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Setting the Tone through Leadership Management

By: Grace Pluck, Management Practices Committee

 

You have to set the tone and the pace, define objectives and strategies, demonstrate through personal example what you expect from others. –Stanley C. Gault

 

When asked to do this article while looking through the lens of Management Practices, I thought of all the ways that we can set the tone both internally and externally, who sets it and how the tone impacts all of our success. What exactly IS the tone that we want to set? I know you’ve heard this before, but we truly believe Leadership Management is the key to Setting the Tone here at The Management Trust. It reflects who we are as a company both internally and externally.

 

Internally, we need to remember that as employee owners we are all within our company. That’s right, no matter your position, you have to voice and an equal investment in achieving success for all of us. How? By striving to be a leader that inspires others to provide exceptional customer service, or who volunteers to serve on a committee. Remember, simply having a positive attitude can rub off on others to look at their job and the company in a new light. That is what Leadership Management looks like.

 

Externally, our clients and homeowners rely on us to provide top notch customer service. We don’t just manage Homeowners Associations, we provide Leadership Management to our Boards of Directors by providing proactive, quantifiable objectives and strategies that are customized for our clients, not the cookie-cutter approach of so many of our competitors. As leaders for our Associations, we work with boards to develop strategic initiatives that will lead them towards the future. Or, it may be as simple as going the extra mile to help a homeowner who needs to get a tricky ARC request resolved quickly. Whether the issues are financial (how we will pay for new roofs), physical (the landscape is old and tired), or administrative (finding the best way to deal with a new law); we set the tone to demonstrate that we are the leaders who can bring them creative solutions based on our Professionalism, Experience and Knowledge. So, lets “Set The Tone” in a way that is memorable, positive and shows Leadership Management!

- Grace Pluck, Management Practices Committee

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The Single Most Important Word

By Brent Kocal, Director of Sales and Marketing

 

The question comes up every time I’m meeting with a prospective client. What are you not accomplishing at your community that you’d hoped to? The answer is worded a little differently every tie, but the gist of it is that they blame their management company for the lack of accomplishment. When I ask what their management company is doing to block their path, they tell me that it isn’t about what their management company is doing, it’s about what the company is not doing. Not calling them back. Not emailing them back. Not getting bids. Not … You fill in the blank.

 

I’m not one to look up quotes, but there is one floating around that says 90% of success is just showing up. I get it, but I’m not sure I entirely agree with it. To me, showing up is a baseline requirement for competent human beings. A core expectation.

Allow me to take poetic license to rephrase: 90% of success is just showing up if you show up ready to hustle. Without a doubt, HUSTLE is the single most important word if success is what we’re after.

Hustling takes grit. It is hard. That’s why a lot of people don’t do it. That’s also why we can use it to set us apart from every other company in the industry if we’re willing to dig in.

I’ve been down in the trenches and up to the 30,000 foot view of this company. There is a LOT coming at us every day, regardless of our position. That’s okay with me because when a lot comes at us, it means we’re important. We’re relevant. Somebody needs us. Of course, there are times when it can seem overwhelming.

 

We’ve all got an individual choice to make when the work stacks up faster than we can push it out. When that happens, we’ve got two options:

 

a.     Let it overwhelm us, which means we might not even start doing the things we know need to be done.

b.     Dig in. Recognize our individual capacity for greatness and hustle to get as much done as we can as well as we can possibly do it. 

 

If we chose option A, then it most likely results in a salesperson from another company sitting in front of our client listening to all of the things we’re not going for them.

If we chose option B, it will result in an undeniable competitive advantage for us. We will retain more clients, win more business and grow ESOP value. No question.

 

Now, I need to come clean. I lied to you about not looking up quotes. The little caveat is that I don’t look up the quotes themselves. I look for people who inspire me and listen to what they have to say. Nobody inspires me to hustle more than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Here’s what he says:

“Wake up determined. Go to bed satisfied.”

 

I’m determined to sleep well tonight. How about you?

- Brent Kocal, Director of Sales and Marketing

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A word from Bill Sasser… President & CEO of The Management Trust

The Ice Cream Truck Scourge: I had the honor of delivering the keynote address at our California Desert division’s annual director seminar. It was a wonderful success, and the clients in attendance seemed highly engaged and appreciative of the event.

