Do you know your Murphy’s Law from your Black Swan?

If you’re a letting agency owner or property manager, you should be familiar with both of these terms. For those who need reminding or who don’t know, here’s what they mean. Murphy’s Law is an old adage that assumes that if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. The Black Swan theory, meanwhile, was developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and pertains to those unknown future events that sometimes catch us out but could have been avoided with the benefit of hindsight.

Deep stuff requiring engagement of the grey matter but actually, when you boil it down, they both relate to planning. As a company or lettings professional operating in the property sector, planning should be the cornerstone of you business. Unforeseen circumstances and unplanned events are commonplace – whether they originate from your tenants, your landlords, the Government, your professional body  or even from your staff. Just ask anyone who has ever manned the out-of-hours emergency ‘phone line – they will know just one call or event can turn the week on its head.

So how does your planning shape up? A recent article by business author and speaker Mike Clayton looked at the top 10 areas where planning fails. As well as the Black Swan theory and Murphy’s Law, Clayton look at other areas, including under estimation – over-optimism about what can be achieved within a set budget and time frame with the resources available; not learning from past mistakes; narrowing your focus too much; ignoring forces and events that are out of your control; taking on too much in a bid to be a hero and people taking advantage. Many of you will be nodding with familiarity as you read this.

How can you avoid falling into the ‘bad planning’ trap? Set aside time to acknowledge all the ‘what ifs’. What if one or two members of staff called in sick during the same week? What if my property manager resigned? What will I do if we really have to check the immigration status of every tenant? What happens if a portfolio landlord asks us to manage a whole block of flats?

When you know what you’d do in these eventualities, you can start putting plans and processes in place to deal with the unknown – even if it’s as simple as having a list of recruitment companies ready or a nominated member of staff who’s willing to cover sickness at short notice. Another option to explore is outsourcing – working with an experienced third party who can take on as much or as little of the lettings workload when the unexpected happens.

Outsourcing is like have an extra team working in another office. The bonus is you only pay for the time they spend on your actual business, rather than an annual salary. And you don’t have to find them a desk, equipment or pay for their industry training – they’re provided complete with the lettings knowledge to help your lettings business from day one. Many agency owners find an unexpected resignation the catalyst for outsourcing, as the recruitment process can be frustrating and costly. ARPM Outsourced Lettings Support can look after tenancy administration and rent collection or provide a full property management service, which often negates the recruitment need altogether. We also offer a white label service, so all our communications and contact is branded with your company name for a seamless service. Other instances where outsourcing can be beneficial includes times of expansion when unexpected workloads put pressure on existing staff and peak holiday periods, when employees request annual leave around the same time.


Simon Duce is the Founder and Managing Director of ARPM Outsourced Lettings Support - a business designed to help small and start-up letting agents/property managers offer a full suite of property management and tenancy administration services through outsourcing.

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