Tackling 2021

Tackling 2021

Five Ways To Better Manage Your Community

By Tara Davis / Published January 2021

Photo by iStockphoto.com/Olivier Le Moal

At last, 2020 is over! But unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over, and 2021 may bring many of the same challenges. Looking on the bright side, though, we’ve all had time to adapt and adjust so that we can lead effectively despite the effects the pandemic has had on our communities. 

     Sentry Management has some helpful, real-world advice on what managers and boards can do as we close out 2020 and look toward a new year of caring for our communities and ensuring a positive homeowner experience.

Make a game plan now to close your 2021 books smoothly.

    While the end of 2021 feels far away right now, we all know how easy it has been to be distracted by the complications that COVID-19 has created, pulling us away from recurring, essential tasks. Planning ahead can ensure an efficient 2021 closure and save time in the long run. Sentry always reminds our boards to be sure to complete the following procedures. 

  • Execute a review of the detail purchase journal in advance to ensure that all expenses are coded to the correct chart of accounts and to the correct funds.
  • Engage an auditor before year-end, allowing your CPA to start the process early and ensuring timely delivery of the annual report.
  • Evaluate your allowance for doubtful account balance to ensure it is sufficient to cover all potential bad debt for the 2021 year-end.
  • Ensure that all bank statements and transactions have been received for board-held accounts through the current period to expedite the preparation of the year-end financials.
  • Eliminate small minor balances by forgiveness on the accounts receivable aging to simplify the reporting.

Begin planning for a post-pandemic world.

     Though it’s difficult to anticipate entering a post-pandemic world, it can be helpful to take some time in 2021 to think about which changes you’ve made to your operations that you may want to keep in place and which you would like to discontinue once it’s determined safe to do so. Talk to the board of directors now about those plans, which may include the following:  

  • Virtual or in-person sessions for board meetings, or a mix of both
  • Pool coordination in a post-COVID-19 environment
  • Alternatives to violation/ARC procedures (as long as they are CC&R/statutorily compliant)
  • Maintaining a greater emphasis on communications via email and other digital formats

Embrace technology to manage relationships and increase productivity.

     Even before COVID-19, Sentry Management identified as a technology company that delivers exceptional community management service. Making technology an integrated component of service delivery helped us to quickly adapt in 2020. 

     While our large size has given us many advantages, like proprietary software that allows us to quickly access homeowner account balances, approve invoices, send violation letters, and store important community documentation, there are scalable tools suitable for every size and budget.

     Having the right technology stack will be just as critical in 2021. It is not enough to have digital tools; to be successful requires knowing how to fully maximize them. Sometimes it will be necessary to have training for boards to be sure they are also fully prepared to continue using new applications in 2021. Some digital tools that many companies adopted in 2020 but may not be fully utilizing are the following:

  • a communication service, such as Slack or Teams, that allows for direct messages or group chats, in addition to video calls
  • digital signature software to execute contracts, such as DocuSign, PandaDoc, or EverSign
  • a mobile phone app to answer and return calls from an office line without needing to be in the office

Continue to better yourself and others through training and education.

     Last year, board member trainings were forced to move from primarily in-person to almost exclusively online. During 2020 we all learned the value of webinars as we tried to find best practices to apply in a fast-changing environment. Many of us also learned there are excellent online training experiences, and some did not bring much value. While most people would welcome the opportunity to get back together and have in-person training, that is not yet a reality. Consequently, make sure you spend the training hours you have available focusing on great content. Take the time to have links in place to the websites that bring the highest quality information. Social media has some wonderful resources. Take time to follow those that help you do your job better and unfollow those that just clog up your thread.

     The bottom line is that we always need to improve ourselves, and training is the best way to do that in our professional lives. Take time to get the training and education you need for the coming year. Figure out what online resources are the best fit for you. FCAP offers online training through FCAP Schools, and Sentry Management has an entire library of training materials through its Communities College program.

Focus on delivering exceptional service.

     There is one thing that the pandemic has not changed: community association management is a service industry. During such trying times, it is easy to lose focus on the commitment to service we all need to have. As we spend more energy worrying about family and friends, we can let our emotions get the best of us and find ourselves in a negative interaction. It may help to set some personal time aside to consider what you love about this industry and why you wanted to become a community manager. Consider the rewarding feelings that come when you know you have helped a board or homeowner. Take time to thank volunteer board members and other vendors who help make the community a great place to live. 

     Put your plan in place to rededicate yourself to great service in 2021. To do that, you should lay out service principles and goals to abide by and put into practice in every interaction with board members, homeowners, and vendors.

     Sentry’s service standard is defined, “In every action kindness, professionalism, and timely resolution.” Following are some tips that may help you develop your own service standards:

  • Finding ways to bridge any communication gaps that occurred in 2020 and practicing in advance how you may respond to an upset homeowner
  • Taking accountability when a mistake is made and working quickly to rectify it
  • Acknowledging and verbalizing the value all individuals bring to the community

     The ideas above should help you focus on what you take control over and help you move forward in a productive, positive way, despite the difficult times we’re facing. Good luck, stay safe, and have a great 2021!

Tara Davis

Senior Vice President of the Florida Coastal Divisions, Sentry Management

     Tara Davis is the Senior Vice President of the Florida Coastal Divisions at Sentry Management, a comprehensive community management company serving communities, homeowner associations, and condominium associations across Florida and 16 other states. Tara oversees Sentry’s offices in Tampa, Fort Myers, Naples, Sarasota, Brevard and Daytona Beach-Flagler/Volusia County, and Jacksonville.