Who Owns the Reserve Study Report?

There are differences of opinion within the reserve study industry as to who “owns” the reserve study report, what degree of responsibility the reserve professional has, and how certain difficult situations in which boards can almost be held hostage by reserve studies should be reported.

One thing is clear – national reserve study standards do not provide adequate guidance in this area.

Many reserve preparers take the position that they have been engaged to perform an independent study resulting in a report of their findings, and that the reserve professional “owns” the entire report. These individuals also often take the position that their report is the basis for the Association’s long-term maintenance plan.

Unfortunately, national standards do not address this issue. For instance, there is no requirement that the reserve professional make any sort of statement regarding the work performed other than the vague reference to a site visit, nor any statement of opinion regarding the accuracy of the data presented or the degree of responsibility for the report. National standards only require comments on:

Completeness: Material issues which, if not disclosed, would cause a distortion of the association’s situation

Reliance on client data: Information provided by the official representative of the Association regarding financial, physical, quantity, or historical issues will be deemed reliable by the consultant

These are required disclosures that fall far short of expressing a clear, positive opinion regarding the accuracy of the report or the actual work performed.

Others believe that the report is “owned” by the Association, and that the role of the reserve professional is to assist in compiling the data and preparing the report. These individuals generally take the position that the report should be a financial reflection of the Association’s long-term maintenance plan; it does not establish the long-term maintenance plan.

Again, national standards do not provide guidance on how the reserve professional should report on his involvement with the process, nor on his opinion of the conclusions reached.

If a reserve professional chose to add “his” report to the “Association’s Reserve Study Report, what might that report by the reserve professional look like? Within the confines of current national standards, it might look something like this:

We have prepared the accompanying Reserve Funding Forecast of AssocName as of and for the thirty-year period beginning StartDate as a Level I Reserve Study. This forecast is the responsibility of Association Management.

We conducted our engagement in accordance with National Reserve Study Standards of the Community Associations Institute and the Association of Professional Reserve Analysts. Those standards require that we perform a site visit to visually observe and assess the condition of the significant common area components of the Association. A Level I Reserve Study also includes assessing the significant estimates used by management, as well as evaluating the overall forecast report presentation.

This report presents, in the form of a financial forecast, information that is the representation of management of the Association. We do not express an opinion or any other form of assurance on the accompanying report or assumptions. Furthermore, there will usually be differences between the forecast and actual results because events and circumstances frequently do not occur as expected, and those differences may be material. We have no responsibility to update this report for events and circumstances occurring after the date of this report.

While satisfactory, the above sample report wording still falls short of actually describing the work performed or of clearly stating the conclusions reached and the degree of responsibility assumed by the reserve professional. But to get to that point, national standards probably need to be modified.

The subject of Chuck Miller’s article, “Board Held Hostage by Reserve Study”, is a dilemma presented to an Association board when a reserve professional takes a position related to appropriate maintenance activities of roads that is at odds with other professionals’ recommendations.

As quoted from Chuck’s article, in this instance,the facts are that “an engineering firm specializing in geotechnical studies and pavement studies has rendered a comprehensive report on a very thorough study conducted over some period of time, including analysis of core samples, which directly refutes the conclusion of the reserve professional. In addition, a company with decades of road construction and maintenance experience that has, for many years, maintained the subject roads, has offered an opinion that directly refutes the conclusion of the reserve professional. Lastly, the predecessor reserve professional had apparently reached a conclusion concurring with the engineering firm performing the pavement study, and did not consider that complete removal and replacement of all road surfaces was a necessary maintenance activity.”

It appears that the current reserve professional, giving all due respect to his professional engineer credential, is taking an unreasonable position in this instance. It is very difficult for a reserve professional spending only one or two days on what is a relatively superficial evaluation on a reserve study site visit to ever gain the same level of knowledge as the individuals that actually maintain the various components on a daily basis. Often, those individuals are experts in their own right. The evidence appears overwhelming that the reserve professional has taken an unreasonable position based upon insufficient facts.

The reserve professional has demonstrated a level of intransigence that bears a strong resemblance to the current budget negotiations of Congress – “my way or the highway” (pun intended). Refusal to modify a weak position in the face of strong evidence to the contrary should also cause a lack of confidence in other parts of the reserve study. If this is the case, then the Association would be wise to seek another reserve professional to provide this service.

