It’s Time to Take a People-First Approach to Technology
Property management is a service industry that hinges on personalized interactions. In 2020, many companies accelerated tech adoption to stay afloat, opening the door for future solutions, such as artificial intelligence, that can transform the industry. However, companies must find the balance between convenience and personalization. Any solution must enhance the customer and employee experience, which requires taking a people-first approach.
Design your technology around the employee experience
Technology shouldn’t be about replacing people. Customers still want to talk to a human being, especially when they’re emotional or the matter is urgent. Recently, a number of companies have removed the option to speak to someone via phone, which is a huge mistake. In a recent Vox article, Michelle Shell, visiting assistant professor of operations and technology management at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, notes, “Eliminating human contact when people are feeling anxious causes them to be dissatisfied with their own decision-making, even if they’re making good decisions.”
While it’s certainly more expensive to hire people than it is to implement technology, people will always be the backbone of your company. Instead of looking for ways to use technology to cut back on your workforce, use technology to find efficiencies, streamline operations, and automate menial tasks to free up their time so they can focus on your customers.
Don’t view technology as a silver bullet
Technology is a high priority for most companies, but it’s important to figure out what you want—and actually need—before ponying up the cash. Before you buy, have a clear plan that outlines your goals and how any new solution will get you there. But remember, technology alone won’t solve your problems and the latest software won’t automatically unlock results. You have to change and grow to get results from your tech stack, which means designing and iterating your processes to work with your tools.
In addition, be mindful of the stage your company is in and find the balance between what will serve you well today and in the future. It may be tempting to purchase a number of one-off solutions, but with every new tool, you open yourself up to potential security or compliance issues. Often, a suite of integrated solutions can put processes and guardrails around security and compliance, which can be helpful as you scale. However, you’ll have to decide if you need a best-of-breed solution or if you can settle for good enough.
Managing spend is important, especially during periods of economic uncertainty, so you have to choose your providers and technology wisely. For example, generative AI is all the rage now, but is there an actual use case for your organization and does it integrate into your overall strategy? Anything you adopt should function cohesively and in a flywheel motion. If you rush to adopt new solutions and don’t know how they fit into your overall strategy, they can easily become a cog in the wheel.
Know your demographics
Every community is different, which means they’ll have unique technology needs. One demographic may be interested in adopting your new online tool or using a chatbot for help, while others won’t. For example, if you serve a number of active adult 55+ communities, you need to think about how tech proficient your users are before deploying customer-facing tools. About 85% of people over 65 want to talk to someone over the phone, and a mere 16% say they will use chatbots or apps to communicate with a business. Before you phase things out or in, be sure to get a pulse on what your customers want and design a process that works for them and you.
Technology can be an incredible asset to any property management company. However, when viewed as a replacement for people you risk compromising the personalized service that your customers have come to expect. By taking a people-first approach to technology, you can still stay ahead of the adoption curve while creating a better customer—and employee—experience.
By: David Galy, MBA
Sparta Services LLC
Sparta Services: A next-generation Microsoft MSP offering services on Microsoft 365, Azure, SharePoint, Power Platform, Zero Trust Security, and proactive help desk support. Based in Seattle, WA, supporting clients globally. Our strategic, collaborative, and solution driven approach sets us apart.
Planning for a major construction repair seems to be a daunting task. If you approach the process responsibly, it will make your project successful. Whether it be a simple deck repair, siding replacement, or complete building envelope replacement, the following steps will help your HOA successfully plan for project from concept to execution.
Concept – Your community needs to consider what the objectives of your project are and hire a design professional to assess their validity. An experienced designer will ensure the repairs you implement take into consideration the unique aspects of your building structure. It’s important the work your community invests in, provides a return whether it be in a financial or other positive outcome. If your project involves building envelope repair or replacement, hire a professional that has design expertise required to ensure the repair correctly addresses the factors causing issues in the first place. .
Preliminary Design – The designer will need to understand your main objective and understand the shortcomings of the current design or construction. This may entail removal of finishes along with visual inspections to completely understand what is happening to your building structure. The designer will then consolidate and act on this information to prepare a preliminary design that is specific to your building’s needs.
Budget based off of preliminary design – Once the preliminary design has been reviewed and accepted by the owner, a budget should be estimated. This is commonly known as a Rough Order of Magnitude or ROM. A qualified contractor, who is familiar with the type of construction or repair needed, should be hired to provide the ROM. A thorough ROM should provide guidance to both the designer and owner not only for the overall budget, but also cost categories to allow greater understanding of budget during the design phase. . Design decisions can then be modified as they fit the owners’ needs and budget using this ROM.
Preliminary Funding Approval – Often times, the owner will need to obtain financing for a major repair. Banks will need to know your scope of work, size of the community, number of rented vs owned units, amount of delinquent payments for homeowner dues, a copy of your bi-laws and declarations, and a copy of your community’s most recent reserve study and association financials. It is important to not deplete your reserve accounts, as the lenders want assurance you have the ability to pay for any delinquent homeowner dues and have funds to properly care and maintain your investment once renovated. Having a bank involved early in the process also allows them to identify issues that need more action and allows the HOA to resolve the issue concurrently with the design and final steps listed below.
Final Design Documents – Final design is a more comprehensive set of construction documents which specifies and shows the details of what is taking place and how the components will fit and work together. They should consider the current building code requirements which will be enforced by the local authority. They should thoroughly explain the scope of work, provide elevations showing the completed design, detailing of components, and incorporate any assumptions to be made.
Allowing for Permitting Process – The time to obtain a building permit has grown since COVID-19. The City of Seattle for example has an appointment time needed of several weeks just to submit for the permit. Then several more months for review to obtain the permit. If this is not considered in your planning it could affect the time when the project can begin.
Obtaining bids, check references and contractor selection – Once the final design is complete then the design is used to precure contractor bids. This usually involves a group meeting with all bidding contractors to review and discuss the work which is planned to happen at the project site. From there takeoffs, vendor and subcontractor quotes are obtained and the project is bid by the General Contractor. These bids are reviewed by the designer or construction manager. Often times contractor interviews are conducted, references checked on the contractor’s similar performed work and contractor selection made. The contractor selected needs to be the best fit for the project, not necessarily the lowest bidder. In my 30 years plus of contracting, I have learned that not always is the lowest price the best. The decision of contractor selection also needs to consider several factors. 1) Honesty 2) Thoroughness 3) Experience or History 4) Safety Record 5) Ability to work as a team with the owner and designer and 6)price. The contractor is a major key for the project’s success and is why all these should be considered.
Sign contract and execute – A major construction renovation needs a good contract for all parties, (Owner, Contractor & Architect/Designer). Often AIA contracts are a good place to start. It should establish the contract amounts, scope of work, duration, listing of construction documents, payment terms, insurance requirements, cause for termination, and warranty requirements as a minimum.
Taking on a major renovation in an occupied community is a big task. Using the above planning steps will help ensure your project is set up to be successful and enjoyed by all.
Written by Jon Walkley, Experienced Building Envelope Repair Contractor
Pacific Building Envelope
Making lasting impressions on occupied communities.
Wildfires – Prevent & Prepare [May 2022 Community Associations Journal]
Wildfires – Prevent & Prepare
“Alexa, play a song about fire…” Three hours and fifty-two songs later, this playlist is still burning it up. From Adele to Led Zeppelin, practically every artist or band has recorded a song about fire. The theme is as ubiquitous as fire itself; both rhetorically and literally, fire permeates everything. This is what makes wildfire such a formidable foe. Wildfire prevention and preparation are essential for homeowner boards in associations and condominiums.
On a cold night, a warm fire is a good thing. On a hot, dry summer day, fire can destroy everything in its path and leave devastation behind. The duality of this element has created both fear and fascination. For the world in which we live now, the summers are hotter and drier than at any time in recently recorded history. In the Western states, this is particularly true.
Every season, we see news stories of suburban areas and sometimes entire towns being destroyed by raging wildfires. They sweep through areas faster than firefighting crews can contain them.
Summers are hotter and drier than at any time in recently recorded history.
In 2021, Washington State saw a total of 674,249 acres burned in wildfires; that’s just over 1,000 square miles. That is nearly half the size of all of King County, or about 73% of Olympic National Park. Only 12% of those were lightning-caused; the remaining 88% were human-caused.
