As the economy continues its slow recovery from the struggles of the recession, companies are faced with the all-important task of reexamining services and respective best practices. One reason for this exercise is the fierce competition existing among management companies, as boards are quick to jump ship if a more suitable, cost-effective option is presented.
In New England, the community association management industry has experienced marked increases in professionalism over the last few years, partly because of the economy and technology. “While there are few or no barriers to entry in most states, we have seen fewer clients and prospective clients being wooed by the low-cost, low-experience alternatives,” says Robert McBride, CEO of The Dartmouth Group, a residential management firm based in Boston.
McBride, who founded the firm in 1987, says he has seen marked changes within the industry. “Boards are demanding increased sophistication and higher levels of service from their management companies and there has been a change in the profile of the typical community manager—from property management and administrative backgrounds, to an increasing population of professionals and mid-level managers from other industries,” he says, adding that this new reality is due, in part, to the growth of the industry and the lack of formal training programs at the university level.
As is the case with all industries, different firms have different experiences. And while there seems to be a universal acknowledgement that the industry is morphing as related to board expectations, Stephen DiNocco, CMCA, AMS, principal of the Boston-based Affinity Realty and Property Management, has a slightly different take. “Although not a scientific study, my impression is that the industry has been somewhat static for the last couple of years, although I may be insulated from the general rumor mill,” he continues. “I think that expectations have risen regarding the delivery of services especially in regards to technology but believe that the rise is on both sides of the equation.”
Proof is in the Pudding
While market indicators will always change, a firm’s business philosophy should remain consistent. To this end, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos perhaps said it best: “If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.”