So You Want to be a Board Member Now What?

I wish someone had told me the nuances of trying to cultivate a community while also trying to manage a business,” said Pat Burke, the current president of the Fieldstondale co-op in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, when asked what he wished someone had told him when he joined his co-op board 12 years ago. “The two tasks are usually in dire conflict, or so I’ve found.”

Time is Not on Your Side

Being on your building’s board can be a time-consuming job, says Jared McNabb, CMCA, PCAM, a property manager and vice president of acquisitions at Crowninshield Management Corp., AMO, a property management firm in Peabody, Massachusetts. “People are working more hours. Many times boards meet in the evening hours, beyond 5 o’clock, and at that point a lot of folks are home from work and may not have the time or desire to do anything but come home and relax or take care of their own errands.”

While being on the board can take up quite a bit of time, you don’t necessarily need to be an expert in any one field, says David J. Levy, president of Sterling Services in Holliston, Massachusetts. “To me, the number one skill required to be a successful board member is to be a ‘servant leader’. That means that you have signed up to be on the board to help the community at large, not to solve a personal pet peeve or personal hot button,” he explains. “Once the reason is valid, then the next level of importance is style — do you want to be part of a team, able to listen to other board members, residents, advisors and suppliers/contractors?”

It’s only after those most basic requirements are met, he notes, do specific skills come into play.  “All condo boards need to have a mix of skills, such as finance and buildings, plus someone with an interest in grounds and communications.  Sometimes a board may have no one with a financial background, while another board may have all board members with a financial background, yet no one interested in communications or grounds. Thus, when recruiting potential volunteers, the existing board can highlight the existing skills of the Board members and note its desire to fill voids in specific areas.”

Keith Hales, the president of Hales Property Management in Chicago, notes that “a board member should be familiar with how condominium associations operate as well as generally how a business operates.” Hales adds that reviewing the condo act or your local condo or co-op laws, the condo declaration, bylaws, and any rules and regulations of the particular building community are also beneficial.  

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