Amanda Coupe and Mica Hopkins discuss how property management is evolving, and what it takes to provide and maintain award-winning service as Stream’s portfolio of assignments continues to grow.
Evolving Service Delivery
Property Management (PM) has evolved, becoming more sophisticated over the years. Today PM teams are comprised of talented professionals who are, essentially, the CEO of their buildings. They are financial experts, building technicians, health and safety stewards, sustainability drivers, and service-oriented relationship builders—whose hard work contributes to delivering the optimal experience.
At its heart, excellent PM service is achieved by optimizing tenancy, maintaining the entire ecosystem of a building, and controlling costs — all while enhancing financial returns.
Key Elements to Success in Property Management
Whether managing a single building or a large portfolio, you must have a clear focus to deliver service that differentiates in a crowded field of commoditized offerings.
- The right people
- A robust platform
- Strong company culture
- Technologies that differentiate
- Commitment to service
The Right People
In any service-based business, people are what differentiate one experience from the next. On the PM side of commercial real estate, that means you must hire, coach, support, and retain teams of smart, patient, friendly, and skilled professionals. Every interaction is important and a chance for a positive connection, from meeting with the owner to chatting with the person cleaning the lobby.
PM roles can be very demanding. Providing support, resources, and clear communications with team members is essential to support staff and minimize turnover. And opportunities for career growth are critical to retaining talent. Organizations that are meritocratic and promote from within, based on ability and capability, provide career paths and growth opportunities. By identifying when individuals are ready for a challenge, taking the next step to provide growth, and move on to a bigger or more complex assignment, you provide opportunities for career development and retention. To achieve staff loyalty, you must focus on keeping professionals happy, appropriately challenged, and engaged in their work.
When you are winning new assignments, servicing those assignments well means you are always hiring, and recruiting becomes a full-time job. Therefore, we always recommend investing in the right talent and people who are poised for long-term growth. Low staff turnover is achieved by hiring the best and brightest, coaching, supporting, and empowering them to do their best work. Aside from the widely recognized cost of staff turnover, disruption in service delivery will lead to internal and client frustrations.
Hire and retain the right people—because, in any service-based business, people are what differentiates one experience and company from the next.
A Robust Platform
Managing multiple properties across multiple markets allows some efficiencies and economies of scale—if you have a solid platform to build on. Cross-market collaboration, communication, and working in the same systems on the same platform provide efficiency for teams and continuity for clients. To be of benefit, the platform must provide integrated services like centralized accounting and reporting, automated work order systems, scheduling, and maintenance.
Although a solid platform is essential, it is also important to remain flexible in processes. Balancing the provision of greater efficiency with the ability to remain nimble and responsive to client requirements, market shifts, and demand drivers—which often change over time—ensures service excellence and relevance for the client and their environment.
Strong Company Culture
When company leaders create a consistent, well-defined, and united culture that encourages support and growth, employees are far more likely to be committed to the organization’s purpose in their daily work. It is important to understand that building and cultivating a strong culture has positive effects on productivity, employee retention, and the overall quality of service delivery.
For property managers, working in partnership with the owners and investors of the assets you manage, to deliver on objectives, is critical. A culture of empowerment allows professionals to do the right thing for clients and assets. For example, if a team member sees an issue or identifies an opportunity for the building, the team, or the client, having the ability to make team-level decisions in real-time can deliver great success. Empowerment to act, without the need to wade through multiple layers of approvals to make the right decision for the asset benefits the client.
Our advice: Don’t let issues languish, spot challenges before clients do, and always stay one step ahead in creating solutions.
Clients should see the result—a polished and seamless operation or outcome. When empowered to be creative and innovative, you’re always working to improve, solve, and resolve challenges that elevate service. What clients and tenants see are solutions not problems—a finished service delivering with a sincere smile.
We recommend celebrating the big wins and the small. Recognize team member success with internal announcements and social media posts when someone’s gained a designation, received recognition or continued to perform above and beyond. Those achievements can be celebrated to recognize people—in the moment—for the outstanding work they do every day. What PM teams do every day, how they make tenants feel—that’s the simple but often overlooked magic in this business.
