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The Right Fit: Ways to Assess a Vendor


As a board member, your fiduciary duty can only be fulfilled by making sound decisions.  Because all communities need the regular help of professionals – whether it’s for maintenance, community association insurance, or a capital building project – the question of “which vendor to hire” comes up again and again.  Because selecting the wrong provider can cost the community time and money and cause extra work for the board and manager, it’s critically important to choose well the first time.

For association boards to find a qualified vendor it starts by:

  • Asking your community management team to connect you with quality candidates. To ensure we have an extensive list of strong, qualified vendors to share with our association boards, Smith Management Group recently hosted a “Vendor Speed Dating” event.  Business owners in a variety of specialties such as landscaping, legal, insurance, and flooring had the opportunity to speak with each of our community managers about their business capabilities and philosophy. These types of business functions allow for brief, yet meaningful introductions between quality service providers and your community managers.
  • Implementing best practices to successfully gauge a vendor’s qualifications and your compatibility with them before being hired.
  • Checking their insurance.  Ask the vendor for proof of insurance, specifically workers compensation insurance, and mention the consequences for not being insured such as not being hired or being dismissed from the project. After you’ve received proof from the vendor, take the verification a step further and obtain a certificate of insurance directly from their insurer. That’s the surest way to know that your vendor’s coverage is current.
  • Calling references.  The vendor will supply a list of customers they’ve worked with before. Call them all and ask probing questions not only about the work itself, but also about their responsiveness, project management skills and their overall attitude.
  • Asking for recommendations.  The references a vendor supplies will always be positive, which is why it’s important to ask a few people not on their list about the vendor’s quality of work and work ethic. Board members with different community associations in your area are a helpful resource for this, and they also might tell you about other vendors who could be a good fit for your needs.
  • Evaluating past work.  Depending on the type of vendor, find similar projects they’ve completed in other communities and examine the quality of the work. Is it up to par with your community’s standards?
  • Meeting with the vendor.  For large projects, meeting onsite with a vendor gives you and your fellow board members peace of mind prior to making that final decision.  Interviewing them like you would any other hire is most important to find out whether their size, capabilities, equipment and resources are up to the challenge and whether they’re competitively priced. Also, try to get to know the team you’ll be working with to ensure that this company is one you want to have a business association and working relationship with.

Following this simple evaluation process, you and your board will be better positioned to hire vendors who meet the needs and expectations of your community association.

About the Author

Roger Kinney is the president of <a href="">Smith Management Group</a> and is a seasoned professional with proven success in community association management. A University of Missouri graduate, Kinney served for six years as the general manager of a 1500-acre planned four-season recreational community in New Hampshire before transitioning into the beverage industry where he served for 25 years with Coca-Cola Enterprises, Coca-Cola USA, The Vernors Company and The Seven-Up Company. He has also served as General Manager/COO of a large community association management company in St. Louis and as President/CEO of an Associa owned community association management company with offices in New Mexico and western Texas.

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