Why former business bosses aren’t always the best office-bearers

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You’d be forgiven for assuming former business people were the perfect strata committee office-bearers – especially if they have taken early retirement and still have a lot of energy to spare.

Think about it, they have maturity, experience, a possibly useful skill set and time on their hands.

They probably know how to run a meeting and have interpersonal skills that are useful for dealing with disgruntled owners, tradespeople and employees.

Probably … but not always.

Oddly, strata owners looking to elect a committee, and committee members choosing a chair, secretary and treasurer, rarely ask any of the basic questions that we would routinely pose in a job interview.

For instance, why were they offered early retirement?  Was there an unresolved issue at work?  Have they ever been bankrupt or convicted of a criminal offence?

Were they too Machiavellian for their own good, or was their employer failing and needed to shed dead wood? Or were they just crap at their job, having been promoted to their level of incompetence, as the “Peter Principle” puts it?

But when we are about to elect complete strangers to have considerable control over our lives, not to mention the value of our properties, we don’t even ask for a CV, let alone for references.

And if we’ve made a mistake by the time we realise that, they have their hands on the levers and, especially perilously, a choke hold on communications.

With meeting minutes and newsletters, or the lack of them, tightly controlled, we might never know how destructive their influence is until the sky (or the roof) falls in.

Okay, that is a very pessimistic view. Retirees and down-sizers are just as likely to be successes who have made positive work-life balance decisions.

But they may also have different priorities from the younger members of the community who are too busy earning enough to pay the mortgage and levies (fees) to have time to spend on strata politics.

And levies are often the key to the office-bearers’ grip on their committees.  Retirees are, by definition, on fixed incomes and they want to keep all their costs to a minimum for as long as possible.

Investors, especially, who are blissfully unaware of what’s happening in the block, will only see the bottom line of their accounts.

As a result, a low-levies committee will get re-elected time and again, and improvements to and even maintenance of the common property can take a back seat.

It’s hard to argue that improving the look and facilities in a block will boost property values to people in charge who have no intention of selling any time soon.

And “my way or the highway” is an easy principle to impose when no one else really wants to spend the time and effort the chair puts in on their “hobby farm” unit block.

Over the years, I’ve witnessed a variety of chairpersons, from time management geeks to bombastic lawyers and the relevance-deprived; from bullies, frauds and crooks, to “Kumbaya” dreamers and ultra-passive doormats.

After that cavalcade of incompetence, a level of acumen, integrity and honesty is usually enough to get my vote.

In Queensland strata owners elect the chair and secretary before they choose the committee.  Elsewhere the chair is selected by the committee members after their election.

But wherever you are, you are entitled to ask candidates for elected office what they’ve done in the past and why they should be chosen ahead of everyone else.

Jimmy Thomson edits the strata living advice website flat-chat.com.au and hosts the Flat Chat Wrap podcast. States have different strata laws.

 

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