After enjoying unprecedented growth and a booming economy in Alberta in the 1970s, the party abruptly ended in the early 1980s for Albertans with the arrival of a deep recession and plummeting energy prices. It was unfortunate timing, as interest rates soared, and many owners were forced to drop off their keys at the bank and walk away from their properties.
Garey Kirkland earned his stripes in construction at a major residential builder in the 1970s before he and his colleague, Ray Pratt, decided to branch out on their own during the recession. They started Simco Management in 1982 and worked to leave their mark on the residential property management business.
The better the duo did in the rental management market, the quicker the banks sold off the properties, which led the founders to expand into the condominium management business.
Garey Kirkland was born and raised on a farm in Southampton, Ontario, where he learned from a young age the importance of family values, hard work and managing your finances. This was due to his mother and four siblings; even though they had very little money, his mother taught them that it did not limit what you could achieve in life through hard work and dedication.
“My mother always taught me the importance of not overextending yourself and my brother always said your word is your bond,” says Garey Kirkland, President of Simco Management. These values have helped shape what Simco is today.
Simco set out to be different from the start, operating with a mission of: “Understanding the value of your investment through dedicated service and professional management.” The team focused on relationships and people, and the importance of quality service has only grown over the company’s 40 years in business. Simco put service first and grew the company from being accessible to clients to always having someone answer the phone or greet visitors at the door. In 2005 the partners decided to split – Ray Pratt continued to run Simco Management (Edmonton), and Garey Kirkland took ownership of Simco Management (Calgary) Inc.
Since then, Simco has become a leading force in Calgary’s property management business. Through its professional approach and unparalleled service, it has become the benchmark for the industry. The company provides comprehensive services in all areas of property management, including condominium, rental management, Homeowners Association, commercial and industrial management and maintenance services.
Finding a trustworthy and knowledgeable management team for a condominium complex is critical. With decades of experience and management of around 27,000 units in 170 projects under its umbrella, Simco offers peace of mind for clients in both residential and commercial/industrial condominiums. The company has the resources required to take on all managerial responsibilities of operating condominiums and offers proactive solutions to ensure the property runs smoothly.
Condo managers perform a full complement of client services, including preparing budgets, addressing owners’ concerns and compliance issues, handling fees, staying on top of insurance mandates and completing inspections. Whether the complex needs maintenance or has an emergency after hours, Simco is available to take care of every detail. The managers foster solid and lasting relationships with clients who know that Simco is just as invested as they are in their home.
“We still manage the first condo project we signed after 40 years. I don’t think very many in the city can say that,” says Dillon Kirkland, Assistant Director of Operations for Simco Management.
Simco’s expertise made it a clear choice to manage the first of its kind in Western Canada, the luxury resort-style living known as Westman Village in Mahogany. There are three separate condos with their own boards, two rental buildings, a homeowner’s association, an amenity centre and commercial properties that are all tied together and interconnected. Simco put together a five-person team that is dedicated to managing this one complex; few companies would be able to handle an undertaking like this, and the fact that Simco is excelling at it is a real feather in the company’s cap.
No two properties are the same, so Simco tailors a rental services plan to suit the needs of the property owner, whether they have a single-family home, duplex, multi-plex, townhome, condo or apartment property. The manager is there to help advertise the property, screen and select tenants, conduct maintenance inspections, collect rent, take care of landscaping and snow removal contracts and ensure the property is well maintained.
The property manager is a valuable resource that liaises between tenants and property owners to ensure there are no issues and everyone’s needs are met. They are licensed with the Real Estate Council of Alberta and are members of the Calgary Residential Rental Association, and they stay on top of legislation surrounding residential tenancies to ensure compliance with the regulations. Whether the property owner is local and involved with the property or a remote owner, Simco maintains the property to ensure maximum profitability.
Homeowner’s Resident Associations
Simco Management tailors its services to accommodate the specific needs of each homeowner’s association. The manager works with board members to develop policies that align with the association’s goals, provide financial reports, help prepare budgets, maintain bank accounts and provide maintenance.
Simco offers clients a web-based portal with an app that allows the team to manage accounts, keep in touch with clients, send out announcements and access resources and documents easily. It also holds a record of invoices and communications that can be reviewed later if there are issues. While Simco has many seasoned staffers, it is also attracting younger, tech-savvy employees that embrace these types of valuable innovations and have spearheaded its integration into the business.