During preparations for my presentation, I was browsing through various articles in my files and came upon an email forwarded from an industry friend that she received from a homeowner. It was so humorous, yet disturbing, I kept it for posterity. The email went something like this:

“Margo, I find it totally unacceptable that every afternoon I have to listen to the ice cream truck driving around our neighborhood. I moved into a gated community to escape ‘The Ice Cream Trucks of the World.’ I insist that you stop them immediately.”

What? Really? When did ice cream trucks become a metaphor for all things that are bad things in this world? I remember quite fondly from my youth the sound of the ice cream truck as it approached every afternoon. A world of limitless deliciousness heading straight towards me! What could be better than than?

Is this homeowner’s sentiment a symptom of a larger issue? I think it is.

My keynote address spoke of community associations as ecosystems. Ecosystems’ are closed systems that sustain themselves through the interdependent relationships of its members. Think of a forest or the ocean- each member contributes to the overall health of the group. Ecosystems are threatened only when external influences are introduced into it. Just ask the dinosaurs, or our climate for that matter.

Obviously, community associations can never be fully closed systems, as our homeowners introduce external influences into them every day. Those influences are the social, physical and cultural changes that our world has been experiencing for decades now. Space limitations do not allow me to explore each of those changes here, but I believe this confluence of forces has resulted in the long term decline in social capital in our communities and the world around us. One need only to listen to the tone of the current presidential campaign to see that civility has become a rare commodity these days. Social capital is characterized by trust, engagement, reciprocity and mutual respect among neighbors and in society. In the thirty years I’ve been in the community management industry, it seems to me that the fundamentals of what we do has not changed in all those years, yet the business is harder than ever. I suspect if you have been in this business for any period of time, you feel the same.

I share with the conference attendees the following model used by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to analyze and predict behaviors.

Called the Social-Ecological Model of Health, it explores the characteristics of the individual (age, race, education, income), relationships (peers, family, social circles), community (physical surroundings of workplace, school, neighborhoods) and society (social norms, laws, policies) to predict behavior and long term physical and mental health. Note that these are overlapping, not concentric, circles. This speaks to the fact that each of these four factors influences the others.

In my presentation, I asked the simple questions of our clients as to where they believe the community association falls among these four overlapping circles. The answer is ALL of them. The communities that we manage affect the individuals, their neighbors and peers, the physical setting in which interactions occur and creates and influences policies and social norms not just for its own sake, but the larger society as well.

If our homeowners are bringing into our communities all sorts of external influences, then we (and our clients) need to understand our role in counteracting those influences through the policies, tone, style and programs/practices of our communities. Acknowledging that everything about the community association touches every aspect of the social-ecological model necessitates a new thinking in how we mange them. If we believe that our and the association’s mission is merely to enforce the CCR’s, then we need to aim higher. 

Our mission should be- NEEDS to be – the cultivation of social capital within our communities. In every action we take, and every policy we make, consideration needs to be given to its impact to the overall trust, engagement, reciprocity and mutual respect of/for/among our community members.

If we are successful in reestablishing such social capital in our communities, the very nature of them will change. Not only will there be a positive change to practical issues such as compliance matters, but the communities themselves will begin to enjoy a very different sort of vitality. 

Let that be our mission.

-Bill Sasser, President & CEO of The Management Trust 


 

 

 

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Our Take on the California Housing Market

California has some of the most expensive housing in the country. In the article, Why California is so expensive: It’s not just the weather, it’s the regulation, the author defines the situation with a financial view. Our very own CCAM Division President, Brent Kocal, gave us his insight and take on the article:  http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/usappblog/2016/07/07/why-california-is-so-expensive-its-not-just-the-weather-its-the-regulation/  

 

“This article demonstrates the classic macroeconomics of supply and demand.  Governmental restrictions on new development choke supply in the most desirable areas where demand is the highest.  The result is higher market value for homes in those areas.  I think a couple of things will happen as a result of increased regulation.  The first is that home builders will have to push further and further out from city centers to build single family homes in commutable cities starving for economic growth.  Those cities will likely see home building and development fees as hitting the jackpot.  The second thing that’s going to happen is that more people will choose to live closer to city centers in more condensed housing units.  This will increase demand from homebuyers for homebuilders to develop significant common amenities into their city center developments.

