Community Association Managers come with varying degrees of expertise and experience. Some Managers may have a strong background or understanding of financials and budgeting, while others may come from a facilities maintenance background, and some may just simply have great people skills.
Regardless of which strength, most Managers are Horizontally Integrated. Meaning, they know a little bit about a lot of different aspects of properly managing condominium and homeowner associations but are experts in very few. This is certainly not a negative aspect of their ability to get the job done, and get it done right. Recognizing this concept and alleged limitation, Managers know who to go to and can appropriately advise the Board when an expert is needed, or more aptly named, someone that is Vertically Integrated.
Someone that is Vertically Integrated is someone that knows a lot about one particular topic. One that is easily identified is an Attorney. Most would agree that there are certain scenarios that require the advice of legal counsel. Some of these would include the addressing of severe delinquencies or the handling and advising of a pending or served lawsuit.
But let’s take this a bit further as there are other scenarios that would require an expert or someone that is Vertically Integrated. Some of these include a roofing project, major asphalt/concrete replacement, and even landscaping maintenance and projects. As a Manager with over 2 decades of homeowner and condominium experience, I could be on the roof as they were replacing it and I couldn’t tell you if it’s being done correctly. This is a situation where we need a roofing engineer to ensure that the project is being done right. Consider a road replacement project where we need core samples to determine the what the aggregate is under the asphalt and how replacement should be addressed. I could look at the core samples and couldn’t tell you what they are telling us, hence an infrastructure and pavement management expert/engineer will be required. And finally, to make this point landscaping maintenance and design is a mix of art and science and if we don’t fully understand what we are doing, we will have wasted not only the association’s time but money as well. Whether it’s routine maintenance and upkeep or a large landscaping project, it’s prudent to consult with someone that is Vertically Integrated in this field to guide and advise the Board. Also consider that a project needs to start in the right direction from the onset. The onset of most projects is in the details of the of the proposal process and is extremely critical in partnering with a Vertically Integrated expert.
Some Managers will learn quickly when they don’t heed certain warning signs that they are taking on too much and jeopardizing an association’s project; I know I did! And a good Manager will know when the discussion needs to pivot to bringing in an expert. If you have the latter, you are in great hands and should trust that Manager’s judgement in this area for the betterment of your association.