Business skills that can spell strife in strata


You might think that all those skills you acquired climbing the business ladder and studying for your MBA make you the perfect candidate for your strata committee.

But while some attributes help in both fields, others have serious downsides that can lead to strata disaster. Here are a few flaws and a couple of strengths you might bring from the boardroom to the strata committee table.

  1. Business brain

A good strata scheme is run in a businesslike manner … but not like a business. Yes, you need to have all the processes in place to avoid waste and keep things ticking over smoothly.

But if your prime focus is the bottom line – or your levies, to put it another way – you are missing a major point. These are people’s homes and you can’t ignore emotions.

  1. Secrecy Vs transparency

While the business world has to make sure that customers, investors and employees are aware of what’s going on, the phrase “commercial in confidence” protects vital secrets.

However, there is no place for secrecy in strata. When it comes to “need to know”, that means everyone, everything and all the time.

  1. Duty of care

Just as in business you dare not take your eye off the ball, committee members need to keep themselves informed about defects, maintenance, contracts and commitments.

You would lose your job if you signed a contract without checking all the ins and outs. Why would you drop your guard as a member of a strata committee?

  1. The Power Trip

Whether you’re CEO of a corporation or chair of a small strata scheme, there may come a time when you believe only you know how to do the job, so it’s obviously to everyone’s advantage if you stay in power, regardless of what it takes.

Suddenly it’s all about politics and you do whatever it takes – including stacking committees and manipulating minutes – to make sure you are re-elected next AGM.

  1. It’s the secretary, stupid

The real power in any strata committee lies with the secretary (should they choose to use it).  They control the flow of information, call the meetings and have most contact with other owners as well as the strata and building managers.

In a prestige block not a million miles from where I sit, all nine members of the current committee have at some point been hand-picked by the secretary to fill a mid-term vacancy, then approved by the previously chosen few, and then re-elected at the next AGM.

To be fair, the building concerned is doing reasonably well but, hey, Mussolini got the trains to run on time.

  1. A delegate balance

Delegation is an essential art in business and a smart strata committee recognises there may be residents with useful skills, so they invite them to join advisory sub-committees for specific projects or issues. Then, when a vacancy arises, they have already seen them in action, and vice versa.

However, if your office-bearers tend towards paranoia (see items 4 and 5), any “outsider” is a threat, and the more they have to offer the greater threat they are.

A version of this column appeared in the Australian Financial Review on Saturday, Sep 16, 2017.

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