Make sure you have the right team in place to thrive (or just survive) on your HOA board.
In addition to working with many community association and HOA boards on tax and audit matters, I’m also the president of my neighborhood’s Homeowner Association. At our next board meeting, we will start discussing new board member candidates along with next year’s budget. We want to have candidates identified early, so we can publish their bios in the annual meeting documents.
Who’s best for your board of directors?
I started thinking about all of the board members with whom I’ve interacted over the years – in my neighborhood as well as through client relationships. The best board members have specific qualities that enable them to participate, interact, and operate without killing each other in the process. Look for these attributes when you search for new board members:
- Leadership skills – Board members should be natural leaders, and possess the leadership ability to quickly assess and react to the problems.
- Availability – Time to spend on community business, at board meetings, as well as by phone and email as needed between meetings. Someone who travels 5-days each week may not be the best fit.
- Business experience – The board runs a real business, with assets (clubhouse, pool, etc.), revenue, and expenses. People with business experience are most likely to understand this.
- Financial experience – At least the treasurer should have some sort of financial background. It saves a lot of time during financial reviews and budgeting.
- Team oriented – The board is much more efficient when operating as a team rather than individuals doing their own thing. You want members who thrive in a team environment.
- Critical thinking – Board members must quickly review situations and make decisions. Dissention can be productive, but only before the final decision is made.
- Communication skills – You’ll want members who proactively and efficiently communicate, including asking questions, documenting work, and quickly responding to requests.
- Ethics – During HOA and community association audits, I regularly see actions that could be considered conflicts of interest – or even worse. Make sure you also have the processes in place to minimize this from occurring.
- Transparent agenda – Each member’s goals should be the same – to operate and enhance the community. Hidden agendas don’t work, and ultimately just make that board member look silly.
- Kindness – Maybe I should have used “thick skin” instead, but serving on a board is often a thankless job. The ability to stay calm and friendly in an adversarial situation goes a long way to quickly resolving differences. After all, these are your neighbors.
How does your board measure up?
To be cliché, a community association or HOA is really the glue that holds a community together. The board of directors is the leadership group responsible for leading the association, its volunteers, and its property manager. Having a strong, cohesive board in place is critical. Take the time now to seek board members with the right attributes, and consider sending this list out to help residents decide if they have “the right stuff” to serve on the board. You’ll save a lot of time (and hassle) later.
Neal Bach, CPA