The Delicate Dance of Hiring a New Management Company

Emmet Pierce in Board Operations

New York City

Management Interview

It’s a delicate dance, the business of co-op and condo boards hiring a new management company. Some people liken it to a marriage. While both sides want the same thing – a working relationship that results in a healthy, smooth-running property – it’s worthwhile to know what’s going through the mind of the person sitting across the interview table.

"The board sets the policy, and it's up to management to enforce the policy and manage the day-to-day operations of the building," says Dawn Dickstein, president and founder of MD Squared Property Group.

To that end, Dickstein likes to tour co-ops and condos before having face-to-face meetings with board members. That way she knows enough about the condition of buildings to discuss maintenance issues thoroughly and intelligently.

While Dickstein is studying the building, board members are looking into her background and checking her references, she says. One of the things boards are looking for is a manager who can be trusted to do the job without constant board involvement.

During the initial meeting, board members typically quiz Dickstein about her background and ask what makes her company different from the competition. Despite the many things managers need to know about city codes, billing, collections, maintenance, capital projects and communication with residents, in the end the decision of who to hire often comes down to how well a board thinks it can work with you, Dickstein explains.

"It's a people business," she says.

Lilia Pino Blouin is on the condo board at 502 Ninth Avenue, one of Dickstein's clients. Blouin says her board chose MD Squared because it was convinced the company would be responsive to its concerns. "We wanted reliability, responsiveness, attention to detail, experience in the industry, and knowledge of general city rules and regulations regarding condos," Blouin says.

The board interviewed several management firms but felt most comfortable with Dickstein and her staff. They liked the idea that the company is run by its founder, Blouin says.

Each management company has its own method of winning jobs. Jackeline Monzon, president of Crystal Real Estate Management, says when she’s contacted by a prospective client she sends out brochures about her company and a management proposal. If the board is interested, she and her company's vice president typically schedule a meeting.

At the interview, she says, "We ask them what they're looking for and what they haven't been getting from the previous company."
If the meeting goes well, the next step is to walk through the building. Like Dickstein, Monzon says one of the things co-op and condo boards are looking for is a manager who will respond quickly to problems.
"What they really want is a hands-on manager," she says. "They want to actually get a live person when they call." Kevin McManus, president of the board of directors at 242 East 87th Street, says his board considered several management companies before hiring Monzon's company last July. It chose Crystal Real Estate Management because of its knowledge of older buildings. The board had several other concerns, he adds. "We asked how they would facilitate the transition, what their management fee was. We asked about their insurance and exactly who would be in their chain of command."

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