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CAM Confessions: What I Wish Board Members Knew

Understanding the relationship between a community association manager (CAM) and an association’s board of directors can be tough. We asked a few of our CAMs to share how the relationship works, common misconceptions, and how everyone can work better together.

What exactly is the relationship between a CAM and board of directors?

“Managers are hired professionals who advise board members and help them make the best and the most fiduciarily-responsible decision they can. Managers do the ‘leg work’–they find solutions, educate, and execute.” - Heather Dombach, Associa Mid-Atlantic

“The relationship between a CAM and the board of directors is largely dictated by the contract.  A CAM should be a consultant figure and should provide information and advice to assist the board in making decisions. A CAM should be the one to make recommendations and subsequently carry out the decisions of the board.” - Emily Ramirez, Colorado Association Services

“The CAM works for the corporation as an entity. The manager is responsible for overall operations of the association in accordance with board policies, governing documents, and applicable local, state, and federal laws and regulations. They also prepare and execute the association budget, fiscal management, request for proposals, grounds maintenance, contract negotiations and oversight, managing contractors and vendors, project management, and insurance administration.” - Haley Murphy, The Prescott Companies

What are the most common misconceptions about CAMs?

“The most common misconception is that the manager makes the decisions and controls the board. The exact opposite is true. Communities and associations are non-profit businesses that are run by a board of directors who makes the decisions. The manager is like a CEO who executes the decisions of the board and is the ‘face’ of the board to the owners and residents.” - Heather Dombach, Associa Mid-Atlantic

“There are common misconceptions that the CAM is an expert at everything—they’re an accountant, an attorney, a contractor, a landscaper—this isn’t true. A CAM knows a little bit about many subjects but isn’t professionally trained in any of these other fields. A CAM is trained to know when to utilize the appropriate experts.” - Emily Ramirez, Colorado Association Services

“Many owners think that since their dues pay for the management company and any direct employees, the manager works for them individually. This can lead to conflict when the member doesn’t understand that the manager can only take action at the direction of the board, not from individual members.” - Haley Murphy, The Prescott Companies

“One of the common misconceptions is that the board thinks that we work 24/7 for the association. Some homeowners are also unaware that they can reach out to the CAM for assistance to validate or solidify open-ended discussions or situations.” - Leah Debina, Associa Hawaii

How can boards and CAMs work better together?

“Recognize the fact, that in many cases, there’s more than one single correct answer to any given problem. By joining forces to solve a problem, listening to alternative thoughts and ideas, a great answer to achieving multi-level success is an “outside the box” solution that is a melting pot of many thoughts on how to solve the problem. Be respectful and listen. You may not and don’t always have to agree, but you do need to be respectful of others.” - Heather Dombach, Associa Mid-Atlantic

“Everyone–the board, management, and the membership–work better when we all see that we’re on the same team, with the same objectives. Often, associations have a lot of internal grievances because there is an ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality.” - Haley Murphy, The Prescott Companies

“Create symbiosis, work together to find resolutions, and ask questions.  Although high fences make great neighbors, so does interaction with the community.” - Leah Debina, Associa Hawaii