Editor’s note: The following interview was done with Grant Marlowe of Grant Property Management out of Palm Beach, Florida. In addition to his thoughts over the first 90 days—we also dig into what his onboarding experience was like and the impact he has seen so far to his HOA and condo management association business. Listen in to discover how each property manager on his team saves 20 hours a month—and his front office staff staff saves up to 40 hours each month.
Tony M: Tony from Buildium here, the platform that helps property managers master their everyday operations, make their residents feel at home and take on more doors. Today I’m talking with Grant Marlowe from Grant Property Management in Palm Beach, Florida about his on-boarding experience with Buildium and how his HOA and condo property management business has changed over the first 90 days. We wanted to put this interview together for those community association property managers who are truly considering Buildium and want to understand what it’s really like. So let’s get right to it. Great to be talking with you today, Grant.
Grant Marlowe: Yes, thanks for talking to me as well, Tony.
Tony: Yeah, so I figure we jump right in and, really, as we were talking about, the point of this is to give property managers an idea of what the first 90 days has been like. So with that, let’s jump into the first question: So it’s nearly 90 days since you first started partnering with Buildium.
Could you boil down top-level changes you’ve experienced so far?
Grant Marlowe: Yeah, no, it’s a good question. And honestly it almost feels like we’ve been with Buildium for years at this point, even though we’re just approaching 90 days. I think that the training program that we went through with Buildium and the onboarding was so comprehensive and the team was patient with us as we ask questions that weren’t even on topic for that agenda for that day. And we’ve been able to really move forward at such a rate that it does feel like we’ve had Buildium for way longer than 90 days in the sense that everyone’s very comfortable already in it. It just feels like we’ve had it as part of our systems for a while now.
And honestly it almost feels like we’ve been with Buildium for years at this point, even though we’re just approaching 90 days.
Tony M: Wow, that’s great to hear.
Grant Marlowe: Yeah, absolutely. Some of the biggest top level changes, just the way that we handle work orders is expedited. Easy document access has improved tremendously for residents just saving time on turnarounds and follow up emails—and then the app for the property managers on our side (on the team here) has just been great. They love it.
Tony M: Tell me a little bit about Grant Property Management.
Tony M: How many units? Years in business? Clients? You’re in Sunny Palm beach, Florida, so that’s not so bad.
Grant Marlowe: Yeah, that’s a good perk of it is the weather. Grant Property Management (GPM) has been in business since 1991. So we’re coming up here on almost three decades.
Tony M: Oh, congrats!
Grant Marlowe: Yeah. Thank you. We do exclusively HOA and condo association management—so we’re an association management company. We don’t do individual homes or rental properties. If I had to try, and I don’t know off the top of my head how many units that equates to, but it’s in the thousands when you break it down to a number of units. It’s been, as with any business, a roller coaster of ups and downs. But we’re excited for the next few years—especially with some of the recent tools and team members that have come on board.
Tony M: That’s awesome. So obviously you’ve got Buildium and you’re using that—it’s helping you transform your operations.
What are your goals over the next three to five years?
Grant Marlowe: Yeah. Obviously, I think any business for a period of time of three to five years, growth is going to be an aspect or a goal. But I think for us it’s not as much a sprint. We’re not a startup. We’ve been in business a long time. It’s sustainable growth that we’re really going towards and it’s having it done in a way that everyone’s on the same page, right?
So sometimes you invest as a company in a sales team and, within months, you can’t balance it out on the other side to actually deliver them the service that you promised—it tends to come into effect there and so quality may drop off. So for us, it’s just the company in our maturity. It’s a sustainable growth, where as we grow, we don’t miss a beat and there’s the tools (as well as the team) that we’re putting in place right now—are really going to be pivotal in making sure that the next three to five years go exactly as planned.
Tony M: Yeah, that’s great. And we’ve heard that a lot, too, for you have to have the right accounting structure, the right operational foundation—especially that software helps to accomplish—because if you don’t, you’re really just building everything on a foundation that could easily collapse. So it’s great to hear that you’re looking at your growth that way.
What were your business operations like before? Could you give a sense of your biggest pain points?
Grant Marlowe: The nice thing about a tool like Buildium, or software that will help, is it’s not a single focus fix. So it’s multifaceted when it comes to incorporating it into our business operations. Basically, the results in and the improvements come from so many regular routines that we have—and it’s been able to layer over those and just make things more efficient.
We were on top of things before, but being able to have those items now be cloud-based, especially with this COVID-19 coronavirus thing, and being remote without missing a beat has been…I don’t think you can really put a price on that.
If our systems were set up where our team couldn’t be anywhere in the world or anywhere in Palm Beach we’d be scrambling and running around crazy. But being able to use these software’s as a service and being able to assist multiple departments with just one tool like Buildium is really brought us way ahead of the curve, I would say.
Tony M: Well, that’s great to hear.
What Buildium features do you find the most valuable?
