The Top Four Most Useful Board Member Professions

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Condo Boards come in all shapes and sizes and are made up of a wide variety of characters.  Boards are volunteer entities, meaning that everyone typically has a day job of some sort.  Your Association may already pay to have various experts to help manage the building – such as engineers, management companies, lawyers, etc.  Building on that, Board members with a useful skill from their day job can be incredibly valuable when dealing with their professional counterparts.  Note that these skill sets differ from the usual official roles of President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, etc., which have critical duties for the operations of the Association; these are practical, hands-on skills that are the most useful Board Member professions.  

#4:  Computer Guru

In today’s day and age, computers, data, and IT are deeply woven into our society.  Your Association might have wireless hotspots for owners, or you might store sensitive data like billing information on your computers.  Is that data backed up?  Is it protected?  What happens if it is breached? Ransomware and other malware is on the rise, and the Association has some valuable data with regards to Owners.  IT contracts aren’t cheap.  Having someone who can help set policy, find a good IT firm, and maybe even do some setup themselves will help your Association out.

#3:  Accountant/Related Mathematics Field

Budgets, particularly for larger buildings, can get complicated, and the finance systems and auditing are a language of their own.  While your management company may do this as part of their services, having someone who can verify the numbers is great.  An Accountant is ideal because they also will understand all the auditing, but anyone who works with numbers will be valuable.  This person often ends up being the Treasurer, for self-evident reasons.

#2:  General Contractor

Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I was a general contractor instead of an office peon.  Their broad knowledge of construction and its sub fields comes in handy when dealing with any sort of renovation projects, allowing them to verify the quality of work, review bids, and generally cut through much of the bullshit that abounds in the contracting field.  One challenge is balancing conflict of interest – they may know a lot of the local tradesmen, so they need to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest when it comes to bidding projects.

And the winner is... General Contractor... wait no, Lawyer! (credit - Reuters)
And the most useful board member profession is… General Contractor… wait no, Lawyer! (credit – Reuters)

#1:  Lawyer

Let’s face it, there are always legal battles or the threat of legal battles in an Association.  And lawyers are expensive!  Whether it’s an easement issue with a neighboring Association, to understanding the legal implications of the Condo Act, or dealing with legal threats from Owners, a good lawyer is worth his or her weight in gold to a Board.  Even if their specialty is not Associations, their legal training may allow them to provide initial opinions, weigh in on the Association’s counsel, and potentially even keep the billable hours down.

Honorable Mentions

Real Estate Agent – tends to know a lot of people and has a broad base of knowledge.

Manager – someone has to keep the trains moving.

Engineer – often helpful when dealing with Building systems like electricity, concrete, elevators, etc.

Tradesman like plumber, electrician, etc. – great when dealing with their specialty, but hopefully you aren’t having major issues with the same system over and over again.

Communications professional – for crafting effective communications to Owners.

HR expert – if you have a lot of staff, but make sure they can “right size” their expertise for the size of your building – policies for a 1,000-person company may not make sense for a three-person staff.

Conclusion

Of course, a Board member’s skill set is only a small part of what makes him or her a good Board member – difficult people don’t bring value to a Board, regardless of their talents.  Depending on your Association’s size, you also need to resist the temptation to have one Board member do all the work in their field by themselves – this can end up being unfair to that person and put the Association bind when the computer guy suddenly sells his unit and resigns from the Board and no one knows how to work the wifi hotspot.  That said, having a diverse set of practical skills makes your Association stronger and more effective.


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