Martin Dodd started his practice in 2011, Dodd Commercial LLP, based in Chester. Perhaps it was not the ideal economic backdrop to striking out in property management, but the opportunity arose and armed with the possibility of a few clients and his considerable experience in the sector, and in the city, his next task was to find a software system.
"I have the advantage of having looked at a lot of systems for a bigger company a few years ago," explains Martin. "I saw how re-building a system not designed for letting agency work compromised the technology and it spectacularly failed to deliver. I started research from scratch for myself with a much smaller budget."
What Martin wanted was something affordable, flexible and reliable. "In the long term I wanted the IT to be capable of performing if my vision of expansion became fact. It had to have a decent track record and I veered away from the cheaper residential packages, also I spoke to a local commerical and rural practice who gave KEY Property and KEY Accounts the thumbs up for commercial property use."
Martin worked closely with Roger Winter, an experienced Sales and Training Consultant for Landmark who specialises in property and block management system set-up. He says "Martin did very well with data coding and input before we had our first day's training. We addressed any issues in turn sorting out service charge accounts for a block with four units and seperate agreements, and setting up a landlord twice who owned a shared car parking area and a multi-let building. Shared cost expenses have to be understood and decisions made on whether to post expense to a 'block' or to split the invoice across the properties. We were able to address detailed scenarios because Martin had put a lot of work in prior to my visits and we had discussed coding and supplier set up on the telephone - it helped that he understood what the system needed to get the best out of it for himself, the landlords and the accountant."
During the 3 years since Martin purchased the software he has had to test its flexibility by addressing how to comply as an agent acting for a developer client qualifying under the HMRC Construction Industry Scheme (CIS). "We picked our way through it," he says. "I like the fact that I can email Roger and he has the knowledge and the time to come up with a workable solution. I have no gripes about paying a support fee when I have access to either a training consultant or the support helpdesk which is excellent for solving problems quickly, and uses remote access to great time-saving effect. By watching what someone is doing in control of your screen and listening to a running commmentary you learn at the same time - it adds to the training experience.
"Another new client who came on board owns an industrial estate with several tenants. He wanted regular updates on debtors so after a conversation with Crispin Rocholl, the Development Director at Landmark, and some tweaking to the layout of the Debtor's Report I was able to make it easy for them and easy for us. The client is very pleased and it is clear to read."
Dodd Commercial has expanded despite the challenges of the economy. "We are heading in the right direction slowly, we have a good loyal client base and we keep adding to it across the board. Both the retail and industrial sectors are improving in 2014," Martin comments.
A global IT company is a major occupier in one office park and Martin Dodd is happy that his software purchase is keeping up with the demands of his business clients.