Whittles is one of only a few strata management companies in Australia that’s implemented a National Training Program for its staff and it’s proving to be a win-win for both employees and clients. In this Q and A, National Training Manager Les Lamy believes Whittles’ investment in its people is key to providing stability and serviceability to clients and has the potential to become a drawcard for recruiting and retaining employees.
Whittles’ Managing Director Matthew Amber saw there was a need to align managers with the company’s national approach to policy and procedure and to also give them the knowledge and confidence they need to manage their strata schemes in accordance with the legislation. I’d been working as Whittles’ Sydney Branch Manager and was offered the role of National Training Manager when the Sydney portfolio was moved on. I felt very humbled because Matthew could see I had qualities he was looking for and could impart onto others through the program.
Topics primarily deal with general day to day portfolio management between the manager and their clients. We cover a range of themes including knowledge of and dealing with management agreements, how to handle challenging conversations and situations, budgeting and financing as well as the annual general meeting process.
We currently deliver training online through monthly webinars. Managers from around Australia, and from different offices, come together in small groups and I’ll run through our topic for the month. Some managers have had direct experience with some of the subjects I talk about while others haven’t or need a refresh. What’s great is that I often see more experienced managers sharing their knowledge with less experienced ones in these group sessions so it’s a pretty good mix.
From a personal experience, I’ve been on both sides of the ledger. I was a strata manager for many years and ran my own business. Now, I’m looking at things from the company’s perspective. This means I can impart the knowledge and experience I’ve had sitting on both sides of the fence to Whittles’ strata managers so they can plan for what’s coming before it happens. For me, it’s about trying to impart knowledge so our managers can see two or three steps ahead when dealing with a situation, whether it be managing the corporation or dealing with a company situation, so they don’t feel stressed and have the confidence to handle issues well.
There’s a number really. Managers need to be able to listen to the client and be relatively impartial to their needs. They need to look at the legislation in their state or territory and then try and address their client’s particular concerns. If a client wants to do something that’s contrary to the legislation, a good manager won’t make the client look bad or shut the discussion down – they’ll try and work out a solution. Being patient and having a sense of empathy are also key to being a good manager. It’s important clients feel like they’re wanted and not ‘just another owner in a body corporate’. Good managers will treat their clients’ problems as their problems.
We work in a service industry. As much as Whittles manages body corporates and needs to be aware of its role, and the roles corporations play, in relation to the legislation, our managers need to be able to instil trust and knowledge into our clients’ minds. When clients contact us, they can relax knowing they’re in safe hands because our managers have the knowledge and professionalism to confidently address their concerns easily and achieve the right outcome for the corporation.
Stability and serviceability. It’s about making sure Whittles’ clients have access to managers who’ve been with the company for a period of time and have the knowledge to guide them through situations when they need help. Providing clients with this certainty and comfort also helps reduce the impact of any change if, or when, it occurs. Whittles’ decision to invest in training is giving strata managers the skills they need to oversee their portfolios well. If a manager moves on, and someone new steps into the role, any impacts will be minimal because clients have confidence in the service we provide.
There are a number of things. If a new client is being referred to the company by existing clients, then you know you’ve done the right thing. When people are talking about the company in a good way, and others then seek your services, that’s success. When a manager has dealt with a difficult remedial issue and everything’s done correctly when they complete it, that’s a success too.
At the end of the day, you want to create an environment where people want to come and work for you. If Whittles can be that point of difference and give its employees the training they need so they’re happier at work, less stressed, up to date with what’s happening in the industry and, ultimately, better managers than what they were when they started with the company, I think that puts us in pretty good stead.
Updated: 15 Aug 2023