New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

HABITAT

BOARD OPERATIONS

"Friction" Is the Enemy of Communication

New York City

Sept. 20, 2019

Habitat spoke recently with Mark Levine, principal at the management company EBMG.

You've got a new wrinkle on the old mantra. For you, it's communication, communication, communication. 

As a management company, we’re invested in managing for the board, obviously, but we also have to be cognizant of how we're responding to and communicating with all of the residents. It's really us and the board, as well as us and the building, then back and forth. It's a lot of information.

You're a tech guy. Paper is not your thing. How does the information move?

The last thing I want when I get home is a rolled-up piece of paper on my door telling me about something that happened 12 hours ago. So we’re diving into technology and seeing what everybody uses during their normal workday. They're using email, texts, Slack, and other tools so that things reach them as they’re happening in real time, as opposed to playing catch-up.

When is real-time communication important?

I'll give you a good example. I had a red tag, a gas shutdown, from National Grid. They were doing work outside the building and had to shut the building down as a precaution. Only now we're without heat and hot water. We have everybody's email addresses – Google Groups was set up a long time ago – so from the second the shutdown happens, one email goes out to everybody. They can't reply to it, but they can see the situation as it’s happening. They were able to walk through the process with us, and every time we hit a major milestone of getting the gas back up, we were able to communicate with them.

Elevator shutdowns, hot-water shutdowns, anything that's going to affect the normal life in a building is a prime target for this type of communication. Google Groups is great, obviously. In terms of board communication, Slack is a free communication tool that lets you set up specific channels. We're on it, the boards are on it, and we can talk about various items.

What about other digital tools for managing projects?

We've been using a project-management tool called Basecamp. It has to-do lists, calendar items, and all layers of different information for a particular building. It's great for me as somebody who oversees a large number of managers who oversee an even larger number of buildings. I can go to my dashboard and see what's going on and communicate with both my managers and specific boards as well. That keeps everybody in the loop.

Are you saying that because this technology is out there in the world, it has to get into co-ops and condos, too? 

It has to. I mean, for most people, their home is their biggest investment. If you're living in your apartment and suddenly you have water coming from the ceiling, that has to be addressed pretty quickly. And if you can't communicate with me on a weekend, then I've dropped the ball. It's all about friction. How can we reduce friction in the communication? How can I instantly communicate with you?

You want to get rid of friction, right?

Yeah, friction is a headache for somebody else. If you're a resident in a building with an issue, I'm taking away the friction, which is the pain of getting in touch with me. And by reducing that as much as we can, we can provide better customer service. A lot of this industry is hand-holding. I can't necessarily take care of your problem the second that you need it, but I can communicate with you and at least give you a realistic expectation of what's going on and how we're addressing it.

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