In this episode, Legislate meets Harriet, owner and director of Aluna Property Management. Listen to learn about how Aluna are offering a full array of property maintenance services to estate agents and facility management companies across the UK. Harriet also highlights the importance of ensuring that contracts are clear, concise and matter of fact.
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Charles Brecque: Welcome to the Legislate podcast a place to learn about the latest insights and trends in property technology, business, building, and contract drafting. Today, I'm excited to have Harriet on the show, an entrepreneur and owner of Aluna Property Management, a company offering a full array of property maintenance tools to estate agents, facility management companies and landlords. Harriet, welcome to the show. Would you like to introduce yourself?
Harriet: Yeah, thank you so much for having me Charles. So as you mentioned, my name is Harriet. I am the proud owner of Aluna Property Management. And today, amazingly is actually the sixth month of our anniversary. So we've been operating for six months today. So the business has been going really strong. I'm so proud of where we've got two so far. And yeah, thank you so much for letting me explain our company and what we're about.
Charles Brecque: And so how did you, or why did you, start Aluna Property Management?
Harriet: I actually own and run the business with my partner, Dale. So he has always wanted to run his own business. We worked in property together for many years, and he just saw such a great opportunity out there that we could do it together. And then through lockdown, we lived together and obviously our heads sprang together every single day. We started to think, could we really do this? And then one day, six months ago, we decided let's just give it a go. And it's been the best thing we've ever done in our careers. And in fact, we wish we'd done it sooner, it's always the fear of the unknown, but we're so pleased and so thankful for how successful we've been.
Charles Brecque: Great. And what exactly does Aluna Property Management do?
Harriet: So we are a subcontractor model, so we basically step out all of our work. So anything to do with maintenance inside and outside of the property. We are nationally based, so we cover the whole of the UK. And if you are in estate agency or a private landlord or a facility management company, you would use us directly for allocating works that your tenants or whoever is living in the property may have an issue of some sort. We will get a phone call or an email, and we will delegate jobs to our preferred engineers. So it's very much, we're the middleman, but we do really well.
Charles Brecque: Great. And so how did you reach national coverage so quickly?
Harriet: By being very out there on LinkedIn, I would suggest. I'm very out there for new business. I'm not afraid to tell for new companies. So I have networked with loads of clients, loads of engineers, and basically just my inbox is always open for new people that want to work with Aluna.
So with that being said, there's no limit as to where these people are coming from. And I think because we've been so successful in London, we then branched off to the Southwest and up North. And now, because our name is getting out there and it's even better and we're growing so quickly, people are even coming to me now wanting to work with us.
So pretty amazing.
Charles Brecque: Well done. And so would you say the pandemic has helped you or fuelled that growth?
Harriet: I would suggest that the pandemic has been life-changing for so many people. And I think it gave people the opportunity to think what was really important to them. I know for myself, when I moved to London, I was hoping for bright lights, big city, and unfortunately I was locked down, so I didn't even get to get the chance to experience it, unfortunately. But, I think it made me realize what I wanted for my life. I wanted so much more and to take that risk, which seemed at the time, so crazy. It's been the best thing that I've ever done. So I think in a way lock down has helped me and many people reach the dreams that they thought they would never be able to do.
Charles Brecque: Oh, that's great. And in these six months, then what's been your favourite moment so far?
Harriet: Favourite moments. I think getting calls from the clients that I've reached out to and them saying, do you know what we're going to give you a shot that has been the most rewarding situation. Because I know, I'm painting the picture that in six months has been sunshine and rainbows, but unfortunately there has been some ups and downs, but the highs have been when you get the call from the clients that you've obviously been trying to work towards working with and they give you that opportunity.
I don't seem as much better than that.
Charles Brecque: I can definitely relate to the ups and downs as an entrepreneur.
Harriet: Oh, God yeah, definitely.
Charles Brecque: So what would you wish you'd known before starting Aluna Property?
Harriet: I think if I had known maybe how people portray themselves. I take everything on face value and I think that people are telling me exactly how it is, but unfortunately I think some people in the business world can say that they've walked the walk, but unfortunately can't talk the talk.
So we've had to experience many different things in situations with people and how they genuinely are. I think in business, you've got to be a bit more cut-throat, whereas I'm far too much of a loving, caring person. I've got to be a bit more tough, but in itself, I think it's a learning curve.
Yeah, I'm glad we went through the hardness of it to get to where we are. Otherwise we would never have learnt.
Charles Brecque: That's great. And so you've been at this for six months. What's the long-term plan or vision for your company?
Harriet: So the long-term plan, obviously just to be consistently successful. The clients that we've currently got just to keep at those and make sure that they are completely satisfied. But also we look to actually take on maybe parity aspect to the business. We are nationwide currently, but it would be fantastic to have even more of a coverage in terms of our client base being Scotland all the way down to Cornwall.
But anything it's definitely going to take time because we can't run before we walk, but yeah, I think the business itself. I would love to be the first point of call for any person out there that's looking for any sort of general maintenance, electrical work, plumbing, work, gas work. If we can be someone's first choice, that would be the absolute dream.
Charles Brecque: That's very impressive. And so how big is your team or is it just you and your partner?
Harriet: It's tiny! So the team is myself and Dale. We currently are directors and owners, and that's about as far as it goes. But we are actually recruiting. We've got a member of staff coming over in January. So January the second she's actually been in schooling for 10 years, she's technically teacher. But she wanted a completely different path and a challenge.
And I said that's definitely what this job is going to entail. So we are expanding obviously for the next year. And then we look to grow even bigger because unfortunately I can't do everything and neither can Dale so we do need to have a bit of support and help.
