You’ve received your annual meeting notice and you may be wondering, should I go and what is this about? The answer to the first question is a resounding YES! The answer to the second question takes more than one word. The annual meeting is a meeting of the members of your association where you elect the Board of Directors, get a report on the financial status, and sometimes even vote on document amendments or special assessments affecting your home and community.
Whether you’re new to the community or have lived there for years, the annual meeting is a time to get together with your neighbors and make decisions about the direction of your association. You’ll meet your Board of Directors, the Association Manager, and a slew of characters right out of the movies. I’ve been to hundreds, yes, hundreds, of annual meetings and one of the most noticeable phenomena is that the SAME people attend almost every meeting I’ve ever attended. Oh, their names are different, they are of different ages, genders, and nationalities, but they almost always fall into one of five categories. And, while some of these usual suspects have a bad rep, every single one of them has an important role in the annual meeting.
Here’s a brief rundown of each one. Can spot yourself in the group?
1. The Talker, AKA the Off-Topic
We all know a talker. Every family has one. Sometimes it's me! At the annual meeting this could be someone who rambles on and on without getting to the point or someone bringing up subjects that have nothing to do with the association. Yes, we all agree that the city parks are not well-maintained, but since it isn’t something the association has any control over, bringing it up in this forum doesn’t provide any resolution. While it's great to know residents have a lot to say and everyone should be encouraged to talk and share -- it definitely beats having few attendees that don't participate -- it’s important to stick to the agenda. If the topic doesn’t seem relevant after a couple of minutes, the community manager should offer to discuss the issue further after the meeting. If you feel yourself rambling, remember to wait until the official meeting is over to chat up your neighbors about the local sports team or newest restaurant.
2. The Fly on the Wall
The fly on the wall sneaks into the meeting, sits in the back and keeps to themselves. This person may be shy or introverted. While they may not interact with the group very much during the meeting, the fact that they are interested enough to attend the meeting is a good sign that they are involved in the community. As a board member or community manager, you can gain a lot of information by engaging with this person. However, the trick is to do it in a way that is comfortable for them. Don’t try to draw this person into a discussion in front of the entire group. Do try to engage with this person on an individual level either after the meeting or at a completely different time. This person spends a lot of time observing their surroundings, so once they get to know you, they can be a great source of information when it comes to finding out what’s going on in the community.
3. The Devil’s Advocate
The Devil’s Advocate’s motto? Question everything. Even the things that seem to be obvious choices or insignificant decisions cannot be left unchallenged. Three what-if scenarios and multiple alternative choices later, they usually settle on the original proposal. As challenging as this person can be, it's good to have a devil’s advocate around because the truth is, they care enough about the community to ensure that every decision being made has been thoroughly vetted. If this person is unreasonable, they can grind all decision-making ability to a halt; but, when they have the self-awareness to know when to engage and when to back-off, the devil’s advocate can be quite valuable to your community’s annual meeting.
4. The Personal Agenda
The person with a personal agenda feels strongly about an issue, but unfortunately the issue usually only benefits their home or a small number of homes. This could be a person who doesn’t like one particular rule, even though the majority of community members do like the rule, and they believe it just has to be changed and they will go on and on and on (like this sentence) until they get their way. The Board of Directors, on the other hand, must make decisions based on the overall well-being of the community as a whole, not just a few homeowners. The best way to tackle a personal agenda is a strong group. The community manager should point out to the owners prior to elections that everyone serving on the board should be focused on the greater good of the entire community. Then, when election time comes around, if the personal agenda has made their case known, the meeting attendees can decide with their vote whether or not they want that issue dealt with on the board.
5. The Rational Contributor
The Rational Contributor is the unicorn of the five people you’ll meet at the board meeting, meaning, there have been sightings, but no one has ever seen one close-up. The Rational Contributor has the ability to put their personal agendas aside and view the issues in the community objectively, even when doing so doesn’t benefit them personally all in the name of the community’s well-being. Putting the community before your own agenda? It’s easy to see why this person is the hardest to find. Even if you’re not a Rational Contributor (and none of us are all the time!), as a homeowner, if you identify any rational contributors among your neighbors, it’s in your best interest to recruit them to serve on the board. That way, you’ll know the decisions made in your neighborhood will be well-planned, well-researched and in the best interest of everyone. If you consider yourself a Rational Contributor, serve on your association’s board! It doesn’t take nearly as much time as you’re led to believe, especially if you have quality, professional management to help you along the way.
Did you find a type that best represents you? In a perfect world you would have 100% attendance at the annual meeting and everyone would be a Rational Contributor. If they made a movie like that, however, it would clearly fall in the science fiction category! The truth is, anyone can be one or more of these people — sometimes during the course of the same meeting! So, when you get your annual meeting notice, plan on attending, and be sure to bring some popcorn as you watch the different personalities interact. And remember, no matter which of the five types you identify with, the most important thing you can do is take an active interest in the governance of your community.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jesse Dubuque is the Director of Client Development for Associa Minnesota. He works tirelessly to provide superior communication and customer service to his clients. He is responsible for creating effective business plans, increasing brand loyalty, and improving customer satisfaction. Jesse has been a licensed Realtor® in the state of Minnesota since 1999 and has been happily employed by Associa Minnesota since 2008. He has achieved the Graduate Realtor Institute (GRI) and Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA) designations.