It has been 235 days since the United Kingdom went into our first lockdown on 23rd March and the unpredictable roller coaster ride of 2020 began.
Now, halfway through our second lockdown, we paused to have a chat with one of our Re-Leased customers, James McArthur from NG Chartered Surveyors. We reviewed what we learnt in lockdown one and discussed strategies for surviving and even thriving through the end of lockdown two.
Here are our top 5 tips to help you make the most of lockdown 2:
1. Learn a new skill
There has never been a better time to up-skill. The transformational changes driven by the COVID-19 pandemic are redefining the way we operate. The skills required for success in the commercial real estate industry are changing, and the most successful businesses will be those who adapt quickly.
“If you don't learn a new skill during lockdown, what have you done?” asks James.
“We now do virtual tours and two of our surveyors have become drone pilots. Before lockdown, we required scaffolding or cherry pickers to complete roof reports. Now we just send the drone up and we are kicking ourselves that we did not begin this 3 years ago!
“It previously took me ten minutes to assign tasks to a secretary that I now quickly complete myself, using technology. It's been an interesting time, but we definitely feel we will come out of this stronger.”
At Re-Leased, we have been enabling our customers to build their analytical skills by providing regular CRE market updates in our Rent Collection Reports. Property Managers and landlords can use these reports to compare their own portfolio with industry benchmarks and improve their ability to understand how their portfolio is performing.
2. Sort out your technology and start using it
The importance of modern technology in business success can no longer be ignored. At a recent Re-Leased webinar, our CEO Tom Wallace summed it up, stating that technology is no longer a “nice-to-have” but now a “must-have” for any commercial real estate business. This has been demonstrated by the 65% increase in the number of UK tenancies managed on Re-Leased since January 2020.
James and the team at NG Chartered Surveyors have been using this opportunity to make sure they are using their technology stack to its full capabilities.
“We’ve been using this time to ensure we have all our data and important dates loaded in Re-Leased - gas certificates, electrical certificates and everything else we need. We have assigned one of our grads to do a massive upload and are hugely excited about how much easier this will make everything.”
Driven by their younger employees and partners, NG Chartered Surveyors are making the most of the opportunity COVID-19 has presented to reallocate resources to better use technology.
“We’re shifting some of our resources away from stereotypical secretarial roles. I don't dictate like the old school surveyors do. We need staff to use centralised platforms to chase contractors and tenants, run off reports like gas certificates and start workflows to deal with these.”
This will enable them to drive efficiencies, better decision making and control. They have also been making sure the team is well equipped, arming them all with Surface Pro laptops to ensure they can successfully work from anywhere.
3. Communication and good relationships have never been more important
A strong sense of togetherness spread across the United Kingdom and Ireland as we worked to curtail the spread of the virus with our first “lockdowns”. This togetherness may be starting to wear a little thin with winter approaching and the government introducing a second lockdown.
However, as we work to manage the impact of the second lockdown, building togetherness and understanding is going to be more important than ever. Commercial Property Managers and Landlords need frequent updates and transparent information about how tenants are fairing so they can make the best decisions. Managers need to maintain good relationships with staff so they can rely on them to problem solve and deal with tricky situations.
“You can't do everything yourself and you are only as good as the next member in your team,” says James.
“We promote a strong team ethic at NG Chartered Surveyors. Everyone rolls up their sleeves and gets stuck in.”
An important part of maintaining relationships over lockdown has been conducting many video calls.
“Before march I never had a zoom meeting. I think I am having about 6 a week at the moment. The number of times I drove an hour for a 20 minute meeting before COVID-19 is crazy. Zoom meetings are providing efficiencies and are good for the environment.”
4. Don't beat yourself up
The dramatic changes in rent collection, lease lengths, and landlord subsidies have made managing commercial property very stressful over the last 9 months.
“As managing agents, we are problem solvers. I have always been deeply worried about the reactions of landlords and tenants and employees if I have to share bad news, and I think I overly internalised this,” says James.
“I found myself going to sleep each night highly stressed. However, at the end of the day, it is important to recognise that problems are inevitable. It is important to have a good team you can share the load with to find solutions for them. Don't be too hard on yourself.
“It is just a changing playing field everyday and your clients and tenants know that. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to focus on controlling what you can.”
5. Check in on colleagues and family
As we all commit to staying home to protect our families, friends, colleagues and customers, it is important to check in on the mental and physical health of your support network.
The team at NG Chartered Surveyors developed an action plan for supporting team members' mental health and business continuity should any of the team be asked to isolate. When several team members were asked to isolate, they kicked off daily check in calls, a delivery of a tasty hamper with lots of treats and even a few bottles of wine.
James and the NG Chartered Surveyors team have also done a great job keeping their team connected by challenging staff to commit to 100 push ups a day in November, all to raise funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust. This has created a nice distraction throughout the lockdown.
And “The press-ups are starting to get easier, thankfully!” says James. You can support the team’s efforts to raise funds here.
One last bonus tip from James: “Don’t put off getting a haircut.”