You know something isn’t quite right. You are feeling a little off. Maybe you have been putting off going to the doctor. Sound familiar? You are a property manager or board member; you know there is something wrong on the association property that needs treatment. However, you have been putting it off! This is the time of year to find the right “doctor” or professional to seek input for a satisfactory remedy to your deteriorating condition. Let’s get the “ailment” on your property fixed!
Selecting Professionals for Your Association
Selecting the best professionals for your association can be quite similar to choosing the most qualified physician to help you with a medical issue. When selecting a doctor, a person would consider each of the following points to ensure a solution or wellness plan in place for healing and getting back to normal or on track. Let’s look at some specific areas of value when selecting or hiring your “doctor.”
- Request for Treatment Plan = Request for Proposal
- Second opinion = Comparing RFPs not all about the lowest price
- Affiliations/Board Certificates
- Background, training and experience
- Caring attitude or bedside manner = enthusiasm for work
- How many procedures does the doctor perform annually?
- Follow up with the patient = Track record of solving customer complaints.
A similar approach can be taken in the community association industry for the process of hiring the right professional to accomplish a job. The desirable end result being health, wellness and normality. Start with a diagnosis, request for proposal, comparing submitted proposals and hiring the right professional for the job.
This sounds simple enough. However, it is beneficial – even critical – to get a professional opinion of what needs to be done in order to achieve “wellness” for a property. In the community association industry, this often occurs with the hiring or assistance of an architect or engineer who is qualified and trained to give an opinion or “diagnosis” on the proposed project. In most instances, the hiring of a licensed professional is required to obtain building permits.
Request for Proposal
Prepare an accurate and detailed request for proposal. The RFP should be very detailed and specific with regard to materials and methods to be used in the project. Each bidding party should have the same details and if a bidder asks for clarification on a particular item, then the clarification should be given to all bidders. Compare the bids as you would seek out a second opinion from a physician. In a perfect scenario, you would like to be able to compare apples to apples. However, this isn’t always the case. You should obtain at least three bids for the project, and it isn’t always about hiring the lowest bidder! A low bid may reflect a lower quality of work, or the omission of a portion of the work, or a change in specific details in the contract documents. This could result in increased costs to complete the project. This is where a fair comparison needs to take place for the selection process. It is vital to compare the same type of procedures!
A key to gathering accurate RFPs from your bidding vendors is the pre-bid meeting, which is a great opportunity to ensure that all bidders are in fact writing up a proposal for the same project scope and quantities. The pre-bid meeting also allows the bidders to ask questions and clarify ambiguities in the contract documents prior to submission. Best practices might dictate avoiding bidders’ suggestions, as this may result in bids deviating from the original specifications.
Professional Affiliations, Licenses and Certificates
Where do you go for information on these credentials? Check out the Illinois Chapter of the Community Associations Institute’s network of vendors. Your affiliation with CAI is such a valuable tool. You can access the vendor service directory on the CAI-Illinois web site. The annual CAI – Illinois Expo is a perfect time to become acquainted with and personally meet hundreds of quality vendors that can assist in your next project. Having a clear plan and agenda while attending the trade show is very beneficial to ensure connecting with those contractors who may assist you with future projects.
Background, training and experience
Individual company websites which may be accessed from links on the CAI website can provide information about a vendor’s background, training, job history, references and other relevant information.
Referrals and recommendations
As with checking the background of a doctor, one great way to check the background of vendors is to ask for recommendations and referrals from industry co-workers and community association volunteers.
Board Meeting or Interview
Meet with your intended professional, and take note if the vendor is enthusiastic and takes pride in completed projects. Is the professional knowledgeable?
Other factors to consider:
- Address and stability, permanent place of business and established in the industry
- Licenses, credentials and professional affiliations
- Number of years in the business
- Referrals and references from previous jobs
- Workmanship and warranties
- Track record for solving customer complaints
- Manufacturer’s installation certifications
Follow up office visit
This is similar to evaluating the track record of how a professional solves any customer complaints and resolves issues. Included in this is wellness check could be maintenance, work orders etc. In this web based age, it is all too easy for a consumer to rate a business poorly with the click of a mouse. The follow up visit and track record issues should really be focused on complaint resolution. How did the vendor effectively rectify and resolve the reported problem?
Similar to selecting a doctor when needing a surgical procedure, you will want to take into account reliability, reputation, experience and dedication when hiring any vendor for your community association. Evaluate your professionals as thoroughly as you would any doctor who is about to operate on you. A healthy examination and evaluation process on your part will ensure you hire the right professionals for your association!