31st August, 2020
宋氏王朝 - 專訪宋天翼的物業管理權帝國
From a cleaning business to a management rights empire, Michael Song’s enviable portfolio now boasts more than 20 buildings across three states, including some of Australia’s tallest buildings. I found it hard to believe, upon our first meeting, that such a young man was the founder and CEO of Song Properties, a group that manages over 3500 units across 20+ buildings in Queensland, Victoria, and South Australia. At just 34 years’ old, Michael Song has achieved more than most in our industry!
從一個小小的清潔生意到一個龐大的物業管理權帝國，宋天翼（Michael Song）如今橫跨三州擁有20餘棟住宅大樓的管理權，其中還包括了澳大利亞一些最高的建築。在我們第一次的會面上，得知如此年輕的人是宋氏地產Song Properties的創始人兼首席執行官真是讓人難以置信，該集團管理著昆州、維州和南澳20多棟大樓中的3500多套單位。年僅34歲的宋天翼的成就超越了這行業內的大多數！
Back in 2003, Michael arrived in Adelaide as an international high school student from China, then moved to Brisbane in 2006 to study accounting at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). His first job was working as a waiter at a Chinese YumCha restaurant, serving hot tea, clearing dishes, and figuring out how to carry more plates at once without breaking any.
Michael attributes his success to a few key lessons he learned from his parents: how to deal with people, how to analyse problems from different perspectives, how to work hard, and how to save money. He learned to be adaptable at work and appreciate any opportunities thrown his way. He says he always believed that in this lucky country he would not starve but that hard work would bring him a better life.
Michael started his own cleaning business back in 2009, and this marked his first encounter with the management rights industry. One day, after an argument with one of his onsite manager clients, he came back home to his apartment, hungry and tired. His roommate had prepared a hot pot for dinner, and as he went through the leftovers, Michael noticed the Chinese newspaper used to cover the dining table had an advertisement listing for Pine Tree Apartments Management Rights for sale. He thought to himself, I can do better than other onsite managers. So, he used his hard-earned savings and bought his first management rights business off-the-plan in 2011.
There were many challenges for an inexperienced onsite manager to face in an off-the-plan apartment. With so many vacant units at settlement and investors demanding high rental and minimal vacancy periods, Michael did whatever it took to lease out the units, utilising all possible platforms, channels, and personal connections. Within two weeks, the developer had smooth settlements, all investors had rental incomes, and all tenants had comfortably moved in.
At the very beginning, Michael did everything himself; leasing, cleaning, simple repairs, and communicating with body corporate. His company grew from one person to two when his mother came to Australia in the second year to help her son with cleaning. The Song family purchased their second management rights at Woolloongabba, with the mother-and-son team working seven days’ a week for five years. Client satisfaction gave Michael a great sense of achievement, and this is when the Song Empire blossomed into existence.
Before the COVID-19 crisis at the beginning of 2020, Michael had employed about 450 contractors and team members across 20+ buildings, including the tallest residential towers in Brisbane and Melbourne. Michael explains that every team member had a say in the company, with every suggestion analysed by higher management and trialled at one of the buildings. If the ideas worked, they would then be actioned across all buildings to improve the whole system. ‘One Team One Dream’ is the Song business motto and employees are encouraged to pursue personal growth as the business expands by learning from each other and complementing each other.
Michael strongly believes people make the brand; the brand does not make the people. His team is extraordinary, and he treats each member like family, from frontline cleaners to executives. As the foundation of his brand, Michael makes time to mentor and encourage team members so they are empowered to implement and trial cutting edge ideas that can propel the company to reach new heights. He proudly explained: “Without great people sharing a common vision there is no ‘One Team One Dream’.”
The most challenging project Michael has worked on was the Brisbane Skytower, he told me. The developer settled over four stages: Michael’s team had to operate the first 16 levels when the builder built to 35 levels. At first it was marketed like it was completed and not a construction site, but stage one had no recreational facilities whatsoever and two construction lifts would carry tradies up and down close to a hundred times a day, creating noise and vibrations throughout the building. The noise of the concrete pumps became louder and louder and the building continued to grow taller and taller. Every landlord wanted their units rented yesterday, without realising these difficulties. Tenants could only move in after construction workers had finished using the lifts. Michael had to become creative to combat the initial downfalls to operate a business in these conditions. He communicated with all owners that getting $20 less per week is better than losing $500 per week with their unit sat vacant, and implemented incentives like free minibars upon arrival and free internet for long- and short-term guests at his cost. Michael also lowered the building’s rating to four-star during the height of construction difficulties and his team is now working to adjust the rating back to five-star. As a result of this strategy, the first stage was leased out within six weeks! The key takeaway for Michael was that communication resolves unnecessary problems.
他告訴我，他接手最具挑戰性的項目是布里斯班的摩天大樓 SkyTower。開發商分四期工程進行交屋：當建商建造到35層時，宋氏團隊必須管理前16個樓層。最初，他們把它當作是一棟已完工的大樓來宣傳，而不是把它當成一個建築工地，但是其實第一期就像是一個沒有任何公共設施的工地，兩部建築升降機每天將上下近百次，在整個建築中產生可怕的噪音和振動。隨著建築物越建越高，壓力大增的混凝土泵噪音越來越大。每個房東都希望昨天就能把自己的房子租出去，卻沒有意識到這些困難 - 租客只能在建築工人使用完電梯後才能搬入。在這種情況下，宋天翼必須發揮創造力來應對生意出期所遭遇到的難關。他與所有房主溝通，每週減少20元比空置公寓每週虧損500元要好得多，並實行了優惠方案，例如長期和短期客人入住時提供免費迷你酒吧和免費上網，費用由他承擔。宋天翼還在工程進行時將建築物的評級降低到了四星級，他的團隊現在正在努力將評級重新調回為五星級。由於採取了這一策略，第一期交房的公寓在六個星期內就全被租出了！ 宋天翼因此學到溝通可以解決不必要的問題。
Michael and his team have always strived to achieve maximum return for their landlords, so half of the units they managed were short-term rentals prior to COVID-19. However, the pandemic has hit hard in areas of the CBD and in tourism hotspots. So, they have been busy turning most of their short-term rental units to long-term, working with struggling landlords. He explained that management rights operators’ interests are always aligned with the property owners; so, when the market is tough, everyone is in it together. The current aim is to achieve stable income for all investors to maintain some cashflow.
Michael has continued to improve his corporate structure and prioritise team building during this challenging time. He said he foresees the post-COVID era over the next 5-20 years will face various challenges due to changes in lifestyle and consumer habits. Michael said he supports ARAMA as it provides a voice for the industry and he consults expert trainers from PRET Australia for his business.
在這個充滿挑戰的時期，宋天翼繼續改善公司結構並優先考慮團隊建設。他說，他預計由於生活方式和消費者習慣的改變，未來5-20年的COVID後時代將面臨各種挑戰。宋天翼說，他支持ARAMA 澳洲住宅經理公會，因為它為行業發出了聲音，而當他遇到難題時會諮詢PRET Australia的專業培訓師。
Finally, he shared that his role model in life is Warren Buffett: “I would love to talk to him about ‘the snowball effect’ and the sustainable growth of his empire.”
Originally published in Resort News 本篇專訪首發於 Resort News 物業管理權雜誌