Friday, December 21, 2012

What’s your focus?

Think about your business in terms of each individual component for a moment.

A hairdresser might break it down into:
  • ·      Cutting
  • ·      Colouring
  • ·      Hair competitions
  • ·      Styling
  • ·      Product sales
  • ·      Make up etc

An accounting might have the categories of:
  • ·      Tax returns
  • ·      Audits
  • ·      Company
  • ·      Individual etc

Now bear in mind –these are just guesses above, neither is my field – my accountant and hairdresser can both attest to that!

Our focus at Elephant Property since the beginning of September was set when the whole team agreed to a specific set of measures based around the areas of:
  • ·      Arrears (late rental payments)
  • ·      Maintenance
  • ·      Invoices (where tenants need to pay owners or tradespeople money)
  • ·      Feeling of well being in the team
  • ·      Hand written cards

Let’s take one of these measures as our “focus” for this blog post. Arrears. In our real estate agency a tenant is in “arrears” (behind in their rent) when they’re one day behind or late with their rent. Ever since our inception in 2009 we’ve prided ourselves on following up late rental payments if a tenant is even one day behind and we’ve always had an extremely low percentage of rental arrears.

BUT. We wanted to “change the game” and become truly exceptional at this area.

Prior to September our record for zero tenants even one day behind in their rent was three days in a row. And as a disclaimer this was set in our first year of business when the size of the number of properties we manage was tiny.

And ever since 2009 it had seemed like a barrier we couldn’t break through.  Speak to anyone in the industry and they’ll tell you that many of them have never even seen one day without arrears –so three would probably seem great!  We knew however, that if we pushed ourselves we were capable of more. If we focused on this area we were confident we could break our old record.

These are the steps we went about in terms of drilling down our focus:

·      First we had a goal – well two actually:
1.     Break the old record
2.     Consistently for three months running keep our arrears under four per day. “Four” being days behind. Ie: if we had two tenants one day behind on a particular day- the tally for that day would be 2 – and a pass. If we had three tenants all two days behind – that would be six and a fail. We’d keep a running tally for the month and if we averaged less than 4 per weekday we “passed” the month. (If we got zero on any day it subtracted five from the tally and if we got a new record we automatically passed the month).
  Where we had always been right onto every tenant the day they fell behind we got more proactive and figured out which of our tenants (historically speaking) were likely to fall even one day behind and we started contacting them significantly prior to them falling behind to put plans into place so that they didn’t set us off track.
And finally – we all took it personally. The goal we set involved a team trip to Melbourne as a reward – but I honestly think just the fact that we set ourselves the goal in writing made it that much more visible. Just this morning as I write this (Tuesday, 27 November) we’ve had a zero arrears day, but Sally and Catherine on our team are already working on our next potential hiccup – a tenant who may fall behind on Friday and I’ve just seen 4 emails back and forth about how we’re not going to let that happen. That’s personal to them. They care. They’re invested.

How did we go with our goal? In September we started well, but had two tenants whose arrears, despite our strict follow up and efforts we couldn’t overcome. In short – we failed for the month.  Importantly – we didn’t give up or let that initial failure derail us.

Here’s how October looked:

After one solid month of focus (September) – even though we didn’t achieve our goals – you can see that focus paid off in October. Not only did we get a new record, but continuing on into November we smashed our old record with 8 days of zero arrears in a row.

Here’s November so far:

The “7” anomaly in November is due to the public (and bank) holiday in Launceston (my home town) on the Monday.

As you can see, right now as I write we’re on track for a new record (we hope!) with 6 days at zero. Want to know how we went? Shoot me an email – I’d love to tell you – Kirsty {at}

This extreme focus on just a few areas of our business has resulted in big goals across lots of areas. November will be the best month our company has ever had, our satisfaction levels across the team and company are at all time highs and the great thing about focusing on something for a long period – it becomes a habit. Our team is now habitually crazy about arrears follow up. I hope I can tell you soon that we’ve hit double digits!

So now back to you. What do you need to focus on in your business.

Here’s the steps again:
  • What goal will you set and how will you measure success?
  • What will you do differently to how you’ve already done?
  • And who’s going to get personally involved and WHY?

By Anonymous with 3 comments


Thanks for sharing Kirsty.

Day one of my first official break in 3 1/2 years and I'm thinking of new and better ways to improve my business on all levels.

Excited and looking forward to a clear head and doing my own "focussing".

I enjoy your input and relating that to my own world is refreshing.


Dave - enjoy your well deserved break! I recommend a good read of The E Myth by Michael Gerber if you haven't read it :)

best wishes!


Read???...Me?? short read I may be into it....hopefully it has lots of pictures ha ha ha ha

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