The goal is to be an informed board member. For both new and seasoned board members, however, there are countless challenging topics requiring specific knowledge. With new regulations and legislation on tap, it is imperative that board members understand the various nuances of board service, an approach best supported by continuing education.
“Most board members are not experts in real estate or property management,” says Dan Wurtzel, president of Cooper Square Realty, Inc. in Manhattan. “Boards are comprised of professionals from different fields so their knowledge might be in finance, law or engineering and while all that experience is good, it’s a different business model.”
This varied business model plays a significant role; it’s the organization’s lifeblood. Without proper oversight and adherence to protocol, rules and laws, an otherwise well-intended board can place its members, shareholders and unit owners/shareholders in peril.
The Learning Curve
The learning curve is often the hardest for new board members who have little experience not only tackling policy issues but interacting with other board members and understanding how to have their voice heard. “Board members should look to develop and enrich their communication, negotiation and organizational skills,” says Maria Rodd, executive director for the Hudson Valley chapter of Community Associations Institute (CAI). “These are not only invaluable in being good board members but also in everyday life.”
Greg Carlson, executive director of the Federation of New York Housing Cooperatives & Condominiums (FNYHC) and owner of Carlson Realty Inc., located in Forest Hills, Queens, says all members should be familiar with the underlying documents to their respective building. These include reading bylaws, house rules, the certificate of incorporation and proprietary leases. “Some people are shy and don’t want to ask questions because they are afraid people will think they are stupid,” says Carlson, who has several management accreditations, noting that new board members should team up with an experienced board member. “With a mentoring process, when it’s one-on-one it is more comfortable to ask questions as opposed to being in a room with five to twelve people,” he adds.