In our previous article ‘Holiday Property Management – that’s just rentals and cleaning isn´t it?’, which we hope you found interesting, we tried to break down some of the misunderstandings within the Holiday Property Management arena. So following on, we thought it would be a good idea to take a look at where Propierge came from and why we felt it necessary to take on such a massive challenge! But there’s probably no better person to explain this story than founder Clare Westwood, so we figured we’d let her explain.
“I founded the Holiday Property Management Company WCS Bespoke in Sotogrande, Spain in 2006 and have seen the company grow and evolve over the past 12-13 years, even throughout the financial crisis of 2008-14. The aim was and has continued to be to provide high quality services, driven by the requirements of our clients (the Property Owners), delivered in an honest and transparent manner with the Property Owners interests at the heart of everything we do.
As WCS Bespoke grew over the years, taking on more clients and properties, we found that we would reach full capacity within the team we had at the time, resulting in us needing to take on more staff to cope with the extra workload. This meant that there was never any consistent financial benefit for the additional properties and the stress that came with them. The only way to tackle this was to do more and more myself and work non-stop to keep the overheads down. This was no way to run a business and was a perfect example of a non-existent work-life balance!
But aside from myself, I also had to keep an eye on the work-life balance of my team. With so many things to remember, organise and coordinate, often at very short notice, all too often my team would be coming in to work panicking because they had woken up at 3 am in the morning realising the window cleaner/hire car/airport transfer or similar had not been booked for an arrival later that day.
“But that´s just bad organisation surely?!” I hear you say. I can reassure you that the one thing a professional Holiday Property Manager is NOT, is badly organised! So, let me put this in context for you.
When you have multiple arrivals and departures all happening on the same day and cleaners, gardeners, pool staff, window cleaners, hire cars, personal cars, taxis, chauffeurs, groceries, flowers, baby equipment, restaurants, golf, specific instructions on how the AC or alarm should be left…
….a hot water tank exploding a couple of hours before an arrival, or conversely the water supply being cut in the area without notice when you are trying to clean…
…you need to swap a property set up from owner occupancy to rental occupancy and back again making sure the right linen and towels are being used for the right guests, decide if the friend staying next should be treated as a rental or owner and which linen should be used….
….now combine this with some bookings not being confirmed until the day before arrival and some only being confirmed whilst in the taxi on the way to, or even worse from, the airport to the property…
…And you still have to keep the maintenance inspections and issues management under control when the properties are between visits and everyone is under pressure and suppliers are a little erm… “frantic”. I think you get the picture! This really is a challenge.
When all you have to rely on to manage this are excel spreadsheets, whiteboards and (more often than not) slightly overwhelmed memories, it’s no surprise that the odd thing get´s missed or forgotten.
It is not unknown for a Holiday Property Manager to wake up in the early hours of the morning, in a cold sweat as they frantically try to find their phone to send themselves an email to make sure they don´t forget that the grandkids will be arriving with the clients on holiday tomorrow and that they need to remember to buy ice pops too…. (email sent, breathe!).
In 2014 and after many years of this cycle on repeat, I started analysing this pattern of growth and workload to look for similarities of tasks and communication, alongside identifying areas where we could improve efficiencies. There was a huge amount of duplication and triplication of tasks that just needed a system to automate and organise it all, so I began to hunt for something that could do this for the business.
Even in 2014, there seemed to be endless software options on offer to buy or license Property Management Software or Systems (PMS). On closer inspection, it was clear these were not targeted at me as a European Holiday Property Manager. There were plenty for commercial property management and hotels, an even larger amount for long-term/residential lettings/rentals and an enormous choice of PMS for holiday/vacation rentals (channel management) which also advertise offering property management software solutions.
However, I needed a system that did a lot more than send a notification to housekeeping to prepare a property before an arrival/on departure/turnaround and with only 10% of my properties available for holiday rentals and even less for long-term/residential lettings/rentals, there was nothing suitable for me to use. I couldn’t even adapt these to be used in my business, nor could I adapt how we worked in order to use them, as this would have meant not offering the services that our clients paid us to provide.
At the end of 2014, taking my above average interest in all things tech, I decided (albeit with an unrealistic budget) to start building something myself for WCS Bespoke.
It soon became apparent that WCS Bespoke was not a unique or “niche” style of Holiday Property Management company and there was a small army of us, often under the radar, juggling arrival/departure bookings, maintenance inspection schedules, cleaning schedules, salaries and administration, concierge bookings, maintenance issues and faults, rentals of all types and in varying quantities, building projects, the dreaded client accounts and much more. The level of work and reality of the costs to build such a system became much clearer, so the budget was multiplied many times over, along with the requirements in order to capture more of what Holiday Property Managers do and…
…Propierge was born.
3 years later at the beginning of this year, we started to offer Propierge to the market and we have found that many other Holiday Property Managers have also walked a similar path, looking for something to help them tackle the operational aspects of what they actually do and not finding anything that really understands their business. Some of these businesses have also been considering building their own software too.
So, to make sure that the solutions that we provide meet the needs of this sector of the market as closely as possible, we have been listening to these Property Managers and taking on board their feedback on what improvements and additional functionality they need so that we can make Propierge even better. Jason and Wayne our developers are now heads down working hard to get as many of these improvements launched as soon as possible (as explained in one or our previous articles ‘We´ve been listening and we´re making changes’).
We realise how important the services provided by Holiday Property Managers are to their Property Owners and we are really excited about the future of Propierge and we will continue to listen to our customers so that we continue to improve, enhance and grow to provide the much needed operational software support to Holiday Property Managers.”
As Clare’s story demonstrates, Propierge was built out of a real business need, from the shop floor up, to help her business, WCS Bespoke, do what it did best but with added efficiency from using technology. Propierge was then made available to other Holiday Property Management Companies for the same reason.
It has no doubt been a challenging but interesting journey so far. We are really excited about the future and look forward to Propierge continuing to benefit other Holiday Property Management Companies as it has already started to do for our growing client base.