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Property Management Mastermind Show

#141: Disrupting Customer Service Standards with Todd Breen

Jun 15, 2022 by Brad Larsen

What's the reality of work with remote team members? How much can you save, or are you looking at spending more going remote? When it comes to competition and customer service, remote team members can often give your bottom line a boost, but sometimes that can come at a price. This episode of Property Management Mastermind features Todd Breen of Virtually Incredible. Not only does Todd have years of service mentoring agents and other property management team members, he has also found success in nearly every facet of business, largely due to remote team members.


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BRAD: Everybody. On today's podcast, I'm bringing on Todd Breen to talk about virtually incredible working with remote team members. It's a fantastic conversation. You're going to learn a ton from his experience.

ANNCR: Welcome to the Property Management Mastermind Show with your host Brad Larson. Brad owns one of the fastest growing property management companies in San Antonio, Texas. This podcast is for property managers. By property managers, you'll hear from industry leading professionals on best practices, new ideas, success stories and lessons learned. This is your opportunity to learn about the latest industry buzz surrounding property management, as well as tips and strategies to improve your business.

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BRAD: Welcome everybody to another edition of the Property Management Mastermind podcast. I'm your host, Brad Larson. Now, today's guest is a long time friend, a mentor of mine. His name is Todd Breen, and he's been around the management industry for a long time. I'd hate to even embarrass him, to ask him how many years, but we'll get to that point. But Todd and I have known each other for a long, long time. He's been on the circuit. He's been well adapted to the management industry. He's spoken all over the world. And he had a management company and he's turned it over to his daughter. Megan is doing a great job. Happy birthday, Megan, by the way. It's an inside joke. So the other side of that is Todd is seeing the industry from both sides. And now he's working a lot for the last ten years with remote team members focusing with assisting property management companies, with maintenance, with accounting, with all the kinds of things that a remote team member can help with. And it's called virtually incredible now. Virtually incredible have been around for again about ten years. And Todd is the founder of that. And so I want to give a few minutes to talk to us about who he is and what he does, because this is going to lead you to the conversation that I feel is probably been one of the most transformational type of instances that have come up in the in the management industry is the prolific use of remote team members. That's changed our business. And I want to talk with a great conversation today with Todd about how that works and how it can help you. So Todd, give us a few minutes of your time and introduce yourself.

TODD: Thanks, Brad. And it's nice to be called a mentor of such a rock star as yourself. I've really enjoyed seeing your progress as you. I think you had like 300 doors when I met you, and now you're well over 1000. So you walk the walk and talk the talk, and it's really cool to see your growth. And I'm happy for you. And, you know, in 37 years, that's the magic number I started in 1985, managing property with home property management in West Palm Beach. And I'm still the broker of record at that company. I've seen a lot of change. And, you know, one of the biggest changes that I've seen is that property management companies are getting a squeeze on them. There's pressure from the top side, which I call the franchises and the big money roll ups. So there's all of these really big players coming down from the top side. And then on the bottom side, you've got companies like AB Folio Property where building them, they'll all just sell you real cheap property management software and give you a website. And real estate agents are starting from scratch every day and saying, I'm a property manager and it requires very little overhead experience and training for them to compete against us in the property management space. So we're getting squeezed from the top and the bottom. And what I'm seeing happen is a lot of smart property managers are going to offshore staffing solutions in order to do two things. Well, many things, but the two primary things are, number one, be competitive and number two, offer kickass customer service. And Brad, your company has been using offshore staff for gosh, how long now?

BRAD: Six plus years. And we're up to. Right, about 15 remote team members. And it's been absolutely transformational because as you mentioned, one of our mantras is to provide exceptional service. And well, if you have three people ready to answer the phones versus one person to answer the phone, obviously you can do a better job at that. And I always say that and it's in a nutshell and I'm very interested to hear more about your remote, remote team member business because that's I mean, the experience is golden because you get it. You are a property manager, right? You get what's going on in the industry, you get where the pain points are, and then you've applied that. So the Shark Tank Model 101, you solved the problem I want to hear more about virtually incredible.

TODD: So, you know, when you talk about three people answering the phone instead of one, here's an interesting statistic that should shock your audience. We contacted by telephone several thousand property management companies to just reach out to them, say hi and introduce ourselves. And Brad, can you take a guess what percentage of property management companies actually answer their main line live and can handle those phone calls?

BRAD: I would guess one out of five, 20%.

TODD: Just a number. Oh, my gosh. And it's and it's a it's a sad number, but about 23%, almost one out of four companies will answer their their calls live on their main line. The majority of companies use an auto attendant. Press one for this. Press two for that. And I used one of those for the longest time. And, you know, we're not the electric company, the gas company. We are not some big conglomerate that people will go through all of these hoops just because there's their monopoly. And they have to you know, the customer has to go through these push one for this, too, for that. But what's really sad is, is you can push all the different numbers on a lot of management companies, auto attendant, nobody answers their phone anyways. So the auto attendant might as well just be a voicemail that goes right to voicemail because that's the net result on. I got to.

