Navigating the B2B relationship with homeowners associations
While many pool companies find it challenging to deal with HOAs for building and servicing, Krystle Stiles, owner of Tennessee Custom Pools in Brentwood, Tennessee, says understanding the role an HOA plays in any pool-building process is a must.
“HOAs are a
good thing,” Stiles says. “They
oversee the common areas of a development, manage dues, enforce community rules
and ensure the homes within the community are maintained to ensure property
values are supported.”
However, some interactions don’t go as smoothly as a pool company would hope. Rebecca Smith, CEO of Splash Pool Management in Dallas, Georgia, says HOA board members are often volunteers with a range of obligations that take precedence over their property-overseeing duties.
Smith has also found that the pool knowledge learning curve can
be steep with HOA board members; she finds that many assume, erroneously, that
the commercial pool is just like a backyard pool.
explaining and educating is time consuming, I find it very rewarding and, in the
end, a knowledgeable customer is a better customer,” Smith says. “Often you may have to explain many pool
issues or concepts more than once, as there is not just one pool owner
involved. I find it helpful to meet on-site with several board members for ‘show
and tell’ to help explain things.”
Eric Honeyman, owner of Honeyman Pools in Wichita, Kansas, is also a big proponent of education.
“In the spring,
I find it is beneficial to offer pool schools at the management company offices
for their new and existing property managers,” Honeyman says. “This provides the perfect opportunity to
educate the property managers of the safety and liability aspects of their
properties, as well as give a brief overview of what a properly cared for pool
should resemble. This opens lines of communication with all the property
managers as well.”
As there are often a number of people involved in communication
when you’re working with an HOA, documenting that communication is crucial,
Smith says. “The pool company
needs to understand that you have not one or two customers on a commercial
account, but you may have hundreds of customers per account, as many HOAs are
quite large and all members feel they are paying you personally,” she says.
To avoid conflict, Stiles recommends using photographs to
document an HOA project. She uses a combination of drone photography, GoPro
footage, camera phones and professional photographers to document projects.
In comparison to residential undertakings, commercial property relationships can be fickler and require more patience. Stiles recommends considering the long- and short-term goals of the HOA client. If your business doesn’t seem like the best fit for the client, she suggests referring another contractor.
“Those servicing HOA pools need to know the laws governing them and have the confidence and knowledge to help enforce them,” Honeyman says. “The liability of servicing an HOA pool is much greater than that of a residential pool. Having a working knowledge of the politics involved when working with management companies and board members will help expedite repairs. Just remember to never compromise the safety of a facility to save a buck or wait for approval.”