Interview With … Annie Marks
Annie Marks may have moved from northern New York to St. Augustine “on a whim,” but she has been single minded in her pursuit of a career that allows her to put her problem solving skills to work helping people. Her first job in Florida was as a switchboard operator for a condominium. Along the way, she discovered property management and, along with fellow property manager Pat Arenas, discussed forming their own company.
They started MAY Management in 1988 with $12,000 in capital. Marks was the majority owner and vice president, while Arenas held the title of president.
For the past 12 – 15 years, since Arenas and a second partner retired, MAY Management has been led by Marks. The company initially managed three homeowners associations and to this day still manages two of those as part of their total management portfolio of 125 properties. MAY Management supports homeowners associations’ boards of directors with budgets, billings, controlling expenses and collections.
Marks said they serve not only the boards of directors, but also represent the 25,000 homeowners.
“In some ways, we’re both the good guys and the bad guys,” she said.
Q: What do you like most about doing business in St. Johns County?
A: St. Johns County is still a small community of business people. I can pick up the phone and call a contractor or a county commissioner and they will answer the phone. I like that. We are really involved in our community and not just “giving back.” I’m proud of the community service of MAY Management. We don’t always make a big deal of our efforts, but we are always looking for opportunities to help, like with Sertoma Club, the Council on Aging and the Salvation Army.
Q: What do you consider to be your company’s “edge?”
A: Definitely our employees … their dedication and commitment. We’re a company of people, a service company. We offer our people a lot of in-house training and always try to promote from within. We try to hire people that we can grow.
Q: What has been your best business decision?
A: Besides starting MAY Management in the first place, I have been fortunate to be around smart people and have always listened to what they have to say. People like attorneys, real estate people, accountants and developers. I make a point to seek advice from them when I don’t know the answer.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
A: Educating the all-volunteer boards representing the associations that we manage on what we do and what value we add. In fact, we have one employee, Al LeBeau, who spends all his time educating boards and he has been teaching for us for the last 10 years. We always have to stay up to date and on the cutting edge of what we do, but sometimes we lose accounts. It is hard because we become part of their lives and they become part of ours. But it’s still business. We are always very satisfied when some of these accounts return to us.
Q: How do you spend a typical day?
A: My day starts at 6 a.m. and I answer emails before I go to the office. I work until 6 or 7 at night, usually in meetings or on property visits. I try to spend as little time in the office as I have to. I can do research and long email responses at night at home, so I prefer to be out during the day, solving problems. I am an active CAM [Community Association Manager] so in addition to being president of MAY Management, I have my own portfolio of communities to manage.
Q: What are your long term goals?
A: Well, we are expanding, but the ultimate goal is to continue to be the No. 1 property management company in northeast Florida — in size and in service. These two don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. I refuse to sacrifice service for size.
Photo courtesy Annie Marks