ben foster, managing director
Ben and his two business partners at Element Commercial have been challenging large agency norms and stripping back commercial property management by sticking to four key principles: keep it digital, be progressive, be strategic and keep it simple.
When Ben Foster, managing director of Element Commercial, answered our Zoom call he was at his home in Melbourne because the city had just gone back into a full lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Remote working is a part of the new normal now facing business owners across different industries and locations. However, being able to stay nimble and adapt quickly as things change has always been a key principle for Element Commercial.
My whole business runs off my laptop. It’s the only way I operate. It gives me the flexibility to easily pack up the office and relocate to home, where I've got the family including three kids and a dog.
Ben started Element Commercial with his two business partners after recognising that there was an opportunity in the commercial property management market to take away complicated and confusing processes in favour of a clear-cut approach.
People are sick of going with large agencies where there's multiple staff to do multiple tasks for the one property. So we thought we'd just strip it all back with a very simple and straightforward philosophy to property.
Element Commercial has four fundamental values that underpin how it works - Digital, Progressive, Strategic and Simple. Digital plays a big role in supporting all of those values, and Ben says it was always the priority.
In today's market, you can't have a business that's not digital.
The demographic of property owners is now migrating from people that are probably my parents’ age to people my age, and they expect to get their statements via email and funds via EFT.
They expect to get quotes digitally from whatever platform they’re using or via email and to be able to approve them digitally. So when it comes to going digital, there really wasn't a choice in the matter.
Ben’s journey with Re-Leased actually began in his previous role. He was part of a large agency looking to bring on a cloud-based property management platform that their sizeable team could access from anywhere. They moved onto Re-Leased and are still on the platform today, almost four years later.
When Ben founded Element Commercial, there could be no choice other than Re-Leased for the system to build the business on.
It was only ever going to be a digital-based platform and Re-Leased is both cost-effective and a market-leader in what it is providing. So for me, I didn't even look at other products because I knew the product and it worked brilliantly from day one.
Element Commercial has now been up and running on Re-Leased for about twelve months. The key benefits Ben and his team are seeing are in the flexibility and time savings they have achieved with anytime, anywhere accessibility.
Working from home, I've now got to balance home learning as well as business operations. With Re-Leased I can get up in the morning and do all the banking before seven o'clock. I can have that processed and remitted to the owners and statements sent within 10 minutes.
That saves me time throughout the rest of my day, so I can focus on rent reviews and other tasks such as growing the business. Its unquestionably quicker than it would have been with any other product.
A platform like Re-Leased also gives you the ability to bring up stats and information on your portfolio, regardless of whether you’re in the next suburb, the next state or the next country.
If I'm out at a property, I can pull out my laptop or my phone and reference information on other properties that relate to new business – it’s the only way I operate.
As Ben looks to what the future holds for Element Commercial, he outlines his vision to break away from the mould of the traditional agency by promoting flexible working.
I don't want people to be bogged down having to sit at a desk from 8:30 to 5, because that's traditionally what people had to do and is expected at large agencies.
I'd rather give people a laptop and a login and say, ‘Right, you manage your own portfolio within your own time and provide the service that we're looking to’ and then they can have that work/life balance.
The platform is really the only way to be able to do that. So my vision is that we would be a business that comes together maybe once a week and, other than that, we all work remotely and connect in the digital space.