Managing Up: Handling Calls from Owners and Investors
With access to real-time, site-level information, many owners and joint venture partners won’t hesitate to call community managers if they have a question about performance. Find out how some management firms are using relationship building to tackle this challenge.
Whether it is responding to reviews and engaging on social media or leasing and answering phones, today’s community managers have what seems like a non-stop list of responsibilities.
At some communities, fielding calls from clients and investors is something being added to that growing list. Maybe the owner reads a bad review and wonders how management has handled it. Or an ownership group has a question about why the site-level employees are closing less traffic or letting NOI fall below budget.
“All of these questions require community managers to do much more thinking on their feet as the answer may not be a number, stat or review that the manager has looked at in the last day or two,” says Melissa L. Smith, Chief Administrative Officer at Fogelman Management Group.
These client calls may not be a universal issue, but at some communities they can create an extra task.
“We have different levels of involvement at each of our communities,” says Chad Cooley, Managing Director of Strategic Support Services at Bozzuto Management Company. “Some owners are very hands on. Others want to talk to you once per quarter during financial reviews.”
Cooley understands that these calls are a part of doing business. “It goes without saying that we would never forbid these calls,” he says.
But management companies do try to push these conversations up the organizational chain. As ownership’s first point of contact, Western National asks that its regional managers be proactive and develop relationships.
“That way, the regional manager can filter it through the community manager to get answers for ownership,” says Scott Wickman, Western National’s Regional Vice President.
Filtering communication is only part the process. To be successful, Cooley says regional managers must anticipate ownership’s needs. Instead of preventing investor calls from being made onsite, Bozzuto encourages its regional managers to monitor day-to-day operational information and reach out to investors or joint venture capital partners with that data and interpretation.
“I think when you are armed with information to answer questions and you can proactively discuss recommendations without having someone else raise the flag, that’s what is critical,” Cooley says. “We try to stay in front of the reason why someone might make a phone call and ask about our strategy. You need to take that task off the site personnel so they can focus on the residents and place that task in regional managers’ and senior vice presidents’ hands.”
While there are many ways to handle ownership calls to the community, there is definitely one thing onsite personnel should never do: “You don’t say, ‘Don’t call me, please call my regional manager,’” Wickman says. “That’s not the way that we do business.”
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