Author Bio

My father David founded ACCU, Inc. in 1979, and I think it’s safe to say I grew up in the business, starting from the age of just 16. While I had a run as a young adult exploring other career paths, managing community associations is clearly in my blood, and I always found my way back. 

My career path in community association management was finally cemented in 2002. I had just finished college, and my father asked me to “babysit” the up-and-coming Beauvallon Condominium Association while a developer interviewed candidates from around the country for an on-site building management position. While I had some knowledge of the industry, having watched my dad live and breathe it all those years, I was fairly inexperienced when it came to serving in any kind of leadership role. Up to that point, the most I had done on the properties that ACCU, Inc. managed was change light bulbs, sweep garages, clean hallways, and otherwise maintain the grounds.

When my father finally introduced me to Sid Malmberg, who would quickly become one of my closest friends and mentors, I was ready to take on more. Sid was probably only 6’3”, but when he was towering over me in my father’s office, he looked like a giant. A no-nonsense kind of man, Sid wasted no time in taking me under his wing. He guided me with a firm hand but a soft touch while I gave my “babysitting” duties my highest level of attention.

The day finally came for my father to ask the developer, “Who do you want to hire from among the candidates we provided?” The developer responded, “I choose your son.” And with that, I was launched on the path of becoming a community manager. 

I stayed at that building for several years serving as the on-site manager. It was there that I learned the ins and outs of luxury high-rise mixed-use community management. 

Then, in 2005, I got the opportunity to become a regional manager. The position would allow me to oversee a portfolio of properties, so I jumped at the chance. In my new position, I was able to expand my areas of expertise, gaining invaluable experience across a diverse range of projects, including new construction and various housing associations with single-family, multi-family, and mid-rise properties.  

I enjoyed the role of regional manager, and I made it my own. Then, in 2008, I was promoted to Assistant Vice President of ACCU, Inc. In this role, I worked closely with the senior staff members, supervising and guiding them as they managed our expanding portfolio. 

Unfortunately, in addition to the smaller, day-to-day challenges that any Assistant Vice President faces, I was going to come up against a major hurdle while serving in the position. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression was right around the corner. 

I’m a firm believer that leading our team during some of the hardest economic times our country has faced only prepared me for the future. ACCU, Inc. was able to weather that storm, and a mere 12 years later, we found ourselves facing a different–albeit just as challenging–kind of storm. 

Thankfully, we were able to weather that one, too. Even though I had been in the field for nearly two decades by that point, I know I couldn’t have overcome some of those hurdles alone. From legislation and licensing to COVID and inflation, the challenges I helped ACCU, Inc. overcome were only thanks to those who helped guide me. They deserve all the recognition, my father first and foremost. 

I spent years in an office next to him, listening to him speak to clients, and doing so with the best intentions. I also have Sid to thank. He spent countless hours with me, helping me hone the skills I would need to be a successful community association manager someday. 

Finally, there’s Mark Kreger. Having been with ACCU, Inc. for almost 40 years now, Mark provided the solid foundation on which the company was built and continues to stand on. I attribute the leader I am today to his continued commitment to letting me make my own mistakes. Over the years, Mark has also taught me how to be resilient and to withstand the inevitable pressures of the industry that all of us on this career path face. 

I’d like to think I’ve taken what I learned from my father, Sid, and Mark and raised the bar for the next generation of community association managers. From day one, I have strived to elevate the industry and all that it stands for by always operating with honesty, integrity, and total transparency. These are the core components of ACCU, Inc.’s mission statement, and I think the team I lead today lives up to them. 

In 2012, I accepted a promotion as Executive Vice President of ACCU, Inc. In the new position, I collaborated with the President to put together a leadership team that elevated the company to the next level of professionalism within the industry. Then, as of January 1, 2015, I stepped into the role of President of ACCU, Inc. 

A lot of people have a bad impression of homeowners associations, most often forged by negative experiences they had while living in a neighborhood with one. Consequently, board members often find themselves facing unfair criticism, while residents who submit violations are not considered trustworthy by their neighbors. 

I’ve also faced a lot of judgment personally as the son of the founder of the company, especially after becoming President. People often assume nepotism played a role in getting me where I am today, but I can honestly say it’s been a long and winding road without any shortcuts. The transition of power from a man like my father has been far from easy, and I’ve never had to stop proving myself to overcome the perception that my entire career has been “handed” to me. I can assure you it wasn’t, and I have my father to thank for that. 

I credit him with instilling a strong work ethic in me. This started at a young age, when he got me a work permit from school so I could clean up after the residents’ dogs at the properties he oversaw. The journey from “pooper scooper” to President has been both the most rewarding and most difficult of my life. Regardless of how others might perceive me, I can honestly say it was only accomplished through sheer determination. Over the course of my career, I have faced as many wins as losses, not to mention both unwavering loyalty and sheer sabotage. 

Looking back on the time I spent with my father and his most trusted staff, I can’t help but smile. We had a lot of adventures together, and it was those wins and losses that have molded me into the leader I am today. I am so proud of what ACCU, Inc. started as and what it has become, as well as all that it stands for in community association management. 

I used to think money could provide happiness, but in my pursuit of it, I came to learn that getting more money is often called for bending your morals. With that in mind, I decided to strive instead for the happiness of my staff and clients. It might sound cliche, but I mean it with the deepest sincerity. I’ll be the first to admit that at various points in my career, I thought managing a larger company would only bring more fulfillment. Even as ACCU, Inc. grew though, my happiness didn’t. 

It wasn’t until I realized that I’ve only ever gotten fulfillment from my team. When they are engaged, supported, and thriving, I feel successful. 

At ACCU, Inc., it’s always been my goal to change how HOA management is viewed by those we serve. I strive to hold everyone accountable, so together we can all thrive. In that spirit, I plan on launching two new services for community association management that have never been offered before within the next 12 to 24 months. Stay tuned!

If you want to learn more about ACCU, Inc. or think we might be able to help your association, give us a call at (303) 733-1121.

If you want to check out the latest updates in the community management industry, visit our blog. 

James Phifer, CMCA, CAM