Last modified on February 7th, 2023
By Marc Frenkiel
While the rental housing industry has undergone a number of seismic shifts over the last few years, our 2022 Property Management Industry Pulse report made clear just how rapidly priorities have altered.
In 2021, staffing and training was the top challenge as companies struggled to maintain continuity. Individuals leaving in “the Great Resignation” created knowledge voids and reshuffled roles, while remaining team members adapted to hybrid work environments and new technologies.
In 2022, the biggest challenge became operational efficiency. After resolving staffing issues, businesses faced supply chain disruptions in addition to rising interest rates and inflation.
Regarding the latter, accounting teams and processes must manage increased costs accurately. Accounting is more than simply business-critical for compliance; it’s undeniably the biggest factor that impacts overall operational efficiency — and your company’s success.
To help you realize the potential within your organization, we’ll share some of the ways that AppFolio customer BK Management optimized their own accounting operations. In addition, our on-demand webinar, “Maximizing operational efficiency: Strategies to streamline accounting and boost visibility” offers key tips on how property managers can achieve similar results.
Tip #1: Automate the obvious and eliminate the extraneous
Stacy Holden, Senior Director and Industry Principal at AppFolio, starts with a bold but simple claim: Challenges with operational efficiency are often a result of operational inefficiency. Research for our 2022 Hiring and Retention report supports this, with survey respondents revealing:
- 40% of employees’ time is spent on “busy work”
- 14+ hours per week are spent on tasks that could be streamlined or automated
- 56% wished they had more time to focus on higher-value tasks
Stacy recommends “automating the obvious” to free up additional time for your teams. You can do this by first evaluating how accounting operations are set up internally. Look for repetitive accounting tasks that could be consolidated into fewer, but more robust, processes. Then, identify straightforward yet time-consuming administrative work such as data entry that would benefit from automation.
West Lafayette, Indiana-based BK Management originally used two separate accounting platforms, but found the disconnect between these tools generated an unwieldy amount of double-entry work. Once the company moved to the single, comprehensive solution that AppFolio Property Manager offers, their staff was able to save budget and time while gaining customized results. April Schuette, Accounting Manager at BK Management, explained:
“We were using QuickBooks for corporate accounting and AppFolio for property management accounting. We did workarounds to coordinate reporting, but it wasn’t efficient and it didn’t get us exactly what we wanted. We migrated everything into AppFolio, and finally being able to access it all in one place was a huge improvement.”
Tip #2: Embrace flexibility without sacrificing structure
Madison Tedesco, Field Solution Engineer at AppFolio, also brought her industry experience to the webinar. Since 2020, she’s seen property management companies adapt new, virtual features for team members and residents who require the convenience of flexible remote work.
To accurately complete tasks, however, Madison reiterated that team members need to be able to follow identical processes whether they are in the office, at home, or in the field. BK Management accomplished this by switching to an online system that provided everyone with standardized processes for conducting business. One BK Management employee enthused, “It’s great that everything is web-based, we can log in from anywhere.” Stacy Holden agreed, but reiterated that improving accounting operational efficiencies depends on three specific criteria:
- Controlling costs
- Streamlining approvals
- Creating consistency
These three standards become especially important in staffing remote teams. New hires can go through the property management system step-by-step, onboard the same way and more quickly, and managers can better ensure that accounting-related details are properly tracked, escalated, and controlled.
Tip #3: Personalize reporting to empower stakeholders
For effective operations, reporting is a requirement. From General Ledgers and Balance Sheets to Expense Distributions and Cash Flows, accounting is the lifeline that connects it all. However, because every property management organization has unique preferences for formats, schedules, and access, report creation frequently becomes complicated.
Despite the time it may take, teams still must communicate results to many different stakeholders, so delivering basic reports simply isn’t enough. When reporting is overly simplified to save time, it can provide too little information for leadership to make business-critical decisions. Conversely, taking an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach means that managers and property owners may find reports overwhelming and difficult to interpret.
Organizations can thoughtfully solve these reporting challenges by meeting in the middle: The solution to both decreasing time and increasing relevance is to generate configurable reports specific to individual stakeholders. One way to do this is by leveraging technology integrations, such as Excel and other software APIs (application programming interfaces). A more comprehensive solution is to leverage online owner portals.
BK Management confirms an online portal makes good business sense for several reasons. Teams can access vital insights in real time, tap into individual data analysis, and personalize report export and delivery options. BK Management’s Accounting Manager, April, likes that an online portal saves them time and empowers their customers:
“What’s most important to our property owners is reporting, and they really like AppFolio’s detailed statements. We’ve set up our owners with access so they can log in, view their properties, and run reports themselves.”
The bottom line
Though business priorities continue to change, business operations will always require both effective processes and people. The key to overcoming operational inefficiencies is to enable operational efficiency throughout your entire organization, and auditing your current accounting process is a great first step.
Read how BK Management saved hours per week by consolidating their accounting operations or check out our accounting guide to see how you can improve your operations.