Cleaning mess and reducing stress at Ray White Windsor
15 March 2023
Carolyn Norman hates mess.
When she started working for her parents at the very first Ray White agency in New South Wales over 28 years ago, she immediately started organising things.
“I literally changed their whole filing system,” she said. She went on to work in almost every role in the agency, adding process and order as she went until eventually taking it over as licensee and owner.
Then, in 2017, she sold up and left real estate for good.
Or, so she thought.
A change of plans
In 2020, while she was busy making other plans, COVID happened. So, she decided to temporarily go back into real estate part-time on reception for Ray White Windsor.
The plan was simple: a low-stress job for one day a week while things got back to normal. But then Carolyn spotted a mess.
“I’ve got to be diplomatic,” she said, careful to choose the right words. “There were no systems. No checklists. No anything.”
And, being Carolyn, she wanted to clean things up. So, she changed her plans. Again.
“While I was on reception, I took over planning routine inspections.” One thing led to another, and soon she started looking at other routines.
As she took on more tasks, Carolyn could see the writing on the wall. The team was struggling and she knew how to get things cleaned up and organised for them. After a brief jump to help out in a Strata business, she came back to help the PM team.
“You don’t want to work in a job if everyone’s always running on high stress.”
— Carolyn Norman, Ray White Windsor
Some 18 months after she’d started on reception, Carolyn took over as Head of Property Management and put a plan together. “The first thing I did was put in that we had to have weekly meetings.”
Then she started creating checklists for common processes and physically tidying the office. “A really crowded workspace is a really stressful workspace. I went through and got rid of everything that we didn’t need to keep as a legal requirement”.
But it wasn’t until Carolyn started cleaning up their systems that things got really interesting.
Scrubbing the systems
“I went through the files and found a large number, probably 50, were tenants or landlords we didn’t even manage anymore,” said Carolyn, throwing up her hands.
Cleaning up is one thing, but the real job was removing the cause. It was becoming clear that her legacy property management system itself was part of the problem.
“I hate the way you have to jump around different screens to find something. If I go to a property I want to be able to see everything I need to see about that property,” she said. “It’s not intuitive at all. It’s ridiculous.”
So when the admin team approached her about getting another system to manage their tasks, she decided enough was enough. “We’re a more mature team. If I’m trying to teach them three systems… you’re just asking for people not to do it, to be honest.”
It doesn’t matter how good your new process is, if you make it too hard people won’t follow it. Then you’re back to square one.
And Carolyn wasn’t about to let things get messy again.
A fresh start
Carolyn decided it was time for something new. Her goal was simple: “It needs to be one system to do everything we need it to do”.
“I don’t have time to click through a million screens to find something. It’s got to be quick. If I go to a property in the system, I should be able to see everything. Is there maintenance outstanding? Where is the tenant paid to? What’s the landlord’s name and number? What’s the tenant’s name and number? What’s the rent?”
Carolyn decided it was time to implement Ailo: the only platform on the market that handles payments and accounting, unifies communication, creates simple integrated workflows, and provides a better experience for everyone – all in a single platform.
“It’s a whole business operating system” she explained to her team. “You don’t need paper checklists. You don’t need to pull together your own workflow program. You don’t need new tools for new managements. You can plan your inspections through Ailo. You know, it’s a management system. A one-stop shop.”
Managing the change
At first, the team was worried about the change.
“We’ve got some people in this area who don’t like using apps,” she said. “We’ve even got some that don’t have email addresses. And we have some elderly people too.”
So during their onboarding, Carolyn made a special point to include her team and ensure they were really confident and comfortable talking to their tenants and landlords about the benefits of Ailo. “The best thing I did was involve them in all those sessions. Really say to them ‘guys, I want you involved, let’s get excited’. And they were excited about it.”
In the end, the results were so good it took them by surprise.
“Within 48 hours we had 190-something tenants just jump in and embrace Ailo!”
— Carolyn Norman, Ray White Windsor
A new direction
Since cleaning up their technology into a single system, the team have been feeling the benefits.
“Getting more tenants paying by the Ailo app reduces trust accounting,” said Carolyn. “The fact that tradies are getting paid faster is good. The fact landlords know when we’ve entered an invoice and they can ring us about it if they’ve got any questions is good”.
However, Carolyn’s favourite benefit is nothing to do with the accounting side. “Projects were a real win for me. It means I don’t have to recreate the wheel to get checklists and procedures in one place."
Finally, she was comfortable that the mess wouldn’t start accumulating again. Using Ailo’s Projects functionality meant processes could be rolled out and followed with ease.
It also created transparency across the team that helped them support each other. “If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, someone else can sit down and see where I’m at. Or someone else can go on leave, and I can see where they are at.”
When their receptionist asked to join the property management team, Carolyn knew something significant had changed.
“She had experience at another office in property management, and she hated it. She was never going to do it again, it was too stressful,” said Carolyn. “But she was excited to come and work with us. When I approached her about it she said ‘I’d love to come up and work with you’.”
“The whole stress of everyone in the office came down once we started using Ailo”
— Carolyn Norman, Ray White Windsor
“The team just gelled. It was a different office. Everyone’s got the same goals: to grow the rent roll and deliver as high-quality service as possible to our clients,” said Carolyn proudly. “Everyone is very enthusiastic, and we have a laugh”.
By lifting the team up and creating a better work environment, Carolyn also found some unintended benefits from her work.
“Now that I have more time since using Ailo, the sales guys refer so much to me that they weren’t previously!” she said. “I listed 6 new managements just last week”.
A happy team delivers better service. It may sound simplistic, but the impact of your team’s engagement and happiness on your customers can be huge. “Ailo really was a big change for the better that’s seen us hit some goals a lot sooner,” said Carolyn. “The rent roll is growing much quicker than we’d anticipated.”
Carolyn, being a perfectionist, is not stopping there. “My next thing is to start to share the new insights and data we now get with Pete [Agency Principal], so we can better understand where the income is coming from and how we can improve even more.”
Onward and upwards Carolyn!
We’re glad to be helping you on your mission to ‘Marie Kondo’ the world of property management.