Considering that the AGM is the one time of the year when owners get direct contact with their strata committees, their organisation can sometimes be a little haphazard, to say the least
Phil Bottomley, Head of Business Development at our sponsor Lannock, the strata finance people, has delivered some thoughts on how to better prepare for general meetings.
This article was directed at strata managers but, obviously, most of those ideas apply to committee members – chairs and secretaries – who are organising general meetings themselves. The following is a slightly edited version of Phil’s article.
Like all of us, I’ve been to a lot of general meetings. And like all meetings, they’ve come in all shapes and sizes, all degrees of owner unanimity and discord, satisfaction and frustration.
Here’s some of the common themes I’ve seen from the very best meetings and how we can effectively lead committees, owners and professionals through a difficult general meeting:
Is it about leadership or management?
The focus of most meetings is compliance and management – getting the agenda out on time, including all the appropriate resolutions and so on. This is a given, we must do these things so that the strata plan meets its statutory requirements.
But compliance is only a platform for the real purpose of the meeting, which is how the owners are to make decisions that are right for them in their specific situation.
Especially in large properties that have significant problems, it’s not just a matter of organising the meeting and then handing it over the owners to run. The most successful meetings I’ve attended are where the strata manager, by their preparation, takes a leadership role and assists others.
Compliance is a necessary start, but it’s about leading owners to help them make the decisions that are best for them. Achieving this furthers your ability to proactively manage the property in the year ahead.
Is compiling the right agenda enough?
Putting together a good agenda is an art but can we do more if we can lead committees, owners and professionals to hold not just a compliant, but a successful meeting?
Here’s just a few ideas from what I’ve observed:
- Prioritising the items on the agenda. Working out which are the most important matters and prioritise them so that owners can address complex items before they get too tired and hungry
- Can we set a time limit and focus on major items, leaving minor or operational matters to another meeting?
- To cater for disparate knowledge levels, fact sheets or FAQ’s sent out to owners regarding strata meetings in general or the potential issues the meeting may present. The more questions that can be answered prior to the meeting the better
Is the venue critical?
How many times do we have meetings in an inappropriate place? I’ve been to some top meetings in the carpark, but quite a few duds as well. You don’t have to hire the Opera House – the local RSL or someone’s apartment can be just right, but the important thing is to prepare. Will there be appropriate seating? Will people be able to hear? And see? Is there easy parking?
Picking a venue where everyone feels part of the conversation is critical to keeping owners engaged in their decision-making process.
Can we help the professionals to communicate better?
Good proposals can fail and good contractors miss out on jobs for just one reason: In their desire to be professional contractors can present things in an overly technical way. Excessive detail often falls on deaf ears.
It’s common sense really. We have a disparate group of people with different objectives, different backgrounds, different experience and different capabilities. It’s a tough gig.
Communications planning starts before the meeting. There’s no point sending out a 100 page technical report that no-one can read or understand. Would having the professional send out a succinct summary be helpful? With the full document available to those who ask for it.
Or what about a standard, company-branded template for professional presentations that forces the contractor to address the issues that you know are important to the owners?
Help for owners, especially the newbies
Difficult issues in strata invariably lead to a well-attended general meeting. But while we’re congratulating ourselves on the great turnout, we have another problem. Many people at a well-attended meeting are first timers. Use the agenda to set expectations as to what will and won’t be discussed at the meeting. Using time allocations, as previously mentioned, can help.
Would it help to have an interpreter? There are arguments for and against this but far better to plan for it. Would Fact Sheets or FAQs help?
Most of this is just common sense, but a sensible outcome at a complex general meeting requires significant planning.
Leading owners though a difficult general meeting will help them come to the decisions that is right for them in their situation.
We all want the best outcome for the owners – preparation makes all the difference.