Boards and community management companies work together in distinct roles to improve the condo community.
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Wilbur and Orville Wright. John Lennon and Paul McCartney. A great partnership leads people on to achieve amazing results. In a condo community, the board of directors are a group of volunteers who execute a wide variety of tasks to maintain their community and improve the lives of residents – all in their free time. The work can become a heavy responsibility. But when they partner with a professional community management company, together they shoulder some of the liability, stress and workload that comes with managing a condo community.
Great partnerships don’t just happen, though. If a community has been self-managed for a long time, it may not be evident how they can collaborate with a residential management company. The distinct roles of the board and community manager can shed some light on the ways the board can develop an effective partnership.
“Every board member has a concept for the way the community should run and what the future should look like for their condo community or co-op,” said Colin Jones, Business Development Director at FirstService Residential. “When a management company begins working with a condo community, the first order of business is to learn about that vision, how they have worked on it in the past and what they want to achieve next.”
The board and long-time residents also hold the institutional knowledge for the community. They are familiar with the unique culture of their community and have been working to make the community a better place to live while upholding the covenants, rules and regulations. The community management company should come in with flexibility to assess and make recommendations, rather than dictating change to the leaders. As mutual trust and respect are built, they will find ways to improve and streamline as partners.
Once the board communicates their vision to the community management company, their team will use their expertise and experience to bring the vision to life. If the condo community needs help with the budget or funding, the management company has key partnerships with banks and insurance companies and can leverage relationships and renegotiate contracts to do just that. If the condo community’s primary goal is to build a better sense of community, the management company has best practices and communication tools to bring people together. If the condo community’s biggest concern is emergency preparedness, the management company can provide analysis, recommendations and a knowledge of emergency procedures to help the community become ready for anything.
The board sets policy and the rules for enforcing it. As circumstances change and new issues come up, the board is responsible for keeping the rules in alignment with the needs of the community. The board is ultimately responsible for any committees or community organizations, to help the condo community stay true to the guidelines that keep it thriving and vibrant. A good board member knows that means not only the letter of the law, but the spirit of it too.
One of the primary duties of the community manager is to enforce the policies and guidelines of the board of directors. They monitor the property for adherence to the rules and notify residents and the board of violations. When changes are made to the rules or regulations, they communicate with homeowners and incorporate amendments into the official governing documents. Finally, they are the primary contact for residents, whether it’s a small issue or a big plumbing leak at three in the morning.
"One of the principal concerns of self-managed boards is the perception that they might have to give up control to a management company," Jones said. "But the board is ultimately in charge of the vision and priorities of the community, with recommendations and guidance from the professional manager."
The board/community manager partnership will be much more effective if the board focuses on a few specific priorities. It’s also important that the board states its expectations for those priorities as well as how they wish to work with the management company. This will help the community manager gain clarity about their role with the board and which issues they would like to tackle first.
The community manager takes the big picture priorities and plans out the sequence of work to complete the priority. Once the management team has a clear direction, they coordinate all the necessary contractors and their tasks. If there are other staff members at the property, the manager will usually serve in a supervisor role.
The community manager also coordinates board meetings. They set up a schedule, reserve meeting rooms if necessary, post notices about the meeting, and produces the paperwork and board packets for the meeting. After the meeting, they file minutes and notes.
A good community management company can leverage relationships with banks, insurance companies, maintenance companies, landscapers, security companies and more, making sure the community has excellent service and well-negotiated contracts. They also have experts to work with the condo community’s financial documents and budget, while looking for opportunities to reduce costs and increase revenue.
A strong partnership between the board and the community management company creates a community in which everyone’s standard of living is improved. This collaboration brings a vision to life and puts the condo community in a strong position for the next phase of their community life.