When it comes to Strata Management, most people’s minds go straight to strata managers; the professionals who are responsible for ensuring buildings and common areas within a strata titled or community titled scheme are properly maintained for the benefit of all lot owners. Of course, they play a big part within Strata Management, but as Design & Build learnt from our blog today, effectively maintaining and managing a broad range of properties involves a lot of moving parts, and consequently requires a lot of skills from a broad range of professions. For example, CPA qualified accountants are often required to produce transparent and accurate quarterly reports so the strata committee can make effective decisions. While experienced professionals within customer service and account management are instrumental in balancing the interests of all strata committee members and owners are being met.
To help unpack all of the potential career opportunities to be found within property and specifically Strata Management, we speak to Melissa Truscott, the Chief Operating Officer of the established and leading strata managing agency McCormacks Strata Management, which runs some of Sydney’s most iconic buildings. Melissa has a wealth of experience within the property industry and highlights the diverse career options to be found within strata management; from human resource and project management to operations and client services. She also lists the typical projects involved within strata management to help paint a picture for those considering a career transition or wanting to explore new opportunities within the property space. Read her insights below:
How did you first get into the property sector, particularly Strata Management?
Like many within the industry - I fell into it. I took the opportunity of voluntary redundancy from the gaming industry where I worked in project management and business transformation for 17 years.
I wasn't sure where I wanted to take my career next. Extended family had been in the strata management industry with their Eastern Suburbs based firm for over 30 years. They offered me the opportunity to join their company to learn the business so that I could start up my own strata management company in the future. The plan was for me to spend 12 months business process mapping and re-engineering for their business, which would provide me with a great opportunity to learn the ropes.
However, within three months a strata manager had resigned, and I was thrown into the role of strata manager with a full portfolio and a very quick turn-around on my Certificate of Registration. It wasn't until 12 months later that I returned to Business Projects. I loved working with the team and I loved the industry. I ended up staying for almost 10 years, deciding that a start-up wasn't on my radar.
What’s your favourite part of working within Strata Management?
Education. So many complexities and issues could be avoided if those that own and live in strata were more familiar with strata living. Additionally, I love working with committed and engaged strata committees so that we take their communities beyond the minimum legislative requirements and apply best-practice standards.
McCormacks is a company renowned in the Sydney Strata Management space - what first drew you to the company and are there any exciting projects you’re currently working on?
I've been familiar with McCormacks for many years. Hugh McCormack (Managing Director) and I would regularly meet to discuss the challenges we were facing in our businesses and share information on business improvement. Our ideologies on customer experience have been aligned for many years and we often joked about joining forces. Late last year - the timing was right and I was extremely excited about working together and having the opportunity to start making some of our shared ideas a reality.
As for projects, we have a few in the works at the moment. We've been doing a lot of work around culture this year and we have just launched a new time capture and management solution to provide our clients with greater transparency over our service delivery to them. Next up is the implementation of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution.
Your role at McCormacks is Chief Operating Officer. Can you provide an idea of what a typical day in this role looks like for you?
My role provides leadership and management to ensure that the business (and its associated entities) has the appropriate operational controls, administrative and reporting procedures and human resources available to effectively grow the business and to guarantee financial strength and operational efficiency. It impacts across all areas of the business. A typical day would see me involved in financial management, human resource management, project management and business process re-engineering and information technology design. It's really a 'jack of all trades' role. I love what I do.
What has been your proudest career achievement to date?
During the first quarter of 2020, I was able to deliver on a project that I had been working on for three years. It was completing a $1.5M IT upgrade for one of the largest Strata Management companies in Australia. We consolidated five IT platforms into one, upgraded tools of trade for almost 250 employees across three states and one territory, upgraded security solutions, replaced telephone services and implemented the program Office 365. It all came to fruition just as the first lockdown hit. This meant that all of the team were able to quickly respond and work remotely with no downtime or impact to the service delivery for clients.
You studied Business Management at university, which allows you to work within a number of different industries. For those contemplating a career change or just starting out in the workforce, why do you think working within the property industry is a great career option?
There are so many opportunities within the property industry, whether that be in construction, real estate, strata management, property services or trades. Many people think the only opportunity in strata management is to be a strata manager on the front-line but there are so many more opportunities in things like project management, human resource management, operations, client services, etc.
Do you have any career advice for those just starting out in their business degrees or first job, who want to eventually reach a managerial level, like a Chief Operating Officer or a Managing Director? (Especially within the property space).
Business management was a great starting point from a degree perspective as it gave me a view into many facets of management that I still draw on today. You need to know enough about almost everything and then have your team that report into you being specialists at what they do. I don't purport to be an expert in financial management - but I know enough so that I can discuss the financial impact of my decisions with a qualified accountant. I continue to learn from them as the specialist.
How have you seen both the property industry overall and Strata Management change over the last year due to COVID? What opportunities do you see for the industry overall in the next few years? (in terms of technology and rebuilding from COVID-19 etc.).
I've always been a strong supporter of a flexible workplace and implemented flexible workplace policies within that first strata management company over 15 years ago. Speaking to many of my industry peers over the years, the flexible workplace didn't have much support. Covid has obviously changed that and from everything I'm reading, our employees are driving the change to have greater access to a flexible workplace. It's generally the first question that a prospective candidate will ask.
The recruitment of strata managers has always been difficult but I find it even more so now. Many strata management businesses have had to embrace the flexible workplace - which has been shown to provide greater work/life balance. This is contributing to potential candidates being less inclined to seek other opportunities.
The challenge is for employers to ensure that they are investing in technology to make working remotely a seamless experience for both their employees and their clients.
Interested in finding out more about the different careers to be found within property? Or looking for new opportunities within strata management? You can click here to view the exciting roles our Property & Real Estate consultants are working on or to contact the team about your potential career options.
To find more about McCormacks, you can visit their website here