I have long expressed the sentiment that a reserve study is based on a series of assumptions about future events, and except for known maintenance activities occurring in the very near future, it is unlikely that any of the assumptions will prove to be 100% accurate. One purpose of the study is to guide the Association to have approximately the right amount of money at approximately the right time. This can be achieved even though the underlying assumptions are not completely accurate; they just have to be relatively accurate.

The reliance on assumptions makes it easy to challenge the reserve study. However, those reserve professionals holding the RS (Reserve Specialist) or PRA (Professional Reserve Analyst) designations have demonstrated training and experience, and their opinions should be valued. The normal process of preparing a reserve study, and its review by Association management, will typically include a challenge of assumptions used in the study, especially of those assumptions potentially affecting estimated cost, estimated or remaining life, and level of maintenance work to be performed. In most circumstances, it is relatively easy to confirm the assumptions and reach agreement. It is usually only when someone adopts an unreasonable, unsupportable, position that disagreements occur.

Our firm did have such an incident occur several years ago when our Association client (more specifically, the chair of the finance committee responsible for budgeting and overseeing the reserve study) demanded that proposed future roofing expenditures be removed from the study. He stated he had spoken with a roofing consultant and was advised that it was never necessary to spend money on tile roofs, as they lasted a lifetime. We believed that replacement of underlayment was a necessary cost to maintain ability to repel water. He was charged with sole responsibility to deal with us in the preparation of the reserve study, and would absolutely not accept inclusion of the proposed roofing costs, nor would he approve forwarding the report to the full committee or board of directors unless we removed the proposed roofing costs. Our response to resolve this impasse was to remove the proposed roofing costs, include it as the first line item of components excluded from the reserve study, and modify our report to indicate that we believed the funding study proposed by the finance committee to be significantly understated because of the omission. Once this report was exposed to the full finance committee and board of directors, they agreed with our position, and the roofing costs were added back into the study.

If the reserve study report is perceived as the summation of an independent study by the reserve professional, then it is appropriate for him to take reasonably supported positions. The question presented in Chuck Miller’s article is whether or not in this instance, the professional’s opinion is considered to be a reasonable position. Also, support for positions that vary significantly from an existing, well-documented maintenance plan should be explained in the report.

If the reserve study report is perceived as being a report ON the financial forecast and underlying long-term maintenance plan, then the reserve professional’s “report” would be a document (part of the overall reserve study) that describes his analysis OF the financial forecast and underlying long-term maintenance plan. It would be, in this document, clearly identified as being the reserve professional’s “report,” that the reserve professional would express an opinion about the adequacy of the road maintenance plan and the resulting financial forecast.

If the above-described reporting incongruity was resolved, it would be much clearer as to what position the reserve professional was taking, and would give some guidance to the Association in how to resolve the situation in which they find themselves. For instance, it would be clear that either:

* The reserve professional believes the reserve study report to be “his” independent report of the Association’s funding plan for long-term maintenance projects, or

* The reserve professional believes that the reserve study report belongs to the Association, and could issue a one-page report, similar to the language above, but with an added paragraph to highlight his disagreement with certain aspects of the reserve study report.

Either position would be an improvement over the current position, where there is no indication of either the work performed by the reserve professional or the conclusions reached.

Writing Case Studies Using the Reader-Centered Approach

Case studies are a highly-effective selling tool for your products or services. You take a success story where your company’s products or services provided a successful solution for one of your clients – and write a 1-to-5 page summary of how you were able to solve your client’s problem. In doing so, you demonstrate the value and effectiveness of your products or service solutions.

Potential clients are hungry for this kind of information. A success story with a previous client provides evidence of the value of your products or services. The potential client wants to know how your products or services can solve their problems as well. A case study may make the difference in convincing a potential client to do business with you.

That’s why it’s best to use a Reader-Centered Approach to write your case studies. With this approach, you write your success story from the point of view of the reader – that is, the potential client – who will read the case study.

What Is Your Market?

First, define your market(s) for the case study. Which customers, in which markets, are you trying to impress with your success story? Will your case study be a general case study about your work for a large, high-profile company or organization? Or will your case study target customers in a specific market, or sub-set of a market?

It’s important to have both kinds of case studies. General case studies show the versatility of your company in providing solutions to different, high-profile industries, hospitals, universities, government organizations, etc. Market-specific case studies let you target potential customers within those same markets.

