Try These Unusual Tips for Managing Associations If You Dare

As we meet folks across the Community Association Management industry, we’re always excited to hear how they do things differently.  Some advice—keep your promises, provide financial transparency, be proactive—are tried-and-true approaches that we hear frequently (and for good reason).  But we also occasionally hear something that makes us think “huh!”  These tips and tricks won’t work for everyone, but they may just give you the extra edge you’ve been looking for.

Close your office

You can think of your office as a communal gathering place that encourages communication and boosts morale…or you can think of it as an inward-facing cave that puts a wall between you and your clients.  The latter way of thinking is what led a handful of management company CEOs we’ve talked with to opt for an office-less culture.  They report that yes, it saves on costs, but also that it leads to better service because it pushes their staff to spend more time out in their communities.  And with the shift to remote work going on across the economy, this model may just be a recruiting advantage as well.

Be developer-first

Working with developers can be a divisive topic.  On one hand, they can be a steady source of new communities to manage—and on the other, they can be price-conscious, complex to serve, and bring you communities that are hard to retain through transition to the first homeowner-controlled board.  Some managers we’ve met embrace this challenge head-on.  One way to do this is to dedicate a manager entirely to one developer.  This means that during build-out and sales, each developer partner has a single point of contact, and the aligned manager quickly learns how best to serve this client (from what to keep an eye out for during inspections to which homeowner requests are likely to be entertained).  90 days before turnover to the first homeowner-controlled board, this manager is swapped out for another, allowing the developer-aligned manager to stay focused and the new board to see a fresh face that they won’t associate with the developer.

Fire your customers

It’s an open secret – some customers are a real pain.  But not all pains are created equal.  Depending on your fee methodology and the types of requests, two customers that seem like the same amount of work may have dramatically different financial impacts on the business.  A handful of owners we’ve talked with take this issue very seriously and spend the time necessary to understand how profitable each customer is by tracking time, expenses, and revenue by account.  Some even proactively resign from customers it costs too much to serve – or adjust their prices to compensate (which sometimes has the same outcome!).

Charge hourly

Most management company fee structures are structured similarly: a flat rate management fee per door, plus a set of fees for various one-off additional services like estoppel/assessment certifications, new resident onboarding, and/or collections administration.  But a small minority of firms opt for a simpler arrangement: charging customers for the number of hours of management time they consume.  Proponents say this arrangement aligns fee pricing with how difficult a customer is to serve, and that customers are already familiar with this structure from other professional services like lawyers.  Some split the difference, charging customers up-front for a certain number of guaranteed hours, but charging hourly for any overage.

It’s unlikely all of these approaches are right for you, but we’ve been lucky enough to hear from some very ardent supporters of each.  They’re convincing folks, so we think they deserve some thought!

Have an unusual approach that we missed?  We’d love to talk about it.