By: Katie Anderson, CMCA, AMS, PCAM
Governing and operating a community association is complex even for experienced managers, informed board members, and involved residents. Hiring service providers who offer landscaping, accounting, legal advice, maintenance, reserves analysis, insurance and risk management, or myriad other services is critical to a properly managed and well-maintained community.
Having reliable service providers ensures that property values are sustained, crucial work is completed, and association leaders meet their legal and fiduciary obligations—especially in challenging times such as now, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reaching out to a service provider, requesting proposals, and contracting for work to be fulfilled may be the initial steps, but it takes effort to build and maintain a strong partnership that benefits the community. These strategies can help your community establish a long-lasting relationship with its service providers:
Communicate early and often. Clear lines of communication will benefit management, the board, and the service provider by keeping each other updated on the progress of contracted work. Frequent check-ins such as weekly virtual or face-to-face meetings, monthly progress reports, or quarterly site visits provide a forum to ask questions, address any concerns, and gauge how the relationship is going.
Have adequate oversight. Service providers bring the necessary expertise to tackle specific tasks and projects. It’s important for boards and managers to understand when to step back and allow the professionals to take the lead—while still having some involvement to make sure the work is getting done. Monitor, but don’t micromanage.
Keep things in perspective. Be aware that mistakes can occur, particularly if you contract with a new service provider. Resolve any problems or complaints that arise in a proactive manner. If the issue is rectified in a timely fashion without the provider being evasive or defensive, it can make the relationship stronger.
Prioritize trust and respect. Trust is hard to gain but easy to lose. The most common way to lose a service provider’s trust revolves around delayed payment but also poorly drafted contracts, rushed deadlines, and misinformation. Set clear expectations and goals from the start to make sure you’re on the same page. As with any relationship, mutual respect also will prevent a strong partnership from deteriorating.
Choosing the right service providers and maintaining a good working relationship with them ensures timely, quality work that a community will benefit from for years to come.