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11 Years After Crash-Era Founding, PMI Thrives


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President of Property Management Inc. Steve Hart.

Before he was president and CEO of Property Management Inc., Steve Hart lived in the niche of building high-end custom homes. Business was booming in the real estate and construction industry as realtors prospered. Then it all ended as the economy crashed in 2008.

Hart went from showcasing beautiful homes and making large land purchase deals for development to a father who could barely pay for his children’s lunches. Hart, like many other realtors, had everything invested in the business and lost everything when the market abruptly turned sour. 

Luckily, Hart had a friend who wasn’t willing to let him throw in the towel.

“A good friend of mine told me that with my real estate background, I should check out the property management business," said Hart, who was at first turned off by the idea of jumping back into a business that, at a distance, resembled the same market he had lost everything to, juxtaposed by its assumed competitiveness and blue-collar appearance.

“I had just spent a lot of time and money building a business that was affected by conditions that weren’t caused by me,” said Hart while reflecting on the crash of 2008. “I didn’t want to build a business that was dependent on factors that were uncontrollable.”

“What caught my attention in the property management industry is that it’s always consistent, it doesn’t ebb and flow with the real estate market and economy,” said Hart. “It’s been on a very consistent rise since, about 3 percent per year since they started tracking it in the early '70s.” With that and the fact that one-third of Americans rent property, Hart’s friend had convinced him to partner up and launch a property management business.

Hart’s business partner put up the money and Hart ran the business.

“I saw an opportunity in this fractured industry where my partner had built this property management business to make it excel,” said Hart. After putting together a website and frachise disclosure document, Hart thought the franchise would explode right out of the gate. But the company was christened into the market with a cold reception, as no one wanted to be the first franchisee in a franchise that didn’t have a successful track record. Hart was met once again with the inability to cut a consistent paycheck.

“It was scary because here I was again faced with the possibility of not making money. I had put in all this effort and the business just hadn’t taken off like I thought it would,” said Hart. “I knew that there was the demand and need for property management, but I just didn’t know how long it would be for it to be able to stand on its own and I didn’t know if I had the luxury of that kind of time.”

Just as Hart was about to start sharpening his resume to get a job, PMI sold its first franchise in 2009, and then it sold another, and another. By 2011 it started to build some real momentum. Hart was able to pay his rent, buy some groceries, and spend some extra money on his kids. Now, having finally been able to bridge the gap of successful franchising, PMI added industry professionals into the fold to develop new systems and technology their franchisees could benefit from.

Hart’s franchise offered the diversity to expand into different realms of property management. It’s what he referred to as the “Four Pillar Program,” which consists of residential property management, commercial property management, association management or homeowners associations, and vacation rental management.

“Our company was really the first property management franchise to offer those kinds of opportunities through one franchise,” said Hart.

PMI now sits at 275 locations across 43 states in the United States.

“We’ve barely scratched the surface of what we're capable of,” said Hart. “People still don’t know who PMI is. We’re still just creating and letting people know that there is such a thing as property management solutions available.”

Hart set a goal of having a PMI location in every major metro area across the U.S. someday.

When asked what expanding globally would mean to him after going from losing everything to building a franchise that spanned continents, he had a humble answer.

“When that day happens I will be super thankful to those people that put their hand on my shoulder when my head was hung low,” said Hart, “It has always been a dream of mine to have a global brand.”

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Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is senior editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
 
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