By Kiara Candelaria
©2020 Community Associations Institute
TEYRA EHLERS, CMCA, founder and CEO of Administra PTY in Panama City, Panama, decided to pursue community association management after serving on the board of her condominium and seeing an opportunity to improve upon the service. A lawyer with more than 20 years of experience in property law and real estate, she entered the management field in 2011 and founded her own company in 2017, becoming the fourth woman in her family to have her own business. Earlier this year, Ehlers obtained the Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA) credential. She is continuously working to elevate the profession in Panama by giving college classes on property management, serving as secretary of an association for management professionals in the country, offering career development to her staff, and educating homeowners on their rights and responsibilities to better lead their communities. —Interview by Kiara Candelaria
How do you apply your experience as a lawyer to management?
Knowing the laws that govern community associations and how and when to apply them is a plus for me. Other management companies need to hire lawyers to understand the laws—not only for the benefit of their boards but also for executing their jobs. Being a lawyer and community manager just shortens that path.
How does management in Panama compare to the U.S.?
In the U.S., board members take their responsibilities more seriously and are more involved in community decisions. In Panama, the community relies a lot more on the manager. We also don't have the same level of recognition of community association management as a career compared to the U.S. It's still very informal.
What do you enjoy most about working with associations?
Learning from all the different people that merge in a community and being able to help them achieve their goals. What we do helps improve people's lives and improve the way they live in their communities. It's one of the greatest satisfactions that we have as managers.
What advice do you have for people who are new to management?
You have to continually learn, stay up to date with all the laws and regulations that affect community associations and people inside the community, and be able to communicate well with people. You have to know a little bit of everything, including accounting, real estate, finance, law, customer service, and architectural design. We're not expected to have a bachelor's degree in all the aspects related to community associations, but we need to be able to sit down with a board of directors and speak on every issue and every matter that affects a community.
What do you do for fun?
I enjoy spending time with my son and daughter. I like traveling; going to seminars is an excuse to travel anywhere, and it's one of the things I miss most. I started gardening during the pandemic, and I also like to cook, read, and watch movies when I have time.
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