Community Management 101 – Boot Camp For New Managers By Julie Adamen

Article by Julie Adamen

In our industry few new managers receive adequate training. If a new manager is lucky, they will spend some time ‘learning the ropes’ by assisting experienced managers. If the new manager isn’t so lucky, they are thrown in to the abyss all by their lonesome. Either way, it’s sink or swim.

In June I wrote an article about things I wish I had known when I started in this business, lo these many years ago.  I received a lot of positive feedback from mangers and executives – some even saying they would give that article to every new manager they came across� This lead me to begin thinking about the lack of real life material available for learning to the very basics of community management. So I said to myself, ‘Self! Put something together!”  And here it is.

Are there any rules? Yes!

The governance for a community association is found in state law, state corporations code, some federal law and the community’s own governing documents. The governing documents are the CC&R’s, By-Laws, the Articles of Incorporation (if applicable) and the Rules and Regulations.  These documents are what you will turn to when you need guidance in procedures and responsibilities.

Tip: Do not be afraid any of the governing documents:  Take the time to review them. They aren’t as complicated as they appear. And you will refer back to them time and time again.

An overview of the job. Your job is to manage the day-to-day business affairs of the association, but really it is all about people. People, people everywhere and you will spend upwards of 80% of your time dealing with people: Homeowners, tenants, guests, vendors and Board members. You will deal with people who are lonely, controlling, have agendas, are crazy, mean, delightful, annoying, funny, ill, people who will become your friends and people in whom you would like to stick pins. Some of these people you will never forget (no matter how hard you try). Your “real” job is managing the corporation, but your “reality” job is managing people.

Tip:  Your people management skills are just as important, if not more so, as your task management skills. Always keep that in the forefront of your thinking, and you will do just fine.

You report to� The Board of Directors, with the President being the “point person.”  The Board will consist of 3, 5 or 7 (or more if you are extremely unlucky) members who are elected by the membership, or homeowners, in the community. (Of course, you also report to your employer is you work for a management company, but we’ll address that in a subsequent issue).

TIP: To find out more about each community, find the minute book(s) and read through at least the past year’s worth of minutes. It’s a great way to jumpstart your knowledge about the community, its issues, troubles and players. This is your homework.


You need someone to get most of your assigned tasks done. Those who do a lot of the work are vendors.

The Vendors. Most associations have a number of outside contractors on whom you are supposed to ride herd. These vendors would include landscaping, pool maintenance, pest control, etc. If your Association has an attorney, they, too are vendors (though they like to be called “associates.”) In fact – so are you unless you are a direct employee of the community.

All vendors should have a current, comprehensible contract pertaining to their work at the association. Give your vendors a call within the first day or two, introduce yourself and get as much information about them as you can as you will be dealing with them on a day to day basis and a good relationship here is the key to your success.

TIP: If you need information, vendors are a wealth of association history, gossip and lore, especially if they have been with the property for several years.

Getting organized. Chances are you are taking over an account(s) that is (are) in less than desirable shape due to inexperience or neglect.  Or, if you are a ‘newbie’ joining a mid- to large- management firm, you may very well be receiving the flotsam and jetsam dysfunctional of the company. Know it, bear with it.

TIP: When you get the problem accounts, the good thing is you will learn a lot about the business in a short amount of time. Receiving problem accounts can be looked at as a negative, or as an important part of skill development.  

Organization is Vital! It is imperative that you are organized – that you keep track of what you are supposed to do and when it should be completed. This includes tasks delegated to you by the Board plus the myriad other tasks that come up weekly, daily or hourly. As a community manager, you will be expected to keep track of literally hundreds of issues and have answers at or near your fingertips. Being organized keeps your stress level down and your productivity up. In this business, organizational skills are second only to people skills (and it’s a very close second).

Your desk.  On your first day, let’s assume the desk you have inherited is, well, a mess. Don’t let this get you down! Here’s the starting point:

�        Find the book or sheet or computer file that has all the community information. Look for the pertinent contact information for Board members, vendors and committee members. Sort these by association.

�        At the same time you are working on the above, expect the phone to be ringing. If you can, let these calls go to voicemail, or if you are lucky, send them to customer service or your assistant, while you get started for an hour (or two or six). If you can’t delegate the calls to someone, take the calls, direct the action that needs to take place, and go back to what you were doing.

