Don’t let her long, delicate frame or the waterfall of blonde hair fool you. Jody Wood is a purple-belt in karate, and she also loves boxing and yoga. When she isn’t busy at her job at a construction management company, Wood finds time to serve as board president in her 45-unit co-op on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The five-member board recently completed a major capital project that led the board to switch management companies. Wood, 55, who holds an engineering degree from Drexel University in Philadelphia, has hard-won advice for all boards on how to find the right management company
HABITAT: What was the project that caused turmoil between you and your management company?
WOOD: We were doing an elevator modernization, probably one of the biggest projects we’ve undertaken. Mid-project, our property manager, who was wonderful, left the company. Then a new property manager with far less experience came in mid-project; at the same time the elevator company had switched project managers. When things were miscommunicated, both the management company and the elevator company could say, “Oh, well, the prior person didn’t communicate it.”
The new property manager was not really on top of it, so then it fell on the board to follow up on everything. After a while, it becomes exhausting because you’re managing the building. During the modernization of our passenger elevator, our service elevator – which is manual – broke down. I don’t know why they weren’t on that and really pushing it. We’re a 10-story building, and that meant that everybody had to walk the stairs for 11 days. That’s too long.
HABITAT: What did you do at that point?
WOOD: We spoke to our attorney, Bruce Cholst; our accountant, Michael Riziki; and our engineer, Eric Cowley. We asked who they would recommend. They came up with a short list of management companies, and we started talking to those people, calling them and checking them out.
One company was a really hard sell and didn’t listen. We thought that was a real problem. They were telling us how great they were, but they really didn’t understand what we needed. When we got to Midboro we got such a consensus [on the board] that this was a great company. Then we went and met with them, we saw some of the reports they could do for us. We met with the person who would be handling our building, because that was really important to us. And we were sold.
HABITAT: How did you feel about that person? That’s like a marriage, isn’t it?
WOOD: Yeah, it’s a marriage. What we liked about this woman is that she’s very calm, but you know she knows her stuff. She’s someone you can trust. We’re already in the transition period, and even now I’ve been telling her what’s coming up, the things I’m worried about, so they can be on top of it. I throw things to her, like, “Should we pay this vendor now?” She’ll say, “No, wait. You should have a sign-off from the engineer first.” She’s already working for us and giving us good advice.
HABITAT: What would you tell other boards that are unhappy with their management company and need to make a change?
WOOD: First, try to work it out. Maybe there’s another property manager inside the company. Be very clear about what your expectations are, and try to speak to someone who can make an adjustment, if needed. If you can make it work, make it work, because hopping around is difficult. If you can’t make it work, when you’re interviewing definitely get recommendations from your building’s professionals, who are your advocates. In the past, we would look at buildings in our neighborhood, see if they were well maintained, and think that that was a good management company. That was not a great strategy for finding one. Know your professionals’ dealings with the [management company]. They’re on our side, so they want the best for us. That was the biggest help.