Open door, healthy boundaries
Work-life balance8th Mar 2021
Managing a residential estate is different to managing most other businesses because your clients are part of your product, and what you do affects them – not only in a business way but also as humans and families. And what they do affects you, and your other clients. It’s quite a juggling act.
Estate management 101
As an estate manager, in many ways you are the estate. You are the face and voice of the estate, which means you are the face and voice of all of the residents. But – as well as managing finances, staff, procurement, maintenance, etc. – you also have to ‘manage’ the residents. And that is a tricky balancing act. They are not your employees, and you can’t order them around, but you are responsible for ensuring that they follow the rules to which they agreed.
If something goes wrong, the buck stops with you, so you have to also – in a sense – be the eyes and ears of the estate. You need to keep your finger on the pulse, you need to know when things are going well, and you need to know when – or, even better, before – things go wrong.
The laws of motion
Newton – the guy who famously (but probably not actually) sat under an apple tree – proposed three laws of motion that explain how things work at the macro level. The first law of motion states that anything will remain at rest (or continue doing exactly what it is doing) unless acted on by an external force. And the third law states that, for every force or action, there is an equal – but opposite – force or action. We’ll ignore the second law.
So, in simple terms:
- things will stay as they are unless you apply some force (or effort)
- if you push something, it pushes back with the same force.
Without getting too philosophical, these laws of physics can effectively be used as a metaphor for human behaviour and human relationships, and what it means in the real world is that – as you probably know – all our actions have consequences. And those consequences have consequences. Each and every person in the estate performs numerous actions every day, and each one of those actions exerts a force – for good or evil. And for each force, there is an equal and opposite force. And that’s why managing an estate is so much more complex than managing any other similar-sized enterprise.
How close do you want to get?
So this all comes down to being sufficiently on-the-ball to not miss any potential ‘equal and opposite reactions’, and to ‘exert a force’ when things need to be changed. But you also need to be aware that you are a part of that system, so everything you do has an effect as well. And that brings us to possibly the biggest question that you, as an estate manager, need to ask yourself: ‘Should I live on the estate?’ There’s no easy answer to that.
There are lots of advantages to living on the estate you manage:
- You can be a far more convincing brand ambassador if you live on the estate.
- If you live on the estate, and move through it regularly, you will see and hear things of which a nine-to-five manager stuck in the office will remain ignorant.
- You are always around if things go wrong, so you can deal with them immediately.
But there are also disadvantages to living on the estate you manage:
- You are always around if things go wrong, so you may have people knocking on your door at all hours of the day or night. This is fine for real emergencies, but different people have different ideas of what constitutes an emergency.
- Your duties as a manager – for example in rule enforcement – may negatively affect your relationships with your neighbours.
- And, conversely, your relationship with your neighbours may affect your ability to perform your duties. Say, for example, your next-door neighbour is in the habit of regularly breaking a rule. If you bring it up, and it escalates, relationships could sour. And there are very many ways they can annoy their next-door neighbour without breaking any rules.
There is no right or wrong answer here – it is a classic juggling act. But, whichever route you choose, you will need to maintain a balance. Keep an open-door policy for genuine estate affairs, and eat, live and sleep the estate brand – all while maintaining healthy boundaries so that you can have a private life. And you need to do that whether you are living on site or not.