The Great Melt of 2014 Means Buildings Are in Need of Repairs

Thank goodness it’s spring! The entire country battled a tough winter, so I’m sure you’re all breathing the same sigh of relief I am. Although the end of winter was a great thing, here in Chicago it caused what I like to call the “Great Melt of 2014”. For me, the snow, ice and extreme cold were bad; the resulting Great Melt of 2014 was much worse.

A little background: In 2007, I bought a second-floor two-bedroom condo on Chicago’s northwest side. The three-floor, 15-unit building had recently been gut rehabbed and I was among the first owners. For seven years, my neighbors and I have dealt with numerous construction defects; the board even passed a special assessment soon after we all moved in to deal with masonry issues. I still believe the developer is laughing on a beach somewhere with my money and I’d love to sue my inspector, but those are stories for another day.

When the Great Melt of 2014 began, as you can imagine, new problem areas arose. I couldn’t catch all the water pouring into my unit—through the back door’s frame, around a ceiling HVAC vent, through the HVAC ductwork in the utility closet and even through the microwave. Yes, you read that right. Through the microwave. The management company brought a contractor out who claimed water pouring through a duct is just condensation. Really? Even if it was condensation—which I vehemently disagreed with—who considers it OK for water to pour into their home?

After some aggressive emails and phone calls from yours truly, the management company sent another contractor to the building who diagnosed problems with the masonry (again), inappropriate mortar used on the steps leading out of our back doors onto the typical Chicago-style wraparound porch, poor incorporation of our outside-facing doors with the masonry, bad caulking around my exhaust vent (the kitchen exhaust fan is integrated with my microwave above the stove), gutter and downspout problems, and ice dams.

The point of writing about my experience—other than the therapeutic process of writing about nerve-racking problems—is condo boards and management companies could use construction partners who provide regular maintenance, make them aware of issues spotted during maintenance visits and ultimately minimize unit owners’ stress. In “Business Sense”, page 23, Scott Otey, vice president and managing partner of West Coast Florida Enterprises Inc., Naples and Fort Myers, writes about how his business has partnered with condo associations and management companies and has even joined the Falls Church, Va.-based Community Associations Institute.

The partnership not only helps the condo residents, but also keeps Otey’s team busy. I’m sure you’ll glean some ideas from him about how to network with these groups and make yourself invaluable to them.

Despite the ongoing issues with my building, I have many friends who live in multifamily buildings in Chicago that also experienced leaks during the Great Melt of 2014. Feel free to use our experiences to prove how indispensable partnerships between contractors and condo associations/management companies can be.

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Improve Your Relationship with Condo Associations

Is your roofing company struggling to make ends meet, or are you searching for new ways to make your company thrive? I think at some time in every business owner’s career they come to a point where they realize that just being “good” isn’t good enough in today’s competitive marketplace unless your service or product is truly niche.

In the roofing industry, let’s be honest, there are quite a few of us out there. In my neck of the woods it’s not difficult to find two-dozen or more competitors. This is why my firm has to come up with ways to set ourselves apart from the pack. One of the best ways to do this is by improving our business relationship with condominium associations and board members, as well as property managers. These relationships have led to us not only being the first contractor called when there’s a problem at a building, but we also have received a number of referrals.

There are many ways to build relationships with condo associations and management companies, and I can almost guarantee that if you do it right your company will see gains like never before.

Network

To get your foot in the door, search the Internet for “condo management associations”. In my area of southwest Florida, the Falls Church, Va.-based Community Associations Institute is active. We joined the group and attend its chapters’ networking events. Groups like these are where condo managers decide on their “favorite” contractors. They talk to each other; “word of mouth” is a huge marketing tool. If you want to be on their minds, you need to be on their invitation list for these meetings. Once these relationships are built, managers won’t be looking for cheap bids anymore. You put yourself closer to the driver’s seat for potential negotiations.

If you personally don’t have a profile on LinkedIn, you’re missing a HUGE opportunity to network on America’s largest social-networking platform for professionals. Join LinkedIn for free and, if you own a company, be sure to build your company page, too. Then search for groups in your state or city that relate to property managers or condo associations. Most importantly, don’t just be a fly on the wall in these groups. Comment on other members’ posts and share your knowledge. This is how you add value and what makes your company unique. Being active online will increase activity toward your website; by the way, you should have a website worth sharing.

Don’t Sell; Educate

When joining these groups, don’t just sell yourself or your company because people are tired of being sold. Instead of touting how great your company is to every property manager you meet, try finding out their pain-points and objections and then educate them about how your services will make life easier for them. This is HUGE!

We recently asked approximately 50 building managers via email what frustrated them the most in dealing with contractors. We received informative answers that will help our business. Consider the following frustrations building managers cited:

  • Long response times: 25 percent
  • Taking too long to perform tasks: 25 percent
  • Not returning phone calls: 25 percent
  • Not following HOA rules/regulations: 15 percent
  • Dirty contractors and vehicles: 10 percent

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