Property Management Issues
Life as a Condominium Manager and the Challenges They Face
From the Volume 32 issue of the CCI Eastern Ontario Condo Contact Magazine
Imagine a company with revenue of a million dollars a year. Let's say its expenses are in the thousands, and sometimes hundreds-of-thousands, or millions per year. There are hundreds of owners of the company. Their share of the company usually represents the most valuable and critical asset they will ever own. Let's also imagine the company's market value is many millions of dollars. In a private, for-profit setting, would you imagine that the same person would inspect every invoice, approve every cheque, respond to every shareholder inquiry, plan the corporate communications strategy, host and chair meetings, act as an informal mediator, head up the budgeting process, engage in vendor procurement and the tender process for work, be responsible for providing directors with legal resources (not opinions), advising on technical/physical issues, perform HR functions, navigate insurable losses, draft policies and review/alter contracts, and generally apply rules of governance?
Let's imagine one person doing all of those things for the hypothetical company above. Now, imagine that person frequently has to work evenings and weekends and is often (or always) on call for emergencies. Meanwhile, they're also expected to regularly attend webinars and informational sessions to stay on top of the industry and, somewhere, they need to remember to get some sleep and see their family, too. Perhaps most stressful of all: while everyone makes mistakes, the ones made by this fictitious person are often highly visible and public. I’m sure, by now, you know I am describing the life of a condominium manager. I haven’t written an exact analogy, but it’s very close. In fact, in some ways, I’ve downplayed what a condominium manager deals with – especially in the context of a portfolio manager where the assets being managed are actually worth hundreds of millions and the above duties are split between 6 or more corporations.
"The point of this article isn't to complain! Not at all. I am very proud of the services that condominium managers provide. In my experience, most managers feel the same way. Further, I appreciate all of my clients (both directors and ownership)!“
The purpose of this article is to raise public awareness as to what a condominium manager's job is like. Of course, condominium managers are not the only ones with a demanding job. Further, there are functions of condominium corporations that are not handled (most often) by the manager. We rely on dedicated professionals such as property accountants and administrators, too. But the list of duties compiled in paragraph one falls squarely on the manager.
There are two key reasons that I wrote this article. Firstly, I want to tell anyone looking for a challenge and who wants to develop extremely transferrable and valuable skills: you should consider a career in condominium management. The opportunities in this professional community are amazing. Secondly, I want to help establish condominium managers as true, licensed, professionals in the same breath as accountants or lawyers. Like other professions, this job takes intelligence, conscientiousness, discipline, patience, and understanding, and everyone should know it.
Perhaps you’re thinking: why not split up all of those jobs? Why not engage in more specialization? Well, that might have to happen eventually, but it comes at a cost. Here's the last thing I want to tell you about condominium managers historically and now: we provide fantastic value to our clients. We know that condo owners are not endless sources of revenue. Management fees charged by condominium management firms are typically far more competitive than those charged by for-profit business consulting firms that offer similar services.
Hopefully, this helps put context around what it's like to be a condominium manager. Also, the next time you're talking to one of us, remember it's very possible we worked until 9PM the night before, just dealt with an emergency call overnight, have a presentation to make in an hour, and have an ever-expanding inbox – and we still want to help with your concern.
Gerry Bourdeau is an Ontario Licensed Condominium Manager, General Licensee as well as a Registered Condominium Manager with ACMO. Gerry has been working in the condo industry for over ten years, is a Project Management Professional with the Project Management Institute, has training as a mediator, and is completing his MBA at the University of Fredericton.
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