This means associations do not need to live in fear that fires are unpreventable or uncontrollable. Association boards and owners can garner the resources they have, and establish feasible plans for prevention and preparedness.
In 2021, Washington State saw a total of 674,249 acres burned in wildfires; that’s just over 1,000 square miles.
There are quite are a few wildfire preventative measures you can take—and several questions you should ask—about the potential impact of wildfires on your association.
Washington’s Lush Green Turned to Smoking Ash — Landscape charred in the wake of a 2020 wildfire in Washington State.
Fire Leaves Little to be Salvaged — The leftover remnants of residential development destroyed in the fire.
Only 12% of those wildfires were lightning-caused; the remaining 88% were human-caused.
Wildfire Prevention and Preparation for Condominiums and Homeowners Associations
 Evaluate Your Community’s Risk
If you live in a condo over the water, your association’s risk of wildfire will be different from another that borders a forested area or overgrown neighboring parcels. Check with the landscaper about vegetation management and seek options for burn-resistant plants.
Check with the landscaper about vegetation management and options for burn-resistant plants.
Be sure to stay on top of regular maintenance and enforcement on items that place the association at increased risk of fire. Overgrown yards, open backyard fire-pits, and barbecue grills on patios are examples of increased fire risk in an association.
Question: If you walked through your community right now, how many wildfire risks can you identify?
 Educate Your Community
Too often, community residents think of wildfire as something that happens somewhere else, like an old-growth forest in the middle of nowhere. The National Fire Protection Association (NAFP) has abundant resources for public education about wildfire risks. Likewise, their Firewise USA program will assist your community in understanding how to prepare for and reduce the risk of wildfire in your community.
Question: What resources does your community use to inform its residents about wildfire risks and prevention?
 Develop a Plan
It’s best to have two ways to evacuate your community, and all the residents need to know exactly where they are and how to access them. Therefore, be sure this information is included in the welcome packet for new owners moving into the association.
Encourage all owners to be prepared for an evacuation by having a pre-packed ‘go bag’ that contains copies of important documents, emergency contact numbers, prescriptions and medications, emergency cash or credit card, and a first-aid kit including hygiene items and emergency fire blankets. In the same vein, don’t forget pets’ needs!
A ‘go bag’ contains copies of important documents, contact numbers, prescriptions and medications, emergency money, and a first-aid kit with hygiene items and emergency blankets.
Question: At what point should you evacuate if a wildfire is near your home?
 Review Your Insurance
Engage in a candid conversation with your insurance agent about wildfire coverage. Be sure you know if your rates are based on historical loss or projected risk. Furthermore, seek ways the association can reduce the projected risk through environmental design and proactive vegetation management.
Be sure you know if your insurance rates are based on historical loss or projected risk.
Shriveled and Melted by Intense Heat — The insulation is burned to the ground and distorted, a testament to the intensity of the heat that surged through this area.
Additionally, be sure that the owners in your community understand their responsibility to carry their own coverage for personal possessions along with relocation expenses if their home or unit is lost in a wildfire.
Question: Do you have your insurance information easily accessible for an emergency evacuation?
Reduce the projected risk through environmental design and proactive vegetation management.
A Human Imperative
Although this information may seem obvious, it does not make it any less important or valuable. In a world where you can ask your virtual device to do everything from playing music to having food delivered, fire preparedness and prevention are still human endeavors. “Alexa, play The Sound of Sunshine.”
Joy Steele is a Community Manager for HOA Organizers, Inc. and a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and Toastmasters. In her spare time, she enjoys pursuing creative endeavors and spending time with loved ones.
Join your fellow sport-loving WSCAI members for the 3rd Annual Kickball Tournament & Chapter Mixer.
The Kickball Tournament will consist of four sponsored teams with 10-15 on each team. Previous participants consider it one of the most fun events to-date! We’ll be holding a Chapter Mixer immediately following the event.
These two events combine to be a fantastic opportunity to let out a little stress from the daily grind. Feel free to register for the events individually or get a discounted price by registering for both! Hope to see you there!
