Turnberry Ocean Colony

2011 Communities of Excellence Community of the Year: Condominium 


Turnberry Ocean Colony

Excellence with a Smile


by Kathy Danforth

Turnberry Ocean Colony of Sunny Isles Beach is the honored winner of the Communities of Excellence Condominium of the Year Award. As winner of the Safety and Security Initiatives and Civic Volunteerism and Advocacy categories, they have demonstrated an all-encompassing commitment to excellence.

The beachfront community includes two condominium towers with 130 units each, with a master association governing shared services. "It's a very beautiful, luxurious property," says manager Rachel Forte. Amenities include a clubhouse, two restaurants, a full-service spa with massage therapy, a fitness center with complimentary fitness classes, a hair salon, 600 feet of beachfront, and two pools, which are staffed and serviced. With individual homes in the $1,000,000 to $6,000,000 range, Forte observes, "It's like a resort living here."

According to Forte, "The residents of Turnberry are very international, coming from South America, South Africa, France, England, Russia, and Canada, with most of the Americans coming from the Northeast." Most are business owners, often nearing retirement age, and Forte estimates that 30 percent of the owners are permanent residents while most others consider it a vacation home.

Though residents may roam, Turnberry aims for seamless service. "We offer a level of service beyond what you'll get somewhere else," Forte explains. "One of our golden rules is that all staff members, from housekeepers to engineering staff to servers in the restaurant, learn each resident's name. We always address each resident by name with a friendly greeting and that makes the place feel very homey. Even if you are gone, new employees will have learned your name! We always get comments that the staff is so friendly and courteous and bends over backwards to help you. That's what we pride ourselves on!"

With 120-plus employees, and routine turnover in some departments, Turnberry uses an online property management program with pictures of the owners, renters, and other pertinent data to help train new employees. "We test our employees and make sure the managers make it a priority for all the teams," Forte notes. As well as creating a friendly atmosphere, recognition of all residents simplifies identification of guests or intruders.

Their creative monthly social calendar also sets the property apart from others. "All kinds of events are planned, but our most popular involve dining and holidays," Forte says—a combination sure to please. From cooking classes to art lectures to holiday celebrations, most residents participate, as Forte observes, “They understand you wouldn't pay the money to live in this kind of community unless you have an interest in attending the social events.”

Both the employees and residents of the community have come together for charitable efforts. Employees brought close to 100 unwrapped gifts for Toys for Tots to the employee holiday party, with residents also pitching in, and also collected 30 bags of food in their Thanksgiving food drive. Following the earthquake in Haiti, the association collected three carloads of donations and made cash contributions through agencies outside the association to avoid any confusion of funds. "Our employees are very service-oriented and empathetic, and our residents are very charitable," Forte observes. "Sometimes it's just a matter of providing an avenue."

This year the association was involved with other organizations in organizing, hosting, and sponsoring the Chocolate Festival to benefit the Children's Craniofacial Association. "We have a wonderful chef, Rick Chiavari, second to none, who came here a year ago, and his nephew happens to have a craniofacial disorder," Forte explains. “Rick is the founder of the Chocolate Festival.” Through his involvement the community joined with other organizations in donating time, prizes, and cash to the cause. Local vendors were recruited to provide all things chocolate, and donations for raffle prizes were solicited. "We donated gift certificates for complimentary lunches, dinners, and spa visits," Forte says. "At the entrance we sold tickets to be exchanged at a booth for the dessert of their choice. We had a variety—cupcake vendors, cookie vendors, and pastry chefs showing how to make chocolate animals out of fondant."

"This year the local Miami Institute of Fashion and Design put out a challenge to their fashion students to make dresses out of chocolate wrappers," Forte states. "That draws a crowd—for a beautiful woman to be wearing a dress made out of candy wrappers! It was a great event and was a lot of fun. It's got a lot of positive energy."

Following the turnover of community from the developer three years ago, the association made the decision to maintain a human resources director on staff, Marina Guimaraes, even though the initial intensive hiring period was past. "Human Resources has been great with training, hiring, and retention programs, so we've been able to get superior employees and have a better workforce in-house," Forte explains. "Training responsibilities are divided up, but she organizes the calendar and makes sure our certifications don't expire." Training areas include food handling, rules and regulations for serving alcohol, blood-borne pathogens, hazardous communication, sexual harassment, lock-out/tag-out, OSHA requirements, CPR, and other safety-related subjects. Around 40–60 residents have attended CPR/AED training and 95 percent of the employees are certified. Forte appreciates the residents' involvement in CPR training and comments, "The fastest response is from people right on the spot. Those are critical moments and a lot of folks take that very seriously."

