Specialising in the professional management of residential, commercial and industrial Owners Corporations, MBCM Strata Specialists has become the name to trust in Australian strata. With over forty-five franchises across Victoria, MBCM is a Strata Management firm with a global conscience practiced at a local level.
Anton Silove knows all about the benefits of franchise strata. He is both a director and the chairman of MBCM Strata Specialists. Mr Silove spoke with The Australian Business Executive, sharing his thoughts on how MBCM Strata Specialists has developed such an imperious reputation in the Australian strata industry.
Franchisee to Director
Mr Silove’s career began with manufacturer Cussons International, giving him the opportunity to work in both England and Australia, before he made the decision to independently migrate to Melbourne in 1994.
He joined Orica (known as ICI Australia at the time), and over the next fourteen years took on a number of roles across different businesses in organisational management and leadership.
The move into strata was prompted by a friend who was an existing franchisee of the group. Mr Silove began his journey into the strata business by acquiring and operating a Melbourne Body Corporate Management franchise area.
“The corporate experience gave me a broad range of management and leadership skills,” Mr Silove says, “which lend themselves well to strata. In 2009, I was looking for a business to buy. The industry economics looked very sound. I was impressed with the franchise system.”
The strata industry has been a good fit for Mr Silove, who now owns three franchise areas with MBCM, and joined the company’s franchisor Board of Directors in 2015. He currently chairs the board, and has a clear vision of how his own business should run.
“I left corporate, in part, because of one of the big issues of management that always troubled me,” he says, “and this is that top-down, pyramid approach to management. I’ve totally flipped that on [its] head.”
Mr Silove’s team of twelve staff is perfectly equipped to deliver great services to customers every day, and he believes the manager’s role is not to simply tell them how to do their job, as they have been well trained in doing what they are paid for.
“My role is to provide a service to them, to help them be the best that they can, to help mould the business around their individual needs. I seriously believe that business has got this wrong—we really should be in service to each other, not directing from the top down.
“[The company] was founded twenty-nine years ago,” Mr Silove explains. “From there, Melbourne Body Corporate Management grew into forty-nine franchise areas across Victoria. We’re looking forward to our thirtieth celebration next year.”
This history of exceptional growth is indicative of the company’s impressive service offering and ambition. The company’s longevity has been further assisted by a robust re-branding two years ago, changing its name to MBCM Strata Specialists.
Positioning itself for a move across Australia for several years, the company decided a name change would be essential to meeting this goal. It retains the option of creating new brands in other territories in the future, but for now MBCM can trade in all states.
“We’re now in the position to take the franchise across the nation,” Mr Silove says. “We’re respected as a high quality company, and we operate with the highest level of integrity, which is part of our trademark.”
The company’s core values reflect a passion for being the best at what it does, employing people who set the standard for service and professionalism in the strata industry. The company is guided in all its dealings by an ethical vision and the interests of its clients.
With so many years of exceptional service behind it, the company consistently learns through its experience, forever on the lookout for ways to improve and innovate its service offering.
The strata industry is fragmented, with high levels of competition. MBCM Strata Specialists must work hard to differentiate itself as a service provider, leveraging its unique position as a franchisor.
“As a franchisor, we have an exceptionally high level of service,” Mr Silove explains, “but also provide great systems and training to our franchisees. A level of integrity in the industry is a very important thing.”
With such a low barrier of entry into the industry, it is often the case that inexperienced and untrained managers are taking on a business, attempting to provide efficient services in a particularly complex framework.
“The franchisor ensures that high levels of aptitude are there, but also a very high level of support in the training and getting people up to speed. We’re implementing an internal audit system, which ensures that very high standards are met through out franchise network.”
Support for franchisees is second to none, and a key driverof the company’s sustained success. With over 500 years of collective experience across all offices, there is always someone with the necessary knowledge available to offer insight and find the right outcome.
Across the franchise network, MBCM Strata Specialists manages just over 40,000 units, putting it in the top five strata companies in Australia, an incredible feat for a business currently based exclusively in one state.
As it moves closer to rolling out its franchise network across the country, the company must remain aware of the differences that come from moving a business with state-based regulations into other areas.
“The platform that we operate under in terms of financial reporting, systems and processes, is very consistent,” Mr Silove explains. “That can operate across all states. However, ensuring that it’s done in a way that reflects the local legislation is critical.”
This means ensuring appropriate training and support is in place for franchisees to be prepared for significant changes in legislation across different areas of the country. This takes a lot of work, breaking down individual legislations to ensure thorough compliance.
Navigating the industry
The Australian strata industry is still finding its feet, making it of particular importance for companies to engage well enough with the public to relay important information on industry practices and issues.
