Mention the name Melinda Masson and everyone knows she is an industry icon. She is the founder and CEO of The Merit Companies, which included Merit Property Management, Inc., Merit Association Services, Inc., and Merit Rental Management. She was the principle founder of CACM, which 25 years ago began training, recognition and state-specific certification for California Community Managers a first of its kind in the US. She is currently the co-founder and CEO of Scripsense, Inc., an online fundraising program for member-based organizations and non-profits.
What is the most important thing that you’ve come to realize about HOA management now that you are not “active” in the HOA management business any longer?
Answer: It used to be that being a Community Manager was an “interim” job. Now it’s a “destination” or career job requiring unique skills and specialized training. Success for management companies can come in a couple of avenues: (1) realize that there are regional differences between HOA boards and interact with them in different ways. An HOA board in Sacramento is different than one in San Diego or Las Vegas or San Francisco. (2) Management companies are in the business for either “margin” or “market share”. Understanding their model is key to their growth and success.
What advice can you give new community managers coming into the HOA industry?
Answer: Get as much training & California specific education as you can from your company, CACM, CAI, vendors and other professionals. Success can be achieved in many ways. Find and obtain a mentor. You need someone who you can trust, bounce ideas off of and who will give you guidance.
How would you reduce community manager turnover?
Answer: Reducing manager turnover is a company by company and client challenge. Management companies should treat their employees as an asset and train them to retain them. CACM developed a state-specific certification program, specialty certificates for high rise, large scale, portfolio and new development communities, and a Master’s level certification that only exists in California. This state specific training and certification is key for both manager and client retention. This was very evident that the expanded education platforms are critical to the success of the manager when I served on the Task Force Committee for the next Leader for CACM.
Many new infill projects badly need HOA management; yet they often go without. Do you have any ideas on how to get HOA management to the thousands of smaller (less than 30 unit) communities that have no management?
Answer: Technology can create an on-line platform where HOA board members can get the educational advice they need. And, a management company could also create a technology platform where it would be easier for a community manager to manage many smaller HOA’s; unlike a typical portfolio manager. The answer to getting small HOA’s management services and support they may need lies in technology.
One large national builder is asking their management company to survey their boards to get better feedback of management performance and other issues. Is this a good idea?
Answer: Yes, surveying your clients is always a good idea. But first builders and management companies must understand the need for the survey – which is, to better understand your buyer, your client.
What mistakes do you see Builders making at newly built HOA’s? What advice or “best practices” can you give home builders that builders should always implement at their new communities?
Answer: Builders must actively listen to their buyers; survey more. Because of the “Great Recession” builders now have a paucity of new project managers and vendors who may not be able to adequately staff their new projects. It’s critical to attract, hire, train and retain millennial talent now for future project development. Builders need to aim for steady growth and not be susceptible to the typical 7-year market cycles.
Having sold Merit to FirstService you are aware of the national roll-up wave hitting HOA management companies. Do you think that this consolidation will continue?
Answer: Consolidation may continue with the forerunners of Associa and FirstService, plus regionally there have been players that have consolidated; not only in California but in other states. However, I don’t see any large new national players on the horizon. In discussions with venture capitalists it’s apparent that the balance sheets of most management companies are too weak to support another large player.
Please tell us about your new enterprise, Scripsense, Inc.
Answer: The word Scrip and its concept have been around for many decades. Scrip is just another form of legal tender. In wanting to “disrupt an archaic practice”; I partnered with a former employee when she came to me with a concept. We researched, hired a professional Strategy firm and Scripsense (making common sense of a Scrip process) was born: Scripsense is where innovation meets philanthropy. In summary, the “elevator speech is”: Scripsense provides the easiest, most effective technology available for organizations to raise money by empowering members to give through their everyday spending. Using Scripsense’s interactive shopping program, organizations and their members can keep track of all cash rebates earned for the organization when their members purchase eGift cards, and using online shopping for products or services from merchants nationwide. Nonprofits, schools, charities, religious institutions and associations of all types benefit from easier, more successful fundraising, while requiring significantly less busy-work for coordinators and members. Scripsense is so powerful and easy to use that it has become the one-stop-shop for fundraising campaigns and organizations. (http://www.scripsense.com )
What is something that our readers would be surprised to know about you?
Answer: That I didn’t stay retired! I took some time off, spent and continue to spend time with my children; now all adults, traveled to some great places and took up golfing more seriously. It wasn’t that I was bored; I just love a great challenge!
Please tell us the funniest thing that has happened to you at an HOA meeting or in the industry?
Answer: Actually it’s been in this new role. As the CEO of Scripsense, part of my role is to raise venture capital to expand the company. Imagine having a meeting start with a potential investor saying, “I know who you are. You used to manage my homeowners association”. On my last three pitches to investors, ironically that was what started each meeting! So thinking quickly, I would ask back; “was it a good experience for you or not so good?” Fortunately on all three presentations it was a good to great experience (their words) and we got the investment money! A win win.