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Self-Managed Association Boards Part 5
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Minnesota Community Living July/August 2011

Self-Managed Association Boards: The Top Six Challenges that Face a Board Today

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

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.

  1. Enforcing rules: it is difficult to confront friends and neighbors.
  2. Knowledge of pertinent statutes: trying to understand the "legalese.”
  3. Developing meaningful specs for services/vendors, etc.: Not my area of expertise and requires time.
  4. Frequent phone calls from members with matters that need attention: Time.
  5. Keeping track of paperwork: Time.
  6. Foreclosures: How can we protect the investment? What if they vacate?

"BOARD” with the details
When recently asked how they handled time management and paperwork one board president said, "We didn’t! It was poorly-organized chaos with volunteers, none of whom had any expertise other than experience and self-study in common interest communities.”

Associations should use committees as often as possible. This delegates work among the group, saving resources, and allows individual board members to focus on areas of interest to them. Committees can include non-board members and this should be encouraged. Wonder if your board is too small for a committee? Anything to make things more open, communicative and engaging makes for a happy community. This also helps mitigate the confrontational situations where an owner wants to give their feedback after the decision has been made with a simple "we encourage and value your feedback. If you would like to be more involved, please feel free to join a committee.”

Stick to them! Each person on the board should review the agenda at least 10 days prior to meeting. Add to the agenda as needed and lock the agenda at seven days prior. Allow for proper notification of owners about meeting dates, times and locations.

Take charge of the meeting/conversation
A highly effective way to save time is to limit the small talk. By setting a time limit on a conversation or meeting, the parties are forced to get down to business. One way to do this is to schedule the meeting at a public place that forces you to finish by the next meeting being held or when the building is closing.

Stop procrastinating
When there is a tough decision (like terminating a vendor relationship, deciding on a maintenance project, or increasing dues) the longer a board waits, the worse it gets. Make a decision and move on. The worst thing you can do is have a lack of maintenance due to over-analyzing. This can paralyze the board and often its association. Make a plan and stick to it.

Use technology
It is far easier to transmit documents, send an email, or log a complaint or maintenance request online than by mail, phone, fax, or hand delivery. With budget costs skyrocketing and printing costs high, try to use approved methods of communication that allow for timely responses and reach the most owners possible. And of course, still comply with your rules on delivery of all messages and content.

With so much content it is hard to imagine a volunteer board not getting frustrated. The board president finished by saying, "I have a four-drawer file full of association paperwork; the president before me says he still has boxes of material; and the former secretary has material. I look forward to the day when I can clear everything from my computer!”

Next issue we cover more time management issues: Foreclosures, collections, and what to do when your investment seems to be dwindling and you must protect. I also want to take this opportunity to express thanks to the readers of this series. A few comments were sent to me. "Is it self-management or utter chaos?” Another reader went on to say, "It is nice to see informative articles that don’t just advertise.” There is help. Please send your comments and questions in; I am eager to read and respond.

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