During my over 30 years of working with boards of directors/managers, I have come to realize that there have been numerous articles written about the criteria for selecting a new managing agent: when to, how to, the questions to ask, and the transition process. But few of these articles are written from the managing agent’s perspective on which clients we should add, why we should not add, or why we should eliminate clients from our portfolios? This remains very personal and very often relates to the idea of making a co-op or condo viable.
Who do we, as managers, wish to work for? Responsible boards that have demonstrated an honest interest in the physical and financial security of their home for all residents. This could include, but not be limited to, professionals such as attorneys, accountants, engineers, architects, and financial planners, as well as a person, professional or not, who can bring something positive to the table.
Too often, we find that board members will get partially involved in a project without the proper knowledge and no matter how well their intentions are, interfere with the process which had been moving forward properly and then the project is interrupted and can cause extra time, cost, and frustration for everyone.
A number of board members use their positions for self-serving purposes. Some boards try to micromanage and should actually consider self-management. If not, they need to allow the professional managers to manage the day-to-day affairs of the corporation. Sometimes this can become very sensitive, especially when the politics do not work out for the board member who has interfered and does not come forward to take responsibility for his or her actions.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! What happens when a board changes? Is it time to get a new agent – because change is good and a new set of eyes is a positive thing? When things are running smoothly in a building, you’ll know it: it is kept clean by the superintendent and maintenance staff, emergencies are dealt with expeditiously and without question, the physical plant is being maintained properly with preventive maintenance, and finances are well-balanced. With such conditions, why is it that a board goes on a crusade to “make things better”? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to discuss things with the current agent and see if the firm is able to incorporate changes?
Spelling out the roles and responsibilities of the managing agent and the board of directors/managers clearly can solve future problems. There are few questions as to who does what and when. Ongoing communication, both verbal and written, will make for a great team effort and success for the cooperative or condominium.
When is it time to say goodbye? It is time to say goodbye when the aforementioned conditions no longer exist. When all is well but, all of a sudden, rumors start to spread that the managing agent didn’t visit the building this week, that a phone call was not returned, or a letter not written at all for some reason. More often then not, there are very good reasons for these things taking or not taking place, but does anybody want to know? The idea of “What have you done for me lately?” is ever-present and, to be honest with you, quite uncomfortable. At this point, your desire to work for these people has waned. The element of trust no longer exists and without trust there cannot be a continuance of the relationship. As in any marriage, there should be a good fit, great communication, and trust is a must.