Last modified on December 18th, 2023
By Brittany Benz
Want to know what other community association management businesses are doing to stay successful? Beth Gilbert, Sr. Director of the Community Association Market at AppFolio recently hosted a webinar where two AppFolio customers shared their “secret sauce” — what differentiates their businesses and gives them an edge — when it comes to how their businesses operate, what technology they use, and how they serve their homeowners. Below, we provide a recap of a few of the key business secrets they revealed.
Secret #1: Respond quickly and thoroughly
In talking to Kevin Bishop, President of RCP Community Management, which manages over 28 associations in Arizona, we discovered one of the top strategies he uses to make homeowners and residents happy is prioritizing mobile communication. Kevin explains, “We are so focused on communication and providing exceptional experiences for our customers. I’ve always had this philosophy of, ‘if we do the right thing for our customers and if we focus on them, that will be profitable as a company.’”
Kevin and his team at RCP have even gone so far as to encourage their residents to test just how quickly they can get a response from their team. “We have invited our homeowners and board members to do a speed test at our annual meetings to see how quick it is to contact us. We tell them to text us their questions because we want to hear from them. This test concept has really allowed us to demonstrate our level of communication.”
Jordan Levine, Co-Founder of Pelican Property Management, which oversees 67 associations, also keeps communication front and center. With a fully mobile system, he and his team are able to manage it efficiently. “Our secret sauce is how we are able to communicate with people. It really comes down to how we manage the communication that comes in. With AppFolio, all of our employees have access to the same information, so if one of our residents has a question, they can immediately find an answer.”
Secret #2: Empower homeowners and boards to self-serve
Along with having strong lines of communication, both companies utilize on-demand and self-service tools to empower their homeowners and boards to complete tasks and get information on their own. In doing so, they are able to provide better service while freeing their teams to focus on bigger projects.
One of the ways Jordan puts technology to work is by letting his board members submit their own community violations. “We let our boards conduct mobile violations. They go out with their cell phones and check for violations in their communities for us. They submit them with notes and photos. All we have to do is review them, and then a letter is automatically dispatched. It’s just an amazing process, and we’re empowering a lot of these boards who want to be active and speed up the process.”
Secret #3: Make technology part of your sales pitch
It’s not always easy to stand out from the crowd, especially with so many community association management companies vying for new business. After your team and company values, technology can play a vital role in how you market your business.
When pitching to potential associations, Kevin makes sure he always demos his technology firsthand to boards so they can see the value his business offers. “Often on a first sales call, we will demonstrate AppFolio. We show them the user interface, which is sustainably better than anything I’ve seen on the marketplace. We show them how homeowners and boards can do things on their own. Since we started doing that, we now have a 95% close rate. We demonstrate the value of technology, the value of communication, and the value of being able to self-serve.”
Secret #4: Pay your vendors promptly
Maintaining vendor relationships is essential in association management; however, one thing that can erode vendors’ trust and willingness to work with your company is late payments. To ensure their vendors are paid in a timely manner, Jordan and Kevin have both implemented automated accounts payable processes.
Kevin goes into more detail: “We’ve enabled Automated AP within AppFolio, and it’s working great for us to lower the amount of effort and improve our responsiveness to vendors. Part of having great service is having vendors who want to work with you. On-time payments make a big difference.”
Jordan has also had success with automating his accounts payable process. “When I push the button after approving the payment batches, our vendors get paid within 24 hours — they absolutely love it.”
Secret #5: Stay true to your values
In the busy day-to-day life of association management, it can be hard to remember the reasons why we do things the way we do. In business and life, Kevin believes staying true to his values is what has helped his company be so successful over the years. His team and customers don’t just hear about their values — they see them in action.
Kevin shares, “We make all our decisions based on the values of honesty and integrity — putting customers first, and then treating them the way they truly want to be treated. Everything we do ties back to those values. And if we’re about to make a decision that violates one of those values, we stop right in our tracks.”
Secret #6: Provide flexibility with mobility
When the pandemic hit, RCP Community Management and Pelican Property Management were well equipped with the tools they needed to work remotely, communicate, and carry out tasks virtually. These tools have proven to be valuable for the long term, especially this past summer while Kevin was on vacation in Hawaii. Kevin explains, “I was in Hawaii for three weeks this summer. I was 100% in contact with my team and able to approve every single check and communicate with everyone while I was over there. I could still be productive and not skip a beat because I was mobile.”
This level of mobility has given not just Kevin but his entire team more flexibility in that they can work remotely, which is something Jordan believes is priceless when it comes to selling their services to homeowners and board members out in the field. Jordan shares, “I don’t want my community managers to be bogged down at the office all day. I need them to be out there selling our services. They need to be present and available to our homeowners out in the communities. The mobility of the software lets them spend more time building connections with residents.”
Secret #7: Don’t be afraid to break everything
Lastly, it can be overwhelming to think about changing your processes or switching software, but sometimes it can pave the way for future success, efficiency, and growth.
Kevin has embraced change over the years, and it has truly paid off. “The one thing I will tell people, again and again, is to break everything. Look at every time-honored process you have — break it and recreate it. There’s usually always a better way of doing things, but people are often afraid to break stuff. For instance, we realized there was a better way to respond to homeowners and a better way to serve them — so we switched to AppFolio. We do almost everything differently, and that is what sets us apart.”
Running a successful association management business isn’t easy, but there are many opportunities to learn from your peers. Take the insights shared above to heart and see how you can fine-tune your processes and differentiate your business. Download our free guide below for more ways you can level up your association management company.