Tuesday, August 31
3:00 – 5:30 p.m.Hidden Valley Sports Park
(Fields 2 & 3) 1903 112th Ave NE, Bellevue, WA 98004Driving Directions >
Tuesday August 31 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.Applebee’s 13856 Bel-Red Rd, Bellevue, WA 98005 Driving Directions >
▸ The park requires a Discovery Pass. Here’s a link to order one if you don’t have one (there is a one day pass option available for $11.50). ▸ Carpooling is recommended.
Individual Entry Fee: $35
* Special Offer*
Register By September 7 to receive an official LAC For 5K t-shirt!
Team of 5 Entry Fee: $150
* Special Offer*
Register By September 7 to receive official LAC For 5K t-shirts!
What Is This Thing Called LAC?
The LAC or Legislative Action Committee is a group of WSCAI member volunteers who review drafts of bills, work with lobbyists, and provide testimony to ensure that laws passed in Washington state promote the interests of community associations. LAC volunteers represent different facets of community association life: homeowners, community managers, attorneys and other Business Partners.
The LAC’s Mission: To positively influence legislation that directly impacts community associations and their residents.
What has the LAC done for you lately?
Earlier this year, the LAC worked to defeat two harmful construction defect bills that would have left homeowners in small condo communities without warranty protections.
In July, the LAC worked with the Governor’s office to permit fines for covenant violations while still prohibiting fees and interest for late assessments.
Currently, the LAC is working to make remote meetings and electronic voting permanent for community associations. The LAC wants the convenience and time- and cost-savings of these online capabilities to continue after the pandemic emergency ends.
What can you do for the LAC?
Your testimony helps capture the attention of lawmakers and illustrates how proposed legislation impacts the people who live in community associations.
Your donations ensure the LAC retains professional lobbyists who keep the channels of communication open with policy makers and government officials.
Building Great Teams: A Strategic Approach To Recruitment & Sustainable Employee Engagement
Mike Thomas, of M. Thomas Company, will present on the challenge of attracting and retaining top talent, and how to create an environment and culture where employees are very engaged.
Mike will lead the audience full circle through practical and actionable concepts including:
Current State: Do you understand your current state relative to turnover rates? How engaged are your employees? How do you measure employee engagement?
A, B & C Players: What makes each player an A, B or C in your organization? Why we often hold on to C players. Who does each player type regularly hire and/or promote based on their confidence type?
Compensation Strategy: What is a compensation strategy? Do you have an understood compensation strategy in your organization? What are some examples of compensation strategies?
Attrition & Attraction: Are you losing talent or having a difficult time attracting top talent that fits your culture? What are some of the reasons we believe this is happening? Is it cultural fit, a “better” offer, more opportunity for growth?
Career Path & Opportunity: Is there a clear understanding of career paths and growth opportunities? What makes this important?
Values Based Hiring: Do you have a set of working core values that authentically represent your culture? Are your values discussed during the interview and hiring process? How much weight is put on skills and expertise?
Included during the two-hour event will be an opportunity for attendees to ask questions and breakout rooms for attendees to collaborate.
(Click image for full presenter bio.)
President - M. Thomas Company
President - M. Thomas Company
Mike Thomas founded M. Thomas Company with the purpose of creating and transforming work environments into places of community and connection. When team members feel trusted, empowered and supported, they engage and perform at a higher level. Using innovative principles and real-world business acumen, Mike Thomas works with executives, managers, peers, and teammates to find meaning in their work together and a shared mission.
With a construction background spanning over 25 years, Mike has developed skills and tools to coach leaders and teams in building roadmaps to success. Focusing on culture, values, decision-making and practical metrics, he guides teams to higher performance and better connection with each other. Great employees gravitate toward cultures that support healthy, supportive, caring environments where people feel heard, respected and experience growth.
Today’s business environment invites change in our thinking and metrics; employees seek purpose in their work life. Mike Thomas brings these principles to his work, to his family in Sammamish, WA, and many years coaching youth athletics. Results will follow when we trust the process.
Golf Tournament Participants: See email from Michelle for final schedule and other details.
2021 Tournament Theme:
Ideas For Theme:
2001: A Space Odyssey | Alien | Astronauts | Baby Yoda | Back to the Future | Black Hole| Fantasy| Futurama| Future| Lunar| Mandalorian| Men in Black| NASA| Planetary| Rocket Man| Sci-fi| Space| Space Jam| Star Trek| Star Wars| X-Files