By Clint McClure, President & CEO of MMI
We have all been there. You are at a social event, a professional gathering outside of our industry, or a large family affair and the question comes up, "So, what do you do for a living?"
Did you respond by saying, "I am a community association manager," or did you try to fit your job title into something you think they would understand better like, "I'm basically a property manager."? Our profession is a niche industry that is not commonly known compared to many others. If an attorney, dentist or plumber is asked what they do, their answer is a one-word response. To the contrary, when we answer what we do for a living the person you are talking with will likely follow up their first question by asking, "What's a community association manager?"
Does this conversation sound familiar? Would your response be, "It's similar to property management," because it is an easier way to explain what you do? Well, friend, that is not even close to all you do. You are a community association manager. True, most associations have real property assets and you have a role in caring for the property, but you do so much more. Those real property assets are only one part of an entire association set up as a corporation with a board of directors to run the show.
You have the knowledge and expertise to help run the corporation; maintain the property; assist the board in their roles; administer the association's contracts; coordinate all vendor operations for the community; and monitor services provided to the association, from accounting to waste control. Managers in the portfolio world do all of this many times over for each community serviced.
Wait, wait, wait! Your job does not stop there. You also possess great skills and knowledge to assist and communicate with a large number of homeowners who are members of your associations. Aside from the property, the corporation and vendors you interact with task you with managing a great deal of personalities to keep the community running smoothly. Community managers are skilled at communicating with many types of people including those who are very challenging, diffusing varying situations on a daily basis. While property managers can evict a problem tenant, you deal with homeowners. Your professionalism must be at its best for each and every interaction with the community and the homeowners. We all know today’s upset homeowner can be tomorrow’s board president.
As you know, your job is still not done. Recall your financial management and budgeting skills. Your communities are nonprofit corporations. Your board’s budgeted income needs to perfectly match your expenses year after year. That’s right – community managers don’t produce a budget to operate in a deficit or a surplus. You make sure all the operating expenses are on target, including funding the boards approved 30-year reserve plan. You aim to spend just the right amount – nothing more, nothing less. Community association managers could give a few pointers on financial management to our government officials, don’t you think?
At the end of the day, name one other profession that encapsulates all the skills, knowledge and expertise needed to do what we do day after day, year after year. You can’t. That is what makes us so unique. So own it! We are a very specialized profession. If someone does not know what you do, educate him or her. Don’t say you are something that you’re not. I guarantee you the next time they hear someone is a community association manager, they will be impressed!
This article was previously published in CACM's Vision magazine.