Once you have defined the markets for your case study, select a success story for a client company that appeals to those markets. For example, if you are targeting high-tech customers with your case study, select a success story where you provided a solution to a high-tech client.

Who Is Your Reader?

What position will your reader hold at the company where they work? Are they the CEO? The CFO? The Chief Technology Officer? The Director of Business Operations? The VP of Sales and Marketing?

Ask yourself, who have you dealt with in the past? Look at the client company that is the subject of your case study. Who did you work with there? Which executive or manager made the first call to engage your company? Who made the decision to buy? These same kinds of executives and managers at other companies will be the people who will read your case studies.

One trick I’ve learned is to go to your client company’s web site, and read the short biographies of the executives and managers that you will mention in the case study. It’s probable that readers of your case study will have similar backgrounds, duties, and responsibilities.

What Does Your Reader Know?

How familiar is your reader with the basic concepts of your products or services? What do they know about the solutions you provide? What do they NOT know? How much will you need to explain to them?

If your readers are familiar with your products or technology, you probably won’t need to explain the basic concepts. You can focus instead on the technical features of your products or services, and how those features provided benefits to the client company.

If your readers are CEOs or other executives, they will be focused more on the “bottom line” – the problems you solved for the client, the cost savings, ROI, TCO, etc. You don’t need to go into too much technical detail. But be wary of assuming that a CEO or other executive automatically understands your products or services. You may need to explain some basic concepts to them.

Once, a high-tech executive returned a case study draft to me with a section crossed out. He added a margin comment: “We don’t need to explain this. Everyone already knows this part of the technology.”

I wrote back to him: “Everyone in your industry knows this part of the technology. But we are targeting your high-tech solutions to business CEOs, real estate executives, and hospital boards. They have no prior knowledge of this technology. Therefore, we need to explain the concepts to them.”

Anticipate Your Reader’s Questions

A case study should answer specific questions that your reader may have about your product or service. As an example, say you are writing a case study for a network software product. The reader may have the following questions:

  • How is this software product installed on a company network?
  • How will the features of this software help our employees to do their jobs better?
  • What kinds of benefits can we expect from using this software product?

You can easily adapt these questions into an “interview questionnaire,” to use when you interview the people at the client company that is the subject of the case study. For example:

  • How was the software deployed on your company’s network?
  • In what ways did your employees use the specific features of the software? What tasks or goals did they accomplish through the software?
  • What benefits did your company experience from using the software? (Increased productivity? Faster time-to-market? Etc.)

Tell Them A Story

The information in a case study should not be a bland listing of facts and bullet points. The reader is looking to see how your products or services work in a “real world” scenario. Therefore, as you write the case study, you want to tell the reader a story.

The trick here is to keep the story focused on the client company. You want to focus not on the various features of your products or services, but on how those features were used to the client’s benefit. How were the features employed to help the client company achieve their goals? What tangible benefits did the client company receive as a result?

Describe how individual people or departments at the client company made use of your solutions. Use real names if you can; or, if not, use titles like “the Director of Product Management.” The more personal you make the case study, the more readers will begin to trust that your solutions can help their company as well.

Organize for Maximum Effect

Organize the information in your case study into sections according to a basic template. This allows you to present the information in a logical format, so that the reader can follow the story and understand how your solution worked.

Use headings and sub-headings to guide the reader through the various sections. The template I use for a case study is:

  • Company Overview – A short description of the client company.
  • The Challenge – The problems that the client company faced before they employed your company’s products or services.
  • The Solution – The product or service solutions that your company provided to the client company.
  • Key Benefits – The key benefits that the client company received by implementing your solutions.

The final section, “Key Benefits,” should be divided up into four or five sub-sections, with one or two paragraphs each that examine each benefit. Examples of the sub-sections for “Key Benefits” might include:

  • Increased Productivity
  • Lower Production Costs
  • Easy Tracking of Production Data
  • Faster Time-To-Market

Use Illustrations, Photos, Graphs, and Quotes

Whenever possible, illustrate concepts in your case studies using illustrations and photos. Use graphs to provide statistics and analytics on the effectiveness of your solutions (i.e. increases in sales, etc.). Readers appreciate visual input to help them understand concepts and benefits, and to break up the large blocks of text they have to read.

Also, be sure to highlight quotes from executives at the client company who describe and praise the effectiveness of your solutions. (Example: “Acme Company’s solution allowed us to reduce our time-to-market by 66%.”Ron Jones, VP of Operations.) A good place to put these quotes is in text boxes in the left-side margin of the case study, so the quotes are highly visible to the reader.

