Ready to open another office? Here’s how the Eckermann Group manage its multi-office changes and challenges.
Running several conveyancing offices usually requires a variety of management styles. From avoiding communication breakdowns to keeping staff motivated and engaged - it can be a demanding task. With four offices across South Australia, Director and Chief Operations Officer Brad Eckermann agrees it’s quite a spread, however they wanted to service their clients and real estate referrers in those areas.
“We originally had offices in six locations but decided to consolidate, as three were close together,” he says. “Four is more manageable and works better for us.”
Here's Eckermann's tips for managing the biggest challenges presented by multiple conveyancing offices.
1. Expect change
The traditional management structure of a single-office business is not necessarily suitable for multiple-offices. At first, Eckermann handled all the operations and technical queries, but found that increasing demand impacted his availability and efficiency. As a result, the company introduced a layer of middle management, which allows more direct contact across the offices.
“Having people readily available to the remote offices is crucial. In hindsight, we should have implemented the management structure earlier to be physically in the offices more often," Eckermann reflects.
2. Keep channels open
It’s easy enough to interact with people around the office, but silos can form naturally within separate locations. The Eckermann Group implemented several steps to promote closer interaction:
- Frequent communication by phone, Skype or email.
- Regular all-of-office gatherings that combine training sessions with social events.
- Working in different offices from time to time. The quickest way to understand the challenges of a particular site is to work there for a while.
- Encouraging feedback and suggestions, at all levels.
3. Put technology to good use
Technology is constantly improving business processes and making the workplace more flexible. Eckermann says that managing multiple offices is made so much easier through being able to share files and workloads online.
“We’re in the process of becoming paperless, which has given us considerable flexibility and portability. Electronic conveyancing of settlements works into this nicely. We’ve found that not having physical files offers the flexibility of assisting workload coverage for our remote offices without having to physically relocate there. It doesn’t matter where you are, you can work on any file anywhere, anytime.”
The Group uses videoconferencing and Skype for team meetings and training, but mixes the technology with face-to-face sessions.
“Different types of communications work well for different messages,” Eckermann explains. “Being in the same room is usually better if we’re discussing the culture of the business or someone’s performance, whereas a technical update can be done over Skype.”
4. Set clear and standard procedures
Having standard operating procedures across all offices not only aligns everyone to the same way of working, but facilitates workload interchange.
“If procedures, forms and tasks are standard and online, others can help remotely whenever an office is understaffed, and clients can be serviced as normal”.
5. Have a strong culture
A defined business ethic goes a long way towards building synergy between multiple offices. For Brad Eckermann, it’s “the better way”.
“We want to give our staff and clients the opportunity to experience something ‘better’, so we use the word a lot. How can we do that better? And how will it flow through to our clients?”
Having multiple offices has certainly helped the Eckermann Group do things better. They’ve learnt a lot about managing change, people and workloads, and developed a new appreciation for the paperless office.
If you'd like to learn more about the benefits of a paper-free office, click here.