By Joel Starks, Sharper Management
In this series we are focusing on you the board member and the challenges you face each day when running your homeowners association. We are exploring six challenges and ways to work through them. If you see something that seems common or you identify further challenges, do share. I will add your comments and feedback as the year goes on. You can email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Board President Speaks
A small-association board president reported the following struggles—not to mention the earful she gets from frustrated homeowners who don’t know how hard it can be to manage an association and work full time. Today we focus on our most precious commodity: time.
- Enforcing rules: it is difficult to confront friends and neighbors.
- Knowledge of pertinent statutes: trying to understand the ‘legalese.’
- Developing meaningful specs for services/vendors, etc.: Not my area of expertise and requires time.
- Frequent phone calls from members with matters that need attention: Time.
- Keeping track of paperwork: Time.
- Foreclosures: How can we protect the investment? What if they vacate?
What is your time worth? When talking to self-managed boards, I get the sense that many board members do not enjoy being part of the whole process. They see serving on the board as a necessary evil or something that has to be done. They say, “I will put my time in” or “No one else will step up.” Many times, that is the truth.
How should boards respond to the needs of its members, and in what fashion or timeframe? In today’s world of on-demand communication, people are accustomed to quick response. Each board member has a duty to answer the phone and respond to calls that come in daily, weekly and certainly during snowstorms.
From Retired to Tired
What most non-board-members forget is that board members are volunteers. After many hours of working they come home to more work—on a daily basis in some cases.
Larger associations may have ample board members to help with calls, tasks and processes. However, smaller associations rely on one or two strong members to carry the load. Let’s call them “tired.”
They work relentlessly to achieve common ground regarding rules enforcement, vendor supervision or financial upkeep. These are just a few of the tasks that have to happen in a self-managed association. It is tough to get your own jobs done let alone manage a small community with many member personalities, goals and issues.
One association board president reflected on her board membership. “I loved my time on the board of our townhome association,” she said. “I enjoyed getting to know some of my neighbors…but a board meeting meant at least 2.5 hours of discussion and decision-making every month. … The time at the meeting wasn’t the end of it. There were neighbors to follow up with and calls to answer and merchants to contact for quotes or questions. … While I feel it is one’s duty to spend some time on the board, time can be a precious when working full time.”
All owners deserve response to their needs. But self-management leaves little room for true accountability. It can be difficult to enforce rules with your neighbors or deal in collections and disputes. These can be very troubling issues.
“I often felt myself to be back in the working world even though I was supposedly retired,” said another former board president. “Unlike my former paid job, however, I couldn’t stop at the end of the day. It took hours/days/weeks of my time to research to be able to give credible responses to the demands/needs (both real and perceived) of association owners.”
There is Help
Being on a board can be a rewarding experience for all. But if you are more “tired” than “retired” it can be much more of a chore. Understand that there is help out there. One board member said to me recently, “I am now truly retired...and no longer tired.”
Next issue we cover more time management issues: paperwork, governing documents, paper trails, audits and financial reviews.