ROC-NH staff

Boot camp tackled toughest operations issues

By ROC-NH staff

A behind-the-scenes look at preparation for ROC-NH's first Operations Boot Camp.

ROC-NH has trained members of manufactured-home cooperatives for more than 30 years. We train residents who are buying their parks. We train board and committee members before and after they purchase their communities. We also train on legal, governance and financial issues at regional or co-op-specific boot camps.

Perhaps you also know we’ve held 10 six-month-long Community Leadership trainings that are college-accredited and require great commitment and dedication.

So it sounds like we have it all covered, right?

We thought so, but in recent years, many resident-owned-community (ROC) members and training participants have told us that some of their biggest challenges are related to their communities’ operations and infrastructure.

roc_ops-boot-camp.jpgROC-NH took on this challenge and spent more than a year developing a training solely to build the skills of those of you who are tasked with maintaining your community’s infrastructure.

We began by diving into some of the most-common challenges.

We know that ROC leaders struggle with how to deal with maintenance and site-improvement requests. So we created a policy, along with a request form, to make work requests and approvals easier for all involved.

Working with vendors

Next we tackled the challenge of procurement and bids, both for projects and contracts. We had heard from many that, when bidding out a job, it was hard to get three bids that covered the same scope of work. Co-ops often got verbal quotes from contractors, then were frustrated when the work wasn’t done quite the way they expected.

So we created a Scope of Work template that can be used to prepare a proposal. It covers all the details of the job, as well as other needs like providing proof of insurance and references. The completed form can be given to potential bidders, who should then be clearer on the expectations.

To go with the Scope of Work template, we drafted a sheet of Best Practices for Working with Vendors, which contains useful information on selecting vendors, as well as how to inspect and rate each of them to compile a preferred-vendors list.

Once we had created these new tools, we prepared an agenda for a full-day training. Each participant would receive an operations handbook containing these policies and templates.

The same issues

Finally, on a Saturday in mid-October, 19 resident-owned-community leaders attended our first Operations Boot Camp.

We started by presenting a detailed view of community infrastructure, as well as acknowledging some common challenges.  “It was interesting to learn that others were having same issues as us,” said Mike Benoit of Windy Hill Housing Cooperative. “We also got some great ideas to fix some of these issues.”

From there, we jumped into a discussion about how policies benefit a ROC’s members, board, and committees. This was a great way to introduce the revised Operations Committee Policy, as well as the Maintenance and Site Request Policy.

roc_ops-boot-camp-2.jpg

Ada Dolloff of Aberdeen West Co-op commented that the handbook would be valuable both for current and future boards of directors. “Our vice president will be president next year, and the boot camp helped him gain perspective,” she said.

Challenging scenarios

After lunch we discussed the Best Practices for Working with Vendors and the Scope of Work template. Groups of participants were tasked with creating a scope of work either for a plowing contract or for septic repairs. Each was given challenging scenarios that required careful consideration to plan a good proposal.

The groups worked hard to come up with great details for each job scope, then presented them to the class. Contractors would be lining up for these well-thought-out proposals!

The training wrapped up by addressing the ever-demanding challenge of finding volunteers to share the workload. The class discussed the importance of knowing how to ask for help and whether other helpful resources exist in their communities.

We presented an annual maintenance calendar that participants could adapt for their own communities, using it to plan seasonal tasks and proposal procurements, and to hold contracts. Each also contained a participation questionnaire that could help solicit volunteers for specific tasks.

Coming soon ... Boot Camp 2

At the end of this challenging day it was clear that we had equipped these leaders with some very valuable tools. One, Rhonda DuBois of Old Lake Shore Co-op, said, “This class was very informative. I love the Scope of Work--a must for cooperatives to implement.”

ROC-NH plans to post all of the new tools posted on www.myrocusa.org in the very-near future. Please watch for a Cooperator news article that will let you know what was uploaded and where to find it. If you are not currently signed up for myrocusa you should go there now and join the ranks!

If you’re thinking this sounded like a great class, keep checking The Cooperator for news of an Operations Boot Camp—Part 2.

We’d love to hear more about what you think should be part of this training. What did we miss the first time around? 

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ROC-NH™ is a program of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, Inc. and a ROC USA® Certified Technical Assistance Provider.
ROC-NH is a registered service mark of ROC USA, LLC.