The learning curve for new CMCAs is steep. Still wet behind the years, you’re managing meetings and delving into budgets – often amidst contentious homeowners.
Mellow with age
Gwen Rohrer, CMCA, AMS, PCAM managed a townhome community early in her career. That’s where a homeowner, in violation of the covenants, planted flowers in the common area.
Gwen confronted the issue head-on, issuing warning letters and alerting the board. But her zeal was rewarded with an escalation that ended up in small claims court, and cost the association thousands of dollars. Ultimately, the judge sided with the homeowner, ruling that while the flowers were not a detriment to the community. They violated the community’s rules, but not its spirit.
“Now I’m a lot more mellow,” said Gwen, now with Hammersmith Management in Colorado. People don’t live in covenant protected communities because of the HOA’s list of 20 rules, she says, they live there because they love their homes, their neighbors and their yards.
“What’s more,” she said. “We’re not a judge or jury, and we should admit our mistakes.”
Make meetings fun
In his first year as a manager, Terry Jarrett, CMCA, AMS, PCAM attended 180 meetings. The president of the Best Management Team, Inc., at first thought meetings were:
- Too much talk
- Too many
- Too long
- Too late in the day
- Too little decision-making
- Too poorly attended
But now he says, “meetings are my favorite thing about being in this industry.” He changed his perception by:
– Working closely with board presidents. Terry invests 45 minutes before every meeting (but not immediately before) to meet with the board chair and create a unified agenda.
– Setting boundaries on conduct. He explains to both homeowners and board members the proper and polite rules of conduct.
– Being all business. Too often, board meetings get social, he says. It’s your job to “establish the perception that this is a business meeting.” That includes dressing the part, putting the words on the agenda ‘business meeting,’ and allocating time for socializing after the meeting.
– Using parliamentary procedure. Your marching orders are to:
- Protect the voice of the minority.
- Preserve the rule of the majority.
- Get business done.
Prepare, prepare, prepare. Always read the board packet and ask yourself:
- Do I have everything I need?
- What am I going to talk about?
- What questions should I anticipate?
Put it in writing
As executive director of the Ken-Caryl Ranch Master Association for 25 years, Chris Pacetti, CMCA, PCAM is now in the role of knowing the more about this community than anyone on his board.
“If you stay in one place for a long time, you become the face of that association,” he said. “People tend to blame – or credit you – with past decisions. So, it’s important to document why the association made a decision.”
Sometimes that includes initiatives that were been tried years ago, and failed.
For instance, Ken Caryl Ranch runs a successful holiday tree chipping operation, and uses the resulting mulch in its open space.
One year, residents suggested running the chipper year-round, feeding it tree trimmings from their properties. But the chipper was left unmanaged. So landscaping contractors dropped off branches from other communities, trash, and grass clippings. The result was a big mess.
The idea recently re-emerged. “It’s important not to pooh-pooh it,” Pasetti says, but rather tell the story of what happened the last time.
Your turn: what do you wish you had known when you started your career?