Meet our 12th Annual GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch Honorees!

Celebrate with us! Tickets on sale for the annual awards celebration on Thursday, February 23, 2023.

Affinity Management Services

Miami-Date County, Florida
Founded: 2007

Affinity Management Services is a boutique community association management company servicing Condominiums and HOA’s in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami Dade counties. Company DUNS Number

Industry

Management Consulting Services

Employee Growth

214% increase from 2018 – 2021

Revenue Growth

126% increase from 2018 – 2021

Rafael 72

Rafael Aquino

Co-founder & CEO

Can you share a bit about your background and what led you to start your company?

I come from very humble beginnings; my mom went to college, but my dad didn’t. I’ve always been good at math and science, so I went that route and graduated from FIU in electrical engineering. Once I graduated, I was having a hard time finding a job in Miami, which was where I wanted to stay. I ended up meeting someone in 2004 who was in the real estate world, and we had our first taste of business doing land development together. At the time, we were still living at home since we had only recently graduated from college. We decided we wanted to become developers, and did, which actually went well for about four years. We bought our first piece of land around 2007 to build some small condos. After that, I had some friends and family that were in management who I brought in to start a small company to not only build properties, but to be able to manage them. 

About a year and a half later, the market crashed, and we lost everything that we had worked toward. But we were bootstrapped, and we weren’t afraid to work hard and rebuild. Now, 16 years later, we have over 100 employees, 60 associations, and 16,000 units.

Did you know you always wanted to run your own business?

To be honest, I never thought about being a CEO, but an entrepreneur, yes. I started cutting my parent’s and my neighbor’s grass when I was 12 years old and making my own money that way. I think from then on, I always had an entrepreneurial spirit. After graduating college, I didn’t get the job that I had wanted or planned to have. I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and told myself, if I’m going to make a leap, I need to do it now.

Tell us about Affinity Management Services and the value you bring to your customers.

We specialize in community association management – managing condos and homeowners associations. The industry has a lot of great players and a lot of great organizations, but what we believe separates us apart are those associations. I want to build a strong partnership with a company that’s more medium-sized, that’s been our bread and butter. What separated us over the past two years in the market has a lot to do with our guarantees. In our industry, it’s not uncommon to have companies promising under delivering. As of today, we’re one of the only companies in the market that guarantee our services. one of the only companies as of today in the market that guarantees our services. We guarantee our financials are turned in on time. We guarantee that our supervisors will be at the property X number of times a month and if not, we’ll give you a refund. We differentiate ourselves with our problem-solving skills, standing behind our product and doing what we say we’re going to do.

What has been the biggest challenge in growing your business over the years? How did you overcome it?

We hit a glass ceiling about four or five years ago and we were stuck for about six to seven years. What we sell in our industry is people’s time. The biggest challenge is finding the right people and putting them in the right seat, especially in the past year two. Likely for everyone else, things have been difficult due to COVID and the Great Resignation plus everything else going on. We’ve always leaned heavily into our culture which we want to always make feel like family. Of course, we have our goals and eventually, we’re going to be at 600 employees, but despite that, we want to keep that small business feel for as long as we can.

My business partner and I are very empathetic and we’re very caring for our team members. But it’s a balance between understanding that things come up and still holding the team accountable for the work that they’re doing because ultimately the work that they do is a reflection of the organization. We’ve been trying to work through the challenge of finding the right people and then once we do, placing them in the right spot. We recently implemented EOS, which is an entrepreneur operating system and has been a huge help for us. Now we’re doing routine, nightly check-ins with our team members; letting them know where they stand, and where they are regarding the company values, and getting input from them on what’s working within the company and what’s not working. After they provide that feedback, though some changes take more time than others, they can see changes being made within the company. Since doing this, we’ve seen a big difference in our team members staying with us much longer, and more importantly, our team helping us in the recruiting process to find the right people as we continue to grow.  

That’s a great segue into our next question. How would you describe your company culture?

Our company culture has always worked very well, and I think that has to do with my business partner and I come from very humble beginnings. We understand what it’s like. What’s been a challenge is making sure that as leaders move up in the organization, that our same culture, mentality, and philosophy remain the same. Internally, we say our mission is to improve the lives of our families and the families of our team members. That’s the biggest joy we as leaders and our team members get. If we all feel that way about what we do daily, then we’re going to better serve our communities.

Being in the community management industry, it comes naturally to give the same care we give our employees to our residents. We take care of our people. If our people are doing what they need to do, following the company’s values, and hitting their numbers, it’s our job to make sure that they’re being taken care of and able to support themselves. That goes for our clients, too – because our industry is notorious for it. If our clients are treating our employees with disrespect, we treat them the same and say, ‘Listen, you’re not following the values that we follow as an organization.’ We’re not afraid to let someone go as a client if they’re disrespectful to our team. in the industry, revenue is revenue. But for us, our team comes first.

How do you hope to see your company grow in the coming years?

We have a 10-year goal and we’re about 8 years into it, this year closing around 7.2 million. We’re trying to get from 7.2 to about 35 million within the next seven years and grow to about 600 employees. Right now, we’re approximating about 14,000 units and we’re trying to get to about 40,000 units, close to about 180 properties by 2025.

Do you have a proudest moment so far as founder and CEO?

My proudest moment so far has been when we started to roll out our entrepreneur operating system (EOS) about three years ago and officially rolled it out to every team member a year ago. It was a proud moment for me to see the team being willing to understand that change is inevitable as we grow as an organization and them accepting and embracing it. Now, we’re going to do better as an organization because we can track progress and have those performance markers in place. The way that the entire team has bought into it has been great to see. For example, one main part of the EOS is making sure that our core values are being followed by all. We have team members reminding other team members, ‘Hey, you’re not living the teamwork value,’ or “Hey, you’re not living the professionalism value.’ That goes a long way for me as a business owner as I move from working in the business to on the business. Seeing our team members live by those core values, pushing them down, and really understanding the importance of it has been my proudest moment.

What does it mean to be selected as a GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch Honoree this year?

It means a lot to me. There’s been a lot of work that goes on in the background to grow the organization the way that we want to scale it. The recognition means a lot, not just to me, but to the whole team and we’re excited to celebrate it. One of our goals this year is to celebrate more wins. You get so focused on the day-to-day and thinking about what you need to do, that you sometimes forget to celebrate where you came from. As a leader, it was important for me to show the team that our efforts are paying off. This recognition came from them putting in that extra time and going above and beyond for our clients. went above and beyond for the client. It’s a reward for our entire team.

Is there anyone special you’d like to thank?

It’s tough because there are truly so many people. It’s really to the authors and even people on YouTube that I follow like Patrick Bet-David, Verne Harnish, and Gino Wickman, that are wanting to share their knowledge. It gives business owners like me the opportunity to get a glimpse of what’s out there and improve as an organization. And in turn, I’m improving the lives of many of my team members. I had team members that were making $15 an hour five years ago, and now they’ve been promoted to customer care service managers making $75,000 a year. A lot of that has to do with these books that I’ve read because they help me to see things that maybe I would have never noticed and allowed me to expand my thought process.

What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

It is okay to fail as long as you pick yourself up and you move forward. Understand that things take time. With social media and everything going on in tech, people believe that overnight success is what will happen. The reality is it can take 3, 5, 10 years, or sometimes more to start to see that kind of success. I started at 23 years old, and I’ve been in business for 16 years, I’ve gained all this knowledge along the way but I’m only just now starting to feel like everything is working. I tell people I’m three years into business because now I have the skills and the network I needed. Depending on when you start your entrepreneurial life, the reality is that things will take time, and document the process from the very beginning.

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