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GRABBING THE BULL BY THE HORNS

At times, serving on an association board can leave members feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated. To keep an association operating smoothly, board members must continually address both new and timeworn challenges with vision, diplomacy, efficiency and financial ingenuity.

Whether it be a felled tree, noisy neighbors or member facing a financial hardship, making the right decision can set a precedent and determine the difference between future harmony and disaster.

In most cases, board members receive no compensation, yet they are faced with their association’s most significant and enduring decisions. Considering the demand, it’s not surprising that board members may, at times, feel inclined to shift some of their responsibilities over to property managers. Property managers, who typically bring full-time career experience to the table, are often already overloaded, so there is no perfect answer.

As it stands, the wisdom behind the division of responsibilities assumed by boards and managers reflects a culmination of experience that has proven to be a good formula for long-term association success. Ideally, the board brings the concerns of the association to the table and defines what steps must be taken; managers apply their expertise to get the job done in a thorough and cost-effective manner.

To be fair and balanced, a board must make choices that best benefit the overall association. Sometimes that means making decisions that are unpopular with neighbors and friends. One good question to ask is, “given the same set of circumstances, can we apply the same decision we’re making now to every other association member?”

In fear of making the wrong decision, boards may be tempted to avoid making any decision at all. However, association issues rarely iron themselves out, and boards that fail to reach a resolution in the short run are likely to find themselves facing a bigger challenge down the road. Astute board members must be able to distinguish the difference between inconsequential issues and those with the potential to grow out of control.

Fortunately, board members can access a number of resources when faced with a difficult decision. For example, the Community Associations Institute (CAI) hosts an Open Forum and a Search Library that allows members to see how other associations have dealt with various issues. Associations can also seek advice from their local chapter director as well as an endless list of online community association sites that cover a wide range of issues. The main thing to remember is that even if you cannot resolve a serious issue immediately, stay at it and avoid the inclination to brush it aside.

By maintaining a policy of “grabbing the bull by the horns,” and resolving matters as they occur, boards minimize the risk of creating a bottleneck of association issues down the road.