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Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Board Education: Is There Ever Enough?

You’ve spent a considerable amount of time educating the board president of a property you manage about the million dollars they’ll be spending for Local Law 11 and roof work. Is this kind of granular approach usual or unusual?

It really just depends on the person you’re speaking with. In this instance, this board president really wanted to know all the aspects of the project, from looking at the engineering estimates to deciphering the engineering terminology. Once we got to the reports, she asked a lot of questions about them. And then when we went into the bid phase, she asked even more questions, so that she understood what we were looking to achieve vis-a-vis coming up with the right dollar number and the right scope of work.


Typically, a board has a property manager, maybe they have an engineer, and they’ve hired professionals. They may have the time to learn all this detail, maybe not. Why do you think this president felt she needed to be so involved?

I think she wanted to be able to lead the board forward. She wanted to understand everything and pass that information on to her board, and if the board members had any questions, she could communicate to them what we were trying to accomplish. Did they want to be as deep and as granular as she did? Probably not, but the information was there for them if they wanted it. 


Were some of the board members hesitant about going forward with the project?

I think they were concerned about spending money wisely. Far too often, boards get into these projects, and they spend a considerable sum, and a lot of times it doesn’t correct the issue. There might be some other underlying cause that they were unaware of or the design professional didn’t come up with the right solution, or just a systematic failure. In this instance, it was ongoing maintenance for Local Law 11, and the project centered around trying to get ahead of the curve so that their roofs were good for another 20-year period. So that was the focus. There was a concerted effort to make sure that they will be spending the proper amount of money.


When you’re dealing with expensive repairs, it’s not uncommon to have some board members who are resistant. In general, is it a good strategy to have one person become super-educated about a project so they can help the rest of the board feel more comfortable?

Absolutely. We often tell boards to think on a global level and allow us to operate so that we are handling the day-to-day. A construction project becomes day-to-day just for a short period of time, but having a board member there who we can liaise with and understands what we’re talking about is absolutely helpful because they can disseminate that information to the rest of the board. It’s a great strategy. 


You’re managing a lot of buildings and there are a lot of details that you’re dealing with. But you’re not in the education business, so does it make sense to take the time to bring people up to snuff?

Actually, at first, I would probably have said, “No, it doesn’t,” but I think the knowledge this person gains is beneficial. There’s now a level, I guess, of trust. The other thing is that people in the industry, we talk. “How are you going to rip out this job?” And it’s, “Ba, ba, ba, ba.” And we all go, “OK, we understand,” and we move on. But for the layman, it’s “What did you just say?”


So if we can explain it at the outset and have a conversation so that someone understands what we’re talking about, then yes, the benefit is there. I don’t have to stop again and explain and go, “Do you remember when we talked about this drawing, this part of the specification?” They already know. So yes, I think at the end it was a huge benefit to this co-op for me to go through as much of the information as I could.

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