15 April 2021
The role of a senior property manager is incredibly varied – and fulfilling. We spoke to Beth Lancaster, who has guided us though her typical working day.
My day starts bright and early, checking my ‘phone for any emails or WhatsApp messages, which have come in overnight so I can respond to any which look urgent. I’ll then drop my daughter off at school, do a quick workout to energise me, grab a coffee and jump in the car to begin my site visits.
I look after 34 developments in the in the Milton Keynes area, and parts of Buckinghamshire, including Buckinghamshire, Aylesbury and Leyton Buzzard and visit every site each month. While I have a genuine fondness and respect for all my developments, I probably have a bit of a ‘soft spot’ for my Milton Keynes sites as I have looked after these the longest. I have literally grown up with so many of the residents, homeowners, and contractors, and built strong relationships with them over the years.
I have been a property manager for 20 years (15 with FirstPort) and so have seen many changes in the role, with technology having the greatest impact. I can remember the days when I used to make site inspections, carrying reams of paperwork, note pads and pens, but now I can record everything on an app. I can easily view my scheduled site inspections and visits, and update these with any photographs I take to record the general aesthetics of the site and any maintenance work, all with a few quick taps on my tablet. I can also raise contractor work orders and let customers know I have visited their development. I have always told any graduates working with me to embrace new technology. It may seem time consuming at first to navigate new or unfamiliar systems, but it will ultimately reap time-management rewards.
I’m then back in my car to check for any new messages from customers, contractors, or colleagues before heading home to catch up some admin. It’s important to respond quickly as these days, most people expect (and deserve) a timely response. Whether it’s a contactor providing maintenance updates, a customer needing insurance details or someone who simply needs a friendly ‘ear’, I make sure I’m always on hand to help.
I first worked in property management in Dubai, where I was responsible for high-end luxury developments, and some with very demanding clients! My current customers also have (and quite rightly) high expectations but with different needs. The focus has moved now as property management is not just about looking after the bricks and mortar, it is also about caring for the people living in the buildings.
I often view us as a fourth emergency service as we can literally receive any queries. I noticed that especially during lockdown, some people were feeling a little isolated in their properties, so having someone they can trust on hand to talk to can be a real lifeline. I feel it is a testament to my good relationships with my customers that they feel comfortable contacting me about anything.
I do think that you can fall into block management as a career. It’s quite rare for someone to grow up wanting to be a property manager but there are always jobs available and the market is competitive. I’m often asked for career tips and I’d say that the role is very fast paced, so you need to be able to multitask. It also calls for a certain personality type to take the proverbial rough with the smooth! You can sometimes encounter people with very high emotions so being resilient and keeping a calm professional head is an absolute must. The role is so varied, that you’ll be calling on all your cognitive skills as you are continually learning new things. But this is all part of the challenge of the role, which I relish.
And why do I work for FirstPort? Well, I’ve always said that I wanted to work for the very best and I can honestly say that I believe that FirstPort is indeed the best. The company allows me the flexibility to have a healthy work / life balance and empowers me to do the very best in my role. I enjoy the many varied, daily challenges (which help keep my brain ticking over) and I get to meet people from all walks of life to help and share ideas with so yes, I do wake up every day, feeling excited about my job and the day ahead!