Give Them the Numbers

Readers are looking for statistics. They want some idea of how effective your solutions have been for other client companies. Some common statistics to use in your case studies include:

  • Increases in productivity
  • Time and cost savings
  • Decreases in waste and unnecessary expense
  • Return on Investment (ROI)
  • Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
  • Increased sales or revenue

Provide an Abstract

Provide a one-paragraph abstract at the beginning of each case study. This makes it easy for the reader to find out if the case study relates to a client company similar to theirs. Also, a short abstract may attract the reader to read the case study, especially if it concerns solutions your company provided for a well-known, high-profile client.

Also, be sure to print the case studies on a company letterhead that includes the company’s address, web site URL, and phone number.

Think Outside the Company

The most important thing in writing a case study is to put yourself in the place of someone outside your company. You want to write the case study from the point of view of a reader who is not familiar with your company, and who wants to know how your products or services can solve their problems and help them achieve their goals.

It’s not always easy for people inside your company to see things from the perspective of the potential customer. That’s why it’s sometimes better to have a professional writer to write your case studies for you. A professional case study writer has a better view of things from outside your company. They can see your company from the point of view of the would-be customer, ask questions that a would-be customer might ask, and write a case study to answer those questions.

Top 5 Countries to Study in Europe

Study in Europe

Getting a higher education abroad is a great achievement and life-changing experience, but most of the times it includes high costs and many other higher requirements which can be difficult for some students to complete. For such students it is a good option to study in Europe. There are many European countries where the requirements for a student visa is not so high, also some countries are cost-effective.

You will find an ideal destination abroad, where you can take advantage of your higher studies at low learning and living cost. If you are likely to study abroad, you should also examine some of the most economical countries in the EU for your study. Let’s go to the most economical places where you can get your internationally accredited degree at affordable prices:

Study in Germany:

With the motto of quality education for everyone, Germany is one of Europe’s top overseas study destinations. German universities are known for providing world-class education and state-of-the-art research opportunities to their students. There are approximately 300 universities in Germany (10 worldwide top ranking universities) in which over 900 international programs are available. Although the cost of living in some German cities may be higher compared to other cities in Europe, but in the case of tuition fees, Germany is a very cheap country.

More information about the perks of Studying in Germany are as follows:

  • Education is provided in an interactive and vibrant manner which is affordable for all students.
  • The great standard of quality education, safety and quality of life makes it the most prominent destination for higher education.
  • Diverse range of study opportunities along with stay back options.
  • Due to the increase in the number of international students, there is a wide range of programs available in the English language.
  • International students with good academic records are also given scholarships to fund their studies in Germany.
  • Experience is provided in internship as part of the program, making it easier to get employment after completion of the course.
  • The opportunity to learn a new language, which can open many doors.

Study in France:

France is a place of study abroad where you can learn in a prestigious international environment. With many higher education institutions in forty cities, France is a cheap country to study abroad. Every 9 out of 10 international students recommend France as a study destination in Europe. This destination is especially preferred by those students who love French culture.

Below, you can find out about the perks of studying in this highly recommended study destination in Europe:

  • Excellent research and development opportunities with advanced education tailored to the needs of students.
  • France is a world-class economic power with attractive tuition rates.
  • There are many leading international corporations such as Airbus, Total, Orange, LVMH, L-Oreal, Danon in France.
  • In France, young talent is valued in innovation and entrepreneurship sectors.
  • France is a fascinating destination for students from around the world and French is the third most common business language.

Study in Spain:

Spain is a fascinating country for students interested in creating friends and enjoying the sun at a lower cost, its Mediterranean climate, friendly local, affordable prices, and the opportunity to learn Spanish language skills makes it attractive for International students. Thousands of new international students are now choosing Spain as their foreign study option. From seventy universities you can choose your suitable choice. In some essential cities, the monthly expenditure on food bills, social activities, transportation and housing costs is not so high.

Below, you can find out about the benefits of Studying in Spain and student life in big cities:

  • By staying in Spain, you can easily and cheaply travel to other European countries.
  • Many courses are available in English language, whether it is related to economics, business, engineering, fashion etc.
  • Spain has the fourth lowest cost of living in Europe.
  • Spain has the world’s fourth best health care system.
  • The university is established in different cities throughout the country, so you can choose your favorite college in any city.
  • This country is blessed with great weather, beaches, islands and a historical culture.

