We are not looking so much for a management tool as much as we’re looking for a communication tool.
I think Gladly is a product that is appropriately named. And it kind of makes me laugh. Because if someone asked me to try and communicate with a HOA, the last thing I would say is “gladly!” Instead I would say, “NO! WHY?!” Gladly co-founder Burke Nielson knows I’m not the only one that feels this way, and he’s working to change that attitude. “Most people are pretty satisfied with their HOA but all you hear about are those situations where there are misunderstandings or miscommunications,” Nielson says. “We did a lot of research and found that it came down to poor communication.” Gladly helps HOA board members and managers to better communicate with homeowners, and helps homeowners to connect with their neighbors. “We are not looking so much for a management tool as much as we’re looking for a communication tool,” Nielson explains.
After spending a majority of his career in the HOA and property management industry, Nielson noticed that the tools and technology available to HOAs were not very good. “The industry is kind of far behind,” he says. So Nielson partnered with his cofounder Sterling Jenkins, who has a background in development, and together they started researching the flaws in HOA communication. A number of focus groups helped them identify that community leaders thought residents didn’t care about their community and community members felt left in the dark. “It came down to how people were consuming information,” Nielson says. So he and Sterling built Gladly to change the way that information is consumed.
Historically, community websites have been static. The sites are rarely visited, residents don’t remember the url, and information on the site is outdated and irrelevant. In communities that have implemented Gladly, however, anyone within the community can post to the community’s bulletin board. To keep the forum pleasant, users must use their names. “We’ve tried eliminate all the hurdles,” Nielson says. As community members build relationships on the site, they have a reason to visit frequently and when the board or manager posts something, community members see it. “We want to make it as easy as possible for people to access that information,” Nielson explains.
Gladly is still in beta with about seventy communities across the country, some in Canada, one in England and one in Australia. “We’re still trying to take the feedback from our customers and refine this application to work the best way it can,” Nielson says. The company has been mostly boot-strapped. “We believe in the lean startup methodology,” Nielson says. “We haven’t had to raise a lot of money.”
As Gladly exits their beta phase, Nielson hopes to see the product implemented in even more communities. “We want it to be a widespread product that people can use easily without breaking the bank,” he says. With the 60,000,000 homeowners that belong to 350,000 communities in the US, and with Gladly’s insanely affordable pricing, growth is sure to be explosive, and residents are sure to GLADLY use Gladly. Get it?