BRAD: Steer up to it real quick. Todd, I've got to interrupt you for a side story because along those same lines I'm going to get back into, I want you to describe more about virtual incredible. But recently we just adopted it to where we removed all that. You know, the press one, press two, press three. We removed it because we staffed up enough to actually answer the phones live and in person. And so we're going old school, a company as big as mine. We're actually going old school to answer the phones. And of course, we instruct them, don't make people tell their stories twice, you know, just just try to get them to the right person immediately. But within two rings, someone's answering the phone. Thank you for calling networks. How may I help you or I'm a director. Call whoever they answer and we're getting them to the right places because again, going back to you, provide exceptional service. This is what we're able to do and we're able to do it with using offshore labor because the cost of employees sitting at your front desk in your office are so expensive that it just cost prohibitive. Now, going back to virtually incredible, I have to get that tangent out there because it's kind of a new thing for us, but we're actually going a little bit more old school and answering our phone. So keep telling us more about va. Va excuse me.

TODD: Va So that virtually incredible. One of the things that we we lead the market with is we have a call center called phone tenders. And phone tenders was built by property managers. For property managers, it's a custom property management call center. And our number one volume of calls we answer is leasing calls. It's it's the same number. It's like fewer than 30% of calls to leasing advertised lines get answered by a live human that's ready to actually answer questions about a listing and make it shown or set up a showing. And so by by getting your leasing calls off your plate and into a call center or hiring a VA, whichever way you do it, if you can get your leasing calls answered live and not inside your physical office, it's a win because the customer wins the houses rent faster and your office staff has sanity. Do you remember Brad, the switch before you went to remote team members answering your phone and after how quiet your office got?

BRAD: Yeah, it's kind of an amazing deal and they do fantastic work. So interestingly enough, let's go down another tangent. I guess I'm full of tangents because it's early in the morning, I've had lots of coffee and we're going to have a good conversation with an old friend. And so one of the things that is interesting is commission compression, and you've seen this on the buyer's agency side a little bit, but it's also going towards the leasing side. And why is that is because of the the amount of work that it takes to lease a home is actually decreased from when you first started. And so the amount of effort an agent and co broker situations has to put out is minimal, if any. So long story short, we were looking at the Austin market and they were charging a stupid amount for a leasing fee co broker commission. And we're looking at that and saying that doesn't make any sense. 20 years ago it made sense, but it doesn't make sense that the commission percentage that they're at now, because the effort to lease these homes has been so greatly reduced, meaning that if I'm an agent with some other company and I want to go show a property of rent works, I don't have to physically go pick up a key. I don't have to physically drive that prospect to the property. I don't have to physically open the door any longer.

BRAD: I don't have to physically take an application on paper and then deliver that to the property management company. As in on paper. Then I don't have to be a part of the leasing process where I review the lease and advise the client, you know, years and years ago, 20 years ago, that was the thing. And so it's amazing. I see some of the markets like Houston, they're still charging a giant leasing fee, but it's all about the amount of effort. Now, COVID really changed that because it created a touchless leasing system that a lot of people started to adapt. And this dovetails right into exactly what you do in the leasing side because of answering the phones, getting people to do remote showings or non agent assisted showings, self assisted showings, whatever the term is you may want to consider, you're getting people to do that so they can go see the home without an agent. They apply online. They talk to people remotely. Either via chat or via phone. They pay online, they sign a lease agreement online and boom, they're moving in through a lockbox. The whole touchless leasing program. But again, it goes right back into your services with VI because you're answering the phones and walking people through that process. Here's the punch line that saves you from having to potentially pay out those co broker commissions, which is the giant savings.

TODD: We we have over 93% at my management company in West Palm Beach, Florida, over 93% of our leases are done in-house without a broker. And we have a huge rock community in South Florida. And it's because we answer the phone and we set our showings and we have a 60 day notice that tenants have to give us so that we can start pre-leasing before the property is even vacant. But that notwithstanding, just by answering the phone, we move properties faster. And what we've been able to do, and this is just a free tip for the property managers that are listening, is we have our leasing commission as a negotiable point. So like you said, commission compression, we do we use the commission as what we need to do to get the deal. So whereas a lot of people are going to be like full X for their commission, we can be X -20% or x -30%, still be wildly profitable and, and really win the business. So our conversion rate, since we've been able to negotiate our leasing rates, has really soared when it comes to signing up new doors. And it's it's exciting to be able to have that wiggle room in our commissions now because it's it's so well run now.

BRAD: All that's been teed up about by the VA, by the remote team members helping out in that leasing process. It's all like, right, they're set up by them.

TODD: And at my management company, I have a call center, right? But we have two Vas that answer our calls primarily. And then our call center is overflow. Because let's face it, you can never really staff up to answer every call live. And if you did your call volume in June, July and August is going to be a way higher than your call volume in November and December. So you're going to be overstaffed and have excess capacity which eats up your profit. So what we do is we just keep the right staffing for our lower months and the call center picks up the overflow during the peak months. It's optimal for us because our staffing is always coming in at low percentages of our gross and that's an interesting number. I'm going to kind of shift this into the industry. You know, Nahum did an analysis of a lot of management companies and learned that the average company was paying between 58 and 65% of their gross income in labor and local labor is expensive. And the best way to to offset your local labor costs is to try and use some offshore staffing solutions. It's an enormous savings and you can drop that number. And Brad, you've talked to a lot of smart people in the industry. What numbers are you seeing as optimal for labor percentage as a percentage of.

BRAD: Gross Yeah. To elaborate on that, I remember that exact presentation. Tony Drost did that compilation and he presented it, I believe, in 2004 in one of the conferences. And it was an old school compilation spreadsheet and a lot of manual labor, because there's no software program that you can just punch that into where it spits out something relative. And so we really had to do a lot of manual labor. I think you analyze 25, maybe 30 different management companies, and he came up with that number you talked about. I mean, the bigger companies were going in the 50, 55, 60% range for expense. So basically you're spending $0.60 for every dollar you bring in on labor and it was just killing people. So now we've seen that reduced, you know, example for rent works. We were in that same boat about then. We were we were pushing 45, 50%. And we've always kind of been in that hovering range until the last couple of years where we made a shift from very expensive local team members working remotely to not as expensive remote team members working remotely. And you got to understand that COVID really kind of hammered that point home because we were paying people an enormous amount of money to sit at their home in Texas and answer the phones and do things.

