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Adopting a ‘first responder’ approach to property management

By Juliet Helmke
12 June 2024 | 13 minute read
fiona blayney AREC 2024 reb v71czk

It’s not easy to be the person who always gets called when something goes wrong.

Fiona Blayney – property management expert and founder of training, education and trust accounting service Real+ – knows all too well that the person managing a tenancy is often the first port of call for problems big and small.

It’s part of the industry that she reflected on during a presentation at AREC 2024, recalling that she thought often of the issues that property managers field when reading Sydney paramedic Tim Booth’s recent memoir You Called An Ambulance For What?: Strange, Serious and Silly Stories of Life as a Paramedic.


Blayney admitted she was easily hooked in by the stories, and took a particular interest in instances where the reason for the emergency call was not exactly what it appeared to be at the outset.

“I went down the rabbit hole … People get called out to pick up a pillow off the floor. Apparently [Booth] got called out to a gentleman who thought that he was dying because he couldn’t breathe. They gave him a spray of Nasonex, which you can buy at the chemist – he had a blocked nose. Older people who are on their own quite often will ring saying they’re not well, simply because they just want to talk to someone,” she explained.

One thing stuck out in how Booth and his colleagues responded in these situations where their efforts were arguably not needed.

“Guess what? The frontline worker may judge – we all judge – but he does not sit in judgement of them and say, ‘I'm not coming,’” she noted.

“They don’t walk out,” she continued. “In a lot of instances, would you believe, they actually do the things they’ve been asked to do. Because as a frontline worker, they’re there to serve – to help.”

Blayney said that reading this book with property management on her mind, she wondered, “what would we do if we no longer sat in judgement? We might judge, we all judge, that’s human nature, but if we didn’t sit in judgement of them”.

Blayney made clear that the intention with this approach would not be solely focused on changing the service offered by a property management business, but also a mindset shift that could improve the mental load shouldered by the people doing the job and receiving these calls.

“I think it would fundamentally change our stress levels, because you [would be] there to do the job that is in front of us,” she proposed.

Blayney describes this as a “frontline approach” to property management, and believes that adopting this more responsive model would have a ripple effect throughout the business, not only paying dividends in employee wellbeing, but also bolstering the resilience of the business itself in a marketplace defined by change.

“When we use this [frontline approach], we can start to adapt,” she explained.

“You adapt every day to the person on the other end of the phone, the situation that has occurred, you adapt. And this is what we call the adaptability quotient: AQ.”

A business with a high level of adaptability will be able to weather the changes being brought by tech as well as new, younger generations of professionals entering the sphere.

“The success of businesses as we move through 2024 – beyond 2030, 40, 50 – the success of professionals, the success of our Gen Zs, our Alphas, going forward, is going to be the ability to adapt.

“And when it comes to adapting, if you do not adapt, what will happen to you? If an animal in the wilderness does not adapt to their surroundings, what happens to them? They die. If you do not adapt in business, your business no longer exists,” Blaney stated.

As a business owner herself, she explained that she likes to view it within the lens of evolution.

She encouraged property professionals to think of their career as being in a constant state of movement, where they’re eager to “continue to learn, move forward, adapt with the changing markets, your customers expectations, clients and technology”.


Juliet Helmke

Based in Sydney, Juliet Helmke has a broad range of reporting and editorial experience across the areas of business, technology, entertainment and the arts. She was formerly Senior Editor at The New York Observer.

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