On the homepage of River Vale-based management company Arthur Edwards, Inc., a picture of a little boy in an oversized cowboy hat is placed above the question, "What can a cowboy hat teach us about Professional Management Relationships?" The answer: "It's important to find the right fit."
That's the feeling of founder and chief executive officer Edward Frank, who started Arthur Edwards after a while in the industry and following graduation with a college degree in accounting. The vision of a management company "dedicated to service, experience and commitment" has kept Frank excited about the management industry, as well as the growth and quality of his own business.
From its headquarters in River Vale, Arthur Edwards, Inc. currently manages 40 communities. According to Frank, those 40 communities include four co-ops, 30 condo associations and six HOAs. There are 21 people on staff as full-time employees. However, during the summer, "when the bees are buzzing and the pools are full," Frank says that number increases to around 26.
When it comes to staff, Frank is clear about the kind of person he's interested in hiring and working with. "I hire people passionate about their goals and objectives," he says. "If they want to answer phones all day, and that's satisfying to them, that's great—I hire people who are always looking for ways to better themselves. Around here, you have to feel good about your work."
Frank himself says that because of his enduring enthusiasm for his job, some view him as something of an oddity. "I love coming into my office. I love answering 100 e-mails, I love picking up the phone."
Frank says he tries to ensure that his employees share his enthusiasm for their work, but that he's strict about their level of competency. Arthur Edwards managers carry various different management certifications and designations, from Association Management Specialist (AMS) to Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA) to the highest level of distinction, the title of Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM).
According to Frank, his goal is to eventually have every manager working for him be PCAM certified, but for now, all of his managerial staff members must have between five and 10 years of prior experience before coming on board. "Sharing that kind of experience with clients is critical," he says. "There's nothing that we haven't come across in 20 years of doing this."
But Frank is quick to point out that anyone who says they have all the answers is usually bluffing. "If someone calls and tells me their fridge is broken, and it's not an association responsibility, we don't come fix their fridge. But I do tell them—usually while they're on the phone--that 'ABC Fridge Company,' for example, is in the area and does great work. You simply cannot take the 'that's not my job' approach."
Frank adds that for him, the real service indicator comes in the follow-up. "We're always looking for ways to improve something we did yesterday—service can never remain stagnant. If the person calls ABC Fridge, I want to know how that worked out so I can share that information with the next person."
"Communication and information are the keys to any successful business and certainly any successful property," says Frank. In keeping with this belief, Frank runs his company with an eye on technology, utilizing the opportunities that presents to make both his agents' and his clients' lives easier.
"We embrace technology—by doing so, we can exceed our client's expectations. For example, if a resident calls my office and wants a copy of their association's bylaws, it used to take much more time to get them that information. It would cost around $75 dollars to have someone go find the file, stand at the copy machine and then send it through the mail to them. They would get what they wanted over the course of several days. Now, we can send them what they need while we're talking to them on the phone."
Frank says that all his company's files are electronically managed, so there are no big filing cabinets to navigate, making information more rapidly available. "This is good for the client and good for my organization, too," he says. "The overhead costs go down for the client and at the same time allow us to be more efficient. There's less paper and fewer postage stamps being used."
Most management companies have been on the technological bandwagon for years, now, and due to advances like the Internet, the benefits to homeowners are great. Many HOA's, co-ops and condos have their own websites, giving them the capability to inform residents of community announcements, events and improvement projects that are being proposed and updates on those projects currently underway. The Arthur Edwards website seeks to be yet another tool for the company to assist clients by detailing services offered, outlining goals and providing links to individual community websites.
"On our site, we give owners with passwords access to all kinds of information," says Frank. "Rather than making a phone call to the office, they can access information at their leisure, 24 hours a day, seven days a week." The speedy transference of data has only helped the industry grow, and has enabled homeowners to be more informed and involved in the home owning process.
"Over the past 20 years, our lives have changed because of the capabilities we have for instant access to information," says Frank. "We can do ten times as much as we used to. The old adage, 'What have you done for me lately?' is now, 'What have you done for me in the last five nanoseconds?' By using these advances in technology, we can accelerate our resources and strengthen our commitment to our clients."
Rising to the Challenges
But the business of property management is not without its struggles. Frank says that even though the speed of technology has aided the industry exponentially, it's only part of the "information and communication" equation for success.
"I'd like to see better communication, industry-wide, between board members and owners and their management companies," he says. "I'd like [board members and owners] to have an increased level of awareness of what their responsibilities are, too. Many times, changes in the board means changes in management companies, and sometimes that kind of 'growth' isn't healthy for the industry."
Frank adds that no management company should ever lose a client, no matter what changes the board or ownership of the building might encounter. "With proper communication and information, that doesn't have to happen." Frank also says that one of his objectives is to constantly reconcile growth with quality, something that certainly plagues many expanding companies such as his.
"Any company needs to monitor growth—you have to maintain levels of service while you add resources." Frank says, "I've turned business down in the past. If we're not prepared to take on a 300-, 400- or 500-unit building without infringing on the service we currently provide to our existing clients, I won't take that project on."
Frank says that while he is certainly looking to grow his business, the dedication to high quality results keeps him from grand illusions. "I don't have a vision to suddenly be the largest management company in the tri-state area," he says with a chuckle. "I'd rather grow at a steady pace."
According to Frank, that kind of growth at Arthur Edwards, Inc. is right on schedule. "We've grown at a rate of about 10 percent a year, every year," he says. He plans in the beginning of 2006 to take on about five new clients while also working to improve value for his existing customers. Frank is not modest about what he feels his company has to offer. "We have great resources and terrific talent. We want to share that—it's to the client's benefit and to ours."
Mary Fons is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor toThe New Jersey Cooperator.