BRAD: And it just really kind of smacked us in the face of maybe we need to adopt the more of the Australian model of the pod system, right? The pod squad. You know, I've had many kind of debates about how to structure a management company, so we started to lean more towards that where you have a. Member and then two or three, four, five support team members remotely answering the phones, doing email to and lease agreements, doing renewals, all the stuff that you and me, that's what I tell people. All the stuff that you and me, the principals of companies can do remotely. They can do from wherever they are. And it's been a fantastic deal. So kind of the bottom line on that is we reduce our expenses down to roughly 25 to 30% on staffing to our revenue, which is just it's a dollar a dollar saved. A dollar earned. Right.

TODD: If you're at 25 to 30%, that's insane. That's tremendous. Congratulations. I've always said anybody who gets their labor cost at 40 or below is as a rock star. And you're true to form in that regard. So good for you. And that's a combination of your fee maximization to increase your dollars per door as well as your offshore labor costs to reduce your expenses per door. So kudos to you. And so our call center, Brad, can answer main line calls now primary overflow. All of our services are 24 seven at our call center. And what we're finding out now is we have people calling our new owner hotline that our management company on Thursday at 9:30 p.m. and they're surprised when somebody answers the call live as friendly. They have an imperceptible accent. They sound like they could be in our office because those are the people we put on the new owner hotline and they're friendly, they're conversational. Tell me about your house. And then they say, let me get a little information about you so that I can begin the process of getting you a quote for what your home will rent for, because that's what everybody who calls wants right away. And so they're filling out the contact us form for us and they're texting that data to us to see if we respond and say, Yeah, give us a warm transfer or No, you know what? We'll tell them. We'll call them in the morning. And so as a result, we're getting the leads now that are calling after hours. And no one, none of our local competitors are answering after hours. And because we have our call center answering our new owner hotline, we're picking up all sorts of opportunities to list. And we all know one fact. If you're first to actually talk to a live management lead, you are like 50% more likely to sign them up than if you're second, third or fourth to talk to them.

BRAD: And so it really is critical there. And I'm going to I'm going to back up your point for a second, too, is our remote business development team. Of course, during business hours we don't have the call center and we probably should look into that. But the business development team that's remotely they can handle a couple of quick answers or questions and answers to an owner. Then they go up and sign online, they sign up a manager, an agreement online to where we haven't met them. We haven't seen their home yet. And they I saw your stuff on the website. I'm just calling in real quick. I got one or two questions, team answers. Those questions, they're like, okay, what do I do next? Well, you can start the management agreement here or to schedule an appointment while I'm in California, I just want to go ahead and get this thing rolling. I need somebody manage my home to start filling out the property manager agreement online. It's all via echo sign, which is an Adobe product. They sign up, we walk through their home, we do a remote quick phone call and say, okay, we can manage it, we can rent it for this. Basically, the point is that has been done remotely without an expensive in-person staff right there in my office having to go through the hour long presentation and having to go to their home, sit with them in person. It's amazing what you can do nowadays. And so it's not a rarity mean. We're probably getting 2 to 3 or four sign ups a month like that where folks are just calling in with a couple of questions.

TODD: And let me tell you what the opposite is. The reverse is and to the to the listening audience, you know, if this is your case, that's okay. But do something about it. Like so many companies, we mystery shop all of our markets that we serve our customers in once a year as a gift to our clients. So if you're Brad Larson, you're a client in San Antonio, Texas. We're going to Mystery Shop, a dozen of the top competitors in your market, and we're going to find out how quickly did they answer? What are their rates? What are what's this, what's that? What's their pitch? And we're going to get all of that info consolidated into a shopping report and deliver it to Brad so that Brad, as the business owner, knows how he fares against his competitors. And the sad truth is. 70% of the people we mystery shop don't pick up their phone. Just to give us a quote or to say hi, I'd like to manage your property. And it's it's just such a right market. If you're struggling to grow your management company right now, stop struggling. Pick up the phone and sign up with our new owner hotline call center at phone tenders and just get us answering your new owner hotline for you, whether it's primary or overflow. If you don't answer it in two rings, we will and you won't miss an owner lead. We'll be capturing them, entertaining them, and trying to warm transfer them on the back phone to you so that you'll know when you see it's us trying to transfer call to you, you'll be like, Ooh, that's a money call. And you can actually answer it and sign somebody up. So that's that's been wildly successful for us.

TODD: And we have clients telling us that they're really increasing their conversion and growth rate because they go with our new owner hotline on on phone tenders. Brad There's one other thing that we did. We took a look and this is a bit of a disruptor. We took a look at the emergency repair call service, and the standard in the industry is to charge a dollar, $2, $3 or more per door per month in order to have people ready to take an emergency call for you and handle that for you on nights and weekends, because property management never sleeps when there's emergency repair calls. And we looked at that and said, you know what, we can do better than that. And since we've got our call center operating 24 seven anyways, we now have the same pricing model around $0.75 a minute to answer your emergency repair calls, triage them, find out if it's something we can solve and make it wait until the next business day. You know, like, hey, shut off the valve under the sink that solved the problem. Great. Well, the management company will be in touch with you in the morning to get a plumber out there. Right. So we can triage. We can also do emergency vendor dispatch for you at $0.75 a minute instead of these enormous fees of $1, $2, $3. I mean, if you've got 300 doors and you're paying $300 or $3 per door to get your emergency repair service, that's $900 a month. We might come in at $150 a month for $300. And in or we might come in at $75. And last I checked, that's a car payment on a BMW that you could save, you know.

