In this episode, Legislate meets Joshua Findlater, managing director of Landlord Vision. In this episode, Joshua explains how Landlord Vision are bringing the antiquated property industry into a mobile first world, and why it's important for founders to learn technical skills.
Listen to the episode below:
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Understanding more about your customers
Why landlords will need to use software to file their taxes
Charles: Josh, would you like to please share a bit of background about yourself.
Josh: Hi Charles, yes thanks for having me here, it's a pleasure to be on this podcast with you. My background is pretty much exclusively in residential property, I was an estate agent for many moons, forgive me my sins. I moved into prop tech roughly about 5, 6 years ago, and I've been with Landlord Vision for just over a year now. My background has always been in residential property, mainly because that's what I've always loved, what I've always known, but I think the industry is pretty antiquated, and that's what led to me basically following down the route of prop tech. Landlord Vision, who I know work for, is a landlord property management software, with making tax digital coming up in the future. We are very much focused on the accountancy engine behind property management software.
Charles: From my understanding your focus is very much around taxes.
Josh: Yes there's a whole heap of property management software out there, and to be honest, you know, the biggest competitor to us has always been just a standard Excel spreadsheet, there is a lot that Excel can do for you, there is also a lot of things that can't do, for instance filing your taxes. Where we see ourselves is very much between the realms of an Excel spreadsheet and say an accountancy software like Xero or QuickBooks, but we just cater to the niche of those who have property and want to basically file their taxes through property management software, which, like I say, they will be forced to do come 2024 in April.
Charles: As a software that the Government forces you to use, I think that's probably the best position to be in ever.
Josh: Yes, that the Government is steering everyone to using software like ours.
Charles: You've been at Landlord Vision for a year, what's been your favourite memory?
Josh: I've actually had a few but I think my favourite moment so far is we are revamping the website, and the software, being able to come in with fresh eyes and have a team enthusiastically take up the same vision as I have for where the company could go, including working with people and companies such as yourself, is really going to help bring about the best possible software for our customers. And working with the best possible companies out there to provide a pretty seamless transition from renting out your property, through to filing taxes, through to providing the legal documents, through to referencing your tenants. There's a lot of really great third parties out there, and that's probably what I'm most excited about.
Charles: What maybe do you wish you had known before joining?
Josh: Same as I have in pretty much any prop tech role I have ever been in, and I dare say the same as many other entrepreneurs would confess to, which is I wish I knew how to code better. it is always the bottleneck for any prop tech I've worked in, it also defines my ability as product manager to be able to accurately estimate times for delivery. It's something I wish I had studied at university and done a little bit more research into before entering the world of prop tech, but it's an ever changing landscape as well, you know, different languages are used all the time. Very much when I started it was always about PHP, now we get a lot of machine learning and AI, which is done in Python, so if I'd started studying PHP back 5 years ago, then I'd be struggling with Python now.
Charles: On the one hand, there's also a lot of movement to no code or low code languages, hopefully it is making it easier for non-technical people.
Josh: Yes, and I think that would be great for, sort of, the next generation of iterations of companies that come through, so that entrepreneurs can pivot quicker rather than be reliant on huge tech teams, such as we currently are.
Charles: What's the plan and vision for the next 5, 10 years?
Josh: So the next iteration of our software will be much more user friendly, it will be much more mobile friendly, it's a cleaner design, a softer look as well. Our current software is very comprehensive, however that can be a little bit overbearing and a little bit daunting, especially for accidental landlords. Our new software has very much that, sort of, soft round edges that you've seen from the big companies, like Airbnb, Monzo, it's very much mimicking that. The software was also designed back in 2013 the first time around, it is not designed mobile first, everything has now moved to mobile first, so we need our software to represent that, which should also mean doing things on the move, it's a lot quicker. Also with everyone having smartphones, it means that everyone's got a microphone and a camera built in, which means for our software you can upload receipts immediately and have those taken off against your accounts. We're looking into inventories, and things like that, that can be done immediately by your mobile phone on an app, and everything just becoming a lot more mobile and a lot quicker. That is essentially what we are moving to, we're also going to revamp the website but that's much more, sort of, design, and just making it look prettier, and a marketing angle rather than the functionality of the software. So yes I mean that's essentially where our short term goal is. Long term goal, everything from onboarding a tenant, all the way through to the end of the tenancy, so a real cradle to grave mentality, the way we'll probably go about that is through third party integration rather than moving away from what our core focus is and always will be, which is, you know, you can use our software as an accountancy engine for your property management software.
Charles: It's mobile first, then leveraging functionality of smartphones, then leveraging third party providers.
Josh: Yes absolutely, like you said earlier there's a lot of property software, there's a lot of options for landlords out there for everything and every part of the property journey really. What we would like to do is be able to collate the best in class of various different third parties, work alongside them and say, 'Here is everything you need in a one stop shop.'
Charles: As a managing director, I imagine you come across quite a few contracts, what are the key ones that you interact with?
Josh: One of the most common ones I come across is NDAs, that's very common for me. Within the property realm, the ones I often come across are section 21s, which are soon to be abolished by the sound of things, if the white paper goes ahead, which means we'll probably see the rise of section 8s again. Other, sort of, contracts that I regularly see, pretty much anything from affiliate marketing, through to partnerships, but I'd say probably, yes, the most common ones are NDAs.
Charles: Do you think that there's any areas of negotiation or friction?
Josh: I'd say the problem I tend to find with these contracts is they come in every shape and size imaginable, I've had people courier them to my front door where they've wanted signatures, I've had PDFs that can be edited, I've had Word documents that I can change every work in that document, I dare say no one would have even looked at it. Yes I think there's a lack of standardisation in the contracts that I receive, and that has led to some interesting discussions on the back of that.
Charles: Standardisation is definitely something at Legislate we're trying to do, we feel that the bulk of the language should be standardised, but ultimately needs to be tailored it can be tailored within a standard framework.
Josh: Yes and that's something a lot of our landlords are after as well, is the ability to have something that is legally sound and almost template in format, but they want to occasionally be able to add their own variations to that, but obviously the variations need to be within a legal requirement and not compromise the rest of the document. Again one of the reasons we came to you is that ability to customise a document but not breach its integrity.
Charles: Absolutely, whenever you do customise sometimes it is coming from a good place, but you really need to view the contract as a whole. If you were being sent a contract to sign today, what would impress you?
Josh: Sure, for me one of the big things is being able to sign it digitally, what I really liked about your platform, which I didn't realise I would be impressed by had I not experienced it, was the ability to monitor how far the contract is from being signed. So it would be like, 'Right, it's waiting for you to be signed,' I've signed it, get it back, send it to you, 'Waiting for Charles to sign it,' and then receive an update, 'Charles has signed it.' That, sort of, instant feedback is something that did very much impress me.
Charles: Tracking signatures is really important because if you don't know how hasn't signed, then how do you know who to chase?
Josh: Yes exactly, and if you're one of these sad so and so's like myself, it's nice to get an update at, sort of, 9pm, being like, 'Oh cool that's been signed, I can crack on with that first thing tomorrow morning.'
Charles: Thank you Josh for being on the show.