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Business Observer Monday, Apr. 20, 2009 13 years ago

Expansion Call

With a learn-to-delegate process nearly complete, an entrepreneur now hopes to continue growing her property management company.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

With a learn-to-delegate process nearly complete, an entrepreneur now hopes to continue growing her property management company.

Count Beth Callans as one entrepreneur who appreciates the business axiom that says a recession is a good time to grow market share.

Her condo and homeowners association management company, Longboat Key-based BethCallans Management Corp., just turned 10 years old last year. Callans celebrated the milestone partially by investing in her own management consultant, as she realized that her $7.8 million firm was becoming too big for her to make all the decisions, all the time.

That yearlong reorganization effort ended late last year, right about the time the economic downturn was heating up. But to Callans, whose company holds contracts for about 55 of the 75 condo and homeowner associations on Longboat Key, the slump is simply an opportunity — both to open new offices and hire new people.
Adds Callans: “There are a lot of really talented property managers out there on the street right now looking for a good job.”

In addition to looking to hire a few people that are out of work due to the recession, Callans says she is considering opening new offices in 2009. Possible locations include Port Charlotte or Venice, to recruit business in Boca Grande and Charlotte Harbor. A satellite location in the Tampa-area is also a possibility.

The company, with just under 200 employees and $7.8 million in 2008 revenues, is concentrated mostly on Longboat Key, with a few contracts as far north as Palmetto and as far south as Venice. Its core business is in providing property management for high-end properties, from maintenance upkeep to advising condo boards.

“Many people look at management companies as accounting firms,” says Callans. “But we are much more than that.”

The company's growth rate has slowed in lockstep with the housing market slump. Revenues grew 2.7% in 2008, from $7.57 million in 2007 to $7.776 million. But revenues grew 25% in 2007.

A native of Indiana, Callans founded the firm in 1998 out of an office in the Northern Trust Bank building on Longboat Key with just two other employees. She had worked for other property management firms in the area for about 10 years before launching her own business.

Now, the first key to Callans' recession-driven optimism is the management consultant she hired in 2007. “Everyone was still coming to me with everything,” she says. “I had to start delegating or I would go crazy.”

Callans says as a result of the consultant she began to place more trust in some of her top employees. She also created a detailed manual of policies and procedures that every employee in the company could turn to when in doubt about a particular issue.

The manual is an especially important detail of the growth plan, as the company's employees are spread out across the company's 80 properties. Callans has 17 licensed community association managers to oversee the work.

The company also sticks to a strict schedule of property inspections, as two employees spend a bulk of their time checking out each property on a monthly basis, from checking for road imperfections to lawn care.

“They go there with a critical eye,” says Callans. “They are there to report back what's wrong.”

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