Streamlining your Block Management Team

Ben Jarvis is the Portfolio Manager for Benjamin Stevens Block Management. Ben started in September of 2020, having been brought in to add further experience to the already efficient and professional team. Here, Ben writes about his role, the value a Portfolio Manager can add to a team and the changes to budgeting systems he has set up which are being warmly received by clients.

“Coming into the business in September of last year I took on the rather unique role of Portfolio Manager, off the back of the first lockdown. The Corona virus has caused much disruption to most businesses and at Benjamin Stevens this was no different.

Benjamin Stevens’ Managing Director, Steve Wayne saw lockdown as a golden, once in a lifetime opportunity to step back and take a good hard look at his business, both what they were doing right and what improvements needed to be made.

He identified that Block Management needed a focal point and an individual to assist in trouble shooting both past and present issues. Someone to look at ways to introduce or improve processes from multiple standpoints of refining and expanding the business and, making tasks easier for team members, which in turn improves the service we can provide to our valued clients and customers. If these processes work well all round then one standpoint holistically feeds the next.

As part of the Senior Management Team I also look after the day to day running of our entire portfolio, and assist with new business enquiries so I can pass on first hand the success stories of our streamlined processes over the previous 9 months.

These have included introducing an itemised budgeting process, which sees the company liaise with our clients during the last quarter of their current financial year to set a sensible and realistic budget for the coming 12 month period, which allows time to look at estate expenditure more closely (using previous known year-end accounts figures, and most recent expenditure) and discuss both day to day funds required and more long term savings into their reserve funds.

Where managing agents do not give sufficient time for such discussions, this can lead to budgets being ‘rolled over’ for new financial periods and a lack of attention to long term savings, meaning when large scale repairs or redecorations are required a rather hefty bill is presented to Lessees as one lump sum, which is the current climate is not ideal in the slightest. It is likely that day to day funds will also not be sufficient to cover all services over the 12 month period, leading to a drop in services or a year-end accounts deficit.

The other positive to our revamped budgeting and billing is that Lessees can see first hand, line by line, where their money goes and the full extent of what is required to run their development effectively day to day. A breakdown of the reserve funds is also itemised to show how the funds are planned to be used based on any capital expenditure plan.

Additional improved processes have also been put in place for credit control and planning and implementing long-term major works and redecorations. Not only does this allow us to manage our portfolio effectively for our clients and residents, in line with our lease obligations, by keeping our developments decorated and up to date and ensuring due funds are collected in a timely manner to ensure no drops to estate services, but this also assists from a company standpoint in maximising certain additional revenue streams. In turn, this allows us to grow our team and further improve the award-winning service we are already providing to our developments since the rollout of these processes.

Having worked at several other managing agents in my career, it can be the case that multiple departments come together to try to iron out operational or process issues, which can lead to a tangle of opinions and needs. In my unique role, although other departments are of course involved in initial discussions, to find out early on if a suggested improvement will quickly stand or fall, as the sole troubleshooter this gives the company the benefit of having a much stronger vision which we can achieve much quicker with one specific role driving such changes and improvements.

The goal over the next 12 months is to continue to streamline what we do day to day, to improve efficiency and our service to customers, to allow us the additional capacity to expand our portfolio by at least 10%. We are also looking to share these improvements with letting agents looking to move into property management services, by offering either consultancy advice or back office management support for a percentage of the management fees within their portfolio…