A board of directors must understand that the manager performs various functions for the association and that the board need not do all the work itself. A good board of directors should be able to make policy decisions and have the manager carry out these decisions. It behooves the board, therefore, to choose a good property manager with whom a rapport can be developed. This is easy to say, but how is it really done? What are the qualities of a good manager?
The specific qualities needed by your manager will vary depending on the makeup of your association and its members. There are, however, various qualities your board should be looking for when choosing a manager.
Organizational skills: A board of directors may meet only once a month or perhaps only once a quarter. Because of this, the manager will often receive and act upon a plethora of information and requests in between meeting dates. This wealth of information must be presented to a board of directors for review in an organized fashion to permit the board to quickly review and act upon it. An unorganized board packet will add unnecessary length to board meetings and will make it difficult for a board to accomplish its necessary business.
When interviewing a manager as a board member, ask about the manager’s organizational skills. You might also ask to see a sample board packet to determine if the information is laid out in a manner you find intuitive and useful. If the information is presented to a board in an organized fashion, chances are the property manager is very organized in general and will be able to quickly locate and act upon information relating to the association.
Professionalism: The manager is an extension of the board of directors and acts as an agent of the association. When dealing with other vendors, the board will want the manager to present a professional front for the association. Vendors who meet the manager may determine whether they want to work with your association merely by the manner in which they are addressed by your manager. A manager who is professional and easy to work with may result in savings to your association and a long list of vendors who wish to work with the association. On the other hand, an unprofessional and unpleasant manager may cause many vendors to refuse to work with the association. The same is true for the manager’s interaction with owners as the manager is more likely to interact with Owners than with vendors!
When interviewing a manager, the board should see how the manager presents him or herself. The board should also remember that professionalism does not have to mean stuffiness. A good manager should be able to blend into any situation. Choosing a manager who projects a professional image will benefit the association in many different ways.
Responsiveness: One of the largest complaints boards receive about managers is a lack of response to calls, emails or letters. A good manager should be responsive both to the board and to owners within the association. Depending on the issue, managers who take days or weeks to respond to the board or to owners will only result in frustration for the entire community.
It is difficult for a board to determine the responsiveness of a manager during the interview process. If a manager is generally non-responsive, it is possible that even during the interviewing process the manager will fail to return phone calls or show up to the interview late. These cues should tip off the board to look further into that manager. One way the board can attempt to make this determination is to ask for referrals from other boards and to perform a thorough investigation into the manager and the management company.
Good Attitude. A manager with a good attitude is also important for the success of any association. Many of the telephone calls managers receive on a daily basis are from disgruntled homeowners. A manager with a good attitude will be able to calm a homeowner down and resolve the situation without escalation. A manager with a bad attitude, however, may result in further headaches for the board when the disgruntled homeowner shows up at the next board meeting to reiterate the same complaint and add an additional complaint about the property manager. Now the board will have two complaints with which to deal as opposed to merely the first complaint that could have been resolved quickly and quietly.
Accessibility. This trait goes hand in hand with responsiveness. You can reach most managers these days by telephone and email and some property managers may provide you with a cell phone number. To deal with emergency situations that arise in any association, most management companies have a 24-hour telephone number and/or an emergency contact number/phone. This is important since emergency situations are bound to arise. Having an accessible manager will result in the emergency being taken care of without the additional damage which may result from delay.
While not necessarily a “trait” of a good manager, you may also wish to determine whether your manager has received pertinent training courses. Training courses are offered by the Community Associations Institute (CAI) nationally and, in California, by the California Association of Community Managers (CACM). Other state specific training entities may exist and you may also wish to look into whether your state provides licensing of managers. Looking for a manager who is licensed will give you the peace of mind to know that the manager has received some formal training and has some understanding of the laws affecting associations and the requirements of running an association.