Grant Marlowe: For us probably, at least for myself behind the scenes on the management side, our perspective I’d say then the global search—and maybe I don’t know if that’s one that you would expect. It’s not exactly a selling feature, but the global search has been really easy. Our previous systems, you had to click here, then four more clicks later, and then hit back space—and then eventually you got to the information you want. With the global search on the backend of Buildium it’s been one click to enter the information in and I have my answer, I have my info, and I’m already on to the next to-do list item that I have.
Tony M: Right. Hey when you add up those little things each day, at the end of the month, you’ve saved a ton of time, right?
Grant Marlowe: Exactly. It’s those little micro-moments that all add up and I maybe have several hours back now that just come from just part of my day to day anyways. On the resident’s side, I think that they’ve been most impressed and the features that they found valuable is the app. A lot of companies in our business can offer a resident portal to some extent. I don’t think that they’re all this intuitive, but they have some form of a resident portal. Not everyone can do the smartphone app and it’s for both smartphone devices, Android and Apple. So I think that’s been a nice touch for them.
Tony M: And I would imagine like these features have also helps during COVID as you’ve mentioned a little bit before with the pandemic, how it is.
Grant Marlowe: Oh my God. Incredibly.
Tony M: Yeah. So what would you say, so obviously having a portal, having a resident center is a big one?
What are the features and that are helping you the most right now during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Grant Marlowe: I mean with this whole thing, which is obviously pretty insane, and it came out of almost nowhere or at least came up very quickly.
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Tony M: Yeah, for everybody.
Grant Marlowe: For everybody! Communication and transparency are really what will help get us through this. So the e-blasts feature, being able to easily jump in there and send emails to the entire association, or to our entire portfolio in just a few minutes, has been a tremendous help compared to our previous archaic systems. Being able to get files digitally uploaded to the resident document sections—and they may have shared information with us that morning and within an hour (probably less it’s already uploaded to the system) in the resident portal. And all of the homeowners can then begin to consume it, and view it, and be privy to that information. Obviously, the online payments is a huge plus because we definitely have residents who would like to come by our office and submit checks/hand over checks physically. And with the online payments that need is no longer there: they can do it digitally.
Tony M: Yeah, for sure. We’ve been hearing that a lot, whether its e-leases or online payments, or just other things to pay, so doing that online right now is necessity.
Grant Marlowe: Absolutely.
Tony M: So how have your relationships overall changed with your community associations since using Buildium?
Grant Marlowe: No it’s funny, really, we’ve had some of our communities for 8, 9, 10, 15 years—and then you add Buildium to the mix and all of a sudden it’s like, BOOM, they’ve been provided with these tools that help them. Even to me, it’s surprising how it’s refreshed the relationship just having them feel like they’ve gotten this additional asset to leverage.
And I don’t know if this may be extreme or not, but the emotions that they’ve come back with, the boards at some of these associations—it’s almost like that feeling that you see in a commercial when someone gets a new car: they’re surprised with a brand new car in the driveway. There’s so many new bells and whistles to check out. It’s a brand new start in a sense.
Tony M: There’s an ‘ooh’ and ‘ahhh’ factor to it.
Grant Marlowe: Absolutely. An ‘ooh’ and an ‘ahh.’
Tony M: That’s good. That’s great to hear and glad that it’s obviously useful in helping you to communicate, so that’s what we like to hear. So for this next question, I wanted to talk a little bit about the ROI and time saved.
How you would quantify your ROI or time saved with Buildium related to the pain points that you’ve mentioned?
Grant Marlowe: What is the most that I can say? Because we’ve already almost spoke about those little micro moments that I’m not even considering before. I was thinking about things like if a property manager had to drive over a file to a board member before and now it can just be instantly uploaded into document storage. I mean there’s so many aspects to try and quantify the ROI is, I would imagine, pretty tough. But I definitely feel like we’re getting our money’s worth from our service—and it’s not just nice tool and bells and whistles and ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ for the board, but it’s obviously on our end of the operations. It’s been a huge time saver. And we spoke about those micro-moments before and it’s just even fractions of a second with the global searches has helped shave time.
Every time we need to look at something from an entire company perspective it’s certainly, and again it comes back to that multifaceted approach where it helps different departments at different rates, and it’s been such a nice relief. Front office that has homeowner questions about forms or different providers coming in and dropping off invoices and us being able to quickly upload those—gosh, maybe 5 to 10 hours a week just from the front office.
On the accounting side compared to our previous systems, Buildium’s ability with the accounting has honestly probably saved, I’d say 15 hours a month over the course of every day. Just chipping away at it and then for property managers, I would say probably at least an hour a day has been shaved off in the ways that Buildium can come into play in and assist with things that (when you talk to them in the heat of the moment, maybe we don’t realize it as much because we’re shuffling around)—but at the end of the week or at the end of the month, when we’ve looked back and the managers have seen what they’ve been able to accomplish…it at least an hour a day has been saved.
