Always above and beyond

March/April 2017 edition

Laetitia Pearce used her passion for problem solving and love of customer service to launch a new career in property management. Here’s why she believes it’s one of the most challenging and rewarding paths in the real estate industry.

By Tina Liptai

While it’s not entirely true to say Laetitia ‘stumbled’ into her career in property management, she admits when she landed the receptionist role at Home Specialist Property Management in 2010 she had no idea it would be the start of an exciting new career.

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.”

Balancing act
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.”
Why I love property management
“I love that every day is different. I find it rewarding when I know I’ve helped a landlord or tenant and everyone involved is satisfied with the outcome.

“If you’re happy to come to work and enjoy what you do, then everything else will fall into line. Every day I get to help people and that’s a great feeling. There can be a lot of challenging situations in property management, but when your clients are satisfied and you’re recognised for the work you do, then it’s all worthwhile.

“I love being responsible for managing my landlords’ most valuable asset – their investment property – and staying across new legislation and educating clients about their responsibilities and duty of care.

“I also really enjoy that I’m able to build and maintain long-term relationships with clients and each client has different needs – from their communication style to the level of information they like to know about their property. It all keeps me on my toes.”

Laetitia’s top tips for property management success
1. Attitude is everything
Skills can be taught, but having the right attitude from the start is everything.

You need to be willing to be persistent, work hard and be prepared to make sacrifices if you want to be successful in property management.

Always remember that you can choose how to react – see the humour or be frustrated. Try not to take things personally. Everyone makes mistakes and sometimes it’s not your fault, but you can fix it for your client.

Most importantly, you need to be a people person and truly believe that service and client satisfaction are everything.

2. Attention to detail
Slow down and work on your attention to detail, especially when you first start out in property management. It’s something you should never forget. There’s always a lot that property managers need to be across – particularly changing legislation – and it can be overwhelming.

Ask questions, pay attention and don’t be afraid to keep asking questions.

Don't underestimate the importance of being organised. Create a ‘to do’ list, be efficient with your time and always make sure your desk is tidy!

3. Above and beyond
Most people deliver the bare minimum when it comes to service. Be the one who goes above and beyond and I guarantee your clients will notice and appreciate it.

Sometimes it’s the little things that can make a big difference, so be helpful whenever you can. If you make a promise, follow through. Your clients, landlords, tenants and tradespeople will remember if they can trust your word.

4. Balance
Make sure you get into the habit of switching off when you aren’t at work – it will benefit you in the long run.

Focus on having quality time with friends and family. Be present in the moment and take the time to recharge. Property management isn’t a nine-to-five job, so while you need to be flexible with your hours, you also need to be disciplined about taking time for yourself to avoid burnout.

5. Invest in yourself
If you love what you do then invest in your ongoing professional development and training beyond what is offered by your company. You’ll be a better agent and that benefits you, your agency and your clients. Knowledge is everything, understand legislation and be the expert for your clients.