BRAD: So you're paying for the for the actual use, which makes a lot of sense. I can see that being a real awesome offering because there aren't that many emergency phone calls. I mean, a lot of the tenants understand that they no one's going to really be able to come out anyway at 8:00 at night to fix an air conditioning. You know, I just have to live with it until the morning, but I'll call it in to put it on record. You know, obviously, plumbing emergencies, that's a real emergency. But man, that doesn't happen that often. You you think of 900 bucks a month times 12. I mean, that's a lot for emergency services where you could cut that down to 10% of it.

TODD: And so we've got a lot of folks signing up with us, coming over to us and saving a ton of money and using that money for either fun or productive things at their business. And that's really all I have to say about the call center. I would love to tell you about where how we're doing something disruptive in the virtual assistant placement field, because we looked at that again. And first off, I've got ten years of rehiring folks in the Philippines, Mexico, Colombia, and currently we have a couple of hundred people working for us around the world for virtually incredible between our call center and some of the other BPO business process outsourcing services that we offer. But we looked at this model and we said, okay, we're really good at recruiting and we're really good at managing offshore teams. How can we offer a disruptive model for VA placement or our team remote team members? Whatever your lingo is, they're interchangeable in my world. And so we came up with a model that's really cool and we it could best be summarized as try before you buy. And Brad, let me explain to you the difference between our model and the traditional models that we see out there in this in the space. So there's people who are VA resellers and they're they're saying, okay, it's eight or $10 an hour for the labor we pay as a reseller.

TODD: We pay the labor less, we keep the spread. We provide recruitment for free, we provide training for free, we provide or some people charge training and recruitment on top of that. But but in other words, they're making a spread and. Solving a problem, you get a turn key in a box. Here's a trained person that can do these 32 things that you asked. And so that's one model. But most of those VA resellers, Brad, don't have a buyout in their contract. So you get this person for $10 an hour and you fall in love with them, and a year or two or a month or two, whenever you're like, you know, I'd like to just buy out their contract and pay them direct and save some more money. How do I do that? Oh, sorry. You can't do that with us. They're our team member. We lease them to you. If you don't want them anymore, we're going to take them and their experience and place them at another company. Right. And that's the model. And I said my old man was really smart at business and he gave me a word of advice that day that he sold the management company that we started together. He sold it to me and he said, Son, take good care of your customers. Put your customers needs first and you'll always have customers. And I like that, you know, and so now we've got to buy out with our VA placement and the buyout goes down each month that the the VA is working with you.

TODD: So it starts at 2500 and at the end of two years it's free to buy them out. So we make it possible for you to try before you buy. You don't have to go through any of the upfront recruitment costs or any of the effort it takes to hire and train people. And then let me tell you about our recruitment option and our training option. Our recruitment option is 2500 bucks, but we throw in two things that nobody else is doing. The first is you get a $500 call center credit just to try out the call center, see if you like it. The second thing is, we'll give you up to 40 hours of training for free, one week of training. So we have a training menu and you can pick all the different training that you want your VA to have. And so we'll recruit them for you for 2500, train them included in that price, and then you can have the $500 call center credit try. And for your new owner hotline, try it for your emergency repair line, try it for your leasing line or your main line doesn't matter to us. It's just a credit you get when you do a recruitment with us.

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TODD: And so whether you do recruitment or you or you say, I don't want to pay 2500 up front, I just want to hire me somebody and I'll start paying them their first paycheck. We offer both options with the buyout and that's I think the first of its kind in our property management space. And you and I talked about that there was some reasons why you weren't all that happy with the the VA placement models that were out there because they were a little restrictive. Do you remember that conversation?

BRAD: Oh, yeah, absolutely. And that led us to write that big check. We started this six years ago and we were able to buy out some of the remote team members and just employ them directly. But I think a lot of those have gone away from those resellers, as you mentioned, which is a good word. I didn't even think about that word. But yeah, essentially they're hiring somebody for X and they're paying them half of that. And so the person working for you feels a little jaded because they feel like they're not getting what they should be getting. And if you say, okay, I love this person after a year, two years, ten years, how do I just make them mine? And you can't you know, there's some sort of restrictive clause in there. And it's very it's it's not the best way a lot of folks want to operate. Now, I'm not saying it's not a bad model because it can work for some. Right. There's always means to fit a certain demographic or whatever that is. But the other side of that is we were getting asked all the time too about, hey, can you just help us find somebody? We'll just write you a check, can you help us find somebody? And we don't do that. We just we just don't what's outside of our lane. We have enough problems just keeping our own team employed. Oh, by the way, fun little tidbit, tangent stat. The turnover rate for remote team members that have been working with us has been roughly 80%, meaning that only 20% turn over 80% retention in the state. It's exactly the opposite. It's we might have been able to retain 20% over the last six years and 80% have rolled over. And that's no kidding. So the retention is absolutely flipped and meaning that they really like working with us, working for remote working remotely for companies in the States because they're getting paid well. They get to work from home. It's a safe environment. They're appreciated. I mean, all the above you're smiling at because I'm like selling for you, right?

