How Sarah Fisher stepped away from the security of being employed to set up her own successful property management company
You are part of a very small percentage of female business owners in block management, how does this make you feel?
I have never really considered myself to be part of a small percentage of female business owners in block management. Rather I consider myself as in the minority of having an independently owned block management company rather than being part of a chain. To me my independent status has been a contributing factor to the success of MIH and being female is of no consequence.
However, I am aware that there is a stigma associated with being female in business. Some women are perceived to be ball breakers or bossy whilst others are accused of being given success through favouritism. I am proud to say all mine is due to hard work and for living up to my nick name Make It Happen- hence the name of the Company!
Did you always know you would end up running your own business?
I never had any aspirations to run my own business but was always very interested in the commercial side of any business I have been involved in. I learned to take responsibility from a very young age and wherever I worked I was promoted to the top echelons of the business on this basis.
I had always been happy working for others but then again, I always treated their business as my own and think that this was down to the strong work ethic I inherited from my parents.
What gave you the courage to step out on your own?
I had always been told that I should start my own business but was happy with the status quo. However, as I was thinking of leaving my last job, my extremely successful sister was under the threat of redundancy and it started me thinking about job security.
At the same time, I went to see my accountant, who also happens to be a very old friend too and something he said about my impatience at not being able to release my vision of property management and it got me thinking. The wheels started turning in my head and never stopped and within a few weeks, my vision had crystallised into a business plan with the only struggle being what to call it. This was swiftly solved when I was in the shower one morning (all my best thinking is always done under water) and it hit me- the nickname which most encapsulated my whole career in property management!
Running a business brings many pressures for business owners, was it the right decision for you?
The first few months were a nightmare, running someone else’s established business was very different from running your own and making all the decisions. In addition, starting of as a “one man or should I say woman band” meant that I had to go back to basic property management which I hadn’t done for many years. It was like putting L plates on your car, despite having passed your test 20 years earlier. At the same time, I missed the camaraderie of an office and constantly being busy. There were many times when I thought I wanted to go back to the security of working for someone.
However, things soon started to take off and within six months, I had started to take on a steady stream of properties, recruited an assistant and a service charge accountant, got an office and never looked back from there.
What are the benefits of running your own property management firm?
For me it has been a real chance to manage property in the way I want to and provide a service I am proud of.
I really enjoyed going back to the beginning as there were so many things I had forgotten that I liked about property management. The thrill of seeing my ideas come to fruition and building a team up who support this vision has been beyond what I can imagine.
Perhaps most important for me is being in control of my own diary. I can now work at my own speed, which is usually breakneck and choose my own time off, particularly important if you don’t want to miss a family occasion or for that matter a sale (both of which those who know me will tell you is important to me)
Do you feel there is enough support for start-up business in the industry?
In all honesty I do not think that there is enough support for start-ups full stop, let alone the industry.
The most difficult challenge for me was my banking arrangements and the lack of comprehension from the bank as to what Property Management is, however I understand from other start-up owners in different industries that they faced the same issues.
For everything else I was lucky that due to my long tenure in the industry, my reputation and the people that I knew I was able to get the support that I needed.
I also must thank my family who were incredibly patient throughout and were always there at the end of a phone to listen to me.
What are some of the struggles you have faced in your career and how did you overcome them?
I have never really faced any struggles in my career but do feel that there needs to be more emphasis on what a career entails when you are at school.
I think if schools paid more attention as to what having a career means, i.e. that you are going to be doing the same job for a long time, then it might focus the mind more and make people more willing to be the best they can be at everything.
Property management is a difficult industry to work in as it is always demanding and frequently involves clients believing that they should receive an unrealistic level of service. It is up to the property manager, to ensure that expectations are kept realistic and that we at MIH manage these.
It is always nice to exceed expectations but sometimes you must realise when you just can’t. My experience has made me realise that you are better of being honest about what you can do and often the client or for that matter your boss, will respect you more for it.
You have managed many property managers in your 24 years in property management. Have you made any mistakes we can learn from?
I think my biggest mistake has been to believe that everyone is as inspired, interested and enthusiastic about property management as I am from the moment, they start.
It is easy to forget when you have been doing something for so long and are so excited about that others are only just starting and see things through different eyes.
Having had to go back to basics, it reminded me how difficult it can be to make access arrangements and how sometimes you must work hard to get people to understand a basic point.
Thankfully, the timely reminder at the beginning of the year has led to me becoming more patient with my staff and so in short, the biggest mistake I have made is being impatient.
What makes someone inspirational to you?
For many years, I believe that I was inspired by the wrong things but for me and MIH, the philosophy that we follow is it sometimes better to be kind than right. I am and have always been motivated by those who have triumphed over adversity but now am much more impressed by those people who have got where they are and are still generous to others. I really do feel that it is so important to do what you love and love what you do. Thankfully, I am lucky enough to be one of those people who does love what she does. I am hopeful that this rubs off on everyone who works with me or knows me and believe that it does.
What does the future hold for MIH Property Management and Sarah Fisher?
We believe that MIH will continue to improve upon the already great service we offer and can continue to give something back to an industry that I’ve been involved in for going on 24 years.
We want to continue to grow and evolve, with staff who have the benefit of formal learning enhanced by on the job training.
For me, I want to continue enjoying owning a company who really does deliver and to see the continued growth in my staff as I believe that a company is only as good as the staff that work there.
I am very proud of all I have achieved so far and take great delight in seeing the many testimonials received about my team. To me the greatest progress of all has been seeing the staff I have worked with go on to achieve greater things in the industry. All the more satisfying has been how many have supported me and who ask when they can join!