Tech onboarding can be intimidating, especially when it’s not just your own team, or when upgrading from server to cloud-based property management. Onboarding can often mean introducing a whole new system to not only your team but your landlords, tenants, suppliers, and trades as well. It’s a lot!
Natalie Hastings, founder of Hastings and Co, developed a business model that provides best practice support to Real Estate Agents across Australia and offers guidance to streamlining this process. On the podcast this week, Natalie chatted with us about her top tips for making tech onboarding a breeze.
Let’s take a look at seven things you should keep in mind to make the transition to a new system as seamless as possible.
1. Establish the “why” and set goals and indicators of success
At Hasting’s and Co, Natalie tells us, “It’s all about mindset.” Getting your team in the right mindset and motivated for the change sets up a positive foundation to work on from the start. Change can be overwhelming for some, so setting up some initial goals to work towards can make transitioning appear that little bit more achievable…sometimes even fun.
Try asking your Property Management team to write down five things about a software change that would assist them with their job day-to-day, or five tools they are looking forward to using. As the process moves along, you can look back at the goals you set at the start, ticking them off to validate your work so far and encourage even more momentum toward success. Even if you’re not looking at migrating, sitting down with your team and reassessing goals, and making sure you’re getting the best support from your software shows your support and boosts morale.
When was the last time you reviewed our features to make sure you’re using everything PropertyMe has to offer?
2. Set a communication plan
During the pre-implementation stage of upgrading your system, set out a communication plan involving everyone who will be affected. Sending invitations to all of your users gives them a heads-up that changes are being made and that their knowledge of this matters to you, as well as providing them with early access to training and a demo portfolio.
…giving them visibility of some of the great new things that they’re going to be receiving as a result of this software change… that’s ultimately going to benefit them as the end-of-customer.”
Communication during all phases of this process is super important. Remember to involve suppliers and trades in this, especially if they’re used to a certain level of communication from you regarding replies, payments, work orders, and so on. Natalie has found that giving a sample of what future statements will look like is very helpful during software changes. Communication with the landlords and the tenants is as simple as letting them know what to expect once the new software has been implemented, as well as teaching them how to use the new system,
The time that you spend onboarding your clients… you’ll save tenfold down the track with them being able to self-service whenever they want to.”
3. Prioritise learning
The importance of supplying your team with training during this time is unmatched. PropertyMe has some excellent kickstart training sessions available to their customers. The benefit of this self-paced learning is that you and your team won’t need to be redirecting your attention to training after the transition — you can start learning on the fly and at a speed that isn’t overwhelming.
We remember 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, 50% of what we see and hear, 70% of what we discuss with others, 80% of what we personally experience and 95% of what we teach others.”— Edgar Dale
4. Work to your strengths
There’s no harm in delegating work amongst the team per technical skill set — in fact, we encourage it! If someone has great attention to detail, assign them the data checking, if you have a great writer, they can look after communication with stakeholders. Some agencies chose to have a project champion who learns everything to do with the change-over and then communicates with the team. Different strategies will work for different teams. Use your knowledge of what has worked best in the past to thrive here — you know your team best.
5. Take advantage of PropertyMe’s demo account
PropertyMe’s demo account feature means that whilst you’re doing your preparation training, you can be applying those procedures to your own agency and have that part ready from the get-go. The demo account places you on the front foot with your new learning system. According to Natalie, PropertyMe’s demo feature and Tasks are,
“…probably one of the strongest features in PropertyMe when it is being used well.” Start inviting your owners and renters to the app and bring them on board with the head start and knowledge the platform systems gives you and watch the benefits unfold.
6. Join a community of users
Joining a community of users pursuing the same venture as you will provide a plethora of insight and advice on the journey from both personal and business-minded perspectives. The PropertyMe Facebook Official User Group is a platform for users to share experiences, ask questions, and engage in positive, supportive discussions that inform fellow users.
7. Remember to celebrate the milestones
The positive mindset Natalie mentioned should be carried with you throughout this whole process. Keep in mind the areas your team wanted to improve on and anything you were looking to achieve along the way. Now take the time to celebrate these goals when you’ve reached them! Highlighting successes keeps a team motivated and encourages them to continue forward toward the final goal. Tech onboarding can be a substantial job but we promise it’s worth it.
