Winning Work in the World of HOAs
There is a myth among the painting industry that HOAs always go with the lowest bidder for painting projects. While this is sometimes true, holding onto the belief that they always choose the lowest bidder can cost you opportunities.
As someone who has made a conscious effort to pursue HOA projects, I know that HOAs do not always go with the lowest bidder, and some things you do (like attending HOA board meetings) can improve your odds of winning these valuable contracts. Here’s my approach to HOAs—and New Life Painting’s formula for success.
CONSCIOUSLY PURSUING HOA PROJECTS
HOA projects are usually coordinated by a property manager, and we’ve gotten our foot in the door by actively pursuing property-management companies. Start out with some research to identify the HOAs and property-management companies in your area and then select a few to target. After that, it’s about getting your name on their radar. Some things we did include:
• Dropping off gifts, such as Starbucks gift cards or popcorn
• Sending letters asking if they need anything, and offering our help
• Sponsoring company lunches and events
These efforts got us on the radar of a few property-management companies, and we began to get requests to provide estimates on HOA projects. At this point, we reinforced our interest by sitting down with the property manager to share more details about our company, and requesting to present our company and estimates directly to the HOA’s board.
PRESENTING TO HOA BOARDS
Well-run HOAs have paint schedules and a plan for painting projects either every year or every couple years. Typically, a board has one or two board meetings where they review estimates. With no other information to go on, it makes sense that these boards would choose the lowest estimate—but, as a new contractor, you can shift the balance of information in your favor by attending HOA meetings to establish rapport, set a vision for the project, and answer questions.
HOW TO PREPARE
To prepare for the meeting, thoroughly review your bid and any extra notes you took while walking the job—for example, there might be stucco repair, dry rot, peeling paint, or other factors that have impacted your estimate. In addition to discussing the specific job and estimate, the board may ask some more general questions about your company, such as, ‘What is your preparation process?’ and, ‘What materials will you use?’ These are the same sort of questions you get asked during residential estimates, so there is nothing too difficult or unusual about HOA board meetings. Be prepared to explain your processes and why you chose those materials.
STANDING OUT IN THE HOA BOARD MEETING
When you go to the HOA board meeting, your goal is to present all the other important things about your company and the work you perform that cannot be represented in a number estimate alone. HOAs (like homeowners in general) are interested in not just the lowest price, but also the quality of work performed, the ease of working with your company, and the overall process. Some things we like to talk about when we address the board:
• Our goal is to make life easy for them, and it’s our job to make the project run as smoothly as possible.
• Our projects are led by an experienced New Life Painting crew leader.
• All employees have been with us a long time; we ensure them there will be no loud music, cursing, shirts off on the job, etc.
• We believe in open communication, such as sending notices to the property managers for each phase of the job.
The goal of every HOA presentation we give is to get a ‘next-step agreement’ or ‘last look,’ where we take one extra look at the job to see if we can adjust the price to win the contract. We don’t dramatically drop our prices, but having an agreement or ‘last look’ does allow us to get into budget discussion where we can try to find a compromise that accounts for what they want and what’s required to achieve it—a win-win situation for everyone involved.
We have used our process to win multiple HOA jobs where we were not the least expensive estimate, proving that dealing with HOAs is not just a numbers game. The ability to establish rapport, answer questions, and discuss your company’s values can make you stand out from the competition. Our presentations have established us as industry experts, and a painting company that can be trusted on important HOA projects.
Noah Winkles is the owner and operator of New Life Painting. For more than 35 years, his company has provided quality craftsmanship and outstanding customer service to residents and business owners in California’s Central Coast. New Life Painting was recognized with the 2014 Angie’s List Super Service Award. http://newlifepainting.com