How a Professional Landlord Manages Contractors: Like a BOSS

50% of workers say they’re not sure what’s expected of them in their job. Sounds crazy, but it’s true!

a well dressed man in corporate attire.The Royal Rose Properties Maintenance Department deals with an extraordinary range of contractors, from the down-and-dirty “Chuck with a truck” guys to professional builders who offer ALL the services – and charge you for all those bells and whistles, too. They also vary just as widely in their business acumen, organizational ability, and communication skills.

As such, we’ve had to carefully tune our communications to maximize the impact each message we send has on our contractors. Here’s how we do it, courtesy of a snippet from the actual guide we give  every person in our Maintenance Department:

Managing Contractors like a BOSS
What’s the difference between the way that your boss talks to you and the way a coworker talks to you? Hopefully, both are fundamentally respectful – but there’s always going to be a difference between the two, because ultimately, you are accountable to your boss. It’s important to remember that as a member of the Maintenance Department, YOU are the boss to our contractors. With that in mind, let’s talk a bit about how to be a boss (in an appropriate and respectful way).

URGENT: When can you ASAP please? – Talking Like a Boss
Check out these five ways of saying the same thing:
• We require regular updates on the progress of work.
• Hey, Franco, any update on the situation with back stairs at 42 Johnbert please?
• Franco, when are you going to be able to update me on the back stairs at 42 Johnbert?
• Franco, I need an update on 42 Johnbert’s back stairs by tomorrow 4:30PM please.
• URGENT: Franco, please call me IMMEDIATELY re: 42 Johnbert’s back stairs.

The difference is urgency. The first request is obviously not even a real request, it’s just a warning of future requests and it will be summarily ignored by absolutely everyone. The second isn’t actually asking for an update, it’s only asking if there is an update – the urgency is zero. The third also isn’t asking for an update, but it at least asks for a commitment, which is more urgent than the first two.

The fourth one is the only one that actually requests the information you want — by putting a deadline in, you’re giving them as much flexibility as you can afford as to exactly when they get the job done. This should be standard-issue for most communications with contractors. The fifth one, obviously at maximum (texted) urgency, is only appropriate for Urgent (and higher)-priority Work Orders.

Based on the expected turnaround time for each Work Order, we should be using the fourth kind of message to communicate our intended schedule every time we send an email or a text to a contractor.

Followups: “Channel Urgency” vs. “Message Urgency”
Of course, there will absolutely be times when the contractor you’re communicating with doesn’t respond to you. The way to respond to this isn’t by increasing the urgency of the message (unless, again, it’s an emergency) – it’s to send a similar message on a more urgent channel. In order of urgency, the channels we use are:

• Email
• SMS/text messaging
• Phone call and leave a voice message
• Phone call and keep calling back continuously until they pick up

So for example if you have a Rush Work Order, and you emailed the contractor yesterday with no response today, you should send a text message. If you don’t get a response to the text message by the next morning, call them and if they don’t pick up, leave a voice message requesting a response that day. And if you reach day 4 (of the 5-day target for Rush jobs!), call them and keep calling until they answer.

People think of Maintenance as the people who go out and fix things – and if you’re a landlord, that’s probably true. But for a property manager, Maintenance is all about managing those folks – and the best way to manage is, of course, like a Boss.

Posted in: Acquiring Rentals, Detroit rental market, Hiring Property Manager, Maintenance, Managing Rentals

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