Working as a relief manager for the past six years from Cairns to Sydney, I know there is always a steep learning curve when learning the procedures of each new business.
Apart from knowing the reservation system particular to your business, it’s important that whoever is stepping into your shoes as manager, knows about all aspects of your business, from bin collection to body corporate by-laws. Obviously all of these suggestions become more or less important depending on whether you are going away for a couple of days and staying in contact or tramping over the Kokoda track. Think back to your first day in your building – this is how it is every few weeks for a relief manager.
Appointing a relief manager – There are lists of relief managers available from Resort News, Hirum, EzyRes, ARAMA and elsewhere online. Referral, however, is probably the best way to find a suitable person. I suggest that you have a written agreement about duties, out of office hours and remuneration.
From my experience, one person can easily manage a business normally managed by two, perhaps apart from high season periods. This is due to the fact that a relief manager is only concerned with the day-to-day running of the business and usually do not attend to marketing, repairs, some accounting, dealings with body corporate etc.
In my experience relief managers charge from about $200 for a single person and up to about $260 per day for a couple. When planning your next getaway, here’s a handy list of items to consider and/or organise before you leave. This will ensure your relief manager will be able to run your business as smoothly as possible, which means less worry for you while you’re enjoying your break.
Appliances – Inform your relief manager about the location of spare jugs, toasters etc. Also advise whether TVs and DVDs are on hire or owned by unit owner.
Banking – Provide details about how often you require the banking to be done, as well as the location of deposit books or night safe forms. Also, be sure to inform whether you reconcile your reservation system every day and if you regularly reconcile against the trust account. If you prefer not to provide your relief manager with access to your trust account then it is advisable to set up a system so you can remotely log in and print receipts for guests who pay directly into the trust account.
Body corporate – Provide contact details for the chairperson and BC managers. They should be advised that you will be away and pass on the name and contact details of your relief manager. I also suggest the relief manager be given a letter of authorisation from you. In Queensland a relief manager may work for up to a month without reference to the Office of Fair Trading. To work in NSW even for one day a full real estate licence is required. Provide a copy of the body corporate by-laws for the relief manager’s reference.
Cleaners – Provide details about whether they need to be contacted to work or if they are contracted to work daily. Provide information on who is responsible for linen orders, whether cleaners service the common areas, whether they sign off daily on what has been completed and if the relief manager should check the rooms after the cleaners have finished. Also, the location of your cleaning maintenance log for regular cleaning items such as cleaning behind fridges, air-conditioning filters, curtains, tops of pelmets, etc. As well as location of maintenance and guest comment reports.
Cash sales – Provide list of charges applicable for equipment hire for items such as videos, use of barbecue, tennis racquets etc. Also, receipt arrangement for these funds.
Computer – Provide details as to how you back up the computer and how often. Most importantly provide the contact details of your computer geek. Do you permit your relief manager to use your computer to check personal emails, Facebook etc? Do you have somewhere where relief manager can have access for his own laptop?
Electrical – Most importantly – provide the phone number for your electrician. Also provide details about the location of the main switch board and circuit breakers for each unit. Also advise the location of spare globes and batteries. Also other details such as whether there is there an independent power supply for the building and/or for the office. How does this operate?
Facilities – Explain cleaning and servicing procedures for pool, sauna, steam room, games room, gymnasium, vending machines and public use of Internet.
Fire – Provide information about the location of the assembly point and of fire hoses and extinguishers. Also leave details if you have a special emergency number and the phone number for a direct call to the fire service. Other important information to consider includes whether sensors are hard wired to automatically call the fire service or if they are battery operated, and also who services the equipment. Provide instructions for the fire control panel, use of fire control PA system and sprinkler system.
Float – Arrange who supplies the float and the amount required.
Guests – Provide detailed checking in procedure and what associated forms are required to be completed. Also details of the amount for deposits, bonds etc. Explain the filing system for receipts, deposits and guests’ information.
Hydraulics – Provide location information for shut off valves for the complex and for each unit, underground car park pumps location and manual override switch. Explain the operation of the garden sprinkler system and the location of the main control box. Also the phone number of your plumber.
Internet access – Provide details whether it is wireless or cable. As well as supplier details and the cost of providing access.
Keys – Explain how many should be issued to guests, if there is a master, if there are fees for unlocking after hours and for lost keys and the system for programming key cards.
Lifts – Provide information about how to access to motor room and the name of your service agent. As well as who the emergency phone in the lift calls. Also give a brief explanation of how to read faults in the lift motor room.
Mail – Do you want your mail opened?
Manager’s agreement – Provide the section of the manager’s contract where it sets out his/her responsibilities for your relief manager’s reference.
Passwords – Don’t forget to provide passwords for everything! Including Eftpos machine, websites, ticket mates, trust account, computer, after hours safe code and anything else.
Parking – Provide parking rules and parking locations and any special rules for visitors.
Relief manager’s accommodation – Most relief managers tend to stay in the managers’ apartment, but depending upon individual preferences, can stay in another unit within the complex or nearby.
I try and arrive the same day the owners are leaving so I do not have to be accommodated somewhere else just for one night. The ideal situation is for the managers to leave late morning so they can hand over and have a couple of hours with the relief manager before they go.
Smoking – What is your policy on smoking in units and in common areas?
Staff – Leave a roster and contact details of all staff members.
Swimming pool pump room – Provide information regarding the configuration and explanation of all valves and settings. Also, the location of pool log book for recording water balance.
Residents and units – Provide a list of owners, tenants and permanent residents.
Rate sheet – Indicate whether rates are negotiable and if so, by what percentage.
Relief manager duties – Provide a detailed list of all duties, including office and outside, for which the relief manager is responsible. These include pools, gardening, bins, repairs, cleaning common areas, etc.
Rubbish bins – Provide schedule of what days the bins are emptied and also if there is a bin cleaning schedule.
Suppliers – Provide a list of your preferred suppliers and their contact details. Does your reservation system provider provide free advice and support or are enquiries charged for?
Security – Provide details on late arrivals and locking up procedures, including the location of switches. Also, the procedure to review security camera recordings, to issue new or replacement swipe fobs and the name of security service and their responsibilities.
Telephones – Provide a list of numbers for your phones and instructions for diverting, receiving messages remotely and for transferring calls. Also the location of the MDF.
Tour bookings – Explain whether book vouchers are issued or if you use Ticket Mates. If Ticket Mates, advise whether it is connected through your reservation system.
TV subscription services – Provide your account number and contact details in case of service problems. Provide detailed instructions on the TV, video and subscription channel connections and how to operate.
Websites – Provide information whether availability on websites such as Site Minder is updated daily as well as other website management details. Remember to provide passwords and usernames.
Wake up calls – Explain the procedure and whether the relief manager can program the computer to automatically make wake up calls.