June 17 2010
Now you’re having second thoughts – third, fourth and even twenty-fifth thoughts – about the wisdom of what you did. Before you throw in the towel, consider these ten ways to make it work – for you and the building. Five now, five later.
1. Assume a zen like state: Yes, put yourself into a trance. Use whatever means works best for you – hypnosis, yoga, meditation. The only criteria is that the self-induced state of calm has to last long enough to get you through the first board meeting, which judging by my own building can last more than 4 (FOUR) hours.
2. This will prepare you for step 2: Get ready for battle: I’m not going to sugarcoat things Unless your building is some kind of utopian paradise or a modern-day hippie commune, odds are you will confront enemies, or at least non-friends during your board tenure. Usually it’s easy to escape them by waiting for the next elevator or lingering in the lobby, but being locked in an unventilated board room close enough across the table to see the whites of you opposition’s eyes can up the ante.
The key is not to let them get under your skin, which I admit may require a dose of valium or something stronger beforehand. Just put on a smile and soldier on together for the good of the building, Then when you arrive back to your apartment, you can emit a primal scream, and for additional frustration venting, get a voodoo doll with lots of heavy duty pins. In case of emergency, they even come in miniature size so you can take one with you to the meeting.
3. Understand your power: As a newly-anointed board member, you have tremendous power – more than you ever thought, maybe more than you want or should. It’s all thanks to The Business Judgment Rule, which basically says whatever you do in your capacity as a director won’t be second guessed by any court so long as you act in good faith within the scope of your authority. OK so you don’t get those fat pay checks of real world directors, you have the same jolt of power. It gives you a free pass on practically every decision you make. Don’t let it go to your head or you could take down the building.
4. With Power Comes Responsibility: You have a fiduciary duty to the owners you represent, which means you have to put their interests first. This is probably not the natural human condition, especially not for people who get on boards figuring if they’re not getting paid for their time, they should get something. But the single most important bit of experience I can pass onto you is resist temptation to serve yourself rather than your shareholders. You may get away with it like other politicians do for awhile, maybe even a long while. But eventually the truth will out, and neighbor will be pitted against neighbor. Do you really want to be responsible for a civil war in your building?
5. Keep Your Eye on the Money: Remember George refused to tell Jerry or anyone else that his PIN was Bosco for fear that someone might break into his bank account and withdraw his money. OK, maybe he was a little neurotic, but this is a topic on which you should be, too, because if you take your eye off the ball there can be problems and the last thing you want is for owners to blame you for losing their money Word to the wise: A couple of years back a treasurer was found dead after 4 million dollars were found missing from the co-op’s reserve account.
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