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Developing a Strong Board

Are You Right for the Board?

 Not everyone should own a condominium.  Some folks will never feel comfortable with the restrictions of condo community life.  They have read the rules and bylaws but still do not understand why they cannot overhaul their car engine in the triplex driveway or cut down the apple tree blocking their view across the street.  The same can be said about being on the Board.  Some folks should just step away.

Even with this negative advice, my real message is that as many unit owners as possible should be engaged in the business of managing their condo village.  No matter what level of condo leadership role they chose to attain, it is important for unit owners to have a sense of ownership and responsibility in the control of their future.  It is this choice and the effective guidance of the association that will determine the success of the community.

It goes without saying, a good Board will influence the quality of life; financial stability; and investment return of a community.  If this is so obvious, why do not all associations have ‘good Boards’?  That is like asking why are not all businesses profitable or why cannot all football teams win as much as the Patriots.  To have a successful Board and hence a successful association, a winning formulation must be developed.  The ingredients of this formulation must include good Communications; Active Participation; Balance; Service Orientation; and Decision Making.

These formulation attributes are not just for the Board as a whole but each member of the Board must also bring these skills to the table.  This is particularly true for Maine condominium associations because so many do not have the benefit of professional property managers providing guidance but must be dependent on the volunteers coming forth.

Board members must not only be able to Communicate amongst themselves but also the community.  This means coming to Board meeting prepared with an agenda to be followed.  It means being civil and respectful of other members’ views.  This may mean learning Roberts Rules of Order or just sticking to the items on the agenda with a time schedule.   Good communication is not only about getting the facts out to the association but also the perception of the facts.  Today’s technologies provides a wide range of media possibilities for reaching the unit owners but whatever method is used the most important message is accuracy; openness; and trust in the association’s deliberations and decisions.

Active Participation skills include assigning representatives to deal with directions to the property manager; service providers; or repair contractors.  This both eliminates confusion and also delegates committee leadership to widen the roles of leadership and involvement.  The Board should do all it can to encourage unit owner participation in both Board meetings and general meetings.

When I think of Balance in an association I not only recommend the Board demographics include an assortment of men and women both young and old but I also suggest a diversity in professional skills on the Board.  These attributes not only bring a balanced perspective to the table but also takes advantage of the free professional talent often found in even the smallest associations.  As an example, to fill the role of treasurer, the Board should seek a current or former CPA or bookkeeper who will understand the importance of documentation; budgets; and financial controls.

The importance of Service Orientation cannot be overemphasized.  The Board must not only be unbiased and selfless in setting priorities and decisions making but it also must be perceived to be.  No member of the Board or for that matter a key committee head should come into the position with an axe to grind or a single-minded self-interest issue.  Service contracts should be awarded on a completive basis and complaints by unit owners should be handled from a neutral, arms-length point of view.

 And finally, no organizations can be effective if it does not know how to make Decisions and execute them.  Often good decisions come from professional experience but often just common sense is all that is needed.  A process for decision making should be established and then followed.  Unit owner should know what to expect in both consistency and following of the rules, bylaws, and policies.

So when it comes to asking yourself if you should run for the Board, the first question to ask is, do you have the same skill set making a ‘good Board’?  Secondly, in applying these five formulation ingredients to yourself, personalize them to your own circumstances and lifestyle.  You need to be able to Communicate with the ever-present unit owner curmudgeon in the parking lot or the general meeting; Participate in most of the meetings and social gatherings; Balance your Board responsibilities with your private life; and make Decisions when they are not in your best interest.

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Article written by Jack Carr, P.E., R.S., LEED AP, Criterium Engineers

Published in Condo Media, January, 2016

Download the PDF version here.