Mission Possible - The Trend to Blend Onsite and Portfolio Management Styles

Mission Possible - The Trend to Blend Onsite and Portfolio Management Styles

By Clint McClure, President & CEO of MMI

The community management industry continues to grow and evolve to fill communities. A growing trend in today's industry is the crossover between onsite and portfolio community management. Although challenging to execute, this blend of styles provides the client, manager, and employer many benefits, while fulfilling a need in the community management industry. 

This "hybrid" management style fits the unique needs of communities chat require an onsite management presence, but don't necessarily have the need or budget for a full-time manager. 

Typically, the service demands of a community are the determining factors in evaluating if a part¬≠rime onsite position is needed, with other factors including the existing infrastructure established by the developer and the community size or type. In order for management companies to fulfill chis need, managers are assigned to an onsite position for a certain number of hours per week as determined by the management contract and the balance of their time is dedicated to their portfolio clients. 

Matt Davidson, CCAM, Assistant Director of High Rise Operations at Action Property Management, Inc., ACMF in Irvine, says the company has seen an increase in demand for more personalized service that is difficult to deliver with the traditional portfolio management style. "When a manager has six to eight accounts, there just aren't [enough] hours in the day to spend two to three days per week at any one client association," he says. "However, in the high and mid-rise market, in order to meet the heightened expectations of residents, the need for supervision of staff working in the buildings, and the demand for quick response times to keep critical mechanical components running smoothly, many such clients have been asking for some onsite management presence." 

Learning to Share Time

A day in the life of a manager serving in both onsite and portfolio capacities is demanding. Davidson says a part-time onsite manager typically spends a few days a week onsite at one or two client associations, and then at least one or two days working from the management company's regional office, often managing a supplemental portfolio of one or two communities without dedicated time on site.

Sascha Macias, CCAM, with Merit Property Management, ACMF, is both a portfolio manager and a part-time onsite manager of The Madison at Town Center in Valencia. Her onsite position is the result of budgetary constraints identified by the community's developer. The position was intended to become full time, however, the waning economy caused construction to halt and her position remains at 20 hours per week. 

Macias says her onsite position is Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 12:30 pm. "I usually arrive to start my day before 8:00 and open the office at 8:30. Because of our [computer] networking, I have access to all of my accounts, even when I am onsite at Madison." Once there, Macias meets with homeowners, service providers, and the developer's leasing department; she also finds time to manage her maintenance staff. 

"I walk the property almost daily," Macias says. "I spend the remainder of my day managing my portfolio. If Madison has any issues outside of my 20 hours, because I am so close, I do respond to the onsite location. In addition, I return there to meet with service providers or have board meetings as they come up." From Davidson's experience, the expected number of emails, phone calls, and administrative needs remain, regardless of the manager's onsite or offsite presence. "One of the biggest differences between being onsite and working from an off-site office is that residents demand more immediate resolution of their concerns, and the manager has the ability to more quickly respond to those concerns because [he or she] can see firsthand what needs to be done," Davidson says. 

The Good, the Bad and the Adjustment Process

This emerging management style is seemingly the perfect solution to communities with high service needs, but low budgets. Diane Houston, CCAM, Vice President of Community Management for The Management Trust - Transpacific, ACMF, helps her cost-conscious boards find a fit that works, which typically involves employing an onsite manager who has a balanced portfolio that allows them enough time to get the job done right. "This will allow them to have their needs taken care of, while at the same time meeting the demands of their budget," Houston explains.

 Macias says in this economy the main benefit to this new management style is that it allows the manager to serve unique client needs. She says a portion of her salary is "pass-through," meaning a portion is paid directly by the association while the remaining balance is paid by her management company. "The client benefits in not needing to pay a full salary and still maintain their property, and they get a qualified individual. Often times it is difficult to find someone with the qualifications to only work a part-time position," she says. 

Davidson finds that this approach benefits the client by providing them with an even higher level of personalized service, adding that it also benefits the manager because he or she can become more familiar with the needs of each community. "The residents appreciate having a more direct line of communication with management and tend to be very receptive to this model," he says. 

Yet, Davidson also says there are challenges to this type of management style. "The potential challenges lie in managing the client's expectations for just how much can be done with two or three days per week of dedicated service, and managing the demands of a variety of clients who may all have higher expectations for service than a traditional portfolio managed association might have," he says. 

Logistically, a manager may find it hard to adjust to the unique situation this time sharing creates. "Because I have two offices, I have two phone numbers and two tides," Macias says. "I also need to carry documents and paperwork with me from location to location regularly, which took some adjustment initially." 

Achieving a successful blend of onsite and portfolio management styles is a function of good communication. Balancing the needs of the board, the manager and the management company can be challenging, but the key is determining where the expectations of time, service requirements, and budgetary needs meet in the middle. Once these expectations are established, keeping the lines of communication open between the board and manager will be instrumental in achieving long-term success. 

From a management company's perspective, it's important to be flexible enough to provide creative solutions that help meet service and budgetary expectations, while supporting management staff with the tools to succeed in this challenging new role. For the managers who are sharing their time, this unique working relationship takes a constant effort in order to maintain client satisfaction. This management style can be hugely rewarding, not only to the client in need but also to the manager and employer alike. 

This article was previously published in CACM's Vision magazine.

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