When Jessica Talbot left high school she landed a job in the crazy-busy world of property management. That was 14 years ago and, today, Jessica is a “boss extraordinaire”, in charge of a nine-member, all-female property management team at McGrath Estate Agents, Gungahlin.
Life is never dull, but Jessica is relishing being a manager, and admits it’s been a steep learning curve.
“As a hands-on property manager, I learned about every facet of the business and feel I could do elements of the job with my eyes closed,” says Jessica. “However, being a manager has been a lot more challenging and has allowed me to apply what I know on a different level. I’m still learning on the job every day.”
One challenge of working in property management is the hectic pace and the reality that no two days are alike. It’s an unpredictable industry in many ways with the unexpected popping its head up all the time.
Another challenge is getting the balance right between everyone’s needs. With Jessica, this includes a large number and wide variety of stakeholders, including her team, colleagues, tenants, landlords and suppliers, and tradespeople.
“What I’m most passionate about is teaching my team that great property management is ultimately about treating everyone well and providing service that goes above and beyond,” says Jessica, who started the management component of her career with one staff member, growing her team from there. “Giving people a good experience is in line with our high service standards and values at McGrath.”
Other attributes Jessica focuses on with her team are being resilient, trying not to take things personally and not getting emotional.
“It’s best to work with the facts so we research issues, including costings, and then educate tenants and landlords so they have the information they need to make the best decisions,” says Jessica. “This includes making recommendations and managing expectations by clearly outlining what people need to know in a diplomatic but truthful way.”
Jessica says her team moves in one direction, regardless of the different personality types. Over the years, Jessica has managed staff across a range of generations but is clear she never puts everyone from one generation in a box.
“My team is predominantly Gen Y and Millennials but that doesn’t mean they all fit the stereotypes of a particular generation. It’s a mixed bag and we’re careful to respect that individuals are motivated differently,” says Jessica.
Celebrating wins is a big part of the McGrath culture—big and small. Thinking creatively about how best to celebrate is key. “If someone gets positive feedback from a tenant or landlord or a trades person, we send it around the whole office, acknowledge their work instantly,” says Jessica.
As a leader, Jessica believes in the importance of rewards as well as recognition.
“With bigger wins, like when we have a good month, we often surprise staff with an outing or vouchers,” she says. “With my team, for example, we gave them vouchers, booked out a make-up place and indulged in tutorials on applying makeup. It was fun and a great team exercise too.”
Being the bearer of bad news for landlords—inevitable in the property management industry—is another skill Jessica teaches her team.
“It’s never easy, calling a landlord and telling them that something major has broken down and is going to cost a fair bit to fix. While it’s not our fault that a fridge, for example, has stopped working, it’s still not fun making those types of calls,” says Jessica. “Again, my team relies on research and cost comparisons to fully and objectively explain what the options are.”
Working at a family-friendly agency like McGrath suits Jessica to a tee. She’s a young mum, with two boys, aged three and four, and juggling work and home life can be a struggle some days. Jessica says it’s wonderful to have a workplace that’s so supportive, starting with Principle Craig Chapman, who also has a family.
“Craig just gets it and has always been an amazing support, including each time I’ve returned from maternity leave, usually working part-time at first and gradually building back up to full-time,” says Jessica. “I also have an amazing husband who is supportive and a mum down road who helps a lot. It’s so reassuring to have such a strong support network.”
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