Sixteen years ago, Wayde Scheffer was a vice-president with United National Bank in Califon, New Jersey. He was also president of his condo association board, and he wasn't particularly impressed with the parade of management companies that he had been charged with interviewing. "This is how we do things" seemed to be the party line among company representatives at the time, Scheffer recalls—a take-it-or-leave it approach that he felt didn't offer much hope for personalized service. At some point in the selection process, a fellow board member turned to Scheffer with a momentous suggestion: "Geez, Wayde—you should do this!" And so he did.
Scheffer promptly resigned from the board, put together a management plan, and won the contract. It took a while—a year, to be precise—but he eventually won another one with a different association. And then another. And another. Today, Scheffer's company, Access Property Management, manages approximately 15,000 units in some 80 community associations from eastern Pennsylvania to the northern Jersey Shore.
At first, Scheffer handled the accounting side of the business with the help of a part-time bookkeeper and hired on-site managers to oversee the properties themselves. Those two functions—financial services and physical property management—remain at the heart of what Access does. Only now, the company's accounting department comprises nine people, including a collections officer, accounts receivable and payable clerks, and one person devoted entirely to closings. "That's a process on its own," says controller Stacey Nixon. Access also employs 20 property managers, including nine on-site managers who work directly from offices with the company's largest clients, and 11 portfolio managers who oversee anywhere from three to 10 clients each from the company's own offices in Flemington, Edison, and Eatontown.
According to Scott Dalley, the company's senior vice-president, the community associations that Access serves contain anywhere from a dozen units to over 2,000. While it is primarily a residential property management company, five to 10 percent of the organization's business comes from commercial property management, an area where both Dalley and Scheffer would like to see future growth. (Dalley points to the growing trend away from traditional office leases and toward condominium office buildings, "where instead of spending your money on rent, you actually own one or more units.")
Access to Basics
Dalley joined Access in 1996, having previously served as director of Hunterdon Youth Services. Like Scheffer, he had also been president of his condo board. Dalley now oversees the company's property managers—a role for which he is particularly well-suited, having first worked as an on-site manager for the company, and later as a portfolio manager, as well.