A new member has been elected to your Homeowners Association Board. Suddenly, you learn that they seem to have a general mistrust of any current vendors of the association, perhaps because they did not choose them. They call for at least three bids on every project, no matter how small. This person seems to be trying to fix something that may not have been broken in the first place. I'll confess, as a property manager for California Homeowner Associations, we have had our share of challenges with new board members automatically calling for new vendors, even when the ones they are working with are really solid. You may not be aware that many contractors simply do not want the headaches of working with Homeowner Associations because of the challenges of working for a "committee" and the politics involved. Those of you who have been Board members for any length of time most likely understand that good vendors are hard to find, and when you do find them you want to keep them. I want to share a few thoughts based on experience.
- Find contractors/vendors that you can trust to care about the project, not just getting a paycheck.
I have a vendor that was on vacation, but saw a construction project that was using siding materials that could work as a solution for one of my homeowner associations. He stopped, found out information about the product, and brought it back to the association. In the end, the association began to use this product. The result: the product was better than what the association had been using and came at a considerably lower price. Thousands of dollars have been saved and the community has been improved in the process. That is the kind of vendor/partner you want!
- Use vendors that take pride in their work and in a job well done.
You will want vendors that have expertise and are willing to give you their perspective and expertise to perhaps find better solutions. I work with a community that went through a bidding process and picked a painting company for their project. This painter had very clear perspectives and expertise in how to paint their T-111 siding in such a way to protect it and bring life back into it. It was clear that they took pride in their work. The Homeowners Association Board could not have been happier with the result of this combination. Other communities have since benefitted from this same vendor. The job that they did could not have been better marketing for future jobs.
- Value your vendors.
When you value them, they will often value you and your project as well. Your contractors will know if you value them and I believe it will make a difference from the moment they step onto your project.Don't penny-pinch them. They need to make a fair wage to stay in business. Share the positive with them. Don't be like one board member that called the city to come out and check if their vendor had indeed gotten a permit for the work they were doing. The contractor had done nothing wrong, but what do you think that approach communicated?
- Always keep in mind that you can and should strive toward a win-win relationship.
This one contractor really appreciates working, in particular, for one of my homeowner associations and I believe it is because the Board really appreciates when this contractor works for them as well. They have no desire to micro-manage, and by his performance, the vendor consistently shows them why they do not need to. The Board benefits from a job well-done, and fair pricing. The contractor benefits from getting good, consistent work in a positive, appreciative environment. It is such a win-win relationship that this contractor will go well above and beyond -- for instance, coming out to the project late at night to close up holes made by raccoons so that the raccoons are trapped outside of the building rather than inside. That's gold!
I encourage all of you who are on homeowner association boards to: recognize when you have a good contractor and value them, strive to work in partnership and a win-win relationship, and be prudent about getting multiple bids when necessary. Finally, relax and enjoy the results!