Today’s Guest

Louise Hiza
GC Realty

Episode Summary

In this episode we talk to Louis Hiza from GC Realty.

In this terrific conversation Louis talks about GC Realty’s journey into using Podio and how they had a “lightbulb” moment which led to them building a an absolutely essential Podio system to run their whole business.

We talk about the key impact that Podio has had on their company, and how they are continuing to build in new capabilities.

This is a must listen for anyone in Property Management!

You can find out more about GC Realty on their website: gcrealtyinc.com

Listen Now

Audio Transcription

[00:00] Welcome to powered by Podio. Automation is everything. Supercharge your business with Podio. Get ready for another episode of supercharged with Jordan Samuel Fleming, your weekly dive into the awesome impact workflow and automation can have on your business when it’s Powered by Podio. Join us each week as we learn from the top Podio partners in the world, as we investigate system integrations and add-ons, and hear from real business owners who have implemented Podio into their business. Now, join your host, Jordan Samuel Fleming CEO of Gamechangers for this week’s episode.

[00:45] Hey everybody. Welcome to this episode of supercharged. I’m your host, Jordan Samuel Fleming, here to talk all about the power of workflow and automation when your business is Powered by Podio. Today’s guest is Louis from GC realty and developments. Louis. Welcome to the podcast. Why don’t you introduce yourself to the audience.

[01:02] Well, first, thanks Jordan very much for having me speak. My name’s Louis Hiza CTO of GC Realty Development Llc. We’re a property management and full service real estate company based in the Chicago area. We do everything from commercial and residential, property management, brokerage, commercial and residential as well as we provide turnkey investment solutions for investors looking to buy a rehab and cash flowing properties. So we do, we do it all. We started using Podio about two years ago and really over the past year have we turn it into the beast that it is, which is the hub of our business. We do everything out of Podio now and it’s taken off and we absolutely love it.

[01:52] Well, that’s …I’m really excited to have you on the show today for two reasons. Uh, number one, um, Podio is a staple for the real estate investment community. It is really become one of the tools, um, that people, uh, are using. And so that’s wonderful. And the second is, of course then this is entirely selfish, but my company has recently launched a product based on Podio for property management companies. So I can’t wait to hear how you use it. Um, and, and listen to your experience on it because I know some of the challenges that industry faces and some of the challenges that the existing software, your appfolio’, PropertyWare etc have that Podio I think can really solve. So I think your insight into this will be fantastic. How did you first get, like, how did you find Podio?

[02:40] Yeah, so that’s a good question. And it’s funny that you mentioned that it’s a, you know, a real estate investing is the industry that I think has penetrated the farthest into, um, and the reason being, we stumbled across it a little bit by luck, little bit by a good planning from our CEO, Clif mchugh. Um, he using it a couple of years back. He bought a prebuilt system, used specifically for a wholesaling, so we had a small wholesaling operation going along with our investment side. And so he purchased the system, um, it was the prebuilt system with bunch of apps and the guy who he bought it from just downloaded on his computer and all the flows and said, here you go. Um, and, and cliff used it for a while simply for wholesaling a understanding its power as he started to use it, um, but it wasn’t until about two years ago that we really dove into what it would it could potentially do and started building our entire operations for property management around it. Um, so, you know, I want to say a little bit of luck that he found it for this wholesaling, you know, this was before it became the massive program It is today. I think it was very specific or not necessarily specific to wholesaling real estate, but you heard a lot of people in that space starting to talk about Podio network where we started hearing about it and that’s where I stumbled upon it.

[04:06] So what was the change then? I’m, because I’m always curious, you know, I, um, people, people have to learn the power of Podio. You described it perfectly there. Um, what was the change for you guys which led you into understanding what Podio could do for you better?

[04:24] Yeah, that’s a, that’s a great, great question. So I think the change was when we first had this workspace specific for, for um, for wholesaling, you know, it’s a prebuilt system, right? So just like any program, you’re going to buy it prebuilt, you use it, how it’s supposed to be used, Cliff started tweaking it as he saw fit, um, and started to realize how easy it is to tweak stuff within GlobiFlow because it is such a, um, you know, user friendly, dragon drop type coding system. Um, and it was at that point where we started playing around with new workspaces for property management, a really step one was just to get our procedures for our major processes into it. And so we use Podio as a, essentially an online checklist. Uh, that’s where it began and that’s where it took off because it just became more and more powerful of a checklist, um, that all of a sudden can do virtually anything that you set your mind to.

