HOA Insights: Common Sense for Common Areas

022 | More HOA Board Hero Stories!

September 25, 2023 Hosts: Robert Nordlund, Kevin Davis, Julie Adamen Season 1 Episode 22
HOA Insights: Common Sense for Common Areas
022 | More HOA Board Hero Stories!
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Today Julie & Robert share transformative stories & values of courage, communication, & common sense in HOA Board Heroes they’ve encountered over the years!
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Dive into the world of HOA Board Heroes! Julie Adamen shares the heartwarming transformation of a once-doubting board member, Michelle, into an invaluable ally. Michelle's keen political acumen and her exceptional communication skills played a pivotal role in addressing critical challenges in a Southern California community association. Joined by Robert Nordlund, they discuss the undeniable importance of transparency, honesty, and, above all, courage. Witness the compelling story of a recall election, the significance of consistent communication, and the underfunded reserves that many associations face. This episode doesn't just tell stories; it underscores the essential qualities of board heroes. Whether you're an HOA member or just curious, these tales of valor, common sense, and transformation are bound to inspire.

Chapters from today's episode: Set Your HOA Strategy!

00:00 Having Courage to be an HOA Board Hero 
02:29 A Surprising HOA Board Hero: Community Naysayer to Community Ally
06:26 Board’s Experience With a Recall Election in a Homeowners Association
13:34 HOA Finances, Transparency, and Growing Pains.
18:53 Sponser - Fipho Score 
19:25 HOA Board Hero Courage & Communication 
26:04 ANYONE Can be a Great HOA Board Hero 

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Julie Adamen
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Kevin Davis, CIRMS
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Robert Nordlund, PE
https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-nordlund-pe-rs-5119636/

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Julie Adamen:

When we say courage to everyone who's listening, I mean, this doesn't mean you're, you're like, Oh, I'm being brave, I'm gonna go do that. Actually, it's more of just an acknowledgement of reality and saying, Well, someone needs to do something and why not me? It's the courage just to say, okay, use me. I'll step in and I'll do it. That's the first step. And then once you are there, it's not as scary as it might or or as awful as you might think it's going to be you could be playing a very large role and keeping it from being awful. And don't you want that for the place that you live for where your largest asset sits? Your home?

Announcer: HOA Insights:

Common Sense for Common Areas exists to help all 2 million volunteer board members nationwide have the right information at the right time to make the right decisions for their future. This podcast is sponsored by four companies that care about Board Members Association insights & Marketplace, Association Reserves, Community Financials, and Kevin Davis Insurance Services. You'll find links to their websites and social media in the show notes.

Robert Nordlund:

Hi, I'm Robert Nordlund of Association Reserves.

Julie Adamen:

And I'm Julie Adamen of Adamen Inc. and this is HOA Insights where we promote common sense

Robert Nordlund:

for common areas. Well, welcome to episode number 22, where we'll be talking about the board heroes who have crossed our paths over the years, we continue to honor these hardworking board members because these volunteers carry the entire community association industry on their shoulders. And in case you haven't had a chance to listen, I want to encourage you to check out our last episode number 21, which is a great discussion with Julie about setting a strategic vision for your association, recognizing what it currently is and setting a course to what you want to become in the future. And if you missed any other prior episodes, take a moment after this one to subscribe to this podcast on any of the more popular podcast platforms. You can also listen from our podcast website, HOAinsights.org, or watch on our YouTube channel. If you have a hot topic, crazy story or a question you'd like us to address, you can contact us at 805-203-3130 or email us at podcast@reserve study.com. So Julie, as we remember our board heroes, let's start our conversation today with telling me about one that surprised you.

Julie Adamen:

Well, you know, Robert, when you when you sent this to me talk about we were going to talk about the heroes, there really is only when there isn't only one. But there's one in my career that really, really stands out so much so that I wrote and published an article about her. And not only was she which we can make available to on the website, they're not Oh, yeah, and shownotes. Not only was she the most surprising because she started out being the naysayer. But she was to have the most impact. Because once she had made the shift and see how we needed to address things, she was a phenomenal ally. And a very, very interesting person, I became very close with her I worked very closely with her for quite a period of time.

Robert Nordlund:

Well, isn't that maybe some of the foundation of board members is that they are unprepared, untrained, unspecialized volunteers and they come in and they realize that's exactly what needs to happen here. These are exactly the leaders that move this entire community associate industry forward, and they move their associations forward.

Julie Adamen:

They do absolutely. And so let me do want me to go into a little bit of story on this particular person and how this was a really interesting whole incident. And it was about eight months of my life. Because it was a large scale Association in Southern California. I ended up doing some and they were in absolute crisis. I mean, absolute crisis. I had known about them for years and years. They're large Association they have they have golf course they have food and beverage, I mean, and all of that is a part of the association, not farmed out hundreds of employees. And for years, this place had had a reputation of not funding reserves, I mean, like 4% funded and the place must now be 40 years old. At the time it was 30 years old. So as you know, all of the financial things that come with that, but people who had run the Association for many years had really financially run it into the ground. And it was very, very toxic. Well finally a board that decided they wanted to make a difference. And these people, all five are very courageous. It Well four, there was a fifth one who was a holdover and was very actually had mental problems. And so it was a very destructive section of it. However, the other people stepped up and said, We need to fix this and they I'm telling you

Robert Nordlund:

time to change the community. This is time I

Julie Adamen:

it was exactly it was not good. I live here. I'm live tired of this horribly toxic environment and I'm telling you It is probably, if not the most toxic Community Association I've ever worked with. It's in the top three, but I'm going to put it in the top one. So one of these people who became on the board was her name was Michelle. And she was she was viewed by the good guys on the board, the ones who got elected as not on their team. And I first did strategic planning for the board that the general manager at the time had brought me in to do a two day strategic planning with them. We adopted vision and mission statements. I was the facilitator. And I was looking at her and how she was operating and the perception that the other people had of her. I was the I was like, No, she's she's actually really thoughtful. Well, here's interesting things. She used to be a member of the Canadian Parliament. And so she was politically very savvy. But she did not know how things worked in the HOA world. And she had friends who were on the in the community, there was this huge naysaying side here. So she had friends within that side who she'd been feeding her lots of misinformation. But what she was brought into the loop of how things really work and what was really trying to happen. She became this ally, and, you know, they still didn't trust her. But they thought, well, let's just bring her in fast and furious. And, and that was with my suggesting it, I said you, she's so good at communication, you should put her in charge of the communication that goes to the owners. Now, there's a couple of side stories that go into this. And one is once once the board, decided they were going to change the dynamic that toxic that toxic leadership now the the people who had been leading on the board for years and years, they were now off the board. But they still had this huge toxic influence throughout the community. I mean, just ginormous toxic influence. And so the communication that came out of the new board had to be accurate, it had to be fair, it had to be professional, concise, and informative, and truthful. And it all had to come across that way. So over a period of months, the toxic group decided they were going to recall the new board. So we went through chain tried to change from toxic environment. To that board trying to be Reek now they're all managed in house that board trying to be recalled the departure of the general manager and then having to go through the recall election. Now this is in California. So recall that elections have to be done in specific ways. You have to have counters right type