The late eighties was a heady time in real estate. Lunches were long, listings were short and buyers would do anything to sign an offer.
In Kalgoorlie, I was having the time of my life. I’d bought and paid off our first home, bought a couple of investment properties and completed my studies to become a licensed agent – all in less than 4 years.
I was on fire!
Keen to open my own agency I moved to Perth. I was soon a partner and principal of a run down outfit in Victoria Park. I was determined to make it succeed – the market wasn’t.
As I was signing up to finance the purchase, interest rates went through the roof. Developers were going broke and home opens were little more than an opportunity to nap on someone else’s couch. The market was tough like I’d never experienced before.
But through long hours and lots of door knocking, I started to make progress. That progress was especially evident in my property management department.
According to my property manager the rent roll was growing. The monthly fee income appeared to support what she was telling me.
Reassured by her words, I decided to take a well-deserved break down south. It was bliss. No phones, no homes open; just swimming, drinking and napping.
My first day back at work jolted me back to reality. My property manager resigned. It was the start of a baptism of fire.
The day after she left the phones started ringing…and ringing. They didn’t stop.
“Where’s my bond?” demanded a tenant.
“You guys haven’t paid my account. Your property manager said I’d have it 2 months ago,” complained a burly contractor.
“I haven’t had a rental payout for 3 months. What’s going on with you lot?” said an agitated property owner.
It soon became clear that money was missing from the trust account. Lots of it. Not just hundreds, not just thousands but tens of thousands of dollars, missing, gone forever. My head was spinning. I could feel my business and life spiralling out of control.
In March of ’92 my trust account audit was due. I missed the deadline. In place of the audit was a letter from the auditor explaining that they could not complete the audit and that more time was needed to reconstruct the accounts.
The Board was unimpressed. They wanted answers and they wanted their audit.
It would never be lodged.
In August of that year the auditor sent a letter to the Board. It outlined the the grim reality: as a result of defalcation and misuse of trust funds by an employee, the trust account had been deficient to the tune of $86,000.
Searching for answers I contemplated doing a Part 10. But that would have been the easy way out.
Instead, I determined to get on with the job of repaying the debt, now hanging off my mother-in-law’s home, and of getting my business back on its feet.
It was a tough and expensive lesson that taught me the importance of identifying, measuring and monitoring the key numbers in my business – the ones that have the greatest impact on growth, risk and profitability. It also taught me the value of having systems that keep everyone accountable for their part in the team’s success.
Yet as valuable as these lessons have been for me I want others to benefit from them.
That’s why I developed the Agency Performance Dashboard. This simple 1-page worksheet will help you and your team develop a laser-focus on the key areas that have proven time and again to have the biggest influence on agency performance.
The report is designed to give you a dynamic snapshot of your business and to help you quickly identify where you’re performing well, exposing yourself to risk, or dropping the ball on customer service.
Image by Alan Levine via Flickr.