 

Both of those results play well into homeowners’ associations.  Cities further out will want the development cash cow to be as fat as possible and will require homebuilders to install infrastructure and parks that will require owners’ association’s to maintain.  Developments closer to city centers will have common building maintenance responsibilities in addition to the common amenities.” – Brent Kocal, CCAM Division President

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Surveys: A Guide for Community Associations

Boards need to be in touch with residents. They need a sense of association members’ opinions and priorities when making decisions for the entire community. Surveys are an excellent way to obtain feedback on specific subjects and sample general attitudes of community residents. Boards that seek out and seriously consider resident’s opinions will likely foster a stronger sense of community, reduce violations and resident complaints, and generally find that residents support their efforts.

 

Conducting a community survey might reveal unknown problems or negative attitudes, but boards should never be reluctant to undertake surveys for these reasons. On the contrary, boards have a responsibility to recognize and rectify problems and address the sources of negative attitudes. Of course, the opposite is also true: surveys can confirm that the board is on the right track, provide support for difficult decisions, and demonstrate a board’s due diligence and sound business judgment.

 

Boards might also be reluctant to conduct surveys because they feel that the results constitute a mandate. However, surveys are not votes! Board members should remember that the information they collect is intended to help them make decisions, set priorities, and identify issues. Boards won’t always be able to respond to every issue raised in a survey; but, they will at least be aware of it, and they can factor it into their decision making. Residents will understand the information-gathering nature of a survey if it includes a cover letter from the board explaining the surveying process and purpose.

 

Survey results are an expression of attitudes on specific subjects at one point in time. Therefore, conducting surveys should be a regular–but not excessive-activity in any association. The value of a survey’s results is related to the level and breadth of participation by residents. Conducting surveys periodically demonstrates to residents and members the value of their views and accustoms residents to sharing those views.

 

There is no perfect research design, and associations need not worry about getting it perfect. Begin modestly with simple surveys on non-critical issues until the volunteer leaders and members become more familiar with the process. Boards and managers alike will become more comfortable with the process as they get underway.

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It is with this challenge in mind that Community Associations Institute (CAI) developed Rights and Responsibilities for Better Communities. Rights and Responsibilities can serve as an important guidepost for all those involved in the community—board and committee members, community managers, homeowners and non-owner residents.

Homeowners Have the Right To:

  • A responsive and competent community association.
  • Honest, fair and respectful treatment by community leaders and managers.
  • Participate in governing the community association by attending meetings, serving on committees and standing for election.
  • Access appropriate association books and records.
  • Prudent expenditure of fees and other assessments.
  • Live in a community where the property is maintained according to established standards.
  • Fair treatment regarding financial and other association obligations, including the opportunity to discuss payment plans and options with the association before foreclosure is initiated.
  • Receive all documents that address rules and regulations governing the community association—if not prior to purchase and settlement by a real estate agent or attorney, then upon joining the community.
  • Appeal to appropriate community leaders those decisions affecting non-routine financial responsibilities or property rights.

Homeowners Have the Responsibility To:

  • Read and comply with the governing documents of the community.
  • Maintain their property according to established standards.
  • Treat association leaders honestly and with respect.
  • Vote in community elections and on other issues.
  • Pay association assessments and charges on time.
  • Contact association leaders or managers, if necessary, to discuss financial obligations and alternative payment arrangements.
  • Request reconsideration of material decisions that personally affect them.
  • Provide current contact information to association leaders or managers to help ensure they receive information from the community.
  • Ensure that those who reside on their property (e.g., tenants, relatives, friends) adhere to all rules and regulations.

So what do you think? Are there any that should be added to this list? Let us know below!

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We are touched and pleased to announce that the California Association of Community Managers (CACM) has created an educational scholarship in honor of our late COO, Mr. Dan Kocal.

The Dan Kocal Scholarship will be used to help community managers in California obtain their industry credentials and certification. Read more about it, and about Dan's legacy, in the current edition of Vision

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Inspiring each other to take ownership of our potential.