TODD: But I'm smiling at you because I was saving this until we were well into the podcast. But Brad, where am I right now?

BRAD: Oh, you're in the Philippines.

TODD: I'm in Manila and I've got rock solid Internet. I'm in a beautiful building. And, you know, it's it's 13 hours ahead of you. So as soon as this is over, I'm going to crack open a bottle of wine and celebrate a good podcast with you. But. But, yeah, I'm in Manila, and I want to share with you guys some things that are industry trends that I'm seeing after ten years of doing remote team member recruitment and placement. All right. I think I might be one of the OGs, the original gangsters, the granddaddies of not only property management, but also this virtual staffing solutions in property management. And I've seen some trends. So first I'm going to talk about the Philippines. Duterte is the president. He's done a lot of crazy things. But one thing he did two years ago and I still applaud him for this is apparently all the Internet in the Philippines was owned by families of oligarchs, rich, wealthy families of dynasties. And it was a virtual monopoly. And the Philippines had some of the most expensive, slowest, poor quality Internet in the world. And so Duterte got up one day and he said, Hey, guys, I'll give you one year to bring us up to global standards, or I'm going to nationalize the Internet in the Philippines. And apparently the oligarchs had no problem believing him because within that year, all of a sudden the Internet in the Philippines is really good. And so, you know, for the last year, year and a half since that change has taken place, we're finding it so much easier to hire and keep staff in the Philippines because the Internet is good all around the country.

TODD: So that's something I'm applauding because that was a huge obstacle for us in the in the first eight and one half years of us slugging through all of this. But, you know, I'm here. I just did a annual staff retreat, and we invest heavily in the training of our staff, ongoing training, motivation of our staff and giving them resources. You know, one of the things that we do and this is a tidbit for all of you guys, if you have remote staff, once you trust them and I'll leave that up to you to decide what that is. We have a standard at our. Meaning they've been with us for X period of time and they've passed all of their probation and they passed all of their scores with us. We make available a variety of interest free loans for them. So if their computer goes out, here's some money. Go get another computer interest free payroll deductions. We do these sorts of things because we're dealing with people who don't have the resources to buy a computer in another country as easily as we do in the United States. And so whether it's a tech loan for a computer, whether it's, you know, we have people who need some health benefits or their kids in the hospital or whatnot. We just have a variety of interest free loans we make available with payroll deductions. Brad, in ten years, ask me how much money I've lost, how many times I've been stiffed on that.

BRAD: Dear Todd, how many times have you been stiffed?

TODD: Question Zero. You know, and knock on wood, I hope it doesn't change because I've been talking about it in this. But no, I mean, these folks are grateful and they pay back and they we're helping them and they're helping us. It's a symbiotic relationship. It's a wonderful relationship. And so I wanted to share with you some of the the trends that I'm seeing also in recruitment. Are you familiar with the website Upwork?

BRAD: Absolutely. Yeah. I think they're based out of Dallas. We were just up there this weekend and I might I've seen their corporate office running around downtown somewhere.

TODD: So they are the largest freelancer site in the world. And if you want to hire a graphic artist to make a postcard or a display piece for you, man, Upwork is the place to go. You can go on there. You set your parameters, you publish your job, people bid to work for you. And it's ideal for freelancers that are going to work for you short term or do like one op jobs where it is not ideal. In my experience, and I have a decade or more of experience to back this up not only my own, but in speaking with property managers who say, Oh, what a nightmare man I hired on Upwork. The problem with Upwork is if you're trying to hire somebody for 40 hours a week and I'm just going to use some round numbers full time job and you want to offer $5 an hour us right. Or the equivalent in the local currency. As soon as you publish that job, you'll get swarmed with people who say that's more than a making. Now I want that job. Then they'll get the job, get the experience, and as easily as they found your job for $5 an hour, guess what they're doing?

BRAD: They're bailing. They're going somewhere else.

TODD: They are constantly looking on the site for the $6 an hour job and the $7 an hour job. And it's created a bidding scenario in specific verticals within Upwork in the community. And I'm actually seeing some people heading down the road in the property management industry coming out with something like Upwork. And I'm like, Oh my God, that is not a long term solution for permanent staff members. As quickly as they come in to work for you and you get them trained and experienced, they want to they want to just leverage them their way up and get the next higher paying job. Be very careful about using Upwork style solutions for your permanent staffing. We like to go into the local country recruitment channels that are non freelancer, just the way a local company would advertise to get an accounts receivable person or an admin person or a customer service representative person. We want to go in those local channels and as soon as we see Upwork in Somebodies Resume pass, we don't need somebody who has already figured out that freelancing is fun and profitable. We want stable, long term staff members at our company. I just want to share that with everybody who might be considering those type of options.

BRAD: Got a couple of points I want to bring up is the Internet thing was a big deal because a lot of the objections to using any sort of remote team members in specific parts of the world, potentially the Philippines was, oh, the Internet's not good enough. You know, they're just spotty. But I didn't know that whole story where they just said, hey, we're going to we're going to make the Internet good, because here I am talking to you the whole time the Internet's been super solid and we've been on the phone here for about 45 minutes. And so that's a really interesting story. I'm glad you brought that up. Now, the other side of that, you.

TODD: Didn't even want to interview me while I was in Manila. You were like, I don't want to interview you. Wait till you come back to the States. And I was like, Come on, man, let's take take a boost on the one side. It's all right, brother.

