We’ve all been there – the homeowner association board meeting that takes three hours instead of 90 minutes. What to do? Here are five steps you can take to make that happen.
Step # 1: Use a Timed Agenda
We use a timed agenda for every board meeting. The first thing it does is set an expectation that everyone works toward. Adjournment shows 7:30 and it’s already 7:00? People will start getting antsy and will stay focused on the task at hand.
Step #2: Use a Consent Agenda
If the topic is non-controversial and really shouldn’t have any discussion associated with it? Add it to a Consent Agenda and approve everything at once with one motion. Any one Director can pull an item off the Consent Agenda and add it to New Business instead if they feel they need to discuss something before voting or if they wish to vote no. We find about 1/4 of the items to be approved really don’t need any discussion.
Step #3: Come Prepared
This requires two things:
- A manager who has written a good Management Report; and
- A Director who has read the Management Report and given some thought to the items
We are firm believers in providing a detailed Management Report at least three days before a meeting. We often see a Management Report for our competitors is merely a cover page for a collection of proposals and bulk reports. There is no written detail from the Association Manager explaining what the Directors are looking at and providing context and guidance for an issue. I think it’s because most management company owners don’t want their Association Managers writing that report as it will show their ignorance.
The information Directors are given in advance of the meeting should be sufficient for them to come to a reasonable conclusion. You shouldn’t be at the meeting having to ask questions with no one there in a position to answer them. If you often have to discuss items over two meetings because you or your Association Manager had to gather more information you clearly aren’t going into the meeting prepared (and maybe should consider a different Association Manager).
Step #4: Keep the Discussion on Track
The chair of the meeting should keep the discussion focused and on track. There is a line between quelling discussion and getting the job done that all Directors must adhere to but it is up to the chair of the meeting to make sure it happens.
We see too often Directors are ready to make a decision but the conversation just meanders on with repetitive comments, etc. Usually the group just needs a leader to pull the plug on the conversation by saying “I think we’re ready to decide, let’s call the question.” If the chair won’t do it, any other Director is in a position to make that statement.
Not everyone needs to express an opinion on something, especially if it’s not controversial. If you’re not adding something substantive to the conversation it’s okay not to say anything.
Step #5: Focus on Making Decisions
The purpose of the board meeting is for the board to make decisions. It isn’t about having a discussion, that is merely the pathway to making the decision. Sure, sometimes you have to have something as “FYI” for the Board, keep that for the Management Report and don’t spend a bunch of meeting time discussing it. Keep focused on those items you can impact with a decision.
With the application of these principals we often see our meetings run 60 to 90 minutes. There will always be exceptions, I have worked with one homeowner association where 45 minutes was the norm and another where we regularly needed two hours, but the difference was mostly dependent on the complexity of the development.