🎧 Listen to the podcast episode that inspired this blog, or read on for the transcript
Kate: Hi, and welcome to Property Management & Me, a series from PropertyMe bringing quick tips and insights that will make a difference to your everyday property management practice. I’m your host, Kate Sunol, and today I’m joined by Natalie Hastings, the founder and director of Hastings + co. Starting off with just herself. Natalie developed a business model that provides best practice support to real estate agencies across Australia, streamlining their operations and helping avoid costly errors. Welcome Natalie.
Natalie: Hi Kate. Thanks for having me.
Kate: Thanks for joining us here today. So a lot of what I understand Hastings + co does, obviously as a partner to property me and as someone who has a wealth of experience in this space, you help look after agencies, onboardings, and some of their systems and processes.
Natalie: Absolutely. So we live and breathe real estate here at Hastings + co.
We support around 90 agencies around Australia with their trust accounting needs and hundreds of clients, with their software migration needs, and obviously huge fans of PropertyMe. So, love helping customers get onto the amazing product and making their transition as seamless as possible.
Kate: Yeah, it definitely makes a big difference when you can get a really great start to the software and use it really well from the get-go. So looking at that whole migration process, whether it’s from cloud to cloud, or whether you are coming from a server still across to the cloud, it’s really important to sort of look at that data set, I suppose, before it comes across and make the most of what you’re putting in at that point in time. What would essentially good data or clean data look like, and why is it really important?
Natalie: So for us, when it comes to the trust accounting side of your data, it’s imperative to reconcile every single day. So first and foremost, that’s our advice out there. Reconcile daily. Of course, when you’re leading up to a changing software, it’s imperative to be reconciled, but it’s imperative to dig deeper in that lead-up as well.
So we really recommend reviewing your trial balance, allocating any tenant deposits. , following up on any unrested checks, a full reconciliation of any unknown or suspense accounts, and a full check of any adjustments. And if there are any deficiencies in the trust account in relation to positive adjustments, we actually recommend that that should be contributed from the general account.
These are all things that should be done long prior to migration.
Kate: Yeah, great tips. So it’s essentially just operating with that clean data and having that best practice trust accounting process.
Natalie: Absolutely. And we obviously recommend that as a day-to-day practice, but certainly in the lead up of implementation, really digging deep to do that, that checking and review of your data.
Kate: So some key tips for agencies looking to migrate software. What are some of the things that you’ve seen works really well to do, or some of the things that you might potentially want to avoid when you’re looking to migrate?
Natalie: Sure. So absolutely it all comes down to preparation. So we can’t say that enough to anyone changing software. Prepare, prepare, prepare. So for us, we really break it down into five key stages when doing an implementation. It’s really important to start your team off with some, self-paced training. PropertyMe has some amazing kickstart training sessions that are available to their customers, so we actually recommend that people start that training really quickly.
From there we suggest that they commence what we call a pre data tidy in their current system, so removing any old users, updating all of your communication methods, splitting out any contacts, making sure your owner groupings are accurate. Starting off, you’re kind of extracting out your documents or mail mergers that you’re wanting to use.
So for us, stage one is a pre tidy in your current database, and then we move on to the second and the third stage, which is your implementation timeline, which is all about running those trials. So for us, those trials are imperative and we just run them and run them and run them until we’re happy with the results and continue tidying up the source database as a result of those, migrations.
Other things that we think are really important to work on in the pre-implementation stage is sending invitations out to all of the users so they can start their training journey as well and get going on your statement, branding, your email, branding, advising your owners of the exciting change that’s about to come, giving them a sample statement, giving them visibility of some of the great new things that they’re going to be receiving as a result of this software change. But also potentially letting them know that, that you could be down for a couple of days, there might be delays in payments, whilst you make this change that’s ultimately going to benefit them as the end of customer.
Kate: Yeah, super important. Just keeping ahead of that communication, particularly with some of your suppliers and trades teams as well, if they’re used to receiving communication work orders or those sorts of things in a certain way from you, just letting them know that there’s gonna be a changeover, so they’re not too surprised when it comes through.
Natalie: Absolutely. And giving them a sample of what their future statements are going to look like. We find this very helpful as well. And you might be getting some phone calls prior to asking about the statement, but at least you’re not gonna get bombarded when you’re actually up and running. So for us, there are some critical things that we think need to occur prior to the actual final implementation.
