Armed with a degree in hospitality and business, Laetitia had been working in hospitality for six years when she decided she needed a change – but had no idea what direction her career would take next.
“I took the job thinking I would just do it while I figured out what I wanted to do next in my career. But I fell in love with the team, the work and all the opportunities I saw in a career in property management and I have been here ever since,” she explained.
From her role in reception, Laetitia became a property officer, then property manager and was recently promoted to senior property manager.
Winner of the Residential Property Manager category at the 2016 REINSW Awards for Excellence, Laetitia credits her success and steady rise to seniority to her genuine passion for problem solving, dedication to customer service and personal investment in her professional development.
Not just a stepping stone
Like many agents who have chosen to specialise in property management, Laetitia knows there is so much more to her role – still often seen as a ‘stepping stone to sales’ – than most people assume. And while she finds it deeply rewarding, Laetitia admits it’s not the sort of career that would suit everyone.
“It’s fast-paced. You have to deal with people from all walks of life and it can be challenging at times. I find it very satisfying, but it’s definitely not for everyone,” she said.
A genuine love of customer service and ability to build and maintain strong long-term relationships with clients is key.
“It’s a very different skill set to working in sales,” Laetitia said. “To be a good property manager you need to be a problem solver, a people person and have a positive attitude. There are some days when you’re dealing with complaint after complaint after complaint, and if you can’t stay positive and be resilient then you won’t like your job.
“Tenants and landlords can be challenging, you often need to deal with difficult situations and have hard conversations. You have to be a good negotiator and an excellent communicator if you want to be successful in property management.”
Embrace the challenges
Whether it’s managing client expectations, staying on top of changing legislation or harnessing the power of new technology, Laetitia loves change and relishes the challenges of working in property management.
“This industry is always changing, you have to embrace it or you’ll be left behind,” Laetitia said. “I know some people find change hard, but it’s one of the things I love most about the real estate industry and it’s what keeps things interesting, challenging and exciting.
“Technology is something a lot of people find difficult to embrace, but it’s worth investing the time and money to integrate it into your business. There is so much great tech available that can not only save you time, but also help with communication which is only going to help you provide a better service for your clients.”
Challenges come in many and varied forms for property managers, but Laetitia finds satisfaction in dealing with difficult situations.
She also recommends following the advice of Brian Tracy, author of Eat That Frog. “I always start the day by completing the difficult, uncomfortable task and then I can get on with my day, rather than wasting energy dreading the task and putting it off,” she explained.
“I do love problem solving. It’s about finding the best approach and thinking about how I can most efficiently and effectively achieve the best result for everyone. I also enjoy the teamwork in our office. If someone has a problem or difficult situation, we brainstorm solutions and work together. I really enjoy the problem-solving aspect of property management and, honestly, it would be boring if I came to work and everything was the same every day.
“I even enjoy problem solving that’s not directly related to real estate. When I’m chatting with friends, I like to hear about the challenges they face in their own careers and help them find solutions. I think sharing experiences is so valuable. We can all bring a different perspective to other people’s challenges and offer solutions they may not have thought of.”
And it helps to have a sense of humour. “A big part of being successful in property management comes down to your attitude and how you react,” Laetitia said. “I can think of plenty of times where there has been a situation where I’ve simply chosen to see the funny side, rather than being frustrated – and that’s been the best way to respond.
“I think it’s also really important to try not to take things personally. You can’t let one ‘bad thing’ that happens in the morning define the rest of your day. Everyone makes mistakes, but every mistake is an opportunity to learn. Remember, everything can be fixed.”
One of the biggest personal challenges Laetitia has overcome in her career has been finding the discipline to strike a good balance between her passion for property management and life outside the office.
“This is not a nine to five job. You do need to be flexible with your hours, but it’s also really important to be able to switch off so you can recharge and be able to give your clients your best when you are at work,” Laetitia explained. “Training my brain to switch off took a lot of discipline, but I’ve managed it now and it’s much better for me, my team, my clients and my personal life.”
One of her biggest tools for maintaining this discipline is taking the time to create a plan for the next day.
“Every afternoon I create a ‘to do’ list that prioritises my work for the next day. It sounds simple, but it really helps me switch off when I leave the office because it’s all out of my head and I know I’m prepared for the next day,” she said.
Invest in yourself
While most agents understand the value of ongoing professional development, taking responsibility for her own personal development is something Laetitia thinks is invaluable for ongoing career progression.
“I am a big believer in investing in your own training,” Laetitia explained. “Only you really know the areas you need to work on and where you want your career to go.
“It’s not just about building on your real estate knowledge. It can be self development, how you relate to others and how you can be more efficient. There are so many things you can learn by reading, watching YouTube or listening to podcasts. There’s something for everyone.
“The more you know, the more you can help. And that’s vital to being a great property manager. I set aside time each week for my own training. I love learning, I love change and in our industry there is always something new.”
According to Laetitia, part of investing in yourself is having a clear plan for career development.
“I’m a passionate, positive person – always have been. I love property management and I want to be the best in the industry. I look back at the career I’ve had already and how much I’ve achieved, and I’m excited about what’s next.”