by Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM/ Published February 2015
Community association managers spend their days communicating using various forms of communications. These various forms of communications and communicating could be viewed on at least three different levels—visual, verbal, and written.
As high-level executives, CAMs are expected to be professional while communicating and in their communications with board members, residents, guests, and service providers. After all, the CAM license is issued by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The DBPR considers your role to be a professional one; not an amateur. Your license is used as a means of livelihood. The Florida Statutes and Florida Administrative Code hold you to a standard in your professional conduct, the violation of which has various degrees of punishment.
CAMS ARE PROFESSIONALS
The word “professional” conjures up certain images. Maybe it is the banker in the three-piece suit, or the doctor in her lab coat, or the football player in his uniform and pads. But what image do you picture when I say professional community association manager? Webster’s Dictionary describes professional as:
Professionalism, when used as a noun, is the acceptance of money for (professional) services.
Granted, the concept of professional to someone who manages cooperatives in the Florida Keys is more than miles apart from the concept of professional to someone who manages an upscale homeowners association in North Palm Beach. But, is there a standard to which you should strive to be considered professional? Could there be a standard of professional, effective business communications that would include manners, dress, verbal communication, and written communications?
Let’s start first with just plain manners. With the vulgar, profane, and indecent television shows, movies, and YouTube videos, it seems American businessmen and women (and some CAMs) have forgotten how to act. And in today’s world, what one does in private could very easily become public!
And one last thought before we begin. Think about the college student who has just graduated with a business degree. Most elementary and high schools and colleges do not have dress codes, so she has likely worn jeans and t-shirts for more than 20 years, pulled her hair back in a ponytail, communicated with a computer screen or a 3½-inch by 2-inch iPhone screen for the past 10 years, and sat on the sofa five nights out of seven eating pizza.
None of these habits and behaviors has likely prepared her for a professional, business career. She has very few people skills, is unable to “volley” in conversation, makes no eye contact, cannot properly hold a fork and knife, and mumbles. She is more likely to use texting abbreviations than real words and has no idea how to type a modified block style letter. But, she has a college degree and believes she deserves a $60,000 salary. Not only is it time for a review by the more seasoned professionals, but these new wannabes need help and guidance!
JUST PLAIN MANNERS!
DRESS THE PART
What about a standard of professional dress? Would you be completely comfortable attending a surprise meeting in the clothes you have on right now? When thinking about a standard of professional dress, ask yourself:
Be sure to wear the “uniform” of your profession for the area in which you live.
In the Florida Keys or New Smyrna Beach, shorts and a polo shirt could make up the uniform. In North Palm Beach, Boca Raton, or Naples, slacks and a dress shirt (and in “season” a blazer and tie for men) or a nice pants suit or skirt and blouse for the ladies will be the uniform for those areas. Your uniform should match the price points of your community, not the way your residents dress.
In other words, many of your residents live in their golf shorts and shoes or tennis clothes. Just because they don’t dress up anymore doesn’t mean you don’t have to. Dress to the value or image of your community.
How you present yourself, your manners (or lack thereof), and your clothing all create the first impression. Those who meet you begin to formulate their opinion as to whether or not you are a professional manager. Make it a good one!
Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a five-part series. Parts two through five will run in future issues of FLCAJ.