[05:24] So let me ask you about that. Just, and, and this may be a little too geeky for a property management, have you, but, but I love what you just said there. I mean, um, because there’s… I always talk about the difference between passive management and active management and passive management makes you go and find things, you know, uh, if you keep your checklist, your procedures on an excel or a system like process street, you kind of have to actively search out what you need to do. Um, whereas Podio is what I class and active management where it can, a process can be defined, you can trigger it and then it can lbe layed out in front of you. So is that how you sort of were able to dive into it? Yeah, absolutely.

[06:08] I mean, the, the, the active part of it is, is game changing frankly. Um, we, you know, when we realized that we could have a checklist that when certain steps were met, emails can be sent out, notifications can be sent out. Um, and we realized that we could start getting rid of intra office communication, which has its inherent human flaws of, you know, I start a process, forget to tell becky and finance that. I started it and now we have a ball dropped. Podio doesn’t allow you to do that, it’s, it’s, um, it’s going to tell you what to do and this is what we, when we tried to roll this out to our company, which was a very, very successful in the actual rollout and implementation. But our big pitch to our staff was, look, you don’t have to spend your day thinking about what you need to do today. Podium will tell you what you need to do today and you just go ahead and do it.

[07:02] I’m going to get you to write copy for a new boostPM system That’s exactly how he describe it. As I always say it is. Um, when I, when I typically, how many doors do you guys manage? Uh, so about $800. A total of the moment. Okay. So that’s a lot. So, uh, and what I’ve found, I’m being kind of getting involved in property management space for the last two years and that will boostpm. Um, we’re, we’re all in. Um, but we found that once you get to like between 200 and 400 doors balls just start getting dropped. And, and, and I always say the mindset that change the Podio can bring to you is a difference between when the property managers are sitting there going, oh, what do I have to do for this property we’re, I have to do for this property versus what do I have to do this week? Because the system is laid out. And I think that’s exactly what you’ve just kind of illustrate. Is that, is that how you feel?

[07:57] That’s exactly how I feel. Yeah, it, it creates, it creates an environment where people aren’t afraid of missing things because everything is laid out in front of them. It creates an environment where managers aren’t middle management, upper management are not constantly searching around and stuff get done. Uh, because it is such a transparent system, they can go into any of the apps, represent any of our procedures and see exactly on a step by step, not just unit by unit, but step by step for procedures for an unit, exactly what’s getting done, what isn’t getting done. Um, and, and it gives us peace of mind where everyone knows that the, that every, we’re where we need to be, the balls aren’t being dropped and we can focus on doing either a better job on our procedures, better communication or managers can now spend more time innovating and creating efficiencies, etc. The old system that we used to have a excel file tree, um, with in google drive, we had a system of folders that was just unbelievable and to see the amount of times we were playing around with excel file reports and is everything getting done and trusting our employees to fill in the reports.

[09:14] Uh, iT was a nightmare. And like you said, once you hit about two, three, 400 doors, you can’t keep track of it, you know, you need, you would need a manager for every employee just to make sure that stuff’s getting done. And this has reduced the time or managers spend on oversight by just such a vast amount of time that it’s valuable.

[09:38] That’s great. Now, so you, you did, you mentioned them. So automation, there are, there are two parts where I think Podio can just blast out for property management in particular is automation and workflow management and you just talked very eloquently, but workflow management, talk to me a bit about how you guys have approach to automation and the power of automation that Podio can, can bring to you.

[10:00] Yeah, absolutely. So, um, I think a really good example of how automation has helped us a first would be what I, what I mentioned before of reducing the inherent uh, um, human error when it comes to notifying people of what needs to go on. So we’ve automated notifications and emails, so all of our apps so that they’re at any point during a, during a process or procedure, if someone needs to be notified Podio, we’ll notify them when a certain step is reached. And so this keeps everything consistent. Everyone knows what they need to know when they need to know it. And the second good example would be, um, the ability to push information around. Um, I, I like to say that if the data exists in Podio, it can be used. And if it doesn’t exist in Podio, it’s very easy to get it in there.

