In any selection process, gathering data and analytics provides the science part of choosing among potential options. However, selecting the right vendors also involves choosing based on the art of human judgment and understanding the interplay between several dynamic selection criteria.
When selecting vendors, HOAs must strive to make the best choice, which is never black and white. It always involves some judgment, which is where the “art” comes in. Continue reading for some of the best ways to choose HOA vendors.
Use Your HOA Documents as a Starting Point
An HOA’s governing documents typically contain information that guides the vendor selection process. It is essential that you review this information when getting started because the chosen vendors need to meet applicable community standards and relevant regulations.
While some of this information might be common knowledge to the board members, reviewing the HOA documentation can ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
Perform Comprehensive Vendor Screening
One of the best ways to choose HOA vendors is to use a set process to screen each vendor on several pre-defined points. As you work through the process, assemble a vendor evaluation matrix to track the information and help with the final decision. Include steps such as verifying licenses, certifications and qualifications.
Ask for insurance coverage information and verify that the coverage is current and will remain so throughout the work. Keep notes on whether each vendor meets your standards and local requirements. One of the most critical functions of vendor screening is to protect the HOA from liability by filtering out vendors who may not be able to perform at a level of competency that meets the HOA and community’s needs and standards.
Solicit Multiple Vendor Bids
Avoid going with the first vendor you contact; instead, seek out multiple competitive bids. Ask for quotes from at least three vendors, and specify the details required for the quotes to compare each submission easily. Multiple bids help provide insight into local pricing and the market competition level.
Look for vendors that offer the best combination of quality service that meets your requirements at a reasonable price. Consider giving each potential vendor an RFP that defines the work and the Board’s expectations for timing, materials, price and other details to get more refined proposals.
Finally, schedule a meeting with each vendor to answer questions and review their proposal. Remember that choosing on price alone can expose you to the serious risk of selecting a vendor who cannot perform the work at a level that meets your requirements. This outcome could lead to long-term issues that take time to become apparent, potentially leading to increased costs in the long run.
Check Each Vendor’s References
Even if you feel you already have a good candidate, another of the best ways to choose HOA vendors involves taking the time to carefully and thoroughly check each vendor’s references. This process can include reading customer reviews on social media sites such as Yelp, the vendor’s Facebook business page and Google reviews. Also, ask to speak with previous customers. Throughout your review, look for answers to the following questions:
- Did the vendor complete the work to the client’s satisfaction?
- Did they meet the required deadlines?
- Did they communicate well throughout the process?
- If you see customer complaints, do you notice any common themes?
- How did the vendor address the complaints?
You can also speak with suppliers and business contacts provided by the vendors. Collecting information from these sources allows you to assemble a picture of each vendor’s competence, reliability and performance track record. However, keep an open mind and remain objective as you consider any information gained from customer reviews.
Provide a Clear Contract
One of the biggest reasons for vendor disputes is unclear contract terms and simple miscommunication. The more clearly you define the services you need, the easier it is for the vendor to comply and meet the HOA’s needs successfully. Include the scope of work, timelines, payment process and consequences for breaching the work contract.
Additionally, existing vendors should review their contracts periodically because regulations and other details can change over time. The HOA and vendor may need to reflect these changes in an updated contract for the services to remain relevant and beneficial for the community.
Choose Specialized Vendors
For certain projects, such as the community’s stormwater management system, an HOA may require specialized knowledge to keep the system in top operating condition. The right vendor needs to have the necessary expertise and experience to keep the system clean while also maintaining erosion control, identifying stormwater drainage problems, and performing needed system repairs to prevent floods and related issues. Additionally, a specialized vendor typically stays on top of regulatory requirements and changes, freeing time for the HOA staff and ensuring that the community’s system remains compliant.
Speaking of Specialized Vendors…
Making informed choices about vendors assures better outcomes for the community while also building their trust in the capabilities of the HOA. When you hire vendors who provide timely, high-quality results, you also receive some protection from liability.
When you hire a vendor, aim to bring on a partner who shares the same goal of maintaining the property to a high standard. When you need a high-quality vendor who can inspect, maintain and repair your community’s stormwater management system, contact Catch All Environmental for the expert service your community deserves.