Insider tips for rookie board members

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Our building is electing a new board tonight, and  we are feeling a tad guilty about not running. So, we thought about how we could help, at least in some small way, those who step up (or are pushed up) to the thankless but critical task of running their building.  

Heads held low, we solicited advice for this year's rookies from experienced co-op and condo board members around the city. Here is what they had to say:

  • “Become friendly with your doormen, super and building manager and get as much information from them as possible. They talk to the other board members more than you and can be critical allies in the propaganda campaign required to push your fresh ideas through.”
  • “Keep a list of everything your managing agent says they will do at each meeting and then send it to them.  Ours generally forgot to do most of what we asked.”


  • “A good part of the board is dealing with people and their personalities.  It is true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”


  • “Make a wish list of ideas that will improve the building or internal processes and follow through by proposing them at meetings and taking them on if need be. I came up with the idea of a building website and of finding ways to improve the sales process, and took it upon myself to champion them and make them happen.”


  • “Be prepared to be constantly asked for advice or take issues in the elevator.”


  • “Knowing the behind-the-scenes dirt is not always fun, and the politics of alliances can be frustrating.  Be politically savvy to help facilitate the process.”


  • “If you are thinking of serving on your board, make sure you know what you are in for before you commit to it. It is a thankless job that can require huge amounts of time depending on the condition of your building.”


  • “Listen.  Chances are your board has some real characters on it—some of whom may take a while to get to know and appreciate.  Once you know the personality dynamics it will be a lot easier to lobby for the things you think should be done.  Listening will also help you avoid any landmine issues that the board has already gone over and over and over until the mere mention of them makes everyone cringe.”


  • “There is always a pet project that the board president has on the backburner with which he/she could use some help.  Usually they don’t take a lot of time but if you can move them a long with a little elbow grease, the rest of the board will immediately respect your initiative and commitment.”


  • “Most issues that come up at board meetings are being dealt with by other boards.  Many are chronicled in industry newsletters like The Cooperator.  Get your hands on these and read before you go to a meeting. There is nothing like calling the board’s attention to a recent article on an agenda item to demonstrate your worthiness as a board member.” [Note: We also like Habitat--eds.]

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The right board:  A personality contest

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Killing deals to protect property values is risky business

1 in 10 co-op sales inflated to pass the board

Approval, schmoovel! Renovation perks for board members

How to concierge your doorman