Unequal time versus equal money

We very invited to visit a condominium project in Portland earlier this week to propose our service. Its a smaller community with a board that tries to do everything themselves so they don’t spend money on management. As we were talking, Doug pointed out how the focus on saving money for all creates an unequal contribution by some – mainly the board.

What Doug is referring to is a recurring theme in associations but is most obvious within condominiums. The 5 members of the board begin to take on real, and unpaid, positions. These positions add 5-15 hours of work per month and sometimes even 5-15 hours per week! This is time invested on behalf of the community that the other owners do not contribute, leading to a host of problems.

  • Burnout
  • Sense of entitlement
  • A job
  • Excessive expertise
  • Shortcuts
  • Ignoring the rules

And a ton more.

All of these are avoidable but it requires a willingness to understand the real service of being a director. When you add 5 to 50 hours per month of duties to your neighbors, duties which, by the way, should be paid for by the owners, you get tired. The demands don’t let up; as a matter of fact, the more “Freebies” you offer in the form of doing things without pay, the more the owners take it for granted.

With the burnout comes a sense of frustration and this can potentially become the problem of feeling entitled. Many of the thefts committed by association directors can be attributed to the belief that they have earned the money for all their efforts. This is probably true! But, this needs to be negotiated with the owners, not simply taken.

Which leads to the real problem of becoming your association’s go-to person and ultimately having a job you cannot leave. Again, you are not paid for the work or for learning your building system, and yet you spend more and more time and effort becoming the knowledge base and your association suddenly can’t live without you. No vacations, no private life, just continued free service to your neighbors.

There is a better way, but it is hard. You need to understand that, as a director on the board, you are elected to direct. Think about a movie director. The director stands back and takes in the entire scene, looking for things that don’t appear to work for that particular take. Except for the few who direct their own movies, the director is not in the scene, isn’t speaking the lines, isn’t building the set. The director makes sure all those people do their job correctly so the movie comes off as a success.

You have a similar responsibility as a director on your association’s board. Your role isn’t to manage, it is to get the big picture about what is happening and make the decisions necessary to have your community be a success. It doesn’t require you to know how to fix a sprinkler head, trim a tree, or change out light bulbs. Your job is to hold others accountable for those items being done properly.

Your time is valuable. As a matter-of-fact, since this is your free-time, it is extremely valuable. You don’t need to do research on irrigation controllers, that is why you pay management. Yes, they might charge you, but it will cost each of your members $20 instead of it costing you 20 hours. And, if you have selected good management, they will provide you a list of options and their recommendation. So, when it comes time to have a board meeting and decide, you will invest 2 hours in reviewing the options, spend 30 minutes in the meeting asking questions of management and then 5 minutes voting on the recommendation.

Directors are an important part of the association oversight process. Directors doing work instead of overseeing others doing the work means important things are not being addressed. If a director makes a terrible mistake, guess what? The board most likely can’t remove that director! The bylaws are typically written so that only the owners at a properly noticed owners meeting, can remove a director. You are stuck with the problem until that director’s term expires and you hope that someone else will run – but since it is a job that gets nothing but complaints, good luck in finding anyone to want to step up.

Our recommendation is that the board recognize that being member-managed is possible but there is a cost. If your community wants member-management, then the bylaws need to be redrafted to allow for the management group to receive fair compensation for all the hours they put in. This will help in leveling out the field by making everyone pay for the extra effort exerted by the few. It is going to be messy though.

If you want to avoid the burden and the risk associated with paying members to work, then engage strong, effective management. Yes, it is going to cost you all, but honestly, probably not as much as paying the directors a reasonable amount for their efforts. Management is on-call 24×7 and is accountable to the association. If they are not meeting their contracted obligations, you can terminate and engage new management. Have them issue management reports and then agree to regular quarterly meetings with the occasional special board meeting when management needs the board to make a decision on something.

Taking this route allows you to cut your time-investment to about 20 hours per year, all of that preparing for and attending 4-6 board meetings. You can have your life and free-time back and still make substantial contributions towards your association. This is the true win-win you are looking for. Don’t work, Direct.

C.O.R.E. Services, LLC supports condominium properties in the Pacific Northwest through offering management focused on helping directors work on their association, not in it. If you are ready to transition to strong, effective outsourced management for your condominium property, or if you have questions about how C.O.R.E. can help you, please email us today for more information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *