a webcam before. We just purchased one; it was 40 bucks or whatever. So make sure you do that.
Then yeah, as far as whether to make a decision or not to, like I say, it’s been nothing but a positive for us. It’s a positive face and presence in the office doing lots of work for you that it’s going to be super beneficial.
Anne: Well, thank you so much for your time, Kyle. I do want to echo what he said. One of the things I’ve been kind of preaching out for the last probably nine months is having those regular video meetings with your staff, all of them. All your remote staff. I started doing that almost about a year ago, and it has literally changed the dynamics. Because again, you get to know them, the personal. You get to be there. They also know that that time for my team is a dedicated time that I’m focused on them and whatever it is that they need. So they come to covet that time, and that also means I have less interruptions because they know they have that time with me so they don’t need to kind of ping me unnecessarily. They know if it can wait, it can wait and I’ll give them my full and undivided attention. So I love the fact that you also do that with your team members.
Anne: Well anyway, I want to say thank you again, Kyle, for being with us. If anyone wants to get in touch with Kyle, the information on how to do that is going to be as part of this video. But thank you so much, Kyle, and have a great rest of your day.
Kyle: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.