Tom Soter in Board Operations on July 26, 2012
"The trick is to stay ahead of the board and be presenting them with the ideas, the initiatives, and putting it before them before you're asked about them," says Don Wilson, president of Blue Woods Management. "Tell them what the issue is and what some possible options are. If you present that all up front it makes them more comfortable and puts them at ease." He says he draws ideas from his observation of all the properties he manages, often bringing an idea that worked at one building to another.
"You should have a strategy session," says Dan Wurtzel, president of Cooper Square Realty, "where you look at goals and objectives and see how [your approach to them] can be improved. Otherwise, if you continue to maintain the status quo and the status quo isn't working for either side, what you have eventually is a very unhappy client and a manager who isn't doing the right job."
Pros and Poetry
"Just to sit back and wait for the client to ask is a reactive way to manage," says Michael Berenson, president of AKAM Associates, who favors a proactive approach. Managers at his company, he says, "do a monthly walkthrough of each building and give the client a written report — a checklist of all the items in the building [highlighting areas that need attention]."
Co-op and condo boards appreciate such attention to detail. "Our manager negotiated payment plans with our vendors because we were financially strapped," says the vice president of a 12-unit co-op in Chelsea. "He suggested things to do, like prepayments on maintenance. He took the initiative. He had to communicate with people [the residents] who were never satisfied, who were never happy, who were belligerent. Our annual meetings were atrocious. There was board bashing, but he stayed on track, discussing what the city regulations are, how the elevator laws have changed, what new costs were, and so on."
Conversely, some boards don't expect their managers to devise initiatives. "We usually come up with initiatives, and then work with the manager," explains Eugene Broughman, vice president at a 528-unit garden-style co-op apartment complex in Yonkers. "The last one we did was a boiler conversion and now we're doing meter room upgrades. We're a very proactive board. We say to [the manager], ‘This is what we'd like to achieve; is there anything out there that fits that model?' And they'll come up with their own suggestions."
"Generally, the managing agent is responding to what we want," adds Charles Anderson, president of a 160-unit Manhattan co-op. "They offer a wide range of suggestions, but it is the board that makes the final decision."
What can a board do to get more initiatives from the manager? "We measure initiative by productivity," says Steve Greenbaum, director of management at Mark Greenberg Real Estate. "If there's an item that needs to get done, the amount of time it takes to be done and the amount of professionalism involved proves how much initiative the agent has. It's our role to take initiative and move things across the board."
If you feel the manager is not taking initiative, Greenbaum says you should talk to him about what you expect and if that doesn't work, report it to his supervisor.
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