Study in Lithuania:

Lithuania is home to fifteen higher education institutions, which provides a large number of programs for their students to be taught in English at a lower cost. Lithuania is a lesser known European country, but still, every year, more than 3,000 international students come here for study purposes. The cost of living anywhere in Lithuania is the lowest in Europe. There are four major cities in Lithuania, among which Vilnius, the capital, and Kaunas are the most popular.

The Features of Studying in Lithuania Includes:

  • Lithuania offers a friendly and secure environment with internationally acclaimed accommodation for international students.
  • With the excellent academic and research facilities, Lithuanian qualifications are the most sought after around the world.
  • The country with less tuition fees and less living costs, compared to most European countries.
  • Lithuania is the most bilingual and educated nation in Europe, providing first-rate education.
  • With emerging areas and strong economy, this country is at a very high position in the Human Development Index.

Study in Hungary:

Hungary is one of the best places to study, this country is a member of the European Union and also the Schengen State. There are five global ranking universities in Hungary, which is enough for a small European country. There is a wide range of study options available for international students in Hungary. Along with cultural life, in Hungary, students can also get a high standard academic education. Hungary is a beautiful eastern European country, which is also economical, the cost of living in most of the cities is not so high. Budapest, the capital of Hungary, covers most of the country’s major universities.

More information about the perks of Studying in Hungary are as follows:

  • Compared to most parts of Europe, tuition fees and living costs in Hungary are relatively economical.
  • Courses are taken 100% in English medium, but students can learn the Hungarian Language for easy communication within the country.
  • Many universities in Hungary are completely open and available to international students.
  • It is also possible to work during studies in Hungary.
  • World ranking is very high for most universities in Hungary

These are the top 5 highly recommended study destinations in Europe, so if you are planning to Study in Europe then you should think about these options also there are lots more options in Europe. So it depends on you what you want for your higher studies and which country is appropriate according to your requirements.

Best Study Techniques for High School

There are different techniques to study that are suitable to different students, studying techniques are like:

  1. Fast studying techniques
  2. Smart studying techniques
  3. Hard studying techniques

All previous techniques have enemies like:-

  1. To feel bored while studying
  2. Feeling lazy for studying
  3. Postponing studying to some other time
  4. You don’t have intention to get high marks
  5. You don’t have a future vision to which college you want to join

The best studying technique is when you use one of the above techniques without having any of its enemies, you can do this by being aware psychologically to use one of the techniques and knowing when one of the enemies is attacking you so that you can defeat it or prevent it.

In this section, I will explain each technique and in the next section I will explain how to defeat its enemies, let’s start.

Best Study Techniques for High School

1. Fast studying technique: you can use this technique when you are close to exams so that you gain more knowledge in less time, this technique includes:-

a. Writing exams questions

b. Scan studying the parts you know

c. Study fast the parts you don’t know

2. Smart studying technique: you can use this technique to study more with better performance so that you save effort, time and money on private courses, this technique include:-

a. Writing questions from other studying resources

b. Asking elder students questions that are related to exams

c. Asking elder students questions related to studying resources

d. Asking elder students questions about the best studying techniques for each subject

Here is how to defeat each enemy:-

1) Feeling bored while studying: it is normal to feel boredom when you are studying a certain subject for several hours and to defeat this enemy you should study each hour a different subject and have a 10 to 20 minutes break after each hour of studying, by doing so you will defeat boredom feelings.

2) Feeling lazy to study: feeling lazy or indifferent about studying is because you can’t see what is next through your traditional education phase. Drawing a clear vision to where you want to end up in your traditional education phase will help you become more active about studying.

3) Postponing studying to some other time: postponing what you should study today to someday is because you don’t live day by day. You must have a mentality of “doing my best just for today”, by having this mentality you will live one day at a time so that you do your best in the current day without being distracted about tomorrow.

4) You don’t have intention to get high marks: students who know what college they want to join in the future are those who study to have high marks. If you want to have the intention to get high marks, you must have a role model for your life that you want to be like one day.

5) You don’t have a future vision to which college you want to join: having a clear vision for your future will ignite the fire in your heart in the present so that you join the college you always dreamt to join.

By knowing the best study technique for you and prevent its enemy, you will be aware about your status in the current time so that you have a better studying experience in the future.