Delivering Exceptional Service: 6 Keys to a Great HOA Manager
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In the CAI 2020 Homeowner Satisfaction Survey, 74% of homeowners reported that their community managers provide value and support to residents and their associations1.
How do you ensure that your manager has the resources and support to provide exceptional service to your community? It starts with comprehensive training and access to strong support services, advanced tools and innovative technology. When your management company provides this level of training and support, your association manager can go beyond their day-to-day tasks and become a proactive advocate for your community’s goals.
As board members, your decision to partner with an association management company can impact the level of training and resources they receive. What does comprehensive training and support look like (and how does this impact your association)? Here are the six essential skills and resources your association manager needs to excel:
Key #1: HOA Leadership Skills
Leadership skills are the first and most important component of an exceptional association manager. In addition to leading a team of operational staff, a great manager should be confident enough to take charge in making proactive recommendations and helping your board set annual goals. The good news is, leadership is a teachable skill, and your association management company should provide training for your managers. There are two types of leadership skills that can help your manager make a positive impact on the community:
Self-leadership: The practice of discovering yourself, identifying your goals and desired experiences, managing your ability to perform at the highest level and growing as a leader. This skill enhances your association manager’s awareness of their sense of self and ability to achieve personal and professional goals.
People leadership: The ability to influence, motivate and develop individual talent within your team to accomplish shared goals and exceed expectations. A strong leader understands the power of effective listening and communicating, the balance of rewards and recognition and the impact of being a role model. This skill enhances your association manager’s ability to lead a strong team that will push your community to success.
Ultimately, an association manager who can motivate themselves to achieve their personal and professional goals will confidently lead their team to success. They will also approach any interpersonal conflicts among residents, guests and vendors with the best interest of your community in mind.
FirstService Residential invests a significant amount of time and effort into the ongoing education and growth of association managers. Associates have access to in-person instruction and online training modules through FirstService Residential University, where they can enroll in specialized management courses and other professional skills training courses such as:
- Effective Time Management
- Understanding Financial Statements
- Technical/Software Training
- Leadership Training
- Customer Service Skills
- Communication Techniques
- Logical Problem Solving
- Group Decision Making
Key #2: Knowledge of Community Financials and Budget
A trained association manager who understands their community’s financials and has ongoing support from an internal accounting team can help support the community’s financial health and prevent risk and fraud. Your manager can better prepare your community for maintenance needs, repairs, necessary special assessments and resident delinquencies when they have a good working knowledge and understanding of the following:
- Balance sheet
- Income statement
- Cash flow statement
- General ledger
- Accounts payable report
- Account delinquency report
- Cash disbursements ledger
Your manager should have access to a team of local accountants to help review these reports and provide support for other day-to-day accounting items. By taking some of the burdens off the manager, they are able to help the board set and execute short- and long-term community goals.
“If a board member has specific financial questions, I know I can always reach out to our corporate controller or accounting team for a detailed answer with a quick turnaround time. I’m always walking into a board meeting feeling confident and able to discuss my community’s financial reports thoroughly.”
- Lesley Irwin, General Manager, FirstService Residential
At FirstService Residential, after association managers complete their training, they continue to have access to a wide range of financial service resources. FirstService Residential-managed HOAs and their association managers have access to and support an assigned accounting team consisting of an account payable (AP) associate, a general ledger associate, an AP supervisor, and a controller. This level of support helps managers stay on top of their daily accounting tasks, provides them with a clear understanding of the financials and gives them confidence before meeting with their boards.
Key #3: Group Decision-Making Skills
As you know, forming a united front as a board helps ensure your community’s success and enhances confidence in your leadership. When your board is having a hard time coming to a decision, your association manager should have the skills and support to help facilitate decision-making on your board.
What type of training and skill-building will help develop an effective group decision-maker? Their training should focus on conducting effective meetings, negotiation, consensus-building, collaboration styles and the overall group decision-making process. These skills can then be applied to many techniques used to build shared agreement and prevent conflicts, such as creating forums, having open houses or town hall meetings, forming committees and task forces and establishing a sense of ownership. When your association manager masters these skills and becomes adept at facilitating group decision-making, your board will be in a better position to make more informed decisions more effectively.
