The relationship between boards and management is, by its very nature, a deep one. The two teams rely on each other to ensure the smooth oversight of their co-op and condo communities. Both are dedicated to doing everything possible to create a stable and welcoming environment for residents while at the same time, handling the day-to-day and big picture aspects of management, from dealing with vendors to ensuring a solid financial bottom line. With so much at stake, it is vital for everyone involved to be functioning at an optimal level. For boards and for the managers who work with them, building that well-oiled management machine is key to that success. So what can be done to ensure the best relationship possible and how does one know if it’s not going to work? That’s where evaluations come into play.
For most management firms, the process of managing agent evaluations is an internal one based on the specific needs of each client. “The management agreement should outline the responsibilities of the management company,” says Jim Stoller, president of The Building Group property management firm in Chicago. “There should be a specific job description for each building. Every building is unique so you want to customize that description for each one. We use those descriptions as the basis for our evaluations.”
Establishing those expectations and guidelines early is imperative, says Marcia Caruso, president of Caruso Management Group, Inc., based in Naperville, Illinois. “The first 90 days are critical to discussing expectations,” she says, because sometimes what the board thought they heard and what was said can be completely different from what management thought they heard and what was actually said. “You need to establish expectations early,” says Caruso.
Taking the pulse of that relationship on a regular basis is also key. Every month, Caruso’s firm examines the management report from each building and also sits down every quarter with each building’s board “to find out which expectations are being met and not met,” Caruso says.
She also suggests routine discussions with managers, board members and vendors so that they can get all the major players “on the same page. Together, we can tell the vendor what we’re happy about and not happy about.” Once the board sees that the manager understands what they want and can anticipate that response, “pretty soon the board starts to trust your judgment,” Caruso says. “When I hear the board say they trust us to take care of something, then that’s a good thing.”