[10:51] Um, and so when we create items, for example, in a, let’s say the renewal app, it’s very, very basic procedure and any property management business when a new item gets created by our systems automated, um, and so first off, now, now we’re a renewal items are being created on time just based on the lease expiration date. That’s all automated. But these items are getting filled in with all the information necessary, the address, the tenant’s name, how much rent they’re delinquent, what the current rent is, all this information. And we don’t have to have someone manually putting in all those fields. Um, another great example would be with pdf creation. Uh, we have our leases within Podio now and so when we need a new lease, whether it be renewal, uh, we’re creating a new lease for, for an existing tenant or a vacant unit that we just signed someone on our, our apps that are dedicated to information databases, whether that be a unit or a tenant app, it auto fills pretty much the entire lease. And with the click of a couple of buttons, we have a lease that is specific to that unit, that tenant all the numbers, the rent, etc. Um, and then we’ve integrated with right signature. So we send it directly out of Podio, comes right back. Um, and we used to spend our leasing agents would easily spend 20 to 30 minutes per lease in docusign filling in all the tenant’s information. Uh, and that’s all automated now.

[12:17] Absolutely. I mean, uh, I think that those, you know, it’s amazing how much five minutes saved on an email and then 20 minutes saved on a lease can add up, uh, over the course of a week or a month. and how much, you know, productivity you can gain back. which, which I think is, is, is phenomenal. so, um, in terms of like, if you were to think about the, the, you, you guys are clearly, you’ve developed a very mature Podio system. You’ve, you’ve learned how to build it into your organization and you, you know, the things you’re talking about make total sense for me as someone who understands that market, if you know, how would you, what would you say are the biggest impacts in terms of like if you were looking at management level, uh, and then pm level and then maybe administrative level, um, where would you say across the three levels, the biggest impacts of systems of header?

[13:15] Um, that, that’s a hard question. I’m not sure I can do track kpis for instance. Do you manage the kpis? Yeah, so I’ll start with that then. On the management level of the transparency of the health of our operation is, has been a huge, huge, huge impact. So we have integrated Podio with a software called klipfolio, um, for anyone not familiar to data visualization software online based, and it’s really based around an open api. So it’s not specific to Podio, it’s not like a citrix product or anything but a very easily integrates with, um, with Podio and allows you to update kpis on a nearly in real time. It was a 30 sec intervals. It’s updating. So we’ve built dashboards for every level of our operation, from our leadership kpis are operations, pm specific kpis on maintenance, kpis, brokerage kpis, investment. They all have their own dashboards.

[14:18] Um, and we display these throughout our offices or maintenance office has a big monitor hanging on the wall with their kpis that are updating the ones that need to be nearly in real time. Um, and like I said before, if the data’s in Podio, you can use. And so if, uh, you know, one of our leadership decides, hey, we need to start tracking how long it takes for this stuff to happen. It’s so easy to drop in a couple of date fields, set up the triggers, set up a calculation and calculated time between two and you got a new kpi directly into our klipfolio or dashboards, um, and only kpis, but we’ve set up dashboards that are built around slas, standard listing agreements, which is essentially what those are, are the time that we’ve decided it should take for certain tasks. So for example, in the renewal, a very simple procedure or a basic property management, um, you know, we’ve chosen say five steps within this process that we think are major milestones and then we’ve put around each step how long it should take.

[15:20] now we’ve set up a dashboard specific to all our major processes which then count the amount of items within that app which fall outside of our slas and we’ve color coded all these numbers. So if it’s within our range of um, uh, you know, what we deem to be acceptable in the number will be green if it goes outside of that, it might turn yellow and then finally turned red. And this is displayed on a second by second basis. And so our staff can now make data driven data driven decisions, right? They see a number pop up, red that. We’ve got nine leases waiting to be signed. They know to allocate resources, you know, immediately or that week or that day to get that number back down to green. So for the staff, they’re able to see the whole health of the operation. It’s very easy not only as a staff member, but as an admin to get lost in your own little world and forget how it affects the whole company with these kpis and these dashboards displayed throughout our offices.