“Soft skills such as communication and relationship-building skills are critical in our industry because boards and homeowners have entrusted us with their most valuable asset: their home. By helping association managers build strong and trusting relationships through robust communication and leadership training, boards will feel more confident and comfortable with the recommendations their manager makes, and it will help them better serve the communities they represent.”
- Mark Lakatos, Director of Training and Development, FirstService Residential
Our state-of-the-art educational and development program, FirstService Residential University, features over 100 training modules and courses with the industry’s best tools to help them advance their skills, increase their industry and product knowledge, and deliver the highest levels of service to board members and residents.
Key #4: Understanding of Technology and Tools
Like most jobs today, association managers who need to execute their responsibilities efficiently must know how to use the technology that supports their role. Whether it’s proprietary property management software, accounting software or an association communication platform, your manager should learn to use these tools to their full potential.
While specific training modules will vary depending on what types of software or tools your association management company uses, your manager should still receive comprehensive and ongoing training for this software. The faster your manager becomes comfortable and familiar with using all the tools that support your community, the more quickly and proficiently they can complete tasks for your community. When your board meets with a potential association management company, be sure to ask about the technology they use to ensure that your manager, residents and community have access to cutting-edge, user-friendly software.
FirstService Residential’s proprietary software, FirstService Residential Connect™, features an associate portal that allows the management team to send email blasts, track expenses, schedule maintenance and report violations. With all this information at their fingertips, managers can be completely in tune with the community, answer questions quickly and provide knowledgeable feedback.
Key #5: Effective Communication Skills
Clear and effective communication is a valuable skill that will help your association manager achieve both personal and professional growth. An effective manager should understand how to support the diverse group of people and personalities that make up your community. Their training should include communication techniques and best practices for sharing information with different audiences and people, such as board members or residents.
“Our managers need to be proficient in how they communicate with all different types of people. We provide training to the managers on the different communication styles that exist and how to adapt their style with other styles of communication so that their interactions are always open, and nothing is getting in the way of clear communication.”
- Jennifer Fischel, Vice President of Operations, FirstService Residential
Communication skills training covers various topics such as effective writing, public speaking, relationship-building, creating engaging presentations, coaching and active listening techniques. With this kind of training in their back pocket, your association manager can better understand interpersonal nuances, tailor communication to each recipient and successfully express their thoughts and ideas to board members, residents and vendors. Additionally, they can avoid repeating explanations and prevent misunderstandings that arise when messages are poorly conveyed.
How does a well-articulated manager help your board and community thrive? Your manager can help facilitate board communications training to improve your meetings and discussions and provide best practices for resident communications. When your board communication has improved, decision-making also comes easier, which can help improve your community and strengthen your relationships. For more information on how to improve your board’s communication skills, read our article, 9 Ways to Improve Board Communication (Hint: It Starts With You!).
Key #6: Time Management
Managing a successful community is not a walk in the park! Due to the nature of their jobs, your association manager’s day is often booked with phone calls to make, documents to read and appointments to keep. Time management strategies are crucial to getting the day-to-day tasks done in an organized and timely manner.
FirstService Residential uses its proprietary Meeting Management System to ensure that managers and board members have easy and quick access to meeting notes and minutes. Not only does this help keep everything organized, but it frees up managers’ time so that they can better assist the boards and communities they serve. To learn more, watch a brief video:
As board members, it’s important to assess whether your association or community manager has adequate support or not. Here are some questions to consider:
- What’s the general response time for any questions or requests?
- Does your manager have additional administrative support?
- Are homeowner statements arriving on time with footnotes from accountants?
- Does your manager have access to training and technologies that allow them to do their job more effectively?
Read our article, Is Your Association Manager Equipped for Success? 3 Questions to Ask to learn how to assess the level of support your manager has.
Remember that it takes a village to run a successful community, and your association manager is only one person! They cannot (or should not) handle every single task for your board, residents, and community alone and excel in their roles. At FirstService Residential, we arm managers and associates with specialized training and extensive support in all departments because a supported manager leads to a successful board and association.
1. Community Association Institute. 2020. “2020 Homeowner Satisfaction Survey.” Caionline.org. https://www.caionline.org/PressReleases/Pages/StatisticalInformation.aspx