By Gary Van Der Laan, CFCAM, PCAM / Published September 2021
As a management company, Leland Management understands that education is one of the most powerful tools we can provide for our team and our clients. But what makes it so valuable?
We believe education is the pathway to possessing both the knowledge and data that are needed to provide top-quality services, well-maintained amenities, and the contemporary lifestyles that residents value and enjoy. The best associations deftly balance these essential elements to create a comforting sense of real community.
With frequent changes in Florida law, achieving our educational goals remains an ongoing effort. It is typical for Florida associations to have a new set of rules to follow every July 1, often combined throughout the course of the year with rulings from both the State and the courts, which can sometimes alter the interpretation of existing laws. The facts you once knew and how you may have run an association five years ago may be completely out of date in today’s environment.
In addition to the laws changing, new technology also presents opportunities for growth. Today services and communication options are provided to residents in many more ways than were available even a few short years ago.
Finally, people themselves can change. The demographics of a community can shift dramatically over time. Staying up to date on the latest and greatest processes, technology, data, and other information is vital to maintaining the community at its best.
If this all seems a bit overwhelming, don’t worry—the good news is you don’t have to go it alone. Best practices are available for just about every situation, and educational programs are the key to learning which are right for your community.
For licensed community association managers, education is a requirement. This starts with pre-licensing requirements and continues, once a license has been received, with required ongoing education mandated by the state.
Management companies and business partners often provide state-required ongoing education classes for licensed managers, in addition to the state’s board certification course for board members. By offering a robust curriculum of monthly educational and training opportunities for both our boards and team members, we ensure that boards are never left in the dark and that staff are the most prepared and informed professionals in the industry. The result is that clients receive the highest possible level of community management available.
Beyond the requirements set by the State, we’ve seen that management companies that also integrate their own internal ongoing educational programs allow for managers to provide the highest level of service for the communities they represent. A well-educated manager can work smarter, achieving more favorable results in less time than their peers with fewer educational opportunities.
This commitment to education has not just earned us the privilege to act as curriculum contributor to the CFCAM program, the only Florida-specific professional designation available for CAMs; we truly believe these programs and opportunities for advancement have also played a large part in Leland being named “Best Places to Work” by the Orlando Business Journal for 11 consecutive years.
The State of Florida began their board member certification program in 2013, first as a requirement just for condominium board members, but then expanding to include homeowner association board members as well. At the time, the state provided two options to complete these requirements. One option was for a new director to certify in writing to the secretary of the association that he or she had read the association’s declaration of covenants, articles of incorporation, bylaws, and current written rules and policies; that he or she would work to uphold such documents and policies to the best of his or her ability; and that he or she would faithfully discharge his or her fiduciary responsibility to the association’s members. The other option was for the director to submit to the association an educational certificate from a Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes approved education provider attesting that the director has completed the standardized educational curriculum. To this end, many service providers created programs approved by the State to meet this requirement, most available at no cost to the board member.
We originally reached out for State approval for such programming with the intent of providing it for clients. The demand was so great for these programs that we began offering these trainings for others through classes at trade shows and other industry events, eventually reaching over 10,000 board members. Beyond the specific requirement of board certification, however, we see further ongoing training programs as an opportunity to definitively raise the bar in association management. The team has dedicated countless hours curating new content for additional courses geared specifically toward volunteer board and committee members, offering the opportunity to round out their education well past the minimum requirements set for new directors. These programs provide attendees with tips and tricks they can use to govern their communities as effectively as possible, while reducing the stress load involved in the undertaking of such responsibilities.
With the program’s growing popularity came invitations to speak at numerous city and county workshops, conferences, and training seminars, as well as at national industry conferences. What better sign could there be that a great desire exists among board members in Florida to provide the highest level of service for their communities!
Even throughout the added complications brought on by COVID-19, the desire to learn just seemed to grow even stronger. Prior to the pandemic, almost all of the training programs were conducted in person, with only four virtual classes offered each year. As most of the world changed gears to a virtual setting, including many of our own practices and programs, our board members not only were able to easily keep up with the ever-changing updates of the pandemic but also were provided more opportunity to attend courses that were growing both in subject matter and in frequency. We were able to significantly increase the number of courses offered to our communities, with more than 40 classes conducted in 2020 and well over 50 expected in 2021, even as we begin to reintroduce in-person training.
Education has always been a top priority for us as a management company, both client-focused and internally, and there has never been a better time to aim even higher by leveraging the innovative shifts in technology. With a mind for the past and an eye on the future, it’s easy to see how board members and community managers dedicated to furthering their education are the perfect combination for a successful community.
Gary Van Der Laan, CFCAM, PCAM
Senior Vice President, Leland Management
Gary has been a licensed CAM since 1993. Gary is certified by the State of Florida to teach several continuing education courses for licensed managers as well as the board member certification class. Gary is an active member of CAI, having served two years as the Central Florida Chapter president as well as on the Florida Bar’s Unlicensed Practice of Law (UPL) committee. Gary holds the PCAM designation from CAI as well as the CFCAM designation and is a contributor to the education curriculum of the statewide FCAP training program.