By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA / Published July 2020
The word of the year in 2020 will undoubtedly be unprecedented. Just listen to a television interview for more than 10 minutes and someone will use the word. Yes, it has been an unprecedented year, unprecedented virus, unprecedented unemployment, unprecedented economic impact, unprecedented government assistance, unprecedented innovation and partnerships, and it goes on and on.
It has been unprecedented for Florida community association managers, too. While many people in Florida were laid off, CAMs still had work to do—a lot of it. The way they did their work likely changed, and almost all found themselves working without a precedent, but they kept working and learning. Using the word unprecedented as an acrostic, let’s look at 13 lessons CAMs have learned.
United they stand; divided they fall. Managers and board members did not always agree on the best path forward to keep their residents safe while continuing with business operations and maintenance. Owners and residents did not always agree with the decisions of the board of directors. Most do not agree on how or when to move forward, but the one thing most everyone does agree on is to resume a “normal” life and routine as soon as possible.
New ways of doing business have been developed. CAMs and boards of directors discovered meetings do not always have to be in person; work does not always have to be done in an office; and paperless records are very important. Videoconferencing became popular (and necessary) for business meetings and social visits with family and friends.
Piecemeal pace became the norm for the day. Piecing together all the tasks that needed to be accomplished while not having all the tools or equipment or files in their usual places demanded a much slower work pace.
Recreation was something that many CAMs did for the first time since they can’t remember when. It did not take long for them to learn they had been working too many hours and neglected themselves. It was great to learn the virus did not survive in chlorine, of which there is plenty in Florida.
Edginess and irritability had to be managed, and many managers found it helped to finish those home and yard projects that had been put off for years. The stress of having school children home all day meant adding “teacher” to their job descriptions. For the first time, many families had to learn to live, work, and play together in a small environment.
Costovation is innovation that cuts costs while fulfilling the purpose of the association (corporation), which is to protect the property and its value, maintain the amenities that are used in common, and enforce the restrictions on owners’ use rights as outlined in the governing documents. With the sudden surge in unemployment, many owners were unable to pay their assessments, which forced managers to delay their planned deferred maintenance projects while struggling with revenue shortfalls.
Efficiency and time management became the goals for managers and support staff who were working from home while tutoring children and grandchildren. They had to give extra thought to urgent, not urgent, important, and not important demands. There was no longer a clear delineation between work and home life. In the past, they could “go” to work and “go” home. For several months, they were the same place.
Document requirements for assessment payments, rules compliance, insurance coverage, maintenance of the common elements and areas, and accounting tasks had to be upheld. Delinquent owners were reminded to pay, non-compliant owners were alerted to necessary corrective actions, and employees had to be paid.
Ethics and professional conduct seemed to become even more obvious. Owners wanted to know that management was not taking advantage of the emergency declaration and that notices of board meetings and decision making were accomplished with as much transparency as possible. For many associations, they had to rethink the processes and procedures for their annual meetings and elections while maintaining social distancing guidelines and compliance with Florida’s open meeting statutes.
Necessity breeds American ingenuity. There will likely be changes made so there are hands-free door handles, more sanitizer stations, and different guidelines for the use of the game room and library. The annual community-wide yard sale may look different as well as the 4th of July picnic and Thanksgiving potluck dinner. On a national level, American ingenuity has produced telemedicine; 3D printers; retooled manufacturing plants making ventilators, masks, and other PPE; virtual vacations; repurposed CPAP machines; and thermal imaging devices to detect fever.
Testy, trying, touchy, temperamental, and tenacious could describe any CAM in any given hour. Managers, support staff, and boards of directors have kept their communities going while dealing with their own personal lives and tragedies. The ups and downs of emotion have felt like a roller coaster—just not as much fun.
Every day managers have been overseeing the daily operations of the association. Pools still had to be cleaned and tested, lawns mowed, hedges and trees trimmed, grass fertilized, ponds aerated, roadways rejuvenated, buildings washed and pain-ted, roofs repaired and replaced, concrete and balcony restorations completed, seawalls maintained, bank deposits made, bills paid, year-end and monthly financials completed, tax returns filed, and preparations begun for hurricane season.
Dedicated CAMs and boards of directors will be able to take a breath as some sort of normalcy is restored and they debrief.
This will be an opportunity for them to gear their conversation around SWOT, assessing the community’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. They will discuss what went right, what could have been done better, what changes can be made, and what will keep them from accomplishing these goals.
People need people, and people need a purpose. We are a social society, and we find ways to be with those we love. We are a working people, and we find ways to work and volunteer. Managers and their boards of directors have done an unprecedented job getting through these unprecedented times!
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 Betsy@FloridaCAMSchools.com, call (352) 326-8365, or visit www.FloridaCAMSchools.com.