What is Management?

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"Management is the responsibility for and control of a company." What can park owners do to be better management leaders?

Don't you agree that our business has become more complicated by economics, government regulation, and the need to stay profit-able? Whether you are the direct park owner/manager or use a management company, the ultimate responsibility lies with owners. Who cares about your check-book balance more than you?

Do employees know our management direction and is it consistently implemented? We all should have our structure to accomplish goals of our management direction. Mentioned in this article are suggestions that are critical to our businesses, service to our residents, retention of employees, and to stay out of court.

I'm sure you're already a dedicated successful business person. Even with the busy schedules we have today, is it worth your time and money to be an more effective park owner. These suggestions I will present are proven to work: in one park, for example, there have been only three management teams in the last thirty years, each staying ten years. A dedicated staff have stayed and performed very well for five to nineteen years. They have eighty five residents who have been living in the park for ten or more years with fifteen residents being at the park for twenty or more years. Survey results show resident satisfaction as "happy" and they would recommend the park to family and friends.

A good management team is the biggest factor to success of our businesses.

Many find that the use of a professional property management company is critical. It can be risky to operate your park without a full and complete knowledge of all current laws and trends. You must ask yourself if you have that knowledge or the time to do re-search necessary to effectively run your park.

Our business is far too complicated for us to know all aspects of a changing environment. Whether it is local politics, timely and correct response to personnel and resident issues, or help with business strategies, it is very complicated and costly to make un-informed decisions. It's difficult to be effective at all things at all times. (Keep in mind that your WMA local representative is an important source of information regarding local laws and regulations.)

Just as property managers have specialists; our businesses should have specialists within our parks with specific responsibilities. Without specific assignments no one will feel responsible for tasks.

As a reminder, the following suggestions may be helpful in managing your business.

"Park within a Park" Rental Homes

Today, many of us have come to rely upon park rentals to maintain profitability and cash flow. If this is the case for your business, someone in your organization must have your rental business as their first responsibility. Prospective renters have to be found and vetted, and decisions made based on the data collected. Do you want to be the collector of all this information? Probably not.

Knowing the reasons why people choose your park is also import-ant. It's good to be aware of the reasons people move in or out. What motivated them to select your park? Using a questionnaire to find out this information will help reveal trends that may help you to manage your rentals more effectively. How can you know your rental business if you don't have data to support decisions and the future for your rental business?

When selling or refinancing a park, buyers and lenders can make informed decisions if you are well documented. Financing can be difficult when rentals are big part of your revenue and expenses. It is a confidence builder for your loan representative and their loan committee if a solid case can be made that you are managing your rental business well.

Develop a "work-order" process, so renters can let you know if something needs to be repaired. Their satisfaction will keep turn-over low.

Know your Inventory

Knowing your inventory is a key factor in projecting your future rental business and cash needs. With up to date information, you will know what each home needs in order to be ready for rental.

Homes need to be safe and acceptable to be rented. If you have a few rentals, it is easy to know the specifics of each home. If you have fifty homes rented and ten needing work, organized and specific data is needed to know which home should be scheduled first for refurbishing.

Curb appeal is a first and lasting impression. People will form opinions about your business based on what they see first.

Consider a color pallet for homes to be painted. (I'm sure we have all seen resident or manager se-lections that are less attractive than we would like them to be.) Keeping a consistent color pallet across your park will have an aesthetically pleasing effect. If you do this, there will be no surprises when you visit your park.

Keep an Eye on Past Due Rents

Our life blood is collecting rents. Monitoring the past due amounts, identifying chronic slow payers, issuing three and sixty day notices, and being a bill collector is a critical aspect of park management. Telephone calls and letters need to be sent, followed up, and timely action needs to be taken to collect rent.

Collection communication takes a special type of person. The per-son responsible for collection may or may not have the personality to collect from people they see every day. If not, see if someone else in your organization would be a better fit.

Managing our Managers and Staff

Once people have been found, hired, and trained, keeping them around is very important. Employees leaving is costly and de-moralizing. It's important to let employees know what is expected of them, and inspect their work. Document their work tasks, and have periodic reviews. This may seem like a lot of work, but the benefits to your business will be great.

One of a manager's important tasks is to be visible to residents and staff. They must be aware of the local politics, changes to city laws and what new issues are the current hot topics. They are your eyes and ears to what is being talked about by your residents.

The following are some ideas to consider when you want loyalty from employees:

-Paid vacation

-Health Insurance, full or partial payment by park

-Give managers permission to take a "resident to lunch" or to do something they feel will help resident satisfaction

-Allow your manager to grant limited "personal time" for doctors appointments and family issues

-Allow law mandated sick days

-Surprise "half day off ". It doesn'tcost much, and will buy productivity when they come back

-"All Hands" quarterly luncheon to review past performance and plans for the near short term

-For special efforts and major projects completed, give paid days off, or gift certificates to take their family out for dinner

It is not the size of thank you, it is the recognition. don't we all like the recognition from work that we can share with family and friends?

Let employees know "your way" of handling resident questions, resident requests, and complaints.

Homes Being Vandalized

Have you had thefts or vandalism to resident homes, yard, and car, park facilities, or had equipment being stolen? It's important to make sure that your staff members are driving the park all day. Make them your eyes and ears for suspicious people or delivery trucks. Have managers develop a relationship with local police.

Train your Neighborhood Watch group and recognize their efforts with periodic coffee and cookies, or lunch.

Buy a used police car and rotate it around the interior and exterior of the park. In one park a resident bought the car for $1,000. It looks like an undercover police car and is working to scare petty thieves. Pit bulls, armed residents, and vigilantes are not suggested.

I know some of the suggestions will take a while to implement and some of these you won'tlike, however it's necessary to make the effort to do something that will be noticed by employees and residents.

You will find that if you have taken the time to do some of the things that were mentioned, the small stuff will come more easily.

MHCO would like to thank WMA (Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association) for this informative article. Thank you!

Vance DiMaria has been a managing partner of Casa Del Rey MHC in Hemet and a partner in other communities in California and Arizona. He can be reached at 949.378.8285 phone; 949.831.1514 fax; and email: jvdmaria@aol.com.

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