Interview with Matthew Fitzgerald, MRICS
Partner and head of property and asset management at Commercial Property Partners LLP (CPP)
Reduction in Admin Time
In human error with Automation
Admin hours saved per week
I’ve been with CPP for three years and built the property management team; which is now up to seven members of staff. From the beginning, I had to develop the different processes that are involved in running a successful property management department.
I’m interested in tech and see the benefits that proptech can have on a business but in previous companies I’ve worked at, they were so big that it took years for them to adapt and bring in new technology. I therefore saw CPP as a good opportunity to go straight for something new which was cutting edge technology, rather than old, tried-and-tested databases which I have used in the past. In the very early days we used spreadsheets to hold property data, but as we grew this became too time consuming and we needed an accounts portal and a database to hold our lease information.
Integrating Xero with Re-Leased has enabled huge business growth.
We heavily invested in Xero firstly; that’s where I came across Re-Leased, through Xero’s app marketplace and through our accountants, who recommended it. We came across Re-Leased at the right time, because we were growing and we needed to make sure we were set up right so that we did not stall that growth — which is exactly what we can do with Re-Leased and Xero in place.
Re-Leased saved us over 35 hours of administration per week — lowering costs and freeing up time for us to focus on growing our business.
Our team is now geographically spread out and we all work quite flexibly — some from home. We all need to be able to access our software from wherever we are. One of the challenges we had early on was that the company was using Sage, which was very limiting in terms of needing to be linked to computers. Using something cloud-based, and with unlimited users, was ideal.
A cloud-based system helps our team work from anywhere in the world and on any device.
Originally we we used Sage for our Property Management accounts; we then moved for Xero, and then looked at some more traditional property management packages: Qube and PM&A. We also trialled a system called Arthur. But Re-Leased worked well because it was commercial-centric, was cloud-based, and had all the functionality of Xero, which we liked. We also liked the personal touch of the Re-Leased team, who provided feedback that helped us make changes. That made a big difference.
Our previous software impacted our ability to scale the property management business and bring extra work on. We were winning extra work but, with spreadsheets, it was very time-consuming to on-board. It took a long time to input invoices, and create new rent and service charge demands. And on the analytics side, analysing our budgets and expenditure was time-consuming too. For the surveyors to get a snapshot of how much we were spending, they had to go into different spreadsheets and manually analyse different data. To be able to automate that whole process, I can’t tell you how useful that was and how much that changed things for us.
I used to be too heavily involved in dealing with accounts and admin issues and used to spend one day each week on admin; sorting invoices out, which wasn’t a productive use of my time. Now with an automated system, it’s done within half an hour. It’s gone from a full day to something that is done as quick as a click of a button. Also, because we previously did it manually, there was room for human error — that’s why there were so many people involved in the process. Now it’s just one person doing it, as opposed to a whole team. It saves so much time and staffing costs.
Migrating the system was daunting at first, but it was fairly straightforward with the help of Re-Leased, which offered a bulk upload rather than having to do everything manually. It went smoothly and once the system was online, the first thing that struck us was that it was so easy and so quick to access information with the click of a button. It was instant information and data, without having to go into an old Excel tenancy schedule sheet.
With Re-Leased’s calendar integration, I can be confident we won’t miss a key lease event date.
It’s important that we don’t miss key dates, such as lease-end-dates and break dates. Having the link to Office 365 with Re-Leased works perfectly and does what we need it to. It has taken a load off my mind. We don’t have to go in and check what’s coming up next week or next month because the software does that for us. The fact that we can put bespoke reminders in place is very useful as well. It’s quite a slick process in terms of the way property management works now, with multiple integrations with different providers. What Re-Leased and Xero have shown me is that by automating many of my processes, I can save so much time and focus on our core business.