[16:22] Everyone can see what they need to see and how it affects the company and make decisions based on that. So our staff find it invaluable and where to allocate resources beyond just their regular schedule. And then from a management perspective, um, you know, if you want it to look at one of the apps and go through every single item to see where all the items are, where the, you know, what has been done, what hasn’t, of course you can do that. But with a dashboard now you can see, you know, with a quick glance, you can see that things are going well, a specific things are not going well. Um, and that’s been absolutely invaluable. So, so from a management and transparency perspective, uh, that, that’s probably been the biggest impact is the dashboards.

[17:03] Absolutely. I mean, uh, I think dashboards, uh, to, to allow everybody to clearly see where they are and where some of the top hits are, can, can be such a boost to performance and, and, and focus. And then from a management point of view, being able to see that transparency and data and make decisions are critical. Um, has there been, you know, when you think back to, to migrating your company into being a power user of Podio, someone that really, you know, uh, clearly uses Podio throughout their organization. Um, has there been any challenges in getting staff working in Podio?

[17:45] Oh, of course. I mean with any system that you’re rolling out as in, you know, instrumental to the operations, there’s going to be challenges. Um, you know, we’re really lucky here. We’ve got a great staff that um, not only are open to change such as this, but they really embraced it. I, I’m the, the internal Podio developer and I can’t tell you how many emails I get daily about staff members saying, hey, you know what, it might save me five minutes a week if you can change this one little thing and of course I’m going to do it. Um, and so they, they, they absolutely love it. Like we said before, they love the fact that they know what they need to do each day. Um, and, and so it’s been, it’s been, you know, I want to say as easy as it can be, but of course there are challenges, um, the pro, not the problem, uh, one hurdle you have to overcome when building custom system is obviously zero documentation.

[18:36] There is documentation for Podio, globiflow procfu, you name it, on how to use those. But when we set up our specific system, you know, it’s our system, there is no documentation. So we’ve had challenges on how to, how to create documentation in a system that is inherently always going to be changing. And when I say that, what I mean is not changing but improving, right? So we build our say renewal app and we find out a month later that, you know, there’s probably slightly better way to do that. Well, all those videos that we made on how to use the app now change. And so that’s been a bit of a struggle. Um, you know, we’ve gotten to the point where we don’t make, um, how to videos anymore of recording your screen. Uh, what we do is we type out a manual with screenshots. That way when things do change, we add a field takeaway, a field, we can quickly change it.

[19:27] The documentation is huge, you know, anyone who wants to bring Podio into their, um, into their operation really needs to take that seriously. And once they get to a point where they think that their apps are somewhat static, of course there’s always going to be improvements, but somewhat static. You got to spend time building out, um, you know, knowledge base on how to use these so that when you do hire new staff and to bring new people on, it’s very plug and play. So that’s probably been the biggest challenge. Um, it’s such a self-explanatory system from the user’s perspective. I mean there’s only a couple of types of fields you’ve got categories, your texts, etc. That our staff didn’t have any trouble actually interacting with it. Um, the biggest issue was documentation and getting that out there I would say.

[20:17] Sure. And, and as you said, I mean anytime you may, if anytime you change systems there’s going to be challenges and there’s going to be a period of adjustment. But I think one of the powerful things about Podio and you clearly I would assume that this is true for you guys as you’ve built a, a bigger and bigger system is because polio always looked the same way and acts the same way. The learning curve, once you’re in Podio and no is actually drops to zero. You could, you could drop in a number. I mean you could have started with your wholesaling system and then added in a whole bit on property management or, or buy and flip them or whatever. And intuitively people at least understand how to navigate around Podio and how to deal with apps.

[21:01] That’s exactly right. It’s big and a perfect example. I just finished a, an app on yesterday that’s around applicant tracking for leasing. So we now do All of our applicants for tenants, uh, in house. We do all the screening and house. We’ve got a whole matrix system based on their application. Uh, so I just finished that app and I sat down with my leasing agents, uh, yesterday in an, about maybe 10 minutes, probably eight minutes. I showed them, here’s the buttons you click, here’s what happened in me. Click this. Any questions? Yeah, what happens when you click this? This is what happens. Anymore questions? Nope. It’s out and it’s working and everyone’s using it. Once you. Once people understand how exactly the organization, how relationship fields work, how, you know, you click a button and if it’s not right, unplug it and replug it and you know, and then it’s going to fix itself. The learning curve really does drop to zero, which makes it so easy to roll out new features and, and have, you know, general buy in from the staff.

