Patti Robertson may be a new franchisee with Property Management Inc. (PMI), but this isn’t her first franchising rodeo.
“I say we are in the business of hair and houses,” laughed Robertson, who currently co-owns Great Clips, HomeVestors and Property Management Inc. franchise locations with her husband, Troy, in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Originally from upstate New York, Robertson moved to Virginia Beach in high school with her family. While studying business and marketing at Old Dominion University, she began her journey within franchising, interning for a marketing firm that consulted with franchise brands. She was then hired by a franchisor right out of college.
At the age of 25, Robertson married Troy, and the two—by that time, well-aware of the benefits of a franchising system—bought an existing Jackson Hewitt tax preparation franchise while Robertson continued working her corporate job. Several years and a baby later, Robertson felt ready to forge her own path, so in 2000, the couple purchased a Great Clips franchise location.
In 2005, Robertson attended a multi-unit franchise conference in Denver, Colorado. She found herself surrounded by Blockbuster franchisees discussing what their next move would be—as in, what kind of business existed that the internet would not compete with. The conversation struck a chord, and Robertson began looking for her next long-term opportunity.
In HomeVestors, Robertson found an intriguing opportunity to buy, fix up and flip houses—something online streaming would never be able to do. “I love the challenge of fixing things,” said Robertson. “My first job title was Troubleshooter, and now as an entrepreneur and business owner, that’s still what I do today.”
Robertson troubleshot the 2008 housing crisis by becoming a licensed agent, then a broker, and developing her own real estate portfolio. She and Troy then began managing rentals through their own local firm. Recently, they decided to look into franchising that company.
“We knew that we wanted to take that business to the next level. It was our only company that wasn’t a franchise, and we knew that by joining a franchise brand, we would gain the ability to grow at a faster rate,” said Robertson.
While attending a HomeVestors conference in Dallas last year, the Robertsons met representatives of Property Management Inc. “We liked the people, and they reminded us of our other franchise companies: grassroots and family-owned and operated,” said Robertson.
They joined Property Management Inc. as franchisees, converting their management company in January 2019.
“To change up your brand name in today’s world, where it is out there in thousands of places, is a daunting task,” said Robertson. “But getting involved in a franchise company holds you accountable. One of the things that was on our to-do list for a long time was restructuring the entities through which we own our properties. Converting to Property Management Inc. has helped us get straight organizationally.”
As a franchisee, Robertson’s online presence is monitored and scored, giving her actionable feedback on what she can do to improve. “My reviews are great, but I found out I need to focus on listing accuracy,” she explained. “There are still thousands of websites calling our business by the old name, which is hurting our search results. If I hadn’t joined Property Management Inc., I wouldn’t know that. It helps to get a bigger picture.”
Robertson says a perk of franchising is operating in an environment where she has peers. “We enjoy the camaraderie—and the accountability,” she explained. “When you operate in a vacuum, you always think you're doing great, so it helps to compare yourself with benchmarks that others have set. And when an individual person improves, the whole company grows. You have a country full of cheerleaders.”
As a property manager, Robertson loves helping people create passive income for retirement. “Many military veterans don’t realize they have a [Veterans Affairs] benefit that can help them buy a home with no money out of pocket—in fact, they can buy up to four units,” she said. “We know the strategies. I love helping our clients diversify their assets.”
A natural-born problem solver, Robertson created the Hampton Roads Landlord Association after noticing that not enough landlords consider themselves serious businesspeople or take the time to educate themselves on the issues. The group meets at least once every month.
“The purpose is to elevate the level of landlording in our market,” she explained. “By sharing stories, tools, systems and ideas, the Association helps the entire community. Our biggest enemy isn’t bad tenants—it’s a lazy landlord who would rather move a tenant out and not cause a scene than to take the effort to file a court judgment and warn the rest of the landlord community.”
Robertson is a busy woman. She is the previous president and a lifetime board member for Tidewater Real Estate, Virginia’s oldest real estate investing company. She serves on the advisory board for the City of Norfolk, where half of all occupants are renters. She also advises on the board of Rent Ready Norfolk, where she serves as an instructor for landlording classes.
“I personally define success by the number of folks I’ve been able to help achieve success in their own lives,” said Robertson. “Before getting into the hair salon industry, I didn’t realize that it’s a really hard job on your body. I always ask that staff, ‘What are your long-term goals outside of the industry?’ even if that ends up hurting my staffing needs. I believe that people need to have long-term plans for their lives.”
Robertson is still finding plenty of time to grow her Property Management Inc. franchise. As of publishing, she and Troy own around 45 total properties. “We are uber-focused on growing the business,” she said. “We want to get to 2,000 doors under this management.”
When asked how she plans to increase the number of properties so impressively, Robertson replied, “We’re doing it one house at a time.”