How to Structure a Property Management Company for Maximum Results


In our series titled “The Winning Formula of a Championship Team” in property management, we continue to focus on Part 1: The Seven Critical Components.

As a brief reminder, Critical Component #3 is the Play Book.  The Play Book contains our processes – the plays that get called during the game.  By documenting our processes and the subsequent procedures the entire team understands what triggers a process and what must take place to win.

Now that we have created the Play Book we will use it to determine what positions on the team we need to create.

Let’s now examine Critical Component #4: Positions on the team.

Critical Component #4: The Positions

Since most of you reading this are not starting from scratch it can be tempting to add new responsibilities to the people on your team who seem to be the most productive or have the most experience.   

I’ve done this and it doesn’t work out well.  

Having learned my lesson, I now coach my clients to focus first on the policies and procedures that need to be in place before determining who will do what.  Once we have the prerequisites in place, we can focus on assigning responsibilities.  

It seems simple enough to look at the players on the team and just start assigning responsibilities based on who has the bandwidth or who is good at details or who is a people person but this is a huge mistake.

If you are building a Championship team you can’t simply look at the players you currently have on the team, you have to think about what the team will look like in six months, next year, and three years from now.

A good sports team looks at what positions are needed to properly execute the plays necessary to win and then goes and looks for the very best players they can find to fill those positions. As business owners we need to do this as well.  We need to first define the positions necessary to properly execute the plays that uphold the policies of the company before we can even think about assembling the best players for our team.

Team Structures

It’s your team, you can structure it any way you like as long as they can execute the plays properly and deliver the desired outcomes but there are three team structures that are the most common.

The three most common team structures are: 

  • Portfolio model
  • Departmental model
  • Pod model

There is always someone who advocates for a “hybrid” model which is some combination of two or more of these models but when you press them on it they usually fall primarily into one of the three main categories so that’s what I’m going to focus on.

Portfolio model

In a portfolio model a single property manager focuses on managing a collection of properties or investments. They are responsible for finding properties to manage, leasing them out, coordinating maintenance and addressing questions about income, cash flow and expenses.

Property managers are responsible for overseeing the performance and needs of their specific portfolio. Most property management companies start as portfolio based because in the beginning there is little cash flow hire additional help so most entrepreneurs do everything by themselves.  Then when they do look to hire they bring on someone that duplicates what they are doing but just with their own properties. This model can be suitable for businesses managing properties in different locations or with varying types of assets but a downside to this structure is that clients build a relationship with the property manager and not with the company itself. This can be problematic if a property manager you have on your team decides to leave the company.  Often the client will want to follow the property manager to their new company or at the very least explore their options since they don’t have a strong bond with the company..

Departmental model

A departmental model organizes the company based on specialized functions such as leasing, maintenance, and customer service. Each department focuses on specific aspects of property management, allowing for deep expertise and efficiency. This model can be great for efficiency but clients can feel like they don’t have a true connection with the company and no one truly owns the outcome or the relationship with the client.

Pod model

A pod model features small, cross-functional teams working semi-autonomously on a specific portfolio of properties. This small team structure promotes flexibility, collaboration, and client focus, with team members having a smaller amount of properties to manage and fewer clients to build relationships with, while at the same time providing the client with specific contacts to work with like in the portfolio model but also spreading the relationship and responsibilities amongst the team like in the departmental model. 

The pod model is well suited for companies that want to grow while still maintaining close relationships with their clients.  As the company expands they can add additional pods to handle additional properties, and as the company grows a player can serve multiple pods until the pod’s portfolio is big enough to support a full time position.

Creating Positions

Now that we have an understanding of the most common types of property management business structures we can start creating the positions.  

The best way to do this is to examine each process that you have designed in Critical Component #3 and create a list of each task that has to be accomplished in the process. Now create columns across the top of your list and start assigning the names of roles not the names of people.  We never design our team around players, we design our team around positions (company roles).

For example when we are examining our client onboarding process we may have the following roles: 

  • Business development manager: The role that signs up the new account
  • Onboarding specialist: The role that sets up the client in the company management software and ensures that all of the necessary paperwork is completed.
  • The leasing agent: The role that shows the properties to prospective tenants and needs to know any special instructions or 
  • The property manager: The role that takes over the relationship from the business development manager so that the business development manager can focus on finding the next new client.
  • The maintenance coordinator: the role that reviews the new property inspection documentation to ensure that the property is in rent ready condition and coordinates any necessary maintenance or repairs.

Notice as we defined the position we assigned the role not the person.

It’s not until we have assigned responsibilities to the roles in the company for every process that we can even think about filling each role with the most qualified player.  Sometimes the player is already on the team and sometimes we need to recruit new players for the position.

For a list of the most common positions and their typical tasks check out this resource by VPM Solutions: Common property management company positions

Next week

Next week we will discuss Players (Team members).

Known as the “Champions on the Field,” this critical component highlights the importance of selecting the right individuals for the team, focusing on their skills, strengths, and how they fit into the team culture and dynamics.

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