Like the community associations and management companies they serve, business partners such as insurance professionals, attorneys, reserves providers, and landscapers adjusted their operations to ensure continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Business partners are professionals who offer services to associations and provide expertise to help boards meet their responsibilities to homeowners. Although faced with challenges and economic uncertainty, respondents to a CAI survey fielded in late 2020 reported no major impacts to staffing, client base, or budgeted expenses.
About 54% said that their customer base remained about the same as before the pandemic forced Americans to limit in-person interactions and work remotely partially or fully. In addition, close to 27% of those surveyed said they gained clients compared to 20% who lost customers during this period.
Staffing levels remained roughly the same as prior to the pandemic for 55% of business partners responding to the survey, compared to 24% that reduced staff by as much as 25%. About 11% said they had increased their staff by the same margin since the start of the pandemic.
Similarly, budgeted expenses were about the same as before the pandemic for 42% of respondents. For business partners who had to decrease spending, they chose to cut costs related to marketing (69%), personnel (48%), or administration (33%).
While the pandemic initially presented obstacles to working with community associations, business partners adapted by switching their meetings to a virtual format, coordinating on-site work following proper social distancing and safety protocols, and embracing technology to work more efficiently.
Michael Berg, CMCA, CIRMS, president and chief executive officer of Berg Insurance Agency in Lake Forest, Calif., says that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the move of the company’s staff from an on-site location to working mainly from home, keeping their office space to maintain contact with specific clients and for certain administrative needs.
“When it comes time to onboard new staff, we will be structured as a remote workplace,” notes Berg, a member of CAI’s Business Partners Council. “For the responsibilities of certain positions, this potentially opens up access to a nationwide pool of talent.”
He explains that his company has leveraged technology to facilitate day-to-day operations, including using online platforms that have allowed him to attend more client meetings. Virtual consultations with community association boards have led to improved communication and prompt responses to any questions about the association’s insurance coverage.
Berg has seen homeowner attendance at virtual board meetings increase too. “Virtual meetings are helping more members be more involved with their communities,” he says.
Berg does not expect his company to return to the way it operated prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. He says he is optimistic that remote work will become more commonplace for those who support community associations. “As employers and business owners, we have an opportunity to build teams with a focus on being more flexible to the needs of our employees.”
COVID-19 and Business Partners
Had increased sanitization costs
Experienced delayed contract signings from clients
Reported that budgeted expenses declined by half or less
Saw an increase in the cost of doing business (e.g., technology, personnel, administration)