Onsite Community Manager Tips

Onsite Community Manager is Not an Easy Job

While portfolio management (managers managing numerous associations) is prevalent in most areas, there are a large number of large scale associations that require an on-site manager, dedicated solely to that site. For many years those positions have been considered the premier positions, largely because:

  • The associations are usually considered to be upscale, coveted communities.
  • There is only one board, one set of contractors and service providers with whom to work.
  • There is a greater sense of being part of the association’s “family” and workforce team.
  • There are fewer meetings to attend.
  • The salary is usually comparable to or better than that of a medium-sized portfolio.
  • The manager can learn the property’s quirks, needs and operational issues easily because there is just one property on which to focus, shortening the learning curve to becoming an expert on the community.

It sounds wonderful doesn’t it? An ideal life, if there is such a thing in the association management industry. However there are pitfalls that a manager should be well aware of before making such a career move. And there are steps one can take to avoid the shortcomings.

The common situations that arise that interrupt the management nirvana are: the manager becomes too powerful, too privy to personal issues of the board and owners, and too independent in the eyes of the owners and/or the board; the board composition changes and with it the desire to “clean house”; over time, the manager’s salary increases price herself out of the competitive marketplace; and personality issues become magnified because of daily interaction.

To avoid such situations arising and/or expanding into irreconcilable differences that lead to replacement of the manager, there are some warning signs along the way of which the manager should be aware and take heed. There are also rules that the manager should establish and adhere to in order to achieve longevity in the position:

Being an onsite Community Manager is not an easy job.

Warning Signs & Rules to Establish

Do not fall into the trap of believing that you are best friends with the board. If issues arise, no matter how many fishing trips, bar mitzvahs and birthday parties you’ve been invited to, you are still the employee and the board holds your future in their hands. No matter how close you may be on a social level, when it comes to business, the board or at least a majority of them, will likely unite against you. Additionally, board members will notice if the manager is personally close to a certain board member or faction of the board, which can create a rift among board members and between some board members and the manager, eventually resulting in termination. Keep your professional relationship just that — professional. When invited to socialize, maintain your relationship in both dress and demeanor.

Never believe that because one board member tells you personal details about another, reciprocity is in order. In fact, the board member could be testing to determine if you are eager to listen to gossip, and if you will pass it on. Avoid even listening to this type of conversation. If it’s not germane to your job, you don’t need to hear it.

Be flexible. If the needs and desires of the association change, fit the changes into your schedule, your mode of operations, and your approach. Certainly, your role is to guide and advise, but if you want employment longevity, you need to be capable of changing along with your employer without compromising integrity, ethics, or the law.

Realize that nothing stays the same and be ready for change and willing to at least try new things. No volunteer wants to continually hear, “No way, we tried that, it failed; we are not trying it again.” Raining too much on anyone’s parade will result in viewing you as a stumbling block, not an asset.

With regard to compensation, realize that without ongoing increases in assessments, (an extremely unpopular occurrence), you have a fairly stagnant resource for raises. Find creative ways to increase your income such as offering to accept a percentage of savings the association may appreciate through your efforts to reduce the cost of insurance, utilities, contracts, and other services.

Know the point beyond which “taking ownership” of your position and the community is excessive. Don’t allow yourself to become a dictator but do display your dedication and interest in the community from a professional standpoint.

When personality issues arise, accept your own accountability. If you don’t think you’re at least partly responsible, you’re not being honest with yourself. Even if you have to accept a little more blame that you feel is fair, accept it with graciousness and sincerity. One of the primary characteristics of a successful community manager is the ability to gracefully admit you’re wrong, even when you don’t think you were, in order to focus on your commitment to work with all board members and owners for the benefit of the community.

The criteria to avoid the pitfalls and ensure a successful, productive, long-term relationship as an onsite manager in a large scale community association can be summed up in three words: – stop, look, and listen. Stop yourself from overreacting to personal attacks and don’t become defensive or overly friendly with board members and residents. Always look for ways to improve procedures, conserve funds and help residents. Listen to your board members and residents before crafting a response to ensure that you hear everything they are saying – or trying to say. Then, work with them to develop mutually acceptable solutions.

Published in Association Times – April 2008.

Provided by Jorel Association Management:  December 2008