Tony M: Yeah, and really it is about those micro-moments. It’s like you either you win with them, or it’s like death by a thousand paper cuts. Right.
Now, what was the onboarding experience like for you then?
Grant Marlowe: Honestly, I liked that there was an onboarding experience. We didn’t just choose Buildium because they came up first in Google, we honestly evaluated several management software providers, and went through some demos and tutorials, and selected the tool that was going to be the most intuitive and user friendly for our team, for our residents. The onboarding experience was, I don’t know, it was overly patient with us for the things that we may be used to getting in this industry. Everyone on the Buildium side was knowledgeable and patient. I remember one day we had a schedule conflict at like the last minute, like five minutes before the call we had a little fire pop up, and we had to address it. The Buildium team was able to its reschedule us there.
Grant Marlowe: The breakdown for us was a 4-week process where each week we had a hour-long and honestly they ended up being an hour-and-a-half because our team had so many questions where for each of those weeks as we discussed and discovered different aspects of Buildium. So the first week was getting us in there, getting your users set up…importing data. The second week was the accounting side of it. The third week was the management tools, the violations, and the resident portal. The fourth week was, I believe our Q&A process where it was just an open town hall. We were all to go over Q&A that any last-minute things that you know now that we had three weeks to really get our hands in there with Buildium was nice to just put together a free-range list of questions from our side.
Tony M: Right. Yeah, that’s great. And so it’s good to feel that you felt like you were supported the whole way through because from our experience getting ramped up and making sure that you’re getting the most out of the product in a way that it can work for you. It’s so important like right at the beginning.
Grant Marlowe: And I’ll just throw in there that even we didn’t expect it to be, I don’t think we could have been at where we are today if it wasn’t for that gentle and gradual onboarding process that we were provided with. And then our account manager that we still have now even post on-boarding is there—and another thing that we didn’t consider when we were evaluating different options was the pretty much 24/7 tech support. It’s not the onboarding and it’s not your dedicated account manager. There’s a phone line that we’ve certainly used our fair share of already to talk to the Buildium team and ask questions.
Tony M: And I know that they’ll love to hear that. So I will pass that along.
If you had to give one piece of advice to those looking at property management software and ways to transform their HOA property management business with technology, what would it be?
Grant Marlowe: I don’t think things are getting slower. I don’t think technology is going away it’s going to happen, we’re moving in that direction and especially in this industry we’re making strides towards leveraging tools that can save us time and be more efficient. So I definitely think it’s not a question of if, but when at this point, and I can only suggest that they look for a tool that is going to be intuitive; that’s easy to use; that’s user friendly. It’s nice for the residents to be able to navigate around. That there’s good support systems behind the scenes and that is at least just a few of the criteria we had on our checklist. And that’s how we ended up with Buildium is because most of those are, if not all, of those boxes were checked.
Tony M: That’s awesome. And so my last question here and for those out there listening, one of the things that Buildium and loves to do is we love to ask property managers and property management companies about the stories they have—because property managers have stories and everybody in the industry knows that.
What is your most epic or heartfelt story that you’ve experienced as a property manager— especially considering everything that’s going on right now?
Grant Marlowe: I don’t know that I have an award-winning, heartfelt story that we may see in some of the movies or it’s glamorized as that. But, certainly as a property management company, and especially in these times with the COVID-19, we need to be aligned with the CDC guidelines for sanitation and cleaning—and social distancing. And so we wanted to make sure that we were doing our end, our duty to all of our communities, to help with sanitation, and janitorial, and cleaning; and making sure all those high-touch, high-frequency-touched areas (elevator buttons, stairway with hand rails, everything like that, that it needs to be cleaned constantly) that we’ve been offering that to our communities. Letting them know that if you need someone last minute or we don’t exactly have a program in place, but you need it one-off program, we’re happy to send the team out there and get them out there. Especially for some of the communities that the age range that we have is on the higher side, in terms of high-risk areas too, right. That we’re working with them on the janitorial apects to keep everything clean and sanitized. So I don’t know if it’s that heartfelt but…
Tony M: That’s great though!
Grant Marlowe: We’ve avoided other potential stories so far. So a proactive approach there.
Tony M: Yeah, that’s great. And I think those are great notes, and that’s a great story for other property owners out there to think about, in the sense that you’re adapting to the times. And what you’re sharing with the community, at large and with your clients, customers is that, ‘You know what, we’re here, we’re with you on this. We want to get through this together. We want to make it as easy as possible.’ So I think sharing that shows the level of commitment and the nuance to your service during extremely strange times is so important. I applaud you for that. That’s amazing. Well, that pretty much does it for this interview. Thanks again so much, Grant, for explaining how your first 90 days went with Buildium—and hopefully after another 90 days you’ll have more good things to say and other stories. So I hope you enjoy the rest of your day. Thanks again.
Grant Marlowe: Absolutely. Tony, thanks so much for speaking with me.Read more on Property Manager Stories