Association Insights

Lessons From My First Year as a Manager

In your first year as a manager, you face challenges such as facilitating successful board and annual meetings, elections, and tackling a budget. As a first-year manager in 2020, I faced those challenges as well as a new layer of intricacies that resulted from the Covid pandemic. The impact of Covid made managing more complicated for new and experienced managers alike. Learning how to safely manage amenities, understanding, and implementing requirements for cleaning, sanitizing, signage, and determining how to conduct board meetings and support the community was new to every manager.

I was able to navigate my first year by getting a CLUE; communication, legislation, update, and educate.

As a new manager a great deal of time is spent forming relationships. Opening lines of communication is crucial. Introduce yourself to your board, community, vendors, and first responders. Show you are engaged and part of the plan for success. Regularly update your board, create a planning calendar and an action item list. Reach out to board members before issuing meeting books to ensure everyone is aware of the upcoming agenda. Send a communication after your meeting to summarize the meeting and action items. Keep your community updated on activities, events, changes in schedules – like trash pick-up or office closings. This reduces questions and shows the community you are a resource for information.

Becoming familiar with your governing documents will aid in your success and that of your community. Following the due process procedures and the collection policy ensures the community can enforce its covenants and collect assessments. Meeting deadlines established in the governing documents is critical. Failing to act on an architectural modification application can result in default approval or failing to provide required notice of a meeting could invalidate the meeting and any actions taken.

Updating information is a simple task that can be very helpful. When you are facing your budget, or bidding out a contract, you will be thrilled you did. Following in and expanding on the footsteps of my predecessors allowed for a successful budget process. Spreadsheets are my friends, and various methods for tracking data should be in every manager’s toolkit. For example, I found it useful to maintain a contract list that includes the service contracts, the term, and renewal and termination requirements. Another would be a costs report. You should track utilities, community / social events, supplies, etc. You can see immediately if something is going awry and determine you have an issue.

Everyday take the opportunity to educate yourself. Get on the county school, police, and government information distribution lists to know what is happening in your area. Become an engaged and active member of your local CAI chapter, which gives you access to webinars, classes, and a network of professionals. If you work for a professional management company like me, take advantage of education offered through your company. Striving to gain professional designations increases your knowledge as well as your professional value.

The leap into the community management industry is full of excitement and challenges. However, it comes with monumental successes and seemingly catastrophic failures. Successfully completing the annual meeting mailing allows you to breathe a huge sigh of relief; not making quorum makes you want to scream with exasperation. I’ve learned that these things will happen, and they are opportunities for growth.

One success I experienced was watching the growth and development of a board. As a new manager working with a relatively new board, I quickly saw the need to establish time parameters on the meeting agenda to help the board stay focused and control the length of the meetings. As time went on, the rapport between the board and me developed. The discussions were focused and decisions concise, resulting in shorter meetings with increased community attendance and greater impact. You are a partner with your board and a reflection of your community. Spend time learning how your board members interact and use your skills to help them develop into a more efficiently run group. I know there is still much to learn. However, one thing I know for certain is that when the community, board, and management all work together, challenges can be overcome, and great things can happen.

By Mary Wayland, MAIS

Mary is a general manager for FirstService Residential in Fredericksburg, VA. She has experience in community and property management. She is currently working towards her Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA) designation.