Strata is a sector that has an inbuilt growth mechanism that few industries do. Governments and councils have dedicated policies to build the kinds of properties we work with, and most new migrants or people moving out of home are expected to move into strata. So we have a business that’s endlessly growing without a whole lot of effort or marketing needed by industry participants. Sounds great, stress free, and money for jam right? Oh, so wrong.
Churn and burn amongst strata managers is exceedingly high, and reports from UNSW and Macquarie Bank paint a grim picture of the sustainability of working in the strata industry. In short, over the past couple of years about 10% of staff in senior or mid-level roles in strata management have been lost while the number of support staff has nearly doubled. Whilst it is critical we welcome new entrants into the industry, we also need to retain experienced staff, to mentor, train them and of course help do a huge amount of the grunt work in our businesses. What this data tells us, particularly when coupled with some of the feedback we get from our strata manager member businesses is that people don’t stay in the industry long enough, often burnt out by excessive client demands, bullying and harassment.
Digital tools have created an expectation of an instant, or near instant response to queries or correspondence. This pressure for, and ability to give an instant response places incredible strain on people. Importantly, we would note- it is not productivity enhancing. Economists observed little increase in productivity despite widespread digitisation between the year 2000-2020. This is known as the Solow Paradox is economic circles. So it’s important to note that instant responses aren’t adding much value.
What does this all mean? Serious work is needed to end burnout, fatigue and people leaving our industry in tears or tatters.
Enter The Community Co. headed up George Salloum and Pedzi Mawande. The Community Co. is shifting the approach to work in the strata sector by embracing a new way. Pedzi and George recently began to allow senior staff to work 4 days a week, with the option to use a few hours on a Friday to clean up any overflow they may have- otherwise, every weekend is a long weekend. This decision came from their philosophy of “we speak community” which is about ensuring they help communities remain harmonious. Part of this is ensuring their strata management staff are at the top of their game and not anxious and exhausted.
George and Pedzi said when they started their business they agreed as business partners they would never be married to a process and sought to innovate with everything from invoicing, to task management, to KPI’s.
The feedback from staff out of the shift in process that is this 4-day working week has been overwhelmingly positive and the measured output of the business has remained largely the same. Being the innovators that they are, Pedzi and George ensure that all work tasks are entered into task management software as they are come in or are created. They have noticed daily output in this system amongst staff is about the same. Clients have been informed, although support staff work on Fridays and are available to answer and action “true emergencies” and any inbound correspondence and phone calls that need tending to. Clients have embraced the need for work life balance and noted how their strata managers appear bubblier and more refreshed when dealing with them.
George and Pedzi had the systems and culture in place to make this work and are reaping the rewards. The desire for a better work life balance for staff comes from a culture of genuine care for their staff and a culture that reinforces this. George described the ABCD’s of culture as being Affirm, Become , Communicate and Discipline. George and Pedzi work to ensure that a positive culture resonates in everything they do. This is clearly working, with near 100% staff retention over the longer term. A rare thing in strata indeed. In George’s words “ it is important to have clear and consistent goal posts, people can respect that and will embrace that.”
George and Pedzi’s approach to business is clearly working, with growth over the 8 years exceeding business targets considerably, and significant and notable success at SCAQ and SCA National Award levels. They recently opened a Gold Coast office and are eyeing off expansion into Far North Queensland.
This piece isn’t to tell everyone in strata to run their business like Pedzi and George. Rather, as George puts it himself, it is to motivate others “to take action to stop the stress, churn and burnout we see all too often in this industry.” Well done Pedzi and George on your commitment to innovation, growth and ensuring our best strata managers, stay with us.