Make the Hole Bigger

Make the Hole Bigger

By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA / Published October 2020

Photo by

There are several versions of this story, but the version that sticks is that Colgate-Palmolive executives were brainstorming how to increase toothpaste sales. They included in the discussions everyone in the organization, from top executives, middle management, sales, research and development, manufacturing, administrative, and clerical all the way down to the janitors.

     To begin with, it is unique and extremely admirable that the top executives included all employees in the brainstorming. Everyone in the organization became involved. Eventually it was the janitor who suggested it—just make the hole bigger. What a brilliant idea! The hole in the tube was increased 1 mm and resulted in an enormous increase in sales.

     Similarly, sales of shampoo dramatically increased in the 1960s when TV commercials and bottles of shampoo instructed users to “lather, rinse, repeat.” By now, everyone should know there is no need to shampoo twice. It strips your hair. So, what did shampoo companies do? They added another product to sell—hair conditioner.

     But what do these sales increases have to do with community associations? After all, we don’t sell anything like toothpaste or shampoo. Our days are consumed with telephone calls; emails; board meeting, annual meeting, and election schedules; maintenance schedules and summer projects implementation; fussy owner interactions; and hurricane season preparation. Inventions and innovations are not generally on the minds of our board members and managers. “Taking it to the next level” is not a common phrase in our industry.

     Many of you will remember the Communities of Excellence Awards* program that gave associations the opportunity to highlight what is right with their communities. Finally, they had a forum to brag about themselves, with submissions in the following categories:

  • Green (Water Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Florida-Friendly Landscaping™)
  • Engagement (Civic Volunteerism and Advocacy, Communications and Community, Family Friendly Programs and Initiatives)
  • Safety (Disaster Preparedness Initiatives, Safety and Security Initiatives)
  • Financial (Financial Innovation, “The Comeback Kid”)

     The entries were amazing. Here is a synopsis of a few from 2016.

     Under GREEN/Water Conservation, Timber Pines Community Association in Spring Hill used reclaimed water rather than potable water, saving approximately 365,000,000 gallons of potable water annually. In 2012 the community completed a control system with 101 miles of HDPE piping, 61 miles of wiring, 11,756 irrigation heads, and 1,584 valves reducing water waste to zero.

     Under GREEN/Energy Efficiency, Tuscany Cove Master POA in Naples was using recommendations from an energy audit to upgrade air conditioning units from 10 SEER to 16 SEER, switched out the pool heater for an energy-efficient one and changed lights to LED lights, and installed Energy Star certified gym and office equipment. The estimated savings was $10,000 per year.

     Under GREEN/Florida-Friendly™ Landscaping, On Top of the World Condominium in Ocala believes in FFL and sustainable practices and chose Bahia grass for its roadways to reduce water use and upgraded its irrigation systems with high efficiency rotators, drip irrigation, and evapotranspiration sensors.

     Under ENGAGEMENT/Civic Volunteerism and Advocacy, IslandWalk at the West Villages in Venice created the “Love in a backpack” program and provided food for 75 needy children in local elementary schools. Fundraisers packed 470 bags of food for weeks, supported the mayor’s Feed the Hungry campaign, collected handmade dolls, and purchased toys for the Toys for Tots drive.

     Under ENGAGEMENT/Communications and Community, Pines at Delray West in Delray Beach moved through two major events by communicating effectively with residents. They (1) amended documents in less than six months, and (2) voted on a $250,000 replacement of electrical panels. The Communications Committee kept owners informed of meetings by email, bulletin boards, posting minutes, newsletters, Facebook, website updates, flyers, and telephone calls.

     Under ENGAGEMENT/Family Friendly Programs and Initiatives, Egret Landing at Jupiter POA (in Jupiter) planned activities for all ages at their Spring Eggstravaganza, Fall Festival, and Winter Wonderland. They have held a resident business mixer and also a dog wash and dress up show with the help of 32 teens from their junior volunteer team.

     Under SAFETY, Disaster Preparedness Initiatives, WaterColor in Santa Rosa Beach has a disaster plan that includes assignments for employees for hurricane preparation and response, and a residents’ registry for special needs’ owners, information about evacuation routes, use of shutters, two-way radios, and door hangers as reminders of what to do.

     Under SAFETY, Safety and Security Initiatives, The Solaire at the Plaza Condominium Association in Orlando, with the challenge of being downtown Orlando and the need to protect privacy, installed surveillance cameras displaying every entry point for round-the-clock front-desk staff. The also installed alarms in the exit stairwells and implemented the use of a fob and fingerprint for entry and elevator use, required guest registration at the concierge desk, and used roving guards to patrol the outside areas.

     Under FINANCIAL/The Comeback Kid, The Quarter at Ybor in Tampa, located in the historic district, went through four years of remediation to address failing roofs, garages, stucco, and other issues. Roof replacement, garage repair, wall repair and painting, gate upgrades, and replacement of exterior lights and landscaping were performed in-house. Since most of the deterioration resulted from construction defects, settlement money from the developer funded much of the renovation. After the remediation was completed and with financing now available, home prices have increased.

     Each year of the program, the participation of the finalist communities’ board members, managers, and involved owners was like a pep rally. Many communities provided video tours of their properties, which gave those present ideas for future improvements and innovations of their own communities. The annual awards banquets were wonderful days of celebrating what was right with our communities.

     These communities were innovative, but it wasn’t because of one or two people! The award submissions revealed combinations of thought and work by management, board members, vendors, and owners. Together they “took it to the next level.”

     The point is—boards of directors and managers are limited in ideas for innovating systems and operations within their communities unless they widen the circle of ideas to owners and vendors. Sadly, there is often the attitude of “this is the way we have always done it” so change is not considered.

     In the year 2020, boards and managers were forced to innovate—finding different ways to have meetings, trying new technology, and creating best practices for keeping employees and residents safe. If the Communities of Excellence Awards programs were still in place, no doubt everyone would be amazed at how creative and innovative our communities have been this year. It is even possible the best ideas for changes, streamlining, and improvements may have come from the least expected person, like the janitor.

*Communities of Excellence Awards was the only recognition program for community associations throughout Florida. These awards recognized communities and managers for outstanding achievements and were points of pride for current residents. The awards were independently judged by a panel of industry professionals who helped recognize communities for their best practices and accomplishments. It ended in 2016. Read about it here!

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA

Florida CAM Schools

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA, guides managers, board members, and service providers in handling daily operations of their communities while at the same time dealing with different communication styles, difficult personalities, and conflict. Effective communication and efficient management are her goals. Since 1999, Betsy has educated thousands of managers, directors, and service providers. She is your trainer for life! Betsy is the author of Boardmanship, a columnist in the Florida Community Association Journal, and a former member of the Regulatory Council for Community Association Managers. Subscribe to CAM MattersTM on YouTube. For more information, contact, call (352) 326-8365, or visit