Episode 7 – Jessica Davidson

Interview: Episode 7
Podcast Host: Michael Furlong – Rent Roll Maximiser
Guests: Jessica Davidson –  Ray White Frankston
Youtube Link: Real Estate Success Principles – Episode 7

The Positive that has Come Out of COVID, is the Special Relationships I’ve Been Able to Build with My Landlords & Tenants

Michael Furlong: it’s Michael Furlong here from Rent Roll Maximiser. I have the pleasure of having a quick chat with my new found friend.

I like to actually surround myself with Award Winners. Jessica Davidson – Rental Department Manager, Head of Department from Ray White Frankston. Welcome!

Jess Davidson: Thank You

Michael Furlong: You have just been awarded National Property Manager for Victoria & Tasmania. It was the State Awards just recently. Tell me a little bit about the Awards, as in what’s the criteria for Property Manager of the Year?

What did you have to submit? Firstly, Congratulations! Why do you think that you won that?

Jess Davidson: The criteria for this Award this year was like slightly different than it has been previous years. There has been such a focus this year on involvement between other Teams within the Ray White Group and supporting each other and networking within the group that we have.

We’re very, very fortunate being the Largest Franchise Group in Australia to be able to tap in and utilise skills and knowledge of different Property Managers from all around the State and Statewide, Australia wide as well.

So, the focus for this year’s Awards was more so around what you’ve done as a Property Manager; to give back, not only to the network but to your Team and to others in the network as well. So, that was predominantly the criteria of the Award this year.

Michael Furlong: Can you explain that to me a little bit more, when you say “give back”.

Does that mean if you’ve got a concept that’s worked really well in your office, that you’ve then shared that amongst the network? Is that what you mean by giving back?

Jess Davidson: Yeah, definitely. All of the Leaders within the Ray White Group are in a Champions Group.

One Nominee from each office that catches up fortnightly, we collaborate, we share ideas, we share learnings, we share experiences, things like VCAT, negotiations that have gone good, negotiations have gone bad;

And we collaborate with others within the network so that we share our skills and experience. So, it’s not just limited to our own office.

I undertook some training this year with our Corporate Office, whereby I actually live streamed to the whole of Ray White Australia, teaching negotiation skills, and negotiation training. Especially when COVID just hit.

This was back in early April, when COVID first hit, and all of a sudden, Property Managers were turning into Negotiators.

Michael Furlong: Was that to counteract Rental Reduction requests?

Jess Davidson: Yeah, it was to work through those conversations. How to have empathetic conversations, how to identify the sort of people that you’re negotiating with.

There’s no “one size fits all” approach to negotiating and understanding who’s going to be impacted by the decisions that you’re helping to try and put together and making sure that, like any good negotiation – that every party comes out the other end satisfied and happy with the end result that has been achieved.

I was fortunate enough to be asked to do a Training Session Australia wide where I streamed in with our Corporate Representative – Shaun, and streamed that across to all of the Ray White Offices within Australia.

So, it’s a good opportunity to reach out and give a little something back to the network that’s given me so much over the years.

Michael Furlong: Was that a role-playing or was it a PowerPoint? What did you do there?

Jess Davidson: Yeah, a little bit of both. We did a little bit of banter backwards and forwards, similar to like what we’re doing here.

We also went through and sort of identified some Key People that we might be negotiating with and how to interact with those people. We looked at dealing with the emotion that comes with the negotiation process.

A lot of the Clients that we’ve been dealing with through this COVID period were highly emotional, they were highly stressed.

The hardest negotiation you can do is with someone who is feeling like the whole entire world is crumbling down on top of them, and how do you deal with those people that might be more potentially high conflict.

Those people that have a sense of entitlement when you need to educate them on the process, and how everyone needs to collaborate and come together to reach a mutual agreement rather than just saying, “this is how it’s going to be”.

Michael Furlong: That sounds fantastic but that leads me to another question, probably a little bit different to the Award.

As a Department Manager, you almost have a paternal responsibility to your Team, and I’m sure that you would have been just like everybody else and that was in March this year or April, probably at latest.

Your Team when they’re starting to work from home, what I saw really, really quickly was an inability for individuals to be able to work from home, cope with all of the negatives from Tenants during the day, but have nowhere as an outlet.

What did you put into place there? Or did you have a system and where you’re cognisant of your Team?

Jess Davidson: Look, definitely. I think as we went into the first stages of lockdown, my main priority was my Team, how they were feeling, their mental health, how they were engaging.

Because if anyone’s not feeling a hundred percent, they’re feeling a little bit flat, it comes across in the way that they’re talking with people, it’s coming across in the way they’re negotiating with people.

