In July 2019, The Villages of Urbana, in Frederick, MD was chosen for the October 2019 PCAM case study. As the PCAM is the highest professional designation available to community managers, our staff felt it was an honor to be a host community for this case study.
This incoming group of prospective designees were coming from all over the country and devoting two full days in The Villages of Urbana to learn about all aspects of the community, including a bus tour, and then 30 days following the case study to work on their final paper. This was going to be an excellent learning experience for the PCAM candidates, but we also felt that it was going to be a great learning experience for our community as well.
As a host community you do not know in advance what questions will be on the case study therefore you are required to provide numerous documents such as the governing documents, audits, meeting minutes, financial documents, community communications, committee information, etc. This was a big undertaking, but at the same time it was a benefit to staff because it gave us a chance to review a lot of documents and procedures which we normally wouldn’t take the time to sit down and do.
Next, we needed to set up key personnel to meet with the candidates during their visit for a question and answer session about The Villages of Urbana. This included the association’s attorney, various board and committee members, our insurance agent, accounting team members, landscape and snow removal contractors, and the financial advisor. This part of the exercise was refreshing, as so many of them were eager to talk about their role and experiences with association, and they genuinely seemed willing to be part of this process in a positive way on behalf of the community.
Finally, as the case study dates were growing closer, we did the final preparation work to make sure the community looked outstanding for the tour that the candidates would be taking. Our staff takes great pride in making the community look wonderful for our residents, but at this time everyone pitched in to make sure it looked the absolute best that it could for our upcoming visitors.
The first case study day finally arrived. After introductions were made the study facilitator asked each candidate to rate their current level of anxiety between a 1 and a 10. Most ranked in the 7-10 range, which wasn’t surprising. Although our staff was not asked what our level of anxiety was, it was easily around a 3 or 4, however ours was a combination of both anxiety and excitement. We were eager and excited to show the candidates our beautiful community, so that was the easy part. Our anxiety was due to the fact that we had no idea what these candidates would be asking us and we needed to be prepared to answer anything that they wanted to know. It felt similar to being on a job interview and you have no idea what the interviewer is going to ask you.
All of these candidates were at the top of their game and had fantastic questions. The unique part about being the host community is that it gives you the opportunity to truly look at your community through a complete stranger’s viewpoint. It was so interesting to see and hear the different things that they picked up on that maybe we haven’t noticed before, or perhaps drive by every day and take for granted. Many of them gave feedback on how things are done in their own communities which was both interesting and helpful at the same time, which seemed like a win-win situation for our staff and community.
Overall, being a host for a PCAM case study was very beneficial to our entire staff. We would strongly recommend the entire experience to any other community that might be thinking about it!
By Stephanie Turner, CMCA, AMS
Stephanie is an assistant community manager for Community Association in Frederick, Maryland. She is currently the liaison between the residents and the Covenants and Design Review Committees.