You Have Two Ears and One Mouth- Use Them in That Proportion
Understanding the limitations of the staff, managing agent and fellow board-members is important. Although the staff reports to the managing agent, the managing agent reports to their firm first and ultimately to the board. The board then reports to the residents. The managing agent has, in most cases, multiple buildings with multiple emergencies such as leaks, fires, floods; and of course loose cats.
Have you ever asked the resident manager and staff if they have any suggestions or concerns? We worked with a building on installing BuildingLink. The board had concerns about how well-received it would be by the staff. Once implemented, the staff praised the system and was so grateful for all of the functions that removed the responsibilities from them when it comes to delivering packages, handing out keys, allowing guests to enter and handling maintenance requests. In this case, the board did not seek to understand, but it made a decision, which turned out to be very well-received.
We were once working with a building where the superintendent told us that the board couldn’t make decisions. We had made a suggestion that would provide over $200,000 in cost savings. The super was all for it, but he was skeptical as to whether the board would actually dare make a decision that involved (an ever-so-slight) change. He was right, they voted it down!
Have you ever asked the managing agent what he and his team need in order to perform their jobs better? One of our buildings had a managing agent that was so frustrated with the board’s inability to make decisions, that he ended up not only resigning from the building, but from the industry!
Attending meetings, reviewing purchase, mortgage and refinancing applications and alterations take up much of board members’ time. For a few board members, preparing for and following-up after meetings takes up even more time. Are you properly on-boarding new board members to be good board members? What is expected from them? When are the meetings held? Can they remote-attend some of the meetings? How much time is involved between meetings? The most important principle to get across is the importance of teamwork. The individual Board members must coalesce as a cohesive unit, working towards a common goal instead of individual agendas. To quote legendary coach Knute Rockne, “The secret is to work less as individuals and more as a team. As a coach, I play not my eleven best, but my best eleven.”
Residents, Shareholders or Owners
How do you listen to residents in co-ops and condos? You probably don’t have to go as far as setting up a suggestion box or sending out surveys. However, it is crucial to take all complaints and requests seriously and to be responsive to those complaints. Not doing so can have both time consuming and expensive ramifications such as outright board takeovers or even lawsuits.
We were once working with a board that had a lot of lawsuits. After some investigation, it turned out that the board’s stance was to ignore requests and complaints from residents, especially those from “habitual complainers,” With the assumption that they would just “go away!” Poor communication has never led to anything good and, in this case, it actually became very expensive.