TIP: Start managing the tasks that come to you right away. Letting tasks and phone messages pile up for “when you have time” is a recipe for disaster for the community manager. On your desk once, then gone.

�        Find as many contracts you can. If you can’t find certain ones (and there should be one for every vendor)  – you can always contact the vendor and ask for a copy. Don’t be embarrassed. The vendor will understand – it happens.

�        Find all the governing documents you can and place them in files or binders (if they aren’t already) by association.

�        Sort all the miscellaneous paper you are going to find in, around, above, below and underneath your desk. Try to sort those papers by what they are – phone messages, letters going out, letters coming in, service orders, purchase orders, what have you. Official looking documents such as anything from the Secretary of State, the IRS, Franchise (State) Tax Board, legal documents like a Summons, letters from attorneys, etc., should be placed in a spot for sooner, rather than later, review.

Service order and phone message management.  Now that you have some semblance of organization, chances are there are a lot of phone messages and services orders in your new  “look at” pile. Don’t be overwhelmed by the size of this pile. The journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step!

TIP: Break services orders and phone messages in to categories, making the process of addressing them in to something simple and manageable. Yes, you can!

Phone messages and/or service orders come in three categories: Real emergencies, potential emergencies and imagined emergencies.

  • Real emergencies mean there is a serious threat to life, limb or property, such as a report of a gas leak.
  • An imagined emergency would be a flat of flowers left by the landscaping crew on someone’s lawn.
  • Potential emergencies or liabilities are things like a report of a trip hazard, or a spa being unusually hot, or a biting dog loose on the property.

As the manager, it’s your responsibility to immediately decide what is real, what is imagined and what is potential. From your first day on the job, you need to begin prioritizing those “emergencies” and acting on them accordingly.

Scheduling tasks and time. As a manager, you normally work on a month-to-month basis – that is, Board meeting to Board meeting. You take your direction for the coming month at one board meeting and work toward completing those tasks, as well as others, before the next meeting. The number of tasks you perform for each community you manage can vary widely; however, do not be surprised if your task, or action, list consists of 20 or 30 items per month.

Tip: Make “action” or “task” lists after every Board meeting that prioritize the tasks as well as have a projected completion date. Make it a point to look at that action list first thing everyday (after coffee, of course!).

The Beginning of Success.  During this crash course in service order organization and management, you may run across the errant “mystery service order,” i.e., one which, try as you may, you can’t find out what, if anything, happened. In this case, you may need to contact the reporting homeowner to see if, indeed, a problem they reported has been taken care of, or how the previous manager had left the situation. This is one tough gig for most people but, please, take my word for it: It’s a lot easier than you think and it works for you in many ways.

TIP:  Contact the owner if you have any doubt about how something has been handled.

First (Owner) Contact

If you find yourself needing to contact an owner, here’s how to go about it:

First you need a good attitude and a smile – You are not on the defensive, you are being proactive in attempting follow up on a problem.  You are a professional and this is what you do. Anything less than a positive attitude here will get you fewer results.

Once you have reached the owner, introduce yourself as the new manager and state that you are following up on a problem they reported sometime earlier and ask them if the problem was taken care of to their satisfaction. The majority of the time you will find that:

1) The problem has been dealt with and they are happy someone called to follow up,

2) The problem has been taken care of but not to their satisfaction (in which case you take a new service order and farm it out to whomever should take a look at it – even if that is you), or

3) The problem hasn’t been taken care of and they are happy someone is finally doing something about it.

With all of these probabilities, expect a certain amount of complaining about the subject issue, or a new problem.   Remember:  Owner’s problems are our business.

TIP:  The real key to success is to follow up, again, with the reporting owner with the good news (they got what they want) or the bad news (they didn’t).  Consistent follow up will win allies for your tenure as the manager, even if you have to tell them bad news. Why? Because they perceive you are on top of the issue, are empathetic to their problem and have done your best to help them.

The upshot of all of this is you are starting out you community management career as PROACTIVE as possible, and less REACTIVE. In other words, you jumped right in the mix, good, bad and ugly, from the beginning, and committed yourself to handling, not ducking, the issues that are thrown your way. This is the mark of a successful community manager.

See? You did survive your first day!

– Source of article, click here

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