Habit #7: “Sharpen the Saw”
In “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen R. Covey talks about the “upward spiral” model that results from growth, change and constant improvement. The Upward Spiral model consists of three parts:
The management team in a coop or condo is composed of three distinct entities: the board, the property manager, and the staff. When their strengths are combined, goals can be achieved that could not have been done by just one of these entities.
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.
As the decision-maker, the board is in charge and needs to set the overall tone. Only when there are clear goals, systems and plans, will all of the involved parties in the organization thrive.
It is not uncommon that boards and residents tell us that their staff is lazy or is in “cahoots” with the managing agent. It is also not uncommon to hear that boards are unhappy with their managing agent. We could give you a very long list of all the reasons they think so, but in reality, the culprit is more often than not the board.
Identify what is required by law; what is urgent, what is needed; what would reduce ongoing costs; what residents want. Then, prioritize what all this entails. Most residents want to live in a safe home with an inviting and friendly atmosphere and probably with as many amenities as possible while paying as little as possible. This is not an easy task to realize, especially since the board members most likely all have jobs, families, other activities and commitments.
Have a Long-term Plan
Ask yourself, what is your ultimate desired outcome? Is it a more cost-efficient building, a greener building, more amenities to better compete with the new luxury condos or something else? Or, are you perfectly happy with the current state of your building and the yearly rate increase that you pass on to your residents and neighbors?
In our Co-op & Condo Board adaptation of Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the first 3 habits discuss changing your mindset from being too dependent upon others to being completely independent and self-reliant. Here’s Habit #1 addressing the importance of being proactive or plan ahead.
If you’re a board member of a coop or condo building, you and your board undoubtedly work hard to represent your fellow owners. While owners want you to maintain your shared home at the lowest cost possible, the primary board and management responsibilities are the management of day-to-day operations, as well as special requests and emergencies. This leaves very little extra time to devote to serious cost cutting.
Many people appreciate the obvious work we do in helping boards cut budgets, save money, and run more efficiently. There are many “big” items involved with this, but small details also matter and add up. Effective communication is an example of this. Between the many moving parts and layers of management; board, super, managing agent, much can go wrong. This is a case of “too many cooks in the kitchen.” Proper technology can solve this, while at the same time creating cost efficiencies.
Most of you have heard about the effect of compounding. This is commonly known and spoken about in investments. According to Merriam-Webster it is “to pay (interest) on both the accrued interest and the principal.” The opposite is true as well. Although not often talked about, the effect of compounded savings, or reduction in expenses can be significant. We helped one association cut one particular expense, which over the next 10 years will save them, using some reasonable assumptions, over $240,000.