120-year-old Blights Real Estate is ready for another great century of business using Tapi to manage property maintenance.
When Fred Blight founded a small Port Pirie real estate business in 1902, little did he know that his venture would, like the properties he managed, stand the test of time.
Over 100 years later, Blights Real Estate has been passed down through generations of family and dedicated property managers, with an unwavering focus on the happiness and satisfaction of many families who have trusted it with their most valuable assets – their homes.
Today, Blights has returned to family-owned status and has, in recent times, expanded its operational footprint across South Australia, opening offices in Whyalla, Kadina and Wallaroo. It’s also a member of the peak professional body for real estate professionals in the state, the Real Estate Institute of South Australia (REISA).
John Leske’s career encompasses everything it means to be a Blights property manager. His foray into real estate started 16 years ago when he joined the team as a receptionist. Within five years, he’d carved an illustrious career in property management, and today is a Blights Partner and Senior Property Manager.
That was just the beginning for John. Since then, he’s also established himself as a leading commercial property management specialist, while managing nine property managers across three offices with approximately 1300 properties.
He’s been with the business long enough to witness it “basically double in size again”, something he says it’s been able to achieve thanks to the many property managers who have come before him.
“We see ourselves more as custodians of a business that’s been in the making for a very long time. It’s a privilege to see it continue to grow.”
You don’t make it to 100 years without getting the basics right and, as John explains, having good people has been fundamental to the Blights legacy. Many of its employees have built enduring careers with the firm, a testament to its reputation in the industry. But recently, when one of its long-standing property managers retired, it became clear there was a missing cog in the system’s wheel.
“The strength of our business is that we’ve always had good people, and we’ve had them for such a long time that we didn’t know we had any problems – until somebody left.”
Over the years, Blights has moved with the times, going from disparate in-house systems to cloud-based software. As with many real estate firms, managing property maintenance involved following up on work orders, something that each property manager tracked in their own way.
It was a process that served it well for many years until a bunch of changes exposed a previously unseen vulnerability.
“We had no contingency for when people left; naively we thought we’d have people forever,” John laughs.
As in life, everything happened at once, John explains. The firm was experiencing a major growth spurt while also dealing with the ramifications of COVID, including a shortage of contractors. Then, when one of their senior property managers retired, John had to step in.
“The hardest part was taking over a portfolio with upwards of 300 work orders, and not knowing where anything was at with each maintenance job. It took weeks to make sense of everything.”
It was at this point John thought, “There’s got to be a better way to do this”, and that’s when he turned to Tapi.
“It was an inefficiency that we really needed to get control over and Tapi looked like it might be the silver bullet to our problems.”
After: greater visibility, productivity gains, happy staff
A single view of maintenance across all three offices
It’s natural to be hesitant about adopting something new, but John says any hesitations he had “were thrown out the window” when he saw what Tapi could do. He appreciates that it has “no unnecessary bells and whistles”, but instead focuses on solving the big challenges faced by property managers.
For John, the star feature is Tapi’s Maintenance Tracker.
“It was important that I could jump into my car, drive 200km down the road to another office, open up my laptop and be able to see the progress of a maintenance job for any one of our 1300 properties.”
With visibility across every stage of the job, John’s team can quickly find the ones that require extra attention and set up automated reminders to get maintenance taken care of by suppliers faster.
“That was one of our main outcomes and Tapi has nailed it.”
Furthermore, John says his team now has the tools it needs to work more cohesively and have better job autonomy.
“If a property manager isn’t available in the office, anybody can log in and see where the job is at. They can see that the owner has signed off on approval or the job has been scheduled for a certain week – that’s much less hands-on work for us.”
Doing more in less time
One improvement John says he wasn’t expecting was the time-saving. What was a process that involved multiple phone calls and emails between landlords, tenants and contractors quickly became a “one-click button” job – a change that has significantly improved his team’s productivity.
“When we raise a work order now, we can send it to all three people at one time, which means we’ve been able to cut right back on extra phone calls.”
John estimates that from start to finish, Tapi is helping the business book maintenance jobs in less than a quarter of the time.
“At a guess, it might have been a three-hour job from start to finish. Now, it’s literally down to 15 minutes. It’s saved us bucket loads of time.”
Simple system: minimal training required
Most property managers get subconsciously good at what they do. Often that means there isn’t the time to look for ways to improve, but rather, “ways to get through,” John says. But as someone who has spent time at the coalface of property maintenance, he says, “It’s important to keep an eye on not only what you're doing but what you could be doing better, too.”
For a fast-growing business with a stream of new staff joining the team, John wanted a system that was “easy-to-use and required minimal training”.
He says the Tapi team went above and beyond to make sure that was achieved.
“With the amount of time we’re saving, Tapi has more than covered its own cost and there’s much less hands-on work involved. It’s a very simple programme to use, and the training that was provided has been recorded, so any new staff member that comes in can pick it up quickly.”
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