"The Human Resources director has been instrumental in saving us quite a lot of money," Forte reports. "When we opened up we were outsourcing security, the front desk, valet service, and housekeeping. She has done an analysis on each of these areas to see where we can save money. There are a couple of areas where we looked at the numbers or liability and it didn't make good sense to bring the service in-house. With equipment cost, housekeeping was maybe break-even. Valet we didn't bring in because employment is difficult, and we didn't want the cost of insurance when the majority of vehicles are over a quarter of a million dollars. We brought in the front desk and the security department, which was key."

Turnberry did not feel that they were getting adequate access control, leadership, or initiative with an outside security company. "We decided we needed a director accountable to the association, and Guimaraes did an analysis showing that we could save money if we brought the entire function in-house. We can even pay the staff a higher rate and reduce turnover. Turnover is undesirable because they have to learn all the faces of the residents!" Forte declares.

With a newly-hired security director, Byron Marin, Forte relates, "The first thing he did was look at our equipment, our structures, and the job duties of employees, and there were a lot of loose ends. He started working on a training program and schedules, so that every day there is testing of different systems. Anything that's safety-related gets immediate attention—replacing lights is a security issue."

The community had only had a hurricane manual, which has been expanded to an overall emergency response plan addressing additional situations such as tornadoes, fire, chemical spills, bomb threats, beach response, and dangerous sea life. Forte gives the example, "If you have a death on the property, there's a way to handle that, and it's helpful to have the proper protocol and training. There's a great sense of security for employees and residents because there's a plan and we review it throughout the year," Forte says. "For me, the peace of mind is huge because as manager I feel ultimately responsible and to not have plans feels negligent." Though they did not suffer damage, two storms have come through and plans were successfully implemented.

Access control is another area that was upgraded. As Forte observes, "We have a very attractive operation to passersby—there's beach chairs and people passing around frozen grapes and iced towels and this place looks great." However, with intruders or casual unintentional trespassers, the property was also experiencing a bit of excessive visitation. Forte points out, "But if you're subsidizing the facilities, you don't want regular non-paying users." A guest pass system was instituted, with annual limits for any individual using complimentary privileges. "The residents don't all love it, but they're realizing that there are fewer people that shouldn't be here and less abuse of facilities."

The community invested $100,000 in CCTV upgrades, and Forte states, "That was a lot of money, and it was money well-spent." The previous cameras retained information for three to four days, which was insufficient for many issues, and Forte observes, "The old system was undermining the security department's ability to be successful. We put more cameras in the garage and most importantly at the back by the beachfront. We can pan, tilt, and zoom, and the software is so great, I can check it from my phone if I want to." The video surveillance has been useful not only in determining violations, but also in clearing individuals of any suspicion when their actions can be followed on the recording.

The community held a health and wellness fair, which was geared primarily for employees. A variety of professionals were available to provide supplemental insurance information, bone density and blood pressure screenings, nutrition information, five-minute chair massages, personal training advice, and other related assistance. A safety incentive program was introduced to raise safety awareness. "If someone improves safety or points out a safety issue, they get safety bucks; it looks like Monopoly money with a picture of our safety director, and it can be used for movie tickets or gift cards," Forte explains.

In seeking to improve the efficiency of their temperature control system this year, the association installed a variable frequency drive, which is now required on new construction. After installation of the system, performance has thus far exceeded expectations, but according to Forte, "The bidding was bizarre. We talked to two companies in the business of saving people energy and they gave us higher prices. I wanted a third bid so I contacted two mechanical contractors who work with developers. Their bids were substantially lower, and their estimated savings were much lower." To clarify if all the systems were indeed the same quality and likely to achieve the same result, Forte sought advice from an engineer as a consultant. "The independent engineer said the equipment was all comparable," she reports, despite the varying prices and claims, and it appears that the equipment installed by the mechanical consultant will provide a very satisfactory eighteen-month payback with savings approaching $14,000 per month after that.

Turnberry is seeking quality—in atmosphere, safety, service, efficiency, and every aspect of community life. Forte feels, “The secret to our success is all of us—from the management team to the entire staff to the boards of directors—working as a team toward a common goal. I’m very proud of all we have achieved together.” In their few years as a community they have accomplished much!