BRAD: Yeah, true story I did. I was like, No, when are you coming back to Florida? Let me interview when you're in Florida. Just make sure we have reliable Internet because, you know, we've been on phone calls with my producer and I were Zoom calls. And of course, they they're just spotty. And you're like, what is wrong with you? You're in, you're in, you're in the States, you're in California or someplace or Texas. And and it's spotty Internet. It's like, what's wrong with you? But that's an interesting tidbit now that the placement service is that's that's how we've always done gotten our remote team members. The placement service I always felt was a better situation because you're going to get better staffing. So what you're offering is fantastic. I got to say, I'm really quite impressed with that because if we were to all of a sudden lose a bunch of remote team members to three or four or five in a row, we would need some help and turn to a service like that. Now we're kind of like, you know, it's one of those situations where I can't I can't tell people how good it has been. It's hard for me to really tell people like, you understand, okay, we can talk numbers. Okay, cool. We can talk, you know, providing exceptional service.

BRAD: And a lot of folks come to us or you and me and anybody else and say, well, okay, I get it, we're beating a dead horse. We want to get remote team members. I see all the benefits. Where do I start? And they kind of get frozen. And I tell them, hey, if you're going to go out and hire somebody, try to do maybe do a place of service and then hire two. Don't hire one, hire two because let them get trained up at the same time. I know I'm like being crazy to hire two people at once where some people can't even hire one. Potentially in the States we'll hire two at the same time and let them get trained together and quickly they're going to branch left and branch right and doing different things for your business. Like you'd start them with answering the phone, just starting with leasing you, you train them on maintenance and next thing you know, all of a sudden you've got a leasing expert and a maintenance expert and you train them and pay them all at the same time. And so I'm kind of beating the drum for you there a little bit, but that's always been my recommendation to people is hire to at the same time to get started and build from there.

TODD: And you know, the quality of the people that we're able to hire in Philippines, Mexico, Colombia and some other locations that we're hiring in, you'd be astonished the the people are well educated, believe it or not. We have a fluency in accent scoring system. And so we score our applicants and we only deal with the top 7% of any location of any country. We only want to hire the top 7% for fluency in English and their accent. And the top two or 3% are what we call accent neutral. Meaning I can't tell when I'm on the phone if that person is in rent works in San Antonio, Texas, or. If they're in another country, because I wouldn't think they're in another country. And because we have this accent scoring and rating system, which is critically important for our call center, we also share that with our virtual assistant placement. So anybody who needs phone work, man. The biggest stigma to hiring has always been like, Oh, I don't want somebody who sounds like, you know, they're in India answering my my phones and we're like, Well, give us a shot, man. You would be amazed at the quality of the accents that we're hiring and placing now. And the other thing that we did recently that was super exciting is I'm not going to lie. We poached the recruitment manager from a little company called Wells Fargo here in the Philippines. And and so now we've got like world class recruitment talent working for us, and they know how to spot the winners. And we've had some we recently, I think last month we placed like 26 remote staff members for property management companies. And we're getting remarks after a week or two or three of like, wow, this person is astonishingly good.

TODD: And it's because Brad, you know, you said a lot of sweet things about me. And by the way, I appreciate you being sweet. I don't think anyone's ever called you sweet. But anyways, but I was in a past life, a trainer for the Property Management Academy. So when we place somebody for you, I re recorded the entire Property Management Academy and condensed it down to what I consider virtual staff members need to know in order to be familiar with the industry so that there's about 14 hours of orientation in property management that everyone gets. And I was just with a bunch of my staff at a resort in the Philippines last week and they were like, Wow, we watched that. We've worked for you for four years and I made everybody watch it. They said We worked for you for four years. I didn't know that much about our industry. And there what's happening is that people are understanding the industry because they have this property management academy training that I give them. So you'd be surprised at these people show up already trained and ready to answer a leasing main line calls ready to answer tenants and applicants, ready to do your tenant screening for you. And Brad, you and I know I do a deeper dive on tenant screening than most people do. And we actually will give you a VA that's trained on my special sauce of how to screen tenants. And and so whatever it is that you need, give us a shout, give us a try. See what you think about well trained staff showing up at your doorstep, virtually at your doorstep, and how it can change your business overnight.

BRAD: Now, some of the tidbits I remember is you actually do some Facebook stalking and some social media stalking a little bit and you train your team members on how to do that. And that's fair game. That to me, if you get an applicant that says they have one pet and it's a it's a Yorkshire terrier and you go on to their Facebook and it's all over their Facebook that it's a mastiff, a bull mastiff. You're like, Oh och, this is what we're dealing with. And you mentioned it, I think in prior conversations there's like a one third to one half commission or mission, meaning they're intentional. I'm quoting you, I'm quoting you right now. It's basically to where either they're forgetting or, quote, forgetting to say something or they're intentionally not telling you the full story. And so that's quite a bit.

TODD: The stat is 41%. When our tenant screening department was going for five years, I aggregated the number of errors of omission, which means I left off a landlord that wouldn't give me a good reference from my residence history or errors of commission, which is, yeah, I put that landlord address down and I put the landlord's name down, but I gave my brother in law's phone number and told him, Hey, you're now John Smith, if you get a phone call from someone you don't recognize. And so we have ways of making you talk. You know, that's the Old World War Two joke. But we really do have ways of catching those errors of omission and commission. And all of our people are trained on these super secret ways of doing it. It takes time, but it pays off, especially if you're doing your own eviction protection or any type of a rent guarantee. Man, you need this triple dose of deep diving into people's applications before you endorse an applicant into a tenant because you might be paying something on the back end if they default. So. Tighten up your game on the front end and you will you know, you won't have as many evictions and defaults.

