Robert Felix has worked in the common interest development industry for 32 years, 20 of which he spent managing large-scale resort communities across the country. Earlier this year, after being named president and CEO of N.N. Jaeschke Inc., his first priority was coordinating the community management and property services divisions.
“One of the biggest challenges is that our clients are looking to reduce their operating costs, so services have to tighten up,” said Felix, who oversees operations and the company’s nearly 200 employees.
N.N. Jaeschke is a subsidiary of Associa, the largest community management company in the country, but N.N. Jaeschke operates autonomously. It manages more than 200 associations in the San Diego area, and according to Felix, does about $12 million a year in revenue.
N.N. Jaeschke’s goals for 2013 include strengthening its business core, which is its management model, and continuing to service clients at a high level for a solid price, largely achieved by standardizing and optimizing operations.
“This isn’t a high-profit industry,” Felix said.
He said N.N. Jaeschke is the only full-service community management company locally that also offers property services, and coordinating those two components is key. The company is also starting a successful strategy series to educate and teach volunteer board members how to be board members.
In January, Felix was appointed chairman of the National Board of Certification for Community Association Managers. He represents the organization to the public through speaking engagements, writing articles, and teaching about the art of managing community interest developments.
He said the best background a community association manager can have is a degree in psychology. Failing that, “understanding that we have to know more than our clients know” is crucial to keep the client’s respect, while coordinating the various statutes, controls, governing documents and other aspects that govern homeowner associations in such a heavily regulated industry.
“The philosophy of managing communities is understanding you’re managing a lifestyle that homeowners have purchased into, and generally it’s their highest and most valuable asset,” Felix said. “They’re passionate about protecting that value and ensuring they are living the lifestyle they purchased into.”
Felix estimated there are roughly 7,000 community associations in the greater San Diego area. With an average of five members per board, that means 35,000 people are serving in a volunteer capacity and overseeing corporations that impact the direct value of individual homes.
“In and of itself, there are inherent conflicts, politics, desires, expectations and a host of emotions that play into what we do," Felix said. "Being able to manage within that environment without burning out takes a lot of effort. The better management you have that can insulate the board and deal with problems, it makes the volunteer position better.”
Before the housing stoppage in 2007, Felix said the Urban Land Institute estimated that 78 percent of residential housing construction was deed-restricted, a trend he sees continuing as sprawl has diminished and urban infill is taking its place.
“We see a strong desire for people to live and work in a downtown area, and San Diego has one of the most beautiful downtown areas,” Felix said. “You’ll see a greater expansion in that area down here.”
-James is an Encinitas-based freelance writer.