I’ve always been told “you smile with your eyes; it comes across in your voice”. It’s very much the same thing. So, when we all went home – I implemented daily huddles.

My Team would catch up at 9:00 AM each day, we chat for 15 minutes. I let them have a bit of a rant if they needed to get something off their chest, see how their day was, what their day was going to look like.

I’d know if someone wasn’t 110% and I could reach out to them individually. And I might only spend 10 – 15 minutes one-on-one with them on the phone, just to check in on them, other times I might spend an hour and a half.

It was just all about supporting them and their mental health and their wellbeing so that they had the tools to be able to do their job. We check in again at the end of the day.

So twice daily huddles, 9:00 AM and at 5:00 PM we go about half an hour and that was your daily download.

Michael Furlong: As a group, Jess, or was it individually?

Jess Davidson: As the Team – for all of our huddles, it would be the whole Team and New Business Team, the PM’s, our Receptionists would get involved as well, our Leasing Consultant would get involved.

Everyone was invited to be part of that huddle. And to use it as that spin around and just say, “Oh, you’ll never guess what I had to deal with today”

And to say “All right, well what can you learn from that?”, “How could we have handled that better?”, “What sort of toll has it taken on you?”

I did become very protective of the Team and whenever I saw someone hurting or not feeling like they were coping with their new normal, you do take it personally.

And you want to be able to help them and take that pressure off them so that they do feel 110% because you couldn’t just switch off at the end of the day.

You can drive home, you download after your day of work and you go home, you have a glass of wine, or you sit at home and you can download.

I had Team Members that were working on their dining room table, switching off their emails, and then having dinner at the same dining room table.

Michael Furlong: There’s no separation of space.

Jess Davidson: Exactly!

Michael Furlong: Did your Team cope OK with that? because, you know, there’s been real up’s and down’s.

And I’ve been talking a lot for the last 6 months about the responsibility for Principals to really take strong Leadership, and I think a lot of Property Managers in the past have looked at Brand, or they looked at the Types of Properties.

They probably looked at the pay for their environment and said, “I want to work here”.

I think probably April & May, a lot of Property Managers are looking at and saying, “Do I feel supported? And if I felt supported it doesn’t matter what the rest of it is. I want to work here because I felt supported”

Jess Davidson: Yeah, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that COVID had claimed a few scalps. I think it was unprecedented, no one had dealt with this change, and a lot of PMs that I’ve worked with don’t particularly like change.
They like system, they like structure. And all of a sudden, we were asked to step out of our comfort zones, we were being asked to incorporate New Legislation that we didn’t yet understand.

PMs like certainty, they like knowing if they have to go to VCAT, what the outcome is going to potentially be from that.

Dealing with the unknowns, and I think I’ve mentioned this to you before, how to deal with the stress that was coming through the phone calls that was being absorbed by them personally

Dealing with heightened emotions that come with losses of job, losses of income. People were worried about losing their home, their roof over their head

Landlords were worried about losing their Investment Properties because rent wasn’t going to be coming in, and how they were having those conversations.

A lot of PMs tended to absorb the negativity that was coming through the phone. And that was what I had to try and work with them closely on how to separate what was being done during their business day, and what they were taking home with them at the end of the day and it was hard.

Michael Furlong: So, you’ve been in Real Estate almost 20 years, 17 years. Have you seen anything like this, ever?

Jess Davidson: No!

Michael Furlong: And this is the thing I look at, that the Real Estate landscape is changing so much.

The 1 thing that I do believe though, is it has given us a real opportunity to take stock of what works and what doesn’t, and I think there are a few businesses that will probably are teetering on the edge that may not survive.

Whereas other businesses are looking at this and saying, “This is the best time to be hunkering down, grow, develop our systems, really work with our Teams and then catapult for 2021”.

Are you looking forward to 2021?

Jess Davidson: Oh, definitely! I think everyone’s looking forward to 2021.

Michael Furlong: Tell me a little bit about the Award. So, you’ve got the Award now, this is not your first Award, so you’re almost going to need a mantle place.

In 2017, my understanding, is you also won Team Leader of the Year of 2017. Is it only Ray White Awards that you apply for? Do you go into others?

It seems to be – there’s a lot of Awards that don’t mean a hell of a lot. I shouldn’t say that because I speak on many of the conferences.

They don’t mean a hell of a lot but there seems to be Award Ceremonies all the time, doesn’t there? That you didn’t even know you’re in.

Jess Davidson: I’ve always focused on the Ray White Group because that’s the framework that I work in. So, I understand what it takes to be there and that’s the recognition that I’ve wanted to go for.