Charles Brecque: Of course. And what do you think are the key challenges of, managing such a large coverage, just the two of you?
Harriet: Oh, God, I think, we've got brilliant CRM system that we use, but sometimes things do just get missed. I think if you've got that influx that we do, we've got like 20 jobs a day that are being conducted and coming in as reactive maintenance. We have to make sure we're delegating to the right people.
Their diaries are all under control and that we know what our diaries are doing, because for instance, if I'm going to London and having site meetings, but work is still coming in myself and Dale have to manage what's coming in, what's being done. So it has been a massive juggling act.
Unfortunately, that's just the way it's had to be. But moving forward, having that extra bit of support will help the chaos. But don't get me wrong, it will be chaotic, probably forever, but that's property maintenance.
Charles Brecque: Yeah, so I guess the reactive maintenance is always chaotic as well.
Harriet: Yeah, absolutely. We're dealing with tenants, landlords estate agents and making sure that everyone's expectations are met. But the job's being done efficiently and correctly and also in a timely fashion and also being a good price. So you've got to juggle all of these things, ticking all these boxes, making sure that it works, but somehow we've managed to get there. So yeah.
Charles Brecque: Well done. And so what is the number one repair that you take care of?
Harriet: The number one thing. To be honest, I think as a business, because we can cater for everything. We are busy with absolutely all aspects of maintenance. I would say your cores are electrical works, commercial, gas, general maintenance, garden clearances. We do hoarder cleans. So we are quite sought after for, the broad spectrum of maintenance really.
And I think that's why we've done so well is because we are very versatile. It's not that we're just good at one thing. The guys that we've got working for us are superb and really talented engineers. And we are very lucky to have them because without them, we wouldn't have our business. I always like to say thank you to them, especially when they do a good job it's always good.
Charles Brecque: Obviously you're quite spread out and in terms of what you do and who you work with. What are the key contracts that you interact with the most?
Harriet: So key contracts, a lot of planned maintenance. So with that, in terms of the contract basis, we would have a client that would propose they needed us to do within this planned maintenance, whether that's a load of gas safeties for a certain block, or if it's emergency lighting testing for again, a block or maybe a commercial site, they would propose the contract that they obviously have thrown up for the site, what their requirements are and we would have to facilitate them from that. So from a contract aspect, we would have to make sure that everything we'd obviously signed within that contract was met each and every time.
So obviously our responsibility of being the business owners and the engineers for delegating for that work, they would have to be fully competent and know exactly what they were being asked to do. Because if that contract wasn't met and let the client down, we'd be breaching the contract that we'd obviously signed.
So with things like that, it's very important that you've got the right people behind you and you are fully aware of what your client's asking of you. And so far we've had nothing but good from the ones that we have been doing. And to be honest, from a contract point of view, it is quite good with maintenance because you know exactly what you're doing, when it needs to be done- if it's monthly, quarterly, yearly, et cetera. It brings it back down from the chaos of the day-to-day reactive maintenance, because it has a bit of structure to it.
Charles Brecque: If everything could be planned, there would be no reactive maintenance.
Charles Brecque: And what about with your engineers? Are they hired as consultants or is there a different relationship?
Harriet: Yeah, so they're all subcontractors. So we have an onboarding process with the company. Say for instance, you are a gas engineer and you come to me from LinkedIn or call up and say I'm really interested in being onboarded as subcontractor. We would then follow a vigorous process of vetting them, making sure that they've got all of their insurances, their gas safe number, just checking everything is completely compliant for them coming onto the business.
So we don't employ anyone. They are literally just subcontractors. But with that being said, it actually creates a really good relationship because you have a strong bond with these people- you're speaking to them every single day. And they're really appreciative to get the work because at the end of the day, they've got their own business, they need to facilitate work for their guys to them. So it creates quite a good balance really. And it seems to work.
Charles Brecque: In your contract negotiations then, so I imagine then that they're mainly with people contracting for planned maintenance or do you have contracts with landlords?
Harriet: No we don't actually deal with technically the landlords directly. It's mainly the estate agencies that would have that management contact and contract with their landlords. But with that being said, that contract ,say with the estate agency and the landlord, when the estate agency asks us to facilitate the works, we will then have to fit into what they've said to their landlord.
For instance if it's a 24 hour turn around with jobs. Or if there has to be a certain price range within the works. So the contracts are done before we come on board, but then we would have our SLA agreement with our clients. that, again, we'd have to facilitate, which would incorporate to what their agreement is with their landlord.
Charles Brecque: Of course it sounds quite legally convoluted.
Harriet: Definitely, don't want to get that wrong.
Charles Brecque: So that's all been very interesting. And I am conscious that we've taken a lot of your time. So I'm going to ask the closing question that we ask all our guests. If you were being sent a contract to sign today, what would impress you?
Harriet: I think the thing that impresses anyone with anything that's legal, is if it's timely, if it's quick, matter of fact, if things are being explained and it is very straightforward. I think the one thing that people struggle with anything that's contract-based is it's very long-winded and it's repetitive.
I think if you can have it clear, concise, and then matter of fact, I think people would prefer a contract like that.
Charles Brecque: That's a great answer and something that at Legislate we definitely try to do. On the one hand by removing the legalese, but on the second hand going the extra mile to make it understandable for people who are not solicitors.
Thank you very much Harriet for being on the Legislate podcast. Best of luck growing Aluna and I'm sure you will achieve many more great things over the next six months and years.
Harriet: Thank you so much, Charles.
Charles Brecque: Thank you. Bye-bye.