BRAD: Now, one of the huge benefits of working with a company like yours is we've talked a lot about you can do this, you can do that, and you get these other things, you got these other programs, and it can be a little overwhelming. But I would recommend because you guys know what you're talking about, to give you guys a call and say, okay, I've got this situation. My pain points are this. I've got 100 homes, 500 homes, 10,000 homes. My pain points are one, two or three. What do you recommend for solutions? And so you guys, because you are from the property management world and you focus on that, you can recommend the good solutions versus, you know, the alternative is to call somebody up and say, hey, I'm a property manager company. They're like, What's a property management company? Do you know? You don't have to you don't have to talk to you guys. Like I don't have to educate you. I mean, I remember getting a quote for general liability insurance and talking to the carrier and having to explain to them from A to Z what property management is. And they were going to insure us for a big ton of money, but I had to like walk them through it. And they didn't even understand that a lot of the things are part of the business. They don't have to have that challenge with you because they can give you guys a call. And I believe they're going to talk to one of your team members, maybe Logan right in the sun.

TODD: Logan has been selling for our services for about six years and he grew up in our property management company, was our leasing agent. He kind of gets the he gets the drill.

BRAD: So they'll be able to talk to Logan, for example, and say, okay, this is this is where I am. What do you recommend? And Logan can kind of walk them through, okay, maybe start with this. Let's get you going here. If you're interested in a remote team member situation on a placement service, we can search you here. I mean, that's really the the cool part about it. It's kind of custom, right? I mean, where you can go in and say, this is what I want to do, this is what I need help with. And you guys create a plan and possibly even scale that plan. So it's not just do 20 things at once. All right. Let's start here. Get you going. Get this going next. Start here and keep improving the business using more and more remote team members to make them successful, decreasing their expenses.

TODD: You know, Brad, you and I have spent a lot of time talking about and acting on how to get a five star rating or a high rating for our management companies on Google or Yelp or some of the other platforms. It starts by answering your phone. All right. And, you know, before we did our changes and before you did yours, do you remember when you used to get a bad review and they would say, nobody ever answers the phone over there.

BRAD: Oh, it's enraging. I mean, I would just lose my stuff. I can't even pay attention to the Google reviews any longer because our team does it and they do a really good job monitoring them. And we're at a4647. So it's a crucially important part of the business, especially when you start talking business development, because if you can't do the basic repeating, the same mantra of blocking and tackling, just providing a good service which starts with answering your phones, you're going to have a hard time getting good reviews and having a hard time getting more business to come your way.

TODD: Exactly. And so we've had people that have worked with us for a year or two, and in that short period of time, sometimes as little as six months, we've been able to assist them in getting their review count out, you know what we're doing now, we're actually taking our call center staff and rewarding them if they can get a review at the end of the call.

BRAD: Oh, I love it. And that's exactly how it should be. I mean, there's there's nothing wrong with that. That's completely legal. It's all good as far as you're not violating any terms. Google says it's okay.

TODD: But you're allowed to pay your staff member for asking for a review and getting it.

BRAD: Exactly.

TODD: So whenever somebody you know what our favorite and easiest way to get a review is, is we'll answer home property management. Can I help you? Is this a person? Yeah, we're a person. We're a person. Oh, my God. I've been trying to rent a house now for like. And nobody answers their call. I'm just. Can you answer questions about 123 Main Street for me? Sure. I'll be happy to help you, you know, blah, blah, blah. At the end of the call, we get these, like, tears of joy and gushing of like, Oh, my God, you actually answered the call. Thank you so much. And we turn that into, Hey, man, can I text you a link where you could just write a quick review? And by the way, there's a contest going on this week and the prize is a getaway weekend for two. And it's my partner's anniversary with me, and I want to take her to the to this resort. I really appreciate the review, Pam. We're getting a whole bunch of reviews now for our clients and you can to just man get a good rating by answering your phone, answering your emails, staying on top of customer communication. I'm going to leave you with one more thing, Brad.

TODD: At our management company owners used to be second class citizens. The owners are to be seen and not heard. Meaning do you remember? Have you ever called an owner? And they're like, Oh, it's, it's the property manager. What is it now? What is it this time? In other words, they don't want to interact with their property manager because it's usually always bad news. Well, we've turned that on its head because we've got Vas answering the phone. We've got a call centre backing up the Vas answering the phone, and my local team member of Americans are sitting in the office not disrupted with a whole lot of interruptions. And they routinely, on a quarterly basis, are reaching out proactively to to every owner and saying, just wanted to touch base with you. Everything's cool. We're doing a great job. Rents are going up. You're up for renewal. We kind of are looking at possibly ballpark. You know, you're at like 1800. We're thinking maybe you'll be around 20, 20, 100 at renewal time. And by massaging our relationship with the owners on a routine basis, you'd be surprised. Brad, I don't know if you're doing anything like this. Are you proactively reaching out to owners?

BRAD: Yeah. I'd love to dovetail in that conversation by telling you to remember about sales, because that's what we had to start doing with selling real estate is the homes that we manage that calls up and say, hey, we're going to go and sell our home. And we found Susie, the agent. We met her in the grocery store last night, so we just decided to sell our home with her. Oh, you guys sell homes? I didn't know that. And so you punch yourself in the face and say, Och, dang it, it's my responsibility. Our responsibility to reach out to them on a quarterly basis and say, Hey, we love your home, it's doing good. You're up forever. Oh, by the way, you know, we sell home. So in case you're interested, we can get you a sales comparative market analysis, which we're pushing out to them quarterly anyway. But it's another conversation piece that says one we sell homes to, we can sell your home because don't look at it like you're trying to poach an inventory. Look at it like you're trying to control the sale to sell to another investor to keep the home in your inventory.

