Issue: Create a cohesive accounting system after combining client databases for two management firms.
Solution: Utilize the flexibility of TOPS to establish a customized accounting system.
Issue: Keep association board members happy
Solution: Create custom reports in TOPS specific to each board’s needs
After 10 years of working with TOPS software, Brenda Conway, CPA, CMCA would certainly be considered an expert – and a fan. “TOPS is unlike other software,” says the co-owner of Summit Management Services Inc., which is based in Silver Spring, Md. and also has an office in Alexandria, Va. “Because of the way you can perform tasks in it and the flexibility it gives you, it makes everything easier.”
Introduction to TOPS
Conway first became familiar with TOPS when she worked for a different community management firm in 1999. In 2005, she decided to go out on her own, so she brought TOPS with her. In addition to owning her own company, she offered consulting services on the side. Summit Management was one of her clients.
“Their accounting needs started to increase, and they didn’t have a CPA,” Conway explains. “We thought it might make sense to combine our resources, which we did in July of 2007, and it has worked out very well.” The company now has 54 communities and 11,000 units.
Naturally, one of the initial conversations centered on which software product to use (Summit Management wasn’t a TOPS customer at the time). “When we discussed combining our companies, we looked at different software firms,” Conway said. “We decided on TOPS, as the other products didn’t meet our needs and they were much more expensive.
“The system Summit Management had been using was OK, but there were some definite limitations. The majority of what we use TOPS for is maintaining our financial records, and since that was going to be my responsibility, I wanted a system that worked.”
Conway also wanted a system that is flexible, and she says that is one of her favorite features of TOPS. “With the General Ledger, for example, you can set it up any way you want. You can use your own chart of accounts, account titles, etc., all the way down to the name on the account. And you can customize it for each association. We had one association that wanted three different cost centers, and we were able to do it for them. It’s a really, really nice feature.”
TOPS’ flexibility also comes in handy when it comes to the Owners Database. “Other software products automatically assign account numbers, but in TOPS you can set up your own account numbers, which is a huge convenience,” Conway says. “I also think it’s great that you can view history on all the accounts. That way, if there’s an error in the record, you can go back and look to see if someone had previously made a mistake on the account.”
Customization is key
Speaking of records, Conway loves the fact that she can create custom reports for the each association’s board of directors. “I always tell our managers – if a board wants to see something other than our standard reports, just let me know,” she says. “Nothing is set in stone. We can create reports to their specifications. In fact, we can do just about anything they want in TOPS.”
And there’s a fringe benefit of the custom reports. “When you can easily run a report that will satisfy them, you’re so much better off because they wouldn’t have as many questions after that. They are happy because you’re giving them the information they had requested,” Conway said. “Plus, TOPS produces reports that are very easy for non-accounting people to understand.”
The latter concept applies to both boards and Summit Management staff. Conway likes the fact that Summit Management managers can utilize TOPS to access information that is critical to their jobs; they all know how to read financial statements, delinquency and status reports, balance sheets and income statements, just to name a few. “They can go into TOPS and get more information when they need it,” Conway says.
In addition to financial reports, managers spend a fair amount of time using the Flex Data feature.
“Again, we can track just about anything we want due to TOPS’ flexibility,” Conway says. “For example, we can run a report on all owners within an association or just owners with garage spaces. It’s also great the way we can add notes to the accounts. Some associations want emergency contact data, so we can list it there.”
Conway also sings the praises of the “transition assistance” that TOPS provides. “We transitioned a very large property, and I gave TOPS the Excel files and they set up the Owners Database,” she said. “If we hadn’t had that, we would have been sitting there for days entering information.”
Simplification is another facet of TOPS that Summit Management loves. The company is incredibly pleased with the Work Order and CC&R modules because they have helped the company simplify record keeping.
In short, Conway and her partners would absolutely recommend TOPS to other community management companies. “I’ve seen other software and it’s so limiting. TOPS is user friendly and so convenient because there are so many different things you can do in it,” she said.
This case study is for informational purposes only. TOPS Software makes no warranties, express or implied, in this document.