Educational Resources for Managers Getting Smart in South Florida

Educational Resources for Managers

You can’t be a successful property manager without keeping an open mind about new technology and new developments in building administration tools—and understanding that the need to stay abreast of these situations is vital.

While networking with other professionals is a good way to stay current, and reading industry publications like The South Florida Cooperatoris another smart move, few things can contribute more to a manager’s professional development than in-depth continuing education courses.

The More You Know...

“Education courses are offered throughout our area by various trade partners,” says Gary van der Laan, vice president of Leland Management in Orlando, referring to groups such as the Community Associations Institute, of which Florida has 8 chapters. “As a CAI chapter, our goal is to provide all the continuing education that our member managers need to renew their licenses and achieve personal growth as part of our regular education programs. The education committee coordinates the educational programs and submits a slate of classes to the board of directors on an annual basis.”

Not only do these classes help property management professionals improve their services, but it can also help advance their careers. All managers are required to complete the continuing education to maintain their licenses, and some of the area management companies pay for the cost for their managers to attend classes.

“Managers have the option to become ‘certified’ beyond the basic licensing requirements by obtaining accreditation through groups like CAI and Florida Community Association Professionals (FCAP),” says Donna DiMaggio Berger, an attorney with Becker & Poliakoff in Fort Lauderdale. “Several of my partners and I have worked closely with FCAP to provide the training materials and protocols needed to ensure that the managers seeking certification are truly taught to function at the highest level.”

Jacqueline C. Marzan, Esq., a senior attorney with the Levine Law Group in Boca Raton says the types of issues managers face every year are no different than that of a small city or small corporation. “The types of issues really drive the type of courses they desire and should be taking,” she says. “A course should have the mechanics to give a manager the tools needed to recognize when there’s an issue.”

What’s Available?

Community association managers in Florida have a wide range of choices when it comes to continuing education. These courses are offered by the state, by many law firms and by organizations like FCAP and CAI.

Eric Glazer, a condo attorney and partner with Glazer & Associates, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale, regularly teaches a course for board members and community association managers that focuses on what they need to know in today’s ever-changing condo environment.

“The Florida legislature comes out with new laws each July, so it's worth going to a seminar just to find out what’s new,” he says. “The ones I focus on are board certification, but they provide credits for community association managers as well, so 20 percent of the audience is usually comprised of managers.”

Among the classes Glazer teaches are Asphalt 101, which educates managers about resurfacing, seal coating and parking lot maintenance; Hoarding 101, which shows the warning signs of hoarding behavior in a community; Saving Capital, highlighting the importance of sufficient reserve funds; and Election and Recall Process 101, to teach the “ins and outs” of elections.

“We cover topics ranging from how to properly prepare a budget, to fiduciary duties of board members, to laws specifically targeted to community association managers,” he says. “With so many new regulations and changes that community association managers have to make—loyalty, disclosure, fair dealings—it’s very important that they learn everything they can about their new responsibilities and new professional obligations.”

According to van der Laan, the CAI chapter provides educational programs at its monthly meetings, as well as a wide range of classes throughout the day at its annual trade show.

CAI courses for industry certifications can cost between $500 and $600, and typically involve a two-day commitment. Formalized continuing education credits can cost between $20 and $70, and are typically 1-2 hours. Informal continuing education and so-called 'lunch-and-learns' are typically complimentary, last about one hour, and as the name suggests, often involve refreshments. Many law firms and industry tradespeople host these less-structured events for community association management personnel with information on topics within the industry both as a service to their existing customers, and a means of reaching out to new prospective clients.

“Individual trade partners have programs that fall within their area of expertise,” says van der Laan. “For example, our law firm members provide the required legal updates, insurance agency’s provide the insurance credit requirements.”

Berger says her firm offers more than three-dozen different courses for managers’ continuing education in its 13 offices, as well as other venues—such as the San Sebastian Winery in St. Augustine.

One topic that’s very popular right now for property managers deals with fair housing issues. As a result, Marzan has developed courses surrounding both the issues and how to deal with them in a practical sense. “Attendees are not lawyers so we’re not trying to teach them every aspect of the law, but rather to recognize the issues, and know what to do as the first line of defense for their association,” she says. “We teach them about what, if any, involvement the community association should have versus what their lawyers should have.”

Another type of course Marzan strongly recommends are those that focus on the simple day-to-day mechanics of running a building or association, and how to recognize when there’s something amiss. For example, not just formulating a budget, but knowing what reserve funding categories should be included, and how much should be allocated for each. “That could be an instance where a course might be helpful in determining what should they have and answer the questions: ‘What are my annual responsibilities to prepare the budget, and what am I missing?’ ” she says.

Marzan adds that managers are driving the courses being developed for them and the firm can develop courses based on what people are asking for. “We have some courses in the can that can help people recognize issues and those are more popular than the basics,” she says. “They are looking for more high-level courses so they can protect themselves against the core issues.”

Benefits Abound

There are many reasons why managers should consider upgrading their education—and because laws tend to change briskly in the state of Florida, it’s more important than ever to fortify their education resume.

“Managers who participate in enrichment courses and/or seek additional accreditation receive many benefits including an enhanced resume, beneficial new contacts, insight and shared wisdom from others at the courses and the personal satisfaction gained by continually learning,” Berger says. “Once you start thinking you know it all and have nothing left to learn, chances are you are already behind the curve.”

Many of these courses focus on best practices, both for new managers learning the business and experienced managers sharing their knowledge.

“Managers benefit both from the fact that they receive the required credits to renew their licenses and also the interaction with other managers,” van der Laan says. “The relationships that develop among managers with a common interest in bettering their education becomes a wonderful resource that lasts throughout their careers.”

Plus, Glazer says, if you don’t know what you’re doing, and a string of poor decisions or failures to act appropriately results in damage or liability for your client communities, a manager could lose his or her license.

One To Grow On

Managers should be selective about the classes they take by scrutinizing both the format of the class and the instructors’ experience. Some managers prefer to be taught by an attorney, since the bulk of their questions may be legal in nature. Other managers may prefer a more relaxed and informal class setting where they're encouraged to dialogue directly with the instructor.

According to Berger, every management company with whom she works closely absolutely encourage their managers to take continuing education seriously. That’s why attending classes and webinars, and reading industry-specific periodicals and books are all necessary building blocks to success.

“Becker & Poliakoff alone teaches more than three-dozen courses with wide-ranging topics,” she says. “Our Anatomy of a Water Leak class helps managers tackle one of the most common problems in many multifamily buildings. Our other topics include Legal Updates (always a necessity for managers to learn what just passed up in Tallahassee and how to implement it in their communities), Disaster Preparedness and Recovery, Construction Projects Gone Wild and more.”

And because many of these courses are taught free of charge, Glazer says there’s no reason why a manager shouldn’t go.

“For the most part, I have yet to see more than a handful of places that charge for the privilege of attending a class. Having them for free is a good learning opportunity on both sides,” Marzan says. “It helps the professional if the managers are better prepared. It will help protect them from liability and will help to develop the relationship.”

Keith Loria is a freelance writer and afrequent contributor to The South Florida Cooperator.

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