Hiring Your Next Homeowner Association (HOA) General Manager – Five Critical Qualities
GSI Executive Search is widely known as a trusted industry leader in placing executive and senior staff positions in private clubs – from country clubs, athletic clubs, city clubs and yacht clubs to other business and professional clubs. Yet you may not know that we also specialize in placing top professionals within a unique niche – community/homeowner associations (HOAs for short – also known as property owner associations, or POAs) – and our years of success in this area have given us special insight into the professional and personal qualities that set candidates on paths to success.
There’s no doubt that top private club general managers are accomplished, experienced and charismatic individuals. The best ones just have that “It” factor. But HOA executives are a special breed. HOAs themselves are diverse in size, scale, geography and more. They can be as small as a single-structure apartment building or as large as a city. That, in turn, necessitates a diversity of skills, experiences and abilities.
If you’re considering hiring your next HOA general manager, CEO, COO or VP of Operations, consider these five essential qualities that set top candidates apart from the rest:
- Proven leadership and a calming, professional presence. Certainly, people skills are essential for most jobs that require personal interaction. But for HOA leaders, they are critical. Indeed, HOA executives must possess elevated powers of politicking and diplomacy; they must truly be diplomacy experts. Given that HOA members live in their communities, it’s safe to say that HOA boards and committees traditionally are more active and engaged than private club boards. Members themselves tend to be older in age, often retired, sensitive to changes and added expenses and passionate in their beliefs. Even small changes can stir strong emotions, and not every policy decision will meet with popular acceptance. The successful HOA executive must therefore be able to bring people together, facilitate collaboration, resolve disputes and keep the HOA and its stakeholders moving in a positive direction.
- Transparency and communication. Related to leadership, transparency and open communication are essential for HOA leaders. HOAs themselves are governed by bylaws that necessitate open board meetings. Sunshine laws even apply in some states, so executives must embrace transparency as a core value—not only because it’s desirable, but because it may be required. As for open communication, HOA GMs interact with many different types of individuals and roles—from residents, board and committee members to contractors, vendors, accountants, government officials and more. Communication with everyone should be clear, concise and persuasive, but in a way that respects differing opinions, backgrounds and beliefs.
- Diverse business, governance and human capital backgrounds and skills. Many HOA executives run large, multilayered entities that include substantial infrastructure – e.g., buildings, parking lots, roads, water and wastewater treatment systems, security, disaster preparedness and recovery systems and more. As stated earlier, any HOA, whether it’s an apartment / condominium complex, gated club community or incorporated community, is akin to a self-contained city. So just as a city manager would possess broad knowledge of public works, governance, business, finance and human capital systems, so too must an HOA executive. Therefore, having a demonstrated track record of experience in areas such as real estate, accounting/finance, strategic planning, capital planning, personal management and even the law is extremely desirable.
- Hyper-responsiveness. As is evident, HOA GMs and leaders have a lot on their plates. Still, problems and issues that arise and are brought to their attention must be addressed quickly, and with the intent of achieving measurable resolution. Sometimes, the GM must be the one to fix the problem. Other times, it’s best for he/she to delegate responsibility and stay abreast of progress so they can communicate outcomes to stakeholders if and when need be. When HOA GMs are organized, have systems in place to respond to issues or requests and keep track of progress, they will earn the trust of residents, employees and even external stakeholders. That, in turn, will make people feel more comfortable approaching him/her with concerns. In the end, that makes the community a better place in which to live.
- Industry involvement. While HOAs come in many shapes and sizes, there’s a lot to be learned from industry best practices—and often, industry associations (for example, CAI (the Community Associations Institute) are facilitators for new trends and ideas. They also offer invaluable continuing education, as well as certification programs, seminars, conferences and more. As a result, HOA executives that stay active with HOA industry associations and access these resources can leverage them in ways that make their communities more desirable.
Related blog: Selecting a Private Club Executive Search Firm – the Seven Qualities That Truly Matter
If you are a resident of an HOA or serve on the board or a committee, I urge you to keep these five qualities in mind when considering executive candidates. Exceptional HOA/POA GMs can be the key to maintaining standards of excellence that distinguish top communities. They can also elevate HOAs to new levels of service and quality. At GSI Executive Search, we’ve witnessed this first-hand through successful GM and senior staff placements at HOA communities throughout the U.S. For current or upcoming placements, I urge you to reach out—I can explain our search process in detail, including our GSI Executive Search guarantee, and provide insights on your staffing challenge that can help you position your HOA for success.
About the Author
Scott McNett is the Senior Principal with GSI Executive Search and is based in the firm’s Midwest office in St. Louis. He has executed roughly 400 successful placements of senior and mid-level management with two club- and hospitality-specific search firms. His 30 years of professional experience spans executive search, homeowner associations, professional sports, sports marketing and management, health and tennis club operations and community service. You can reach Scott by email or at 314-854-1321.