Article – Condominium Manager Fall 2010

“What I Have Learned”

25 Years and Four Lessons
by Tom LePage, RCM


The request I received from the editor of CM Condominium Manager magazine was to write a 400- word article on what I’ve learned as a 25-year front-line Registered Condominium Manager. I thought I’d done it all, and now for the most difficult challenge of my career.

I was one of those unusual individuals who actually chose our industry as a profession at a relatively young age and enrolled myself with the urging, (could almost be classified as an ultimatum) from my wife into the George Brown College two year full time property management course. What was I thinking!

Lesson No.1 — People First
It turned out I was extremely fortunate to learn almost immediately while in college from one of the most down-to-earth and practical property managers I have ever met — Norm Walker — the number one lesson of the condominium management industry: “It’s a People Business.” This is pretty much the only thing that has not changed in the last 25 years. If you are not a people person then I would urge you to seek another profession, but if you are, well buckle up and enjoy the ride. After college I followed a unique direction because of my RCM status as well as other accreditations. For 20 plus of my 25 years I have been managing (rental restricted) resort condominiums in the Collingwood area. Back then the fax machine had not been invented, there was no home warranty program, my first computer was a 286 and my first cell phone came with a shoulder strap. I really do not know if I would have made it this long if I had continued to work in a large city.

Lessons No. 2 and 3 — Keep a Close Eye on the Finances and the Clients
Upon graduation I joined Swiss Canadian Management and I learned two more major lessons, which have proven to be extremely beneficial:“Have Accurate and Timely Financial Statements.” We have enough on our plate without worrying about financials and how better to monitor your progress from budget to monthly reporting to the final audit. Accounting is straightforward and should be presented to the board in a clear and concise fashion — there are no excuses for not accomplishing this standard and basic task. With the guidance of Günther Steudel of Oasys Property Solutions Inc. we have been able to accomplish this for the past 20 odd years. Good staff is a must. The other lesson I learned from Nick Jaeger and Peter Tschan is: “It is okay to drop a client if need be.” An extremely hard thing to do but the last thing you need is to have one client interfere with the service and value you are providing to your other clients.

Last Lesson
The last lesson that I will mention is: “Pay contractors on time or even better.” Exceed their expectations. This policy has been critical to my management style and has paid off in numerous ways for my clients. It was learned from an unlikely source — Rupert Bronsdon the “Out of the Box Thinking” developer who I followed to Collingwood.

Personally speaking I do not believe the evolution of our business has been that favourable for hands on condominium managers. With more and more of Big Brother involvement (i.e., government), liability perceived concerns are increasing at an alarming rate. This has a direct effect on the ability to make good and logical decisions. Finally, the over-emphasis that is often placed on the all and mighty bottom line. In my mind, this misguided emphasis has overridden what I believe should truly count in property management – value, service, common sense and personal contact. Unfortunately I hear more horror stories than success stories and with condominium monthly sales occasionally out pacing detached homes I see a major grass root shake up in our industry but the good news is that I believe it will be hugely beneficial to those who are truly passionate about being an active, front-line and professional RCM.
729 words – over budget by 82.2%

20 Years Later — The Clothes Dryer Lesson
By Eve Taylor, RCM

taylorIt was a bit of a shock to read an email from ACMO informing me I would be receiving an award for having been an RCM for 20 years. Where did the time go?

In the early days of condominium management, women managers were few and far between. Management companies and condo boards were less accepting of a female manager, believing the job was physical building management, and therefore better suited to men.Over time they have come to realize that being knowledgeable about chillers and risers is only a small segment of the skills required for the person sitting behind the manager’s desk. Each year at ACMO functions, there are more and more women represented in this industry, proving that condominium management is well suited to women,who often excel at multi-tasking and human relations.

After a particularly trying day recently, a board member asked where I had learned my people skills. I believe I learned an important tenet for work and life from the actions of a manager with whom I worked, and who coincidentally, received his 25-year RCM award at this year’s ceremony. He taught me that staff, contractors, board members and residents, (even the troublesome ones) are deserving of our time, patience and respect and very importantly, humour. A nonconfrontational attitude often disarms even the most upset individuals, allows the emotions to recede and the focus to be put back on resolving the problem at hand.

One incident that comes to mind is when a gentleman came into my office shouting that his dryer was not working and the corporation had better arrange for a replacement. When it was explained that a new dryer was his responsibility to purchase, in a raised voice he demanded the name of my boss. When I told him the board of directors was my boss, he wanted the president of the board’s name. The name was provided and as he had all the information he had requested, and couldn’t think of anything more to demand, he threatened to sue me. My response was to laugh and tell him he would be at the end of a very long line of people who have threatened to sue me. That gave him pause, and he asked was I not afraid of him, to which I responded “not even a little bit.” Upon hearing this, he meekly said, ”Please don’t tell
my wife I yelled at you.” We both laughed and he was on his way to buy a new dryer. In the grand scheme of condominium management, this is an insignificant matter but handled badly, could have ruined the day for several people. Instead it gave me a funny story to tell the family.