[22:05] Absolutely. And, and so, uh, what sort of, uh, um, what sort of communication, how do you integrate your communication? Because obviously when you’re talking about property management, you’re talking about tenant communication, vendor communication, owner communication, we talked about wholesaling, you’re talking about leads and marketing, tracking and tracking, you know, so how do you, how do you integrate communication into your systems right now?

[22:27] Yeah, that’s a great question. So we are actually in the process of integrating GlobiMail um, you know, any, anything that Andreas touches is gold and uh, I absolutely lovedProcFu flow, and GlobiFlow We’re in the middle of putting it together. We’re going, uh, what we want to get to a point of is exactly what you guys do at your company, which is, that’s the only emailing system the entire company uses no more g mail, none of that. We currently have been using help scout. Uh, it’s an emailing system that essentially allows visibility from everybody. It’s a big open inboxers sets of inboxes that ever consider getting a contract, you know, response rates, time it takes to respond, etc. Um, and so we’re going to put global mail into our system, we’re going to create a central email hub, um, and that’s going to be our, our, our emailing communication. We have integrated call fire, which is a, another brilliant mass texting and calling a program, very, very easy to integrate into Podio with the use of zapier.

[23:33] Um, and so we use that for our collection so we can, you know, you can pull up our whole collections app, filter out with a view a, exactly the tenants that match the criteria, a certain text or call and with super, um, Podio supermenu you have beautiful little google chrome plugin, you can, uh, click set, send texts, number one to 400 tenants at once. it takes two seconds, everyone gets to call the email. um, and so that’s been huge that we were able to reduce our, our collections by, we had the entire staff doing collections calls twice a week. Uh, we integrate this and clicking a couple buttons, that’s all taken care of. And so that’s been our main, uh, move towards communication. We do want to also put in, I’m texting to tenants, not just call fire, which is prewritten or pre automated mass calls or texts, but also, you know, we’re going to build a workspace that’s dedicated to, I’m texting a very similar to how you’d have a workspace dedicated to email and just like emailing hub this would be dedicated to texting and then it would tie back to individual tenants, owners, vendors, et cetera.

[24:45] Um, and then the third form of communication that we’re, that is our next step. This is on the horizon for this quarter is we currently use for our maintenance program called property meld. Now we’re opening melody. Yeah. So it’s, it’s, it’s a really beautiful looking interface. It’s little, it’s lovely actually. They’ve done a really nice love the interface, love how vendors and tenants and us continuing to kate about a work order and only they can only see texts. Besides that, there’s not much else I can say that I liked about it. No api, very hard to export stuff to excel. Um, and so we’re going to rebuild property, meld as a workspace within our maintenance organization. Uh, and we’re going to use a handful of proxy scripts to allow vendors, tenants and us to communicate on certain work orders without them seeing a lot of the other information. And so everyone will be able to communicate just like property knowledge, but that’s going to be within Podio. Um, but it really just goes to show that, again, you dream it. I’m sure Andreas came up with a solution for it and, uh, you can go ahead and roll that out in terms of communication.

[25:58] So we’ve, um, we, we, uh, we’ve replaced property meld in Podio for a number of clients now, um, and uh, and I, and I would agree with you, it’s a very, very lovely but a software they’ve created, but, um, it does not help you in terms of your workflow managing into other systems. And actually Podio, uh, you know, can, can, do everything needed. Um, you know, in so far, if we even provide a tenant portals, I’m just directly sucked through from Podio, um, where they can log in and we know exactly what unit they’re in. Uh, we, we, we know everything. so if they can, they can put their maintenance taken in there, they can filter through all their old and everything and all the, all via a portal which displays everything that we need them to see and not everything that we don’t need them to see. So that’s, that’s fantastic. Just finally, I mean, this has been fantastic. Um, I, I, um, I really enjoyed listening to this. What advice, if you will, for people who are thinking about Podio or are, are trying to decide if, if Podio is right for them. I mean having done it, having lived it having grown, it’s, and having seen the impact, what advice would you have for people thinking about podium? Yeah. So

