In the association management industry, there are times when the person(s) assigned to manage a community (CAM) isn’t doing what they are supposed to do. When this happens there are different ways to handle it, depending on whether your community is self-managed, managed by a small company, or managed by a large organization. Let’s take a look at these different management types and consider what you can do when they seem to be falling down on the job.
When Self-Management Situations Go Poorly
When you’re self-managed and things don’t seem to be getting done, you have ultimate control. You can hire and fire almost at will if you have an employee doing the work. If the board itself is doing the day-to-day management, there are typically guidelines laid out in your governing documents regarding the removal of members, so I won’t address that here.
However, if the board has hired one or more individuals to handle the management responsibilities for the association, there are some things they must do. They need to ensure transparency in all aspects, so the board may supervise or even “micro-manage” the hired individual(s). There also needs to be a foundation of accountability, including coaching and even disciplinary action. Unfortunately, I’ve often seen this go sideways very quickly when people fall down on the job.
Assuming the right foundation is in place, when a self-managed association has performance issues with an employee, here’s what I would recommend. Ask yourself if this is an issue tied to actions, or ability. In other words, take a step back and determine whether the person desires to do better and is doing all they can, or if the opposite is true. If the willingness is there, then there may be a training issue. It may even be that they don’t understand what is truly needed or wanted. Coach them and make sure they have access to proper training.
On the other hand, no matter how much the board loves an employee like family, if they willfully won’t do what’s needed to do the job right, there comes a time to change the entire scenario. This may mean terminating the employee and hiring another in their place. It may mean looking for a management company to replace them. Whatever must be done, must be done. Don’t let feelings get in the way of doing what’s right for your community.
When Small Company Management Isn’t Managing
If you have hired a small company to manage your association and you are experiencing poor performance, it likely comes down to one of three issues. One may be whether or not they are truly an association manager, and not just someone who claims to be. Some states have licensing requirements, but many do not. What is their background specifically related to association management? Realtors, CPA’s and even attorneys do not necessarily have enough training or experience to truly do the job of a CAM. It may be that they don’t know what they don’t know, and they are not right for your association.
If their knowledge and experience are not the issue, then it could be the second issue I have seen — growing pains. If they are a small company, they may only have one or two people that fill the role of CAM. That means that as they grow, and especially if it is rapid growth, the company may end up overloading those one or two people until they get large enough to hire additional staff to balance the workload. Be aware that if this is the case, they may be doing the best they can at the time. Have a sit down with the CAM and explain the frustrations you are having on your end. Show appreciation for what they are doing right. If you treat them right, you will likely get more attention, even with all the other things on their plate.
The third issue I have seen with small companies is having split focus. They may be a Realtor, accountant, or any number of other professions, and are managing associations on the side until they get a large enough portfolio that they can focus on it full-time. If this is the case, then you really need to decide whether you want to stick it out with them or find someone who is focused on your community. I would meet with them and let them know you don’t feel there is enough focus on your community, and see how they respond. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results, or you may decide it is time to find another solution.
If Large Company Management Is Lacking
If you have hired a large company to manage your community and are having trouble, I want to share a not so secret, secret. The association management industry has very high turnover and burnout rates. When you hire a large management company, you are not going to be managed by the person you got the bid from; you will get an individual they assign to you. That person may change annually. You may have someone with great experience, knowledge, work ethic, and everything else needed to be a successful CAM. But they may leave, and the next person you get may not be that way at all.
The advantage to larger management companies is that they tend to focus on training and education. They may have a lot of people that have everything they need to be great CAMs. If one isn’t the right fit for your community, another one might be. Reach out to their manager and share your concerns, and any and all performance gaps. Not every large management company does a great job of knowing what is going on with each client. That would require coaching and holding their people accountable. They need to hear from their clients when there are issues so they can deal with them. Talk with your CAM’s supervisor and see what they want to do.
Remember Who’s in Charge
Ultimately, remember that the board is in charge! You can fire an employee or a management company. Check the management contract to see what it says about cancellation of the agreement. See if they charge any type of transition or early termination fees. Remember that coaching is the first step. Termination is the last. What you do in between will have a lot to do with whether termination is necessary.
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