TODD: And by the way, I got to talk about that. So so we're doing this and we are pushing and promoting our in house sales because we have a brokerage as well. And you know what we decided to do, Brad? We now offer a discount on the management fee for anyone that signs a listing for sale agreement with us when they sign up to have us manage their house. So if their management fee would be X without a sale listing, it could be X -10% with a sale listing. All right. So now we've got this sale listing in the bag already, and that's becoming more and more important as the values of homes go up right now. You know, you remember when we used to talk about, wow, could you get 2000, 3000, 4000 a door if you sold your management company? You know, what's the value for each unit that you have? Well, if you sell a house that's worth $1,000,000 and you and you only get half the commission, well, you know, that's a lot more than 2 to 3 or 4000 per door. And so I'm of the opinion now that if I can get a sale out of one of my houses and I'm in Palm Beach County, which is the new California, you know, crazy real estate prices, you know, we're making a killing on sales commissions now. And it's because we're touching our owners on a quarterly basis, making sure keeping them happy. They're happy and excited to talk to us, keep calling with good news and they don't think to ask anyone else to sell.

BRAD: So it's really got I got to dig into that. I think that's a bit of genius to offer a sales discount on the management fees on a monthly basis with the sign listing agreement. Now, of course, you've got to do some legal jargon in there. You've got to you've got to get some legal work in. But because you got to avoid the sticky boy owner, there's there's a bunch of them out there that said, yeah, I'll take a discount and then it comes time to they'll just fire you. But that's one out of ten. 90% of the people are going to be pretty honest with you and say, yeah, you know, you gave me a discount. I'm going to give you first shot at selling my home and in a hot sales market. I mean, you could be blind, dumb and stupid and still make sales because you just put on the MLRS and then deal with the offers. And so it's yeah, that's a really neat idea. I'm going to explore that with a team and implement that tomorrow.

TODD: So I know you will make sure you add the following to it. And this is, by the way, a mastermind. Brad and I have been doing this for how many years? Yes. And so but what you do is, as you say, if you fail to honor the listing agreement with us, then the discount becomes due in full. The accumulated discount. Plus interest. And if you really want to be clever, you get it in a form that can be recorded against the deed. And now you've clouded title on the sale of the house. So that's up to you if you want. Oh, look at you.

BRAD: Yeah, I'm rubbing my hands together, like, ooh, that's very devious, but super fair, because we have to protect ourselves sometimes from the from the shady owners that are out there. I'm not talking anything about the clients, but there's always one out of 100.

TODD: Yeah. So it's, it's always a pleasure to chat with you, Brad, and brainstorm. You know, we were supposed to be talking about Vas and call centre and I think we probably dropped the half a dozen good nuggets along the journey in oh at least.

BRAD: At least. And so what I want you to do to tie this in is go ahead and give us the best way to reach out to you guys to find out more and talk to you further about employing your services.

TODD: Sure. So my son Logan can help anybody at email address Logan. Logan at virtually incredible dotcom. You can also go to virtually incredible dotcom to learn more about our services and fill out a contact us form or set up an appointment for a demo or request a demo there. Also we'll be at the PM con in Vegas. We'll have a booth there so you can come by and say hi to Logan. I might be there. I don't know. It depends if I can come back through from the Philippines and change my body clock. But. But yeah. So Logan will be at PMT Con. There's his email address. You can also call our main number on the website and we'd be happy to help you. If you want to talk with me about anything or have any special questions or just want to brainstorm or mastermind, you can reach me at Todd at virtually incredible. Todd that virtually incredible. I'm also happy to help you with your sales increase, but Logan's better set up to deal with those for you on a timely basis. I'm a little sometimes harder to reach than he is, so. Yeah, that's how you get a hold of us. We'd love to help you with your call. Centre or remote team staffing needs.

BRAD: Awesome. Been a fantastic conversation with you Todd. Always good catching up. I think what you guys are doing for the industry is fantastic. It's going to be that's the trend. I mean, that's the trend we're seeing is everybody wants to use more and more remote team members simply because it provides exceptional service and it saves you on that staffing expense significantly and it creates a good I hate this word. You know me, it creates a good company culture or company environment is my favorite word. It creates a much better company environment when you have happy working people with you that are happy to provide that good service. And talking to your tennis, talking to your vendors, talking to your clients. So great conversation again, Todd. Look forward to seeing you potentially APM in 2022 and the Red Rock Resort in May. Until then, stay in touch and we will see you soon.

TODD: All right. Take care.

ANNCR: Resident interface is a comprehensive delinquency management solution for property management companies that serve rental properties with over 500 units located in Florida, Georgia, Maryland and Texas. Resident Interface offers property owners and managers of financially transformative end to end delinquency management experience, where a single contact responsible for the entire process from late payment to eviction management and final debt collection. And we help increase net operating income through technological innovation, operational transparency and respectful recovery procedures. Learn more today at Resident Interface. This has been a podcast episode by Property Management Productions. Be sure to subscribe to our podcast. Leave us feedback and come back for our next episode.

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About The Host

The Host of this Podcast is Brad Larsen from San Antonio, Texas. Brad is the founder and owner of RentWerx, one of the fastest growing residential Property Management companies in Texas that currently manages over 700 single family homes.