Whether you're an executive of a multinational corporation or a cashier at the local supermarket, you probably receive a performance evaluation that assesses how well you're doing your job. Many property management companies may also do regular assessments of their employees’ performance. But when it comes to a board’s assessment of its manager, forget about annual performance reviews, it’s game on every month.
“Life begins right after training. That's when expectations should be set,” says Katia Ettus, PCAM, who is with FirstService Residential Florida in Miami. “Also, the real work of the property manager is to take that property and develop it. It's not just about building a relationship with the board, but also building a relationship with the employees, the residents, and the guests. I have been with my current property for nine years, and I did that by taking the frustrations I had as an unhappy unit owner at a condo that was not properly managed, and channeling those frustrations into good energy to become the manager that I wanted my manager where I had lived to be.”
Ettus files extensive weekly and monthly reports on her property, noting vacancies, new residents' arrivals, market values, and potential maintenance issues arising in the building, and she also forms a business plan at the start of each year outlining areas that need attention and pricing out repairs for those areas. “A good property manager should flood the board with information,” says Ettus. “It's time consuming, but it's important to have transparency and a constant flow of information between the property manager and the board.”
“Every month when you show up at a board meeting, your performance review is done right there,” notes Josh Koppel, CPM, a New York-based property manager. “If you are not doing your job, the board will know it pretty quickly. In this job, you can’t fall asleep at the wheel.”
Attorney Jane F. Bolin, a founding member of the law firm of PeytonBolin, PL in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Orlando and Tampa, recently presented a seminar at the South Florida Cooperator’s fourth annual Condo, HOA & Co-op Expo in Fort Lauderdale on evaluating management performance. Several seminars at the trade show offered CAM-CEU credit.
Before a packed audience, in “Key Performance Indications for Association Boards: How to Know if the Board is Running Effectively,” Bolin spoke of the systematic planning process that identifies the current status of any association, including its goals, its mission for the future, operating values, and needs, including its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. From looking at the association as a whole and from a business perspective, Bolin noted that the manager can then develop strategies, action plans, and define ways to efficiently monitor the day-to-day operations.
Monitoring the performance of the manager by a board follows a similar track, she says. Specific business metrics are put into play that are measurable and involve smart goals. It involves things such as looking at the actual budget and projected budget, seeing how accounts receivables are handled, looking at how a manager deals with the community and cultivates the participation of owners at meetings and events, and making sure they utilize proper control over what is set aside in reserve funding to determine how viable the community is, now and into the future.
Criticism of a manager’s performance can actually be a learning experience for all involved. Even Winston Churchill touted the benefits of criticism and performance by saying, “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
“Boards have to be real and come to the manager and the person who runs the management company and tell us what you’re not happy with,” says Koppel. “Criticism is welcome, it makes you better. Managers also have to be open minded. You can learn from the porter and the doorman and pretty much anyone. Any way it comes to you, look at it and digest it and turn it into a learning experience.”
But “unless there’s an issue that comes up that indicates a manager hasn’t done their job, then there isn’t really any reason to look around for something better. If it isn’t broken why fix it?” Koppel says.
When a performance review is completed, whether it be a formal annual review or an on-the-spot informal monthly critique, and there are potential red flags and sub-par performance, the issues should be addressed between the board and the management before any final management changes are made.
“If I have a board who is not happy with a manager, I find out what the board’s issues are and I speak to my agent and correct them,” says Koppel. “Let’s try to work it out as a team and, if that fails, we will then replace the agent. If we can’t sit down and work it out maybe there’s a personal issue. But until you sit down and work it out and see issues, you don’t know. The only thing you can do is communicate.”
However, communication about job performance should begin way before the manager even begins to manage, and not at a performance evaluation. A board should make certain that the manager has a clear indication of the board’s expectations when she begins the job so it will help her to actually do the job.
At the same time, it’s important for the board to articulate their needs too, so the manager can meet those needs and perform well. One colleague told a story about a board that wanted to change managers, but they didn’t say why, leaving his peer’s management company befuddled as to how to fix the problem.
Performance can also be directly related to a personality clash. “Personality is a big part of communication and performance,” says Koppel. “If you can’t speak to a board member, where’s the relationship? There’s no team work if you can’t communicate and then everything will fall apart.”
To prevent this from happening, Koppel says it’s key for managers to just stay on top of their to-do list and forget about the evaluations. “When you go to a board meeting and leave with a list of 30 things to do, don’t wait for the next board meeting to get them done,” he says. “Get them done the next day, otherwise you forget and then 30 things turn into 60 and then 90 because it’s non-stop. I work like a dog and I’m on top of my stuff and I enjoy what I do, so it’s easy and I like to get things done.”
In an ideal world, managers should be just like Koppel and give all of their efforts to performing at maximum peak at all times. However, some management companies may dangle a carrot in front of their employees in order to get the best performance out of them. For example, some management companies offer pay bonuses to their employees, whether quarterly, project-based, or annually, to encourage managers to meet specific performance requirements. Some non-financial incentives may include time off, such as additional paid vacation or days off, or such items as education reimbursement or assistance on books, supplies, or tuition.
In addition to incentives, there are other methods and resources that managers can use to perform better on the job and improve their skills. “It's sad to me that in our industry it isn't more commonplace for managers to expose themselves to knowledge,” remarks Ettus.
For example, Ettus earned her Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM) license through the Community Associations Institute (CAI), whose educational programs provide continuing education, articles, conferences, monthly meetings, seminars and more to help property managers improve job performance. The South Florida Cooperator also provides informational articles and a database of previous issues that cover everything property managers need to know to do their job well.
Florida CAMs are required to be licensed by the state and complete 18 hours of continuing education if they manage an association of ten or more units or handle a budget of $100,000 or greater. Professional organizations, management companies and law firms also offer extensive course work and instruction for managers and board members alike. There are also trade organizations one can turn to such as the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM). For more information on management training, go to www.myfloridalicense.com.
All of these resources together help managers to learn new skills, improve old skills and ultimately improve performance on the job. Then, no matter when the manager is under the scrutiny of a performance review, the manager will be ready.
Lisa Iannucci is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to The South Florida Cooperator. Staff writer Jennifer Welch contributed to this article.