I have to be completely honest with you, I am way too nervous to apply for Awards like the REIV Awards – all those sorts of things because I have so many amazing Property Managers out there.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with a few of the Award Winners of the REIV Property Manager of the Year, and they’re superstars. I’m nervous about that, that’s the caliber you’re coming up against.

So, it is a little bit nerve-wracking. I thought I’ll start here and see how I can tackle the Ray White Awards first.

Michael Furlong: Well, you’ve tackled them really, really well. Is there a currency to winning an Award? Does it help with Landlord interaction? Does it help with Tenant interaction?

Also, from a Recruitment point of view, do you think it helps with recruiting quality or better-quality Team, Team Leaders and good Staff?

Jess Davidson: I really hope so because recruitment is, I suppose, always been one of the biggest difficulties in Property Management. I’ve always been a strong believer that a great Property Manager is worth their weight in gold.

And it’s very hard to find people out there that have that “Customer Service Mindset”, that have that “drive” and that “passion” to do what can be a very tiresome job sometimes, it can have a very negative connotation around it.

Some people feel like Property Management can be nothing but complaints and negativity.

It’s trying to find people that flip that mindset on its head and thinking of this as opportunity and thinking of this as how do we give those one percenters to our Landlords and our Tenants, so that the relationship is cemented, they’re solid.

I know COVID in particular, the positive that’s come out of that has been the level of the relationship that I’ve been able to build not only with my Landlords, but with my Tenants as well.

I feel like I’m on a different level with them now because we’ve been through something traumatic together.

We’ve been through something completely unprecedented together, and we’ve worked through it together with empathy and with understanding and with no judgement and with no negative connotation around it.

So, the relationships I have with those Tenants & Landlords now, I feel I have cemented to those Landlords & Tenants for life.

And I think the Awards that we work towards getting will not only help them understand that we are at the top of our game in the Industry, and that the person that they’ve entrusted one of their largest investments to – is on the ball, is passionate about what they’re doing.

In turn, the Recruitment side of things, I’m hoping to find Property Managers that want to surround themselves with Award Winners. That want to surround themselves with people that they can continue to learn from.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in this Industry. The day you stop learning, is the day you should resign.

Michael Furlong: You mentioned before, Jess, that the Director – Ashley, was it? He’s a well heralded Award Winner.

And that was a reason that you also were looking to work with him, and I think if you surround yourself with successful people and just hang off their coat tails for a little while.

Interestingly enough, you said that you were probably not wanting to put yourself out there to the REIV Awards. Disappointing that you would think that because I think they would be in for a surprise.

You might actually find yourself at the same caliber as those people that you aspire to.

Jess Davidson: Maybe next year.

Michael Furlong: Yeah, absolutely. How do you see the Award from in your office? And you’re obviously the Department Manager, do you see that your Staff now look to you and say “I would like to be…”

Is there a culture in your office where there’s a progression of Career Development?

Jess Davidson: Definitely! I’m constantly looking to encourage the Team underneath me to step up. Be Leaders without a Title within the business.

I want them to show that they know what they’re doing and whilst I might be the Department Manager, they’re peers, the people I work with. There’s no hierarchy in our Department.

We all get in there, we all get our hands dirty, we all get in there and do the hard work. And even as a Department Head, I will always manage a Portfolio of Properties.

I don’t think anyone can respect someone who manages the Department that isn’t prepared to get in there and keep their finger on the pulse and understand what it takes to be working day in, day out in a Portfolio.

It would thrill me nothing more than to see another one of my PMs be up on stage next year, accepting that Award.

Michael Furlong: That’s the level of success. Do you follow football?

Jess Davidson: No…

Michael Furlong: Only because you’ve used the “one-percenters” quite a lot. And I thought it might’ve been a football analogy.

Jess Davidson: I read a lot of business books, and I listened to a lot of Trainers, and I do a lot of Internal Training & Development.

I take little bits from every Trainer and book that I read and it comes together to be what I am.

Michael Furlong: Have you read “Purple Cow”?

Jess Davidson: No, I haven’t read that one

Michael Furlong: It’s a great one. Jess, we’ll wrap it up for now. It’s been an absolute pleasure chatting with you.

I am really, really honoured to be in your Company, as an Award Winner because that’s an award that I’ve never won, and I don’t think I will get there.

I’m like you, I don’t put in for the Awards for Property Management of the Year. So, well done. Thank you very much for spending some time with us.
You have shared some absolute pearls of wisdom. I think that anyone that would be working with you, you just have like a warmth that comes through, I’m sure your Staff probably say it differently, at different times of the day.

I think Leaders are created, they don’t have a Title, and I think that you are certainly a Leader in this Industry and the Industry’s better for having you in it.

Michael Furlong: Jessica Davidson Thank You very much, we will chat again soon.

Jess Davidson: Thank You very much.

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