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Coming into your own

Starting a property management company

By John Salustri

So you want to be your own boss, launch your own company, sit back and reap the rewards. Not so fast. The rewards are there, but they lie at the end of a long and sometimes challenging road. Along the way, expect long hours, little sleep and, possibly, even less pay.

In 2014, industry veteran Tiffany L. Jackson, CPM, CAM, launched her own business, Compass Management, LLC, in Denver. And in the IREM Accelerator: On-Demand three-part series, “How to Start a Property Management Company,” she does a deep and very frank dive, based on her own experience, into the steps for getting a company off
the ground.

Pre-launch

“Being a property manager and running a property management company are two very different things,” Jackson states. “It’s like having a child. It’s a 24/7, 365-day job.”

The more work you do up front, the stronger your business foundation will be, and Jackson spells out some of the critical areas a new company owner needs to address prior to launch, like licensing, insurance, taxes and other costs associated with a start-up. There are also hidden challenges in choosing a name and a URL for your website—and costs that can escalate into the thousands if you’re not careful about your selections.

Along the way, beware the internet scammers. “It’s easy to think you’re on the IRS website when you’re not,” she warns. Suddenly, what should be a little- or no-cost process, such as getting a Federal Employer Identification Number, can “cost you much more.”

For motivational support as well as business advice in those times of doubt, she advises entrepreneurs to, “Ask some people who own businesses to mentor you. Surround yourself with people who believe in you.”

Finally, take your time, especially in the creation of a business plan. “If it takes you six months to a year to complete, it will be worth it once you launch,” she says.

“Being a property manager and running a property management company are two very different things. It’s like having a child. It’s a 24/7, 365-day job. ”

—Tiffany L. Jackson, CPM, CAM

Launch

For Jackson, after the completion of her business plan, the company website, “was the very first thing I worked on,” despite the fact that some of her advisers said no one cares about a web presence. Jackson disagrees. “Potential clients want to see that I’m legit, and
a website gives legitimacy.” She also recommends asking an industry outsider to review your site. “If it makes sense to them, it will make sense to a potential client.”

Jackson worked from home until she had spare dollars to rent, first an executive suite, and ultimately, an office. Staffing was a bit more challenging, with questions such as whom to hire first—accountant, admin, or maintenance tech, and at full- or part-time status?

She has much solid advice on the business development front, but probably the most critical is to watch your step while you’re still working for someone else: “Remember your IREM ethics training.”

Post-launch

Building her business, Jackson had the opportunity to reflect on matters she could have addressed differently. For instance, “I didn’t realize before launching how much I would have to do, and for how long,” she says. “You’ll be your own accountant and business development manager and admin, as well as president and CEO.”

She also urges everyone to get a qualified CPA right away—with the emphasis on “qualified”—and recommends hiring a payroll company at the start. “That might seem excessive when it’s just you,” she urges. “But decide how you’re going to pay yourself and stick to it. It’s worth it when you realize the payroll company is going to keep track of your pay and how much needs to be dedicated to taxes. And they’ll make the quarterly tax payments for you.”

Finally, ongoing education will serve you well. “You wouldn’t go to a doctor who didn’t keep up with continuing education,” says Jackson. “That applies to property management as well.” She suggests “Leading a Successful Property Management Company” (BDM603) for anyone interested in starting their own company, as well as those pursuing the AMO accreditation.

The rewards of owning your own business are great. Just be prepared to work—hard and wisely—to realize them. 

 

Journal of Property Management

John Salustri is a contributing writer for JPM®.

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