Special Report from the Jacksonville Business Journal:
When Frank Surface began financing residential communities nearly two decades ago, the dream was to help homeowner groups buy and own facilities that were put in place by developers. Today, that dream has grown into acquiring and financing more than $100 million of recreational amenities as Vesta Property Services Inc.
Surface, Vesta’s CEO and chairman, remains involved in financing for the company, which according to his son, David Surface, vice president of corporate development, has enhanced a great deal with the improving economy.
Financing is just one way that Vesta assists in the property management arena. In its most linear role as a professional management company, Vesta takes direction from the board of directors, and provides support for the board, community association and homeowners with budgeting and finances, legal issues, maintenance, communication and facilitation of insurance coverage.
David Surface said although the business started out small, it has become a large private company powered by investors and employees. At the top of the Jacksonville Business Journal’s 2014 list of residential property management companies, Vesta had $12 million in gross commissions last year.
Before 2008, the company was operating a group of loosely affiliated management and service companies, but after recognizing the value in shared services and scale, it consolidated operations. In 2010, the company officially rebranded as Vesta Property Services Inc.
Tripling in employees and profits over the past 10 years, Surface said the company’s staff consists of everyone needed to operate a residential community from clerical and administrative personnel to lifeguards.
Like other real estate companies, the business changes with the economic climate, he said. “When there was a slowdown in development,” he said, “we fell back, too, and focused more on management efforts and improving quality of service.” Focusing on effective cost management is what has made them stronger in today’s climate.
Surface acknowledges that as the company has grown, so has the human resources aspect of the business. Keeping up with the changing workforce environment can often be a challenge. “Our biggest cost is our people, but they’re also our biggest strength.” Focusing on the individual needs of a community is what makes Vesta a success, according to Thomas Lawrence, board supervisor for Grand Haven Community in Palm Coast. He says to community boards that are afraid of hiring a management company to operate their facilities, that the value outweighs the cost.
“Oftentimes communities don’t want to spend the money on a management company,” Lawrence said, “but in the long run it’s cheaper to hire someone than to do it themselves.”
Surface said that this is a wall the company often runs into and agrees that through vendor relationships and knowledge of the industry, it can save residents money and time. “Many times board members might feel like they can do some things themselves to save money, but a new board doesn’t have the experience to know what it takes to operate or anticipate the changing needs and requirements of a community.”
Vesta Property Services is a large company and Surface said it prides itself on providing individual needs to its clients. Its niche is managing large recreational facilities within large planned communities, such as pools and theaters.
But what makes it different from its competitors is the resources it’s able to bring to the table. “We don’t have any boundaries to what services we’ll provide to our clients,” Surface said. “We don’t know any other company in Florida that’s doing what we’re doing.”
Jacksonville Business Journal November 14, 2014 Vol. 30, No. 6