[27:16] my first bit of advice would be that if you have the resources, and I’m going to say it’s not very, it’s not inexpensive by any means. A Podio, GlobiFlow and ProcFu. If you’re gonna use them. It’s not very expensive. So, um, if you do have the resources, get it, you have, you have to do it, it’s going to blow any other system you have out of the water. If you’re just working out of something like app folio or our propertyware it, it can’t even compete with the level of automation and workflow management. um, so I would say get it. Um, my next piece of advice is once you get it, consult with someone who’s done it before, such as yourself, um, you, you know, if you know, property management company like us that’s done a consult with someone like us. Um, and the reason being is we have spent about two years worth of trial and error.

[28:10] We made all the mistakes we’ve made all the mistakes and not just in, in, you know, learning the coding, php, javascript, etc. But best practices, how to, how to the architecture of Podio, how to set up workflows and connections of apps that’s the most efficient we’ve, we’ve got about about 90 apps, over about 12 workspaces with an organization now. And I can say we’ve probably rebuilt 75 percent of them from scratch. Um, and so if you love coding and he loved to spend all your weekends doing that, you know, by all means do it yourself. But I would say absolutely, uh, um, get advice, you don’t need a really don’t need a coding background to build a nice system. Do you want to get into ProcFu? Yes. You’ve got to know some phb. Um, and, and you know, you have to know the basic organization of, of coding and how a computer reads a script and acts upon it.

[29:08] But it’s very easy once it’s set up to make changes yourself to make tweaks yourself. Um, so I would say consult with someone will be number two. And then third would be take advantage of how many resources are out there. There are forums. I’m the GlobiFlow workspace, for example. Is it incredible? I mean, you go on there and you ask a question, they’re going to be guys like Andreas himself is on their posts like entry questions daily. just so many selfless people who are just spilling their knowledge. Really, really, really brilliant people. And I guarantee you, have you have a question either it’s already been asked or if you ask it, one of these super users is gonna is gonna get an answer for you asap. So don’t be afraid of, of um, have you, you know, the fact that there is some coding involved, the fact that you are building custom software, don’t be afraid the resources are out there, there are people like yourself who are going to, uh, who, who can actually help get it off the ground.

[30:03] Well, it’s funny that that’s why we built a boostpm the, the, the system which has just launched is entirely down to having worked with so many property management companies and realizing the massive deficiencies of appfolio and propertyware a, etc in terms of a workflow management and automation. And so now we’ve got an off the shelf polio system for property management, which we customize for each company. So the core basics as you can, I’m sure understand the core architecture is there because everybody’s, its properties units. I can, you know, tickets and all these things. There’s no secret. Um, and, and so we’ve got a core bit that we then customize for everybody and um, and that I’m hoping he provides people with an entry into it that they can give them a very advanced system without hurting them and maybe as we have more property management podcasts on this, we can get you back in because I think you’ve got an experience as a guy who lives in, breathes in that industry and has done it, which is very different than someone like me who is actually, uh, Podio partner that does it.

[31:09] You’re actually a property management company, So your experience I think is invaluable. Um, and, and it’s going to be fascinating. I know people are going to be fascinating to listen to how you’ve approached it, what you’ve achieved with it and, and the impact it’s made on you. So I really thank you so much. Um, uh, thank you so much for coming on. I’m, I’m fascinated. I can’t wait till our next conversation. Um, I’ll post up a link to your websites on this podcast in the description, and I’m for everybody. Please go visit. Please take his advice. Look at Globiflow forums, and I’m sure you’ll be able to see him on Podio. Uh, Louis, thanks so much. Appreciate your time and have a great week.

[31:52] Thanks. I appreciate it. And thanks again.

[31:56] You’ve been listening to a supercharged with Jordan Samuel Fleming. Subscribe today on itunes, google play or spotify for your weekly dive into how you can supercharge your business by making it powered by Podio. Be sure to check out our website: www.wearegamechangers.com where you can learn more and arrange a 30 minute call with Jordan to help you understand how Podio can supercharge you.