One of the main areas of confusion for strata owners is in understanding the particular issues strata faces. Strata managers such as MBCM Strata Specialists have a responsibility to keep the public informed of any significant concerns they have.
“There are so many industry issues,” Mr Silove says. “The legislative framework is not exceptionally community friendly, which means that supporting great communities and great places to live can be difficult and costly.”
Equally frustrating is the way the law is applied by VCAT (Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal), which is inconsistent. This causes uncertainty when moving into a new legal framework, and can create expense and difficulties for people.
“Another significant issue is the way builders engage in building. So, they actually engage their own surveyors in Victoria. The question is, who would you engage? Someone who’s more or less likely to pass your building?”
This cutting of corners has brought to light significant industry concerns, including leaking buildings and the use of flammable cladding, an issue high on the agenda in the wake of Melbourne’s Docklands fire in 2014 and the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy in London.
“There’s now a cladding taskforce,” Mr Silove says, “which is looking very closely at the number of buildings that do have flammable cladding. It’s a big industry issue, and one that’s going to be costing people a lot of money.”
Part of MBCM’s commitment to keeping the public up to date on industry issues and trends comes in the form of the ‘Big B’ initiative. This initiative was designed in response to what Mr Silove describes as “a real decline in neighbourliness” in the last 30 years.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people about this,” he says, “and I think there’s a fairly strong consensus around that. People more and more, they look to others to solve their problems, whether its council, governments, Owners Corporations managers, mediators or lawyers.”
This trend of people looking outside their own community for help is growing. Mr Silove believes it’s time for a return to the wholesome community values of the past, to harness a rising tide of people who want to be involved in community building.
“The SCA [Strata Community Australia] is backing a community project to create a national working ‘B’. It’s a real vehicle for our industry to seriously engage in community building and to make a real difference to neighbourhoods.”
With the SCA as its leading body, the strata industry is on the right track towards improvement. One thing it does particularly well is engage in the forming of legislation and the informing of legislators about issues faced regularly by strata managers.
“That’s the key thing that is happening now,” Mr Silove says, “and we’re hoping for new legislation. It’s possibly looking unlikely to come out later this year, but certainly next year we would be hopeful that comes through.”
It is absolutely critical that the industry has a strong educational framework, which it now has in the form of a Cert IV Strata Community Management program. It is vital that engagement in strata education is increased.
“There’s going to be a shortage of managers in the future, unless we start developing an educational pathway and a career pathway. Companies like MBCM Strata Specialists do have the reach and the ability to form internships and take people through its organisation.”
Given the fragmentation of the industry, there is still a significant number of strata management companies which are unable to offer these kinds of educational advancements, meaning there remain significant problems ahead.
Why we come to work
While being heavily invested in the success of the company as a whole, Mr Silove continues to work hard on his own franchise areas, striving to run each business in the best possible way to maximise revenue and employee engagement.
“I’ve always taken the position that regardless of what the franchisor is doing, I want to try and be at the leading edge,” he says. “Five years ago, we asked ourselves a very critical question: why do we come to work every day?”
With the embracing of this question, the level of thought process at an MBCM franchise becomes clear. The support and freedom provided to franchisees to be able to ask these kinds of question is key to the company’s wider ethos.
“It took about six months to move from the obvious, which is we come to earn an income, provide for our families—to really wanting to all make a real difference to people, and to create better places for people to live and work.”
The realisation that business is more than just a money-making exercise has had a real impact on the way the franchise interacts with its clients, the team, contractors and all other parties involved in making it tick, elevating the business to a new level.
“We get most of our business through referrals, so I think that’s an indication that people do enjoy our service. Interestingly, through our contracting network we get a lot of really positive feedback—contractors say that they prefer to deal with us.”
It’s almost as an afterthought that Mr Silove mentions the numerous industry awards the franchise has won, so focussed is he on the glowing testimonials from those directly involved in the business, from staff to contractors to customers.
Among these awards is MBCM’s Franchisee of the Year award, which coupled with a high Net Promoter Score (NPS) highlights exactly how Mr Silove’s targeted approach to running a business is a testament to the company’s wider success.
The future looks bright for each of the company’s franchisees, with a continuing commitment to providing value through education and keeping owners informed of industry-wide issues distinguishing them from competitors.
In addition, technological advancements are changing lives, with the newest innovations moving across the globe now finding their way into the strata business, helping companies like MBCM Strata Specialists deliver the very best service available.
“[We are] a company that has the reach and the ability to create technology and leverage off that. People are going to start getting way more engaged in community, their properties, building their wealth, and better places to live through this engagement.”
Find out more about MBCM Strata Specialists by visiting www.mbcm.com.au.