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Learning the Ropes A Look at Training New Board Members

Co-op and condo board members are usually volunteers who give of their time and expertise to help make sure their building or HOA is well-run and their investment protected. In a perfect world, new board members are architecture graduate students who moonlight as attorneys and work day jobs as CPAs. Indeed, many new board members are architects, engineers, lawyers, accountants, or successful businesspeople—but the majority are folks from all walks of life who don't necessarily have years of experience that is directly applicable to running an association, and for these folks, some basic board training can be invaluable.

Of course, much of the onus of training a new board member falls squarely on the shoulders of that new board member themselves. They are the one who must acquire the knowledge and skill to get the job done effectively. But it’s also incumbent upon the incumbents to help out too. Let’s take a look at what makes a good board member, and some things new and veteran board members can do to help with training and orientation:

New Blood

According to Mike Jacobs, president of the board at Hamilton Woods Condo Association in Basking Ridge, “Generally people who choose to run for the board want to help their community because they have a vested interest in its success and well being. A board should have a mix of people with some solid business experience, financial expertise, management, contract experience, and hopefully good communication skills. At times we've pursued people to try to get them to volunteer because we needed specific skills, but overall we like people who are willing to be part of a team, and who aren't there because they're trying to serve their own bias. We want people who are willing to listen, willing to communicate, contribute ideas and discuss alternatives, and who bring some thought and leadership to the group."

Marvin Rothenberg, a board member at The Plaza co-op in Fort Lee agrees. "People who can work with others and deal with issues rather than personalities" is key. "There’s nothing wrong with having disagreements on issues. I think that it’s very helpful to have people on boards who have some corporate experience and have learned to deal with other people and having give-and-take."

Ed Brozek is treasurer for Longport Condo Association in Sea Isle, and says that for his part, "A top attribute is political acumen. You get a lot of conflicting views and attitudes, ranging from people who say 'I just paid my quarterly condo dues and I don’t want to know anything—just make it work' to the other end of the spectrum where people are engaged and involved and make recommendations. It's important to be able to communicate clearly without offending people."

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