It takes one to know one.
Matthew Johnson understands the inner workings of homeowners association (HOA) because he once served as a vice president on an HOA board in Scottsdale, Ariz. And, he previously worked for a community association management firm, helping to manage planned condominium communities.
Johnson was a property manager when Asset Landscaping’s co-owner and president Kevin Robinson was running the maintenance firm. “I became friends with Kevin, and when he eventually asked me if I wanted to invest and buy out [the partners of the company], I said yes,” Johnson says of how they came together.
Landscape maintenance was a learning process for Johnson. But he brought the HOA knowledge to the table. Plus, he had been intimately involved with communities’ complex irrigation projects.
Today, the bulk of Asset Landscaping’s work is in the planned community arena.
Before Johnson came on board, the company focused on apartment complex maintenance. Transitioning to community-based projects required some infrastructural changes, Johnson shares.
“We definitely increased our customer service capabilities,” he says. This was important because of the many stakeholders involved in HOA work. There is the property manger (or several), HOA board members and residents.
“You need to communicate on many fronts,” he says, adding that it’s important to have the resources to handle call volume. “You need to spend time on the phone speaking to clients, explaining things or getting back to them with their requests.”
Heading up communication efforts at Asset is a client care manager who handles all incoming calls and dispatches work orders. This improves response time and ensures that all requests are given attention. “Her job is to be the liaison between customer service, sales and operations so each department is tied together,” Johnson says.
The positive about shifting into HOA work is that it tends to be more stable in an uncertain economy compared to apartment complex business, Johnson says. “An apartment complex is a business first and foremost,” he relates. “Every single day they are attracting customers (residents) and keeping those customers happy. They are also on budgets and have cash flow issues, and the economy can affect them more so than other segments. So your ability to do the right thing is limited.”
The right thing Johnson refers to is sustainable practices, and the company’s HOA clients have embraced its techniques. Plus, he adds, “Planned communities were generally more stable in the down economy than multi-family or commercial work.”