Technologies that Differentiate
We anticipate continued strides in technology applications, modernizing and advancing PM applications in line with others.
Technology helps us communicate operational updates and building performance, allowing you to monitor and report on objectives and goals such as sustainability targets in reducing energy usage. Applications like customized property-specific applications further encourage tenant engagement and improve their overall experience by making programming in the building even more fluid and available. Technology in property management creates efficiencies and advancements, rather than replacing any of the services our teams provide.
Technology is so much part of our lives, with our iPhones and other devices, we all expect a high level of connectivity. If your phone is in your pocket, why can’t you use it to open your office door, call the elevator, or pay for garage parking? Soon these applications will be mainstream in many office environments.
Tenant expectations for convenience and technology integrations will continue to advance, especially in downtown office buildings, and Covid-19 has accelerated the process. With people preferring non-touch surfaces in the buildings, the ability to open doors or turn on taps by just waving their hands, there are lots of options to upgrade in line with those preferences.
There is no way that you can replace the human element when it comes to service and engagement, when it comes to providing an experience, to make people feel something—a smiling face beats a bright screen. But we believe that going forward, you can and will have both.
Commitment to Service
At Stream, our clients have come to understand our commitment to providing the very best service and to do that, we focus on having the best talent across all service lines. Stream, now in its 25th year, is well established because we cultivate the best talent, refine our processes, and take our service and engagement cues from the hospitality industry—and our portfolios continue to grow.
We Take Our Service Cues from Hospitality
Liz Sheff, Chief Operating Officer, and Partner recently published The Service Differentiator covering our approach to PM as a hospitality-led methodology. This focus on service and engagement is at the core of our success.
Our leadership team recently attended a white-glove service training with an iconic hospitality brand, centered on creating a high-trust, low-fear environment as the means to deliver service excellence—meaning if you are facing challenges, it is always ok to put your hand up, ask a question, and ask for help. Stream operates in this manner, striving to maintain a connected team approach so we know who is excelling and who needs more support. We promote a learning environment, which champions growth.
As a leader, it’s important to know if a team member is struggling with a task, whether its workload related, making decisions for the property or portfolio, or perhaps task-related where there may be a training need. Supporting teams grows their confidence and capabilities and helps them to shine—to the benefit of the individual, the firm, and most importantly, the client.
Stream manages over 250 million square feet of commercial space, across the U.S. We built our company with individuals who live the company values and embody its culture. We operate organically and authentically—and that’s what makes a difference. Our core values are to be nice, passionate, smart, and honest. We continue to cultivate a strong and clear company culture, knowing this is central to developing teams of service-minded and capable individuals.
We believe in people first then real estate, and we live by that. Stream’s company culture is the reason many of our professionals have moved here from bigger firms, it’s the reason a lot of our clients choose to start working with Stream, and it’s certainly the reason we all stay.
And honestly, this approach pays off for our clients and draws attention in the commercial real estate industry. Following exponential growth in our managed assets, Stream has received awards and accolades in Texas and throughout the country. Recently, Stream was ranked as the Top Property Management Firm in the Dallas Business Journal’s North Texas Commercial Property Managers. Houston placed fifth in the Houston Business Journal’s 2020 Largest Houston Area Commercial Property Management Firms. The Austin team snagged the top slot in the Austin Business Journal’s 2020 Largest Austin-Area Commercial Real Estate Property Management Firms.
At Stream, we believe the commitment to the five key elements of property management is critical to delivering award-winning PM services. Our PM teams perform well beyond the benchmark set by competitors. Every team member is armed with a great attitude and supported by Stream’s agile platform to efficiently bring it all together.
What does it take to deliver great service in property management? We believe a deliberate and strategic effort, from knowledgeable and committed professionals are the keys to our success, and the service excellence our clients deserve.
Amanda Coupe is the Regional Managing Director of Property Management for Austin, San Antonio, and El Paso and has more than 20 years of commercial real estate experience.
Mica Hopkins is the Managing Director of Property Management for Dallas and Fort Worth and has over 15 years of real estate management and accounting experience.