And then obviously once that final implementation migration has occurred we believe that significant data checking should be completed at that time. We know that Property Me has a fabulous migration tool. There’s not really any other product out there that does compare to that tool, but we still think it’s critical that data checking is completed across the database for your pay two dates, your fees, your rent amount, property addresses, making sure your owners are set to receive statements or the correct style in which they’ve opted to receive the communications. There’s a lot of checking to be done on the other end, and we think that step’s critical and we like to capture any of those changes that are required before we do any sort of transactions.
Kate: Yeah, definitely. And just helps you get a bit of an understanding of, you know, running through the program and having a look over everything and really getting used to that data set within there.
Natalie: Absolutely. And we try and we try and sell it that way too. We try and explain to the Property Managers out there on the ground who were asking to check their data that this is a great way to learn PropertyMe. You’re actually learning on the job by, by doing this data checking.
Kate: Absolutely, and even ahead of that time, I know some agencies opt to have like a champion for the project that really gets in, learn it all, and then communicates that within the team or some other agencies sort of split it up into different areas. But the benefit that you’ve got is that you can have a demo account for a long time before you migrate.
You can have it for a week or a month before. So as you’re doing that prep and that training, you can really be pulling apart those procedures for your agencies and have them ready from the get-go. You don’t, you know, need to be setting up your procedures or learning those basic processes after you’ve migrated and you’re doing things on the fly.
So you get that really nice lead up there with the demo account.
Natalie: Yes. Yeah, absolutely. We agree. We love that demo account. It certainly does give that and you’re certainly on the front foot with learning the system which is fantastic.
Kate: So after the migration, what are some of your top tips for making the most out of PropertyMe platform?
Natalie: For us here at Hastings + co, we are huge fans of the task center, so we think that that is a vital tool for communication in the system. We think it can be used internally, so we think that team members within an organization should be, rather than emailing on Outlook, they should be using it as an internal communication tool to communicate with each other.
Obviously it records absolutely everything that’s occurred. We think it’s probably one of the strongest features in PropertyMe when it is being used well. It’s a feature that is just critical to a Property Manager. We also believe that the tenant owner app gives a level of service that’s actually now expected by customers in 2023.
So we think it’s really important to get going with inviting your owners and renters to the app. And we also believe that it’s going to be a big time saver for you as a Property Manager fielding calls such as, how much should I get paid? What does my statement say? Or putting in a maintenance request.
So for us, we think that’s a critical tip, particularly if you’ve come from a server program. This is a great new feature that you should be out there promoting to your customers. Also just keeping your eye on the training. So as I’ve mentioned before, the PropertyMe training center is just fantastic. So we always encourage people to keep an eye out for any new release training or even just a refresher online, some of them are as short and sharp as 15 minutes, and we certainly think that everyone, even experienced users will pick up new things in attending those sessions.
Kate: Yeah. I really like how you mentioned earlier, that the communication with the landlords and tenants and just letting them know what to expect before it’s happening, as well as teaching them how to use the products. The time that you spend onboarding your clients, you’ll save tenfold down the track with them being able to self-service whenever they want to.
Thinking holistically as far as the team goes, do you have any tips on how to support your Property Managers through that change process and that really busy time?
Natalie: So for us it’s also about mindset and getting your team in the right mindset. We know from time to time change can be overwhelming for some people so it’s really important to sit down and speak with your team about their positive mindset. We suggest sitting down and writing five outcomes that they would like to achieve, or five positive features that they’re looking for as a result of a software change, and whenever you feel stuck, refer back to the list and think about the big picture in moving forward.
Kate: Yeah, that’s a really great way to put it. Thank you so much for coming in, Natalie, and chatting with us. A lot of those tips coming into the end of financial year for companies, even if you’re not looking at migrating, they can really just help you in sitting down, going through your data, and ticking off that you are happy with how things are running with the trust account and there are no glaring things you need to tidy up or, you know, features that you may not have made the most of.
It’s definitely worth sitting through as a team, reassessing your goals for the next financial year, and making sure that you’re using all the platforms that you have just to the best that you can be. Again, thank you so much for joining us, Natalie. If our listeners would like to continue the conversation, how can they reach out to you?
Natalie: They can reach out to us at Hastings + co. We are located in Bentley, Victoria. You can reach out to us on email, [email protected], or you can call our office on (03) 9885 1308. Thank you for having me, Kate.