Board Shorts #5
Board Shorts # 5
Don’t get taken short
By Peter Walpole
One of the first lessons to remember (once you are on the Board) is that you will soon find yourself short: short of time, short of money and short of people — not necessarily in that order.
Board duties take time: time for meetings; time for self-education; and time to work with your staff and management. You will find that disasters happen most when your staff is ‘off duty’. Why? When the manager, superintendent, and other staff are on site, they are constantly monitoring. The look, listen, and mentally take note. A small drip is fixed before it becomes a flood. A smell of smoke is checked before it becomes a fire. A stranger is approached before he becomes a ‘problem’. Small issues are taken care of quickly and quietly without turning into a disaster.
When the staff is off duty, little problems grow quickly. Consider that whenever you want to cut back on staff, security, inspections …
As to your time: either get used to spending too much time on your Board duties — or become more efficient, stop micro-managing, let your staff do their work uninterrupted. After all, that’s why your hired the staff! Make them feel wanted and important, and financially valued.
As a board member you will be pulled two (or three) ways. You want a budget that covers all known and expected costs. You want to limit the annual maintenance fee to zero (or the lowest possible increase). You will certainly hear from owners when the fees increase beyond the reported annual cost of living inflator. However, the actual costs of running a condo will always inflate at a faster rate. Just simple government-imposed fees will do that. But deterioration, repairs, wear and tear all add additional costs. Get used to it. If you trim your budget too low, you will most certainly find yourself with a ‘must fix right now’ bill and insufficient funds.
Your Reserve Fud Study must be followed and the required sums raised each month — it’s the law. It’s one way to help not run short of money.
So, to ensure you are never short of funds, build a well balanced budget, and hold a reasonable sum in reserve, and keep a contingency fund in a (virtual) back pocket, just in case.
I have mentioned my belief in the value of your hired staff (manager, superintendent, cleaners, security etc.) These people should be budgeted for and rewarded properly — or they will leave you just when you need them most. So where else can you become short of people?
Your Board will always have to work very hard to fill vacancies. You need dedicated, available people to stand for the Board. Common sense and new Government regulations will require all Board members to take training and become qualified. Makes sense to me.
Your Board needs to be run as efficiently and carefully as any corporate Board. You are handling a huge budget. You are managing an expensive piece of real estate. You are doing that for the benefit of a large number of ‘shareholders’ — the owners. It needs to be done correctly, efficiently and following all the laws and regulations. Yes, we all need ongoing training and education as Board members. Those who are not prepared to take on those obligations should not apply. Period.
As a Board member you need to encourage other owners to take up the responsibilities, take the training and become involved. That’s a serious problem for younger working people. It’s a problem for snow birds who plan to be out of town for months on end. It’s a problem for those who are simply disinterested (until budget time and a higher than ACoL increase to monthly fees).
So expect to be short: short of time, short of money, and short of people. The answer to all three deficits is exemplary Board work in cooperation with your manager and staff. Together, you can make it work.