Interview with Elizabeth Hensley of The Helm Management Co.
The Helm Management Co. is a full-service property and asset management company with 40 years of real estate management experience. One of our main points of concentration has been in the field of homeowner associations. The Helm Management Co. has a diverse property portfolio. No property is too big or too small to manage. In addition to maintaining the common elements of the property, a management company must provide accurate financial reporting and administrative support to the community, The Helm Management Co. does just that. The Helm maintains its focus on Southern California and emphasizes a hands-on approach to management with personal, customized treatment of properties that has been a signature of the family business approach.
J. David Rauch “What are your thoughts on the “cause” and “prevention” of the Surfside Florida condo disaster?”
Elizabeth Hensley: “So many factors ultimately led to the Surfside disaster. It is likely the horrible result is the culmination of years of failures by many parties. It was definitely a wake-up call to many communities. You cannot be shortsighted and fail to think long-term as a group when it comes to property maintenance and care, especially in an aging building. It is important to remember that Board Members are volunteers and should feel empowered to reach out to experts and professionals in various fields.”
J. David Rauch: “What are the main changes that you or your company have made in your business due to Covid?”
Elizabeth Hensley: “The pandemic greatly impacted our daily lives and business operations over the last 18 months, as it did and continues to do for most individuals and small businesses. First and foremost we had to keep our staff safe and healthy in order to continue managing our properties and communities. Fortunately, our team worked together to transition to a primarily remote environment in the early days, while limited key staff remained in the office. Our front door has remained closed to the public throughout, as we ride the regional fluctuations of COVID, but we continue to service our drop in clients with an outdoor option and encourage appointments. Email and phone communications have definitely increased. We found ourselves working more hours during 2020 in order to address extra sanitation needs, amenity closures, mask policies and more. The constant learning curve and ultimate concern for one another kept us moving. The move to virtual meetings has been a positive outcome through all of this, allowing individuals that never attended before to now participate in their community in a safe and convenient way. Technology and education has been key to managing a lot of our business practices during this time. But ultimately, it has been the dedication of our family and staff that kept us moving toward the horizon despite the many hardships over the last several months.”
J. David Rauch: “Do you have any advice for vendors on how to reduce community manager's job pains especially with Covid lingering?”
Elizabeth Hensley: “The vendors we work with have been excellent during this time. Being prepared to have masks when on properties and be mindful that all communities and individuals are different in how they are managing protocols is essential. Keep the politics at home. Scheduling work in advance, notifying those parties impacted and following COVID protocols as required are appreciated. We recognize that our vendors have been significantly impacted during this period as well, so having a dialogue about supply delays, staffing issues, etc. helps our managers relay this information to our communities. It shouldn’t be a secret that everyone in the industry is facing challenges right now and that is the reality. To not speak about it and share experiences is not ok. We are partners through this.”
J. David Rauch: “There has been quite a bit of purchasing of management companies by bigger companies (roll-ups). Do you see this practice continuing in our industry?”
Elizabeth Hensley: “I do see this continuing. Investment groups and larger companies have often reached out to smaller businesses regarding purchase. The drawback over time as I see it is the larger companies have less ability to fine tune individual contracts, customize needs and create a local relationship with the communities they are servicing. Southern California has needs and practices that are quite different from other regions. It is important to have individuals from the administrative and management levels on up, understand those needs and expectations and be able to make changes when needed.”
J. David Rauch: "If you could give one piece of advice to others in this industry, what would that be?"
Elizabeth Hensley: “Understand that you are managing people most of the time. At times I have felt like a therapist, mediator, caregiver, investigator, emergency responder, plumber and friend depending on the situation. And that’s just to try and address a call regarding parking. As a manager, you wear many hats to navigate the many people you encounter on a daily basis. Understand that while situations are similar, people are unique.”
J. David Rauch: “What do you like doing in your spare time; hobbies; passions; other?”
Elizabeth Hensley: “If only I had spare time. Reading is a long lost hobby that I have tried to resurrect this past summer. I enjoy true crime and novels set in Nantucket. My dream would be to rehab a property into a beachside inn, smell coffee brewing every morning and help people escape the day to day. Like so many others, I found a love for cycling with the Peloton app during COVID. When the opportunity arises, I like to travel with my family. We recently took a road trip through CA and it was neat to see so many landmark spots through the eyes of my three kids. If we aren’t at a baseball game or gymnastics practice, then you might find us rooting for the Padres or out to dinner in La Mesa.”
J. David Rauch: “Are there any issues that we have not mentioned that you’d like to discuss?”
Elizabeth Hensley: “In a world where everything is expected to be instant, try to recognize that you are only one person and can only do so much. The work will be there tomorrow and the world will keep moving. If you are putting out consistent effort and reaching goals, maintaining properties and having a little fun in the process, it will all come together. We need to slow down a little bit in order to have an opportunity to read, review and determine the next best steps to address issues. Sometimes this cannot be an instant response.”