The maintenance department was created for the rental department but quickly branched into the condominium side due to the difficulty in finding vendors willing to do the small jobs.
“We have 12 maintenance staff in the department – painters, drywallers, carpenters – all with years of expertise in their positions. The department is a real asset to Simco Management and our clients,” says Garey.
Simco’s team handles standard property maintenance requests including minor repairs like replacing lightbulbs on common property, painting and fencing, but the department is capable of much more. Simco has taken on construction jobs that involved restoring an entire unit or updating the interior of the building. Having maintenance professionals at the ready takes the stress out of small and large projects for owners, especially since Simco backs its work unequivocally.
Simco’s maintenance manager completes a walk-through with the condominium manager for every new client. Together, they check the property thoroughly and prepare a report outlining maintenance recommendations with a quote for Simco to complete the work.
“It’s a complimentary service we offer. Of course, we’d like to get work out of it, but we’re not pushing anything on the client,” says Garey.
Given Simco’s unblemished reputation and a culture of trust and integrity with clients, the condominium boards and rental clients often approve the team to do the work. The Kirkland family values their solid reputation and credits its incredible staff of 70 for helping them earn it.
Staff Sets Simco Apart
As the company grew, Rita and Garey knew they couldn’t continue to manage every aspect of the business, so they set out to build a team that would facilitate growth and take some of the weight off their shoulders. About 17 years ago, they found Verna Penner, an ideal candidate to oversee the condo managers, administrative staff and reception.
She has proven an invaluable asset to the company and is dedicated to arming the team with as much knowledge as possible so they can provide superior service to clients. Verna organizes ongoing training sessions to help employees be more successful, and Simco includes the board in annual educational sessions as well to make them more effective in their positions. She brings experts in to speak on anything from the ins and outs of a building’s mechanical system to the requirements for charging electric vehicles to navigating the changes to the Condo Act.
Garey and Rita affectionally say that all staff members are part of the Simco family, and that family goes above and beyond every day. They show their appreciation by making Simco a fantastic place to work. They promote from within, encouraging growth and advancement for employees who are interested and they try to create a work-life balance for their employees. Unlike many competitors, Simco doesn’t require managers to have email on their phones, and rather than being on call, the company has a dedicated after-hours person to handle emergencies outside of business hours.
“Even though the company is large, and we have a lot of policies and procedures, they do care about family. They care about work/life balance,” says Verna Penner, Director of Property Management for Simco. “At some companies, managers can have up to 22 properties and I don’t care how good you are, you can’t manage 22 properties well. The most here is 12 properties, which includes some smaller ones. It’s a realistic balance.”
This prevents burnout and helps maintain the positive atmosphere at Simco. After all, it’s a family business, and the staff are an extension of the Kirkland family. The core team is always available, and employees know that if they have an issue, they will find understanding, compassion and accommodation from their bosses. This unique culture has attracted outstanding staff, and Simco does all it can to retain them. The employees are the heartbeat of the company, and the Kirklands appreciate all that they do to help the company grow.
“It is because of the amazing people who walk through these doors every day and give their best effort that we have been able to grow and positively provide a dedicated service to the Calgary community,” says Garey Kirkland.
The staff and core team also serve the community through sponsorship and fundraising for charitable causes. Each spring, they support Between Friends, an organization that runs programs for children and adults with disabilities, and this year the team raised $36,000 for that organization. Whether it’s volunteering at a Stampede breakfast for an HOA partner, participating in Calgary Food Bank and Veterans Food Bank campaigns or supporting the Alberta Children’s Hospital, Simco is proud to give back to a community that has given it so much over the past 40 years.
A Bright Future
Simco Management is proud of reaching such an incredible milestone, and while the team has taken the opportunity to look back at the evolution of the company, their eyes are fixed firmly on where the company is headed.
Dillon Kirkland grew up in the company and learned the business from his parents as a youngster. He started cleaning and vacuuming, learned the ropes in the maintenance department and then transferred to admin and was finally managing his own condominium accounts.
“He has worked hard and learned the business from the ground up. He has been involved in the growth of Simco, and I’m glad he will eventually take the business over,” says Garey Kirkland.
With the trust of clients, a dedicated team, a 40-year history of exceeding expectations and a well-trained next generation ready to lead, Simco Management is clearly in good hands for the future.
2478 91st Avenue SE, Calgary, Alberta, T2C 5H3
Contact Simco Management
Phone: (403) 234-0166
Fax: (403) 234-0172