Get Smart Continuing Education for Association Managers

The most successful property managers realize they don't know everything. To achieve an optimal level of efficiency in the workplace, a manager must stay abreast of current legal developments, evolving building technology, and fresh communication methods in association administration.

Few in this business actually study association management and—right after school step into a management position. Most enter from other fields and learn association management specifics on the job. Many managers network with other industry professionals, an excellent method of staying current; others read leading industry publications like The New Jersey Cooperator…another smart move.

Additionally, some attend conventions, and others learn from supervisors. Indeed, there are many ways to expand knowledge in this industry, but few methods are more instrumental to a manager’s career than continuing education classes. The New Jersey Cooperator’sCondo, HOA, Co-op and Apt. Expo, now in its eighth year of serving board members, property managers, building owners and residents, will take place at the Meadowlands Expo Center in Secaucus on Saturday, May 9, 2015.

Surprisingly, continuing education isn’t a difficult process. Some management companies make it really easy by actually paying for classes, while other classes are free of charge. Plus, not only do classes help property managers improve their skills and services, they help advance careers and compensation packages, as well.

Association managers in New Jersey have a wide range of choices for continuing education. Courses are offered by organizations like the Community Associations Institute (CAI), the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM), and the New Jersey Apartment Association (NJAA). Many law firms and professional businesses that service the industry host classes, also.

CAI Courses

CAI, says Frank Rathbun, the senior vice president of communications, has a program that can lead to a hierarchy of professional credentials and designations. “Our Professional Management Development Program (PMDP) features 17 courses beginning with The Essentials of Community Association Management and followed by Facilities Management, Community Governance, Financial Management, and Managing the Large-Scale Association,” says Rathbun. For a complete list of the courses, go to www.caionline.org.

“Seven of the courses are offered online,” Rathbun says. “All of them, with the exception of Ethics, are also offered in the classroom setting. Most classes are $445 for CAI members and $545 for non-members. Many management companies do support their managers by paying for the courses. When managers have designations, it tells you a lot…they’re committed. More than 5,000 managers take classroom or online courses annually.”

Rathbun makes a good case for the value of continuing education. “An educated manager is a better manager. These days, community associations are looking for the best, most professional management they can get. The industry’s best practices change; laws change; requirements change. You want a manager who stays abreast of updates in the business,” he says.

He points out there are many specialized designations and levels of education offered, and at a pace that managers can handle. Rathbun acknowledges that getting a manager out of the office and away from duties can be challenging but boards and management companies need to understand the intrinsic value.

Though, sometimes it's impossible to get to a class physically. “We know there’s an advantage to the classroom experience, such as networking and sharing information with peers. However, we have worked hard to get these courses online to make them more convenient.”

“In addition to our PMDP courses,” says Rathbun, “we also offer up to a dozen live webinars a year covering a wide range of topics on association governance, management, and operations. These webinars are also available on demand in an online archive.” To view upcoming and past webinars, visit www.caionline.org. For the New Jersey chapter of CAI, visit www.cainj.org or for the Pennsylvania and Delaware Valley chapter, go to www.cai-padelval.org.

Classes with IREM

Like CAI, IREM has its own hierarchy of credentials. Lynne Magnavite, senior director of education for IREM says: “IREM offers courses in classroom and online formats. Some of these classes serve as the education requirement for our credentials; some courses are specifically for professional development. The courses [leading to credentialing] are designed for both.”

The course offerings are divided into 11 topic areas including ethics, finance and asset management, human resources, leadership, leasing, maintenance, managing the management, marketing and communications, public policy and advocacy, risk management, and sustainability.

“We have two types of delivery methods, classroom and self-paced online,” explains Magnavite. “Most of the courses have intermittent quizzes, and all have an end-of-course exam. Our course design is flexible. If a student wishes to follow a credentialing path, they will have to take end-of-course assessments. If a student wants to take the course for professional development, they don’t.”

To learn more about IREM offerings, visit www.irem.org/education. Credentialing courses range from $180 for a one-day course at the member rate to $770 for a four-day course at the nonmember price. Personal development classes cost less than $100 for members and up to $119 for non-members.

For local scheduling of classes and educational events, check the New Jersey chapter of IREM, www.irem1.org, or the Southern New Jersey chapter, found at www.irem101.org.

Magnavite feels sure that education pays off because IREM has studied its own members. Seventy percent of members who hold a Certified Property Manager (CPM) designation, “hold the highest management positions (owner/partner or officer/director),” she states. “Total median compensation packages for CPM members can exceed the packages of CPM candidates of the same age, the same amount of experience and education, and with similar portfolio sizes by at least 13 percent and, in some brackets, by as much as 45 percent.”

Attorney Teachers

Many law firms offer classes and less structured events for association management personnel as a service to their customers. Jennifer Loheac is a shareholder attorney along with J. David Ramsey in the Morristown office of Becker & Poliakoff, a law firm serving condos and community associations. She says that “Managers, in particular, are on the front lines and in the trenches so working with managers to help educate them on the law while also listening to managers to better understand some of the practical problems they encounter day-to-day strengthen all of us and our professional services to associations.”

“We have used all kinds of formats for our presentations and classes over the years, depending on the topic and the level of experience in the audience,” says Loheac. “Panel discussions are among my favorites because they usually involve a diverse group of speakers. For example, we routinely add an accountant or an engineer to a panel discussion on a particular topic. So, if we’re discussing storm management or security…the managers in attendance benefit from legal counsel, engineering practical tips as well as advice on how to fund certain emergency procedures.”

Class topics are wide-ranging. Loheac notes that “Disaster relief from both the federal government through FEMA as well as one’s insurance company, umbrella insurance policies, management licensure, alternative dispute resolution law and policy, fair-housing issues, smoking in communities, mental illness and potential liabilities for known dangers in a community, rights of landlord tenants versus residential owners, free-speech versus private-property disputes, rent-receivership difficulties are among some of the most recent discussions, and with each one of these umbrella topics comes a number of more sophisticated subtopics, as one would imagine in any kind of interdependent living situation.”

In addition to classes in varying formats on a variety of topics, she says, “We also offer several presentations to the larger community. We either hold these at our offices in Morristown or visit management companies at their place of business to incorporate our seminar into a larger meeting that management companies are holding with their company.”

Boards can benefit, too. “Over the years,” says Loheac, “we have discovered that boards of trustees benefit from an occasional session with the association attorney to discuss basics in law, such as holding meetings, taking minutes, communicating with owners, fiduciary duties and more. The first part of our board member training is more of an instructional (usually including two of us), and then the second part is where we answer our client’s questions on a range of issues/questions and goals. Sometimes the questions range from answering lenders and finding financing for larger projects to issues involving the Fair Housing Act.”    

Loheac is enthusiastic about classes for managers and boards. “I personally love to research, write, and present on innovative and challenging issues to our industry,” she says.    

Keith Loria is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to The New Jersey Cooperator.

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