Imagine you’re a presidential candidate, about to give the most important speech of your life at your party’s national convention. You put on a bright green suit with brown polka dots and an orange bowtie and ask your top advisor if the outfit “works.” Do you want that advisor to lie through their teeth and tell you it’s perfect for the occasion, or do you want them to be honest and tell you that you look like the proprietor of a chocolate factory? (More Willy Wonka than Woodrow Wilson, if you will.)
That’s right, you want the former. It might hurt to hear, and it’ll mean you have to choose a whole new outfit, but in the long term, it’ll increase your chances of winning the election. If you own rental property, you don’t want a yes-man managing it. You want a manager who’s willing to be honest and have challenging conversations in the short term that will increase your profits and make your life easier in the long term.
Some rental owners think of their property manager solely as an extension of their own investment acumen, somebody to whom they can delegate the business they would carry out themselves if they self-managed. But I would encourage those owners to take into consideration the wide range of specialized skills a top-tier manager has that they might not and to take advantage of that valuable resource.
The first steps to doing that are hiring a manager who’s willing to challenge your assumptions about your property and opening yourself up to those conversations. You don’t want what we call a yes-manager: one who never rocks the boat by proposing changes that might result in higher long-term profits. A yes-manager says “yes,” keeps their head down, stays complacent and never asserts their own professional knowledge, even when it could benefit a client’s bottom line.
For example, if they were to find a roof leak that would later cause wood rot, they might not speak up immediately if they knew the owner would be unhappy about the short-term expense of fixing it. They might be tempted to wait until tenants have to bring it to the owner’s attention in the future in order to avoid a difficult conversation in the present.
To be fair, you also don’t want the opposite: a manager who always thinks they know best and refuses to have an edifying back-and-forth with a client. Collaboration is key to a healthy partnership between owner and manager.
That’s why it’s important to find a manager who’s willing to push you slightly outside your comfort zone in the immediate in order to bring you significantly higher profits down the line. Rather than refusing to budge on anything or manufacturing rapport just to hold on to your business, this third type of manager will collaborate with you to maximize your property’s earning potential.
This requires your manager to have a high level of property management acumen in the first place, as well as the communication skills necessary to respectfully converse, offer and then wait for feedback. If you’re in the process of finding a manager, the best way to identify one who meets these criteria is simply to ask them to provide an example of a time they’ve had one of these conversations with a client in the past.
If you’re a manager reading this and thinking, “I’ve grown too complacent, and I’ve become a yes-manager,” it’s worth noting that it’s never too late to initiate this kind of honest and mutually beneficial relationship with an owner who’s already been your client for years. Like any relationship worth maintaining, the one between a property owner and property manager is ever-changing and requires renewed perspective to improve. Don’t be afraid to have the challenging conversations that raise owners to greater heights and lead to higher returns.