Written by Clint McClure, President & CEO of MMI
As communities age, the useful life of large components of the real property comes to an end. Nothing lasts forever, thus we aid our boards to plan, budget and save for the "someday" replacement of large reserve items. However, what happens when the "someday" comes and you as a manager are asked to fix the problem?
Managers of older communities are frequently faced with the challenge of how to address the replacement of large items in the community. Furthermore, managers are asked to add the management of these large-scale projects into their day-to-day workload. Should you take this on as the manager and say, “don’t worry board, I will take care of it?” Although we would like to say that to our boards when they are in need, take a moment to think about the plan of attack and how you will ensure a successful outcome. Saying yes to a large-scale reserve item repair without having a plan in place can lead to problems. A checklist to a successful yes is imperative before you and your board blindly dive into a large project.
Don't Manage the Project - Manage the Expectations
You are the can-do community manager! Recognize your strengths, including past experiences, with the project at hand, as well as your limitations. A key part of management expertise is to recognize when you are not the expert, and you should establish this expectation with your board. Place them in contact with the proper expert or consultant in addition to the contractor who will do the work. Establishing a team approach with clear expectations based on skill sets will help ensure success.
Learn, Plan and Grow
Different projects call for different experts at different stages of the project. Experts such as geotechnical engineers, civil engineers, landscape architects, and contractors, to name a few, can aid your board in generating specifications and schematics for your project. Once armed with the information from the boards' hired expert, you can use the detailed specifications to collect proposals from service providers. Detailed specifications given to your contractors and service providers, when bidding the project, will eliminate guesswork on behalf of the contractor. This will allow the contractor to be accurate and competitive with pricing, while at the same time streamlining the bidding process for an "apples to apples" bid result.
Recognize anytime there are major unknowns or unidentified details in a project, your contractor will do their best to forecast or guess the cost of the project. This can often lead to higher than accurate bids and an overall more expensive project. Although it does cost upfront for a good expert to consult on a project, it will most often eliminate unknowns and bring down the total cost of the project because specific instructions and specifications are provided to your contractor.
Not So Fast
The expert has helped you plan out each detail of your project, and the association obtained competitive bids from qualified contractors to execute the work. Is it time to dive in and get started? Give yourself a second timeout and work on the next part of your checklist. Who will oversee or manage the large project while it is underway? And, who will address the items that come up that don't go according to plan?
For example, do you see yourself standing over the edge of your 32-story building directing the replacement of your building's roofing system as the supply cranes swing overhead? Again, ensure you can give your boards a successful outcome and help them understand the team of experts that are required to execute the project. These experts may be structural engineers or construction managers to oversee the roofing system replacement on your high rise. Develop a team that is capable of working with your contractor to quarterback unforeseen items that come up – because nothing goes 100% as planned. This team approach will help you and the board ensure there is quality control at all stages of the project.
Close the Loop and Educate
The list of experts is growing and your board is now concerned about the potential cost of the experts. Take the last step and further educate your boards. In your budget for your large project, you may find your expert fees are minor when compared to the cost of the entire project. Share with the board how not cutting corners and working with experts is a wise investment; in addition, help your boards exercise good business judgment by relaying the advice of experts.
With clear expectations established based on the advice of your team of experts, you have now eliminated some of the biggest hurdles on how to address your major repair or replacement project. Most notably, as the manager, you will be giving your boards a successful yes to help them accomplish and tackle that "someday" project.
This article was previously published in CACM's Vision magazine.