Vendor Relationships Working With Those Who Work for You

If you’re a co-op, condo or HOA board member or manager, you have to deal with vendors and service providers constantly; it’s a routine part of the day-to-day running of any building or association. There are always inspections to be done, repairs to be made, new projects to be undertaken, and accounts to manage. And there are all types of vendors, from laundry-room operators to elevator repair companies to snow removers to landscape designers—even people who go up in a crane to work on a water tank 20 stories above the ground. While in some developments an exercise room or gym may be taken care of by volunteers and administered by a committee, in others it may be outsourced to a professional exercise room operator, and they, too, would be classified as a vendor. 

All in all, good vendors are one of your building’s greatest assets. It’s in both the board’s and the vendor’s interests to have a strong relationship and make sure a good job gets done. And it’s important to have a vendor who’s used to working with multifamily developments. Because vendors are so important to the running of an association, keeping on good terms with them, negotiating in good faith, and selecting new ones are of primary importance to boards and managers.

The Board, the Manager, or Both?

Who usually makes decisions regarding vendor choices and service bids for boards? Often, it’s some combination of the board and the managing agent or property manager.

“The best process,” says Ralph Westerhoff, CEO of BrickWork Management Inc. in New York City, “involves a partnership between the board and management. We like to make sure the board is always aware of everything we’re doing, even for small projects.”

Often, boards or managers have long-term relationships with their vendors, and they like to keep it that way. To change a laundry room operator, for example, requires a lot of disruption—washing machines have to be taken out, which in itself requires heavy equipment, and often new plumbing connections have to be made for the new equipment, new contracts must be vetted and signed, and so on. 

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