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Sarah Bell, Bridging the divide

Once Sarah Bell from Brad Bell Real Estate in Upper Mt Gravatt in Queensland applied the forensic investigation skills she had developed in a previous role to real estate, she came up with a new way of conducting business. She brought the two tribes – property management and sales – together.

Sarah started with the property management side of the business because she, “saw so many opportunities, not just within our office but within the industry, to do things better.” Property managers must in Sarah’s opinion, “have business acumen so you can speak to investors about profit and advise them about risk so that the profit is protected.”

She continues, “You also need to understand that those properties are just properties unless there’s people in them. So property management has got so much less to do with physical properties than it has to do with people and relationships.” Those relationships carry through to the sales division, so Sarah set out to break down the division between sales and property management tribes.

Sarah says, “When you’ve got a divide between your areas of operation, between your sales and your property management departments, you will have an inevitable divide in the teams, in the people.” She believes that if that division exists in a real estate office, a lot of business and cash falls through that divide.

Transitioning from the old division to a holistic approach required commitment from everyone in the business. Further it had to be understood that property management and sales are separate operations. Sarah explains, “Sales teams work extensive hours and it’s not intense all the time, whereas the property management team work intensely during business hours. They work on salaries, not commission. Their currency is conflict. If you understand the differential ways that they operate and the differential ways that those operations contribute to the revenue of the business, then what was a divide becomes a synapse and it’s a very smooth transition across those operations.”

Both parts of the business however, need to understand the other and know that they are in the long game together. Sarah explains, “A property manager should be able to speak wisely about what’s happening in the sales market. A salesperson should be able to speak professionally about where a property might sit in the rental market, what enquiry is like at the moment, where enquiry is likely to be in 30 days when it settles, based on last year’s data. And once you start doing that, then the perception of your credibility in the marketplace goes up and you’re actually being valuable to your customers - that can’t do anything but perpetuate the credibility of the brand in the marketplace. So it’s in every business owner’s interest to educate their staff holistically about the business of property.”

Property management has got so much less to do with physical properties than it has to do with people and relationships.

Sarah says that right at the beginning, they conducted a detailed survey that asked their team, ‘Do you perceive anyone is treated as a favourite in this business? Do you think that the property management team contributes equally?’. As she explains, “The answers that came back from that blew our minds, really, about the source of this divide.”

From the survey, Sarah gained perspective and cross-educated the team about what each person and what each team was up against as far as market conditions and working processes and expertise.

Properties are just properties unless there’s people in them.

Sarah says, that after looking at how they do business, “We saw that there were four main groups that we do business with: home owners, buyers, landlords and tenants.” By abandoning the silo model and working together, the business was able to expand the opportunity for potential clients to engage with the office as a whole. Sarah explains, “For example, a buyer comes through an open home and they’re looking to buy an investment property. They don’t buy that property that you had for sale in your business. Normally that’s a divide, they just fall through that and they become a client of another office.”

She continues, “But if you capture them as a buyer and you can engage them with your business development program and you engage them as a landlord - which is what they’re ultimately going to be - and you assist them to become a landlord, whether or not they buy a property from you, you’re top of mind and you’ve helped them and they then become engaged into your business as a landlord. Then there’s their exit strategy for their investment property and, if you’ve engaged them well as a landlord, then suddenly they’re a seller.”

Sarah explains, “Staying relevant and being helpful means that we’re top of mind at that decision making point.”

Brad Bell Real Estate Property Management Team

Sarah and her husband own the business and they are very hands-on in the property management department.

They have:

  • An operations manager who is more of a frontline manager
  • A specialised leasing consultant because vacancy is the number one killer
  • A routine inspections and maintenance officer who handles the on-site tasks at a property during the life cycle of the tenancy
  • A senior property manager at the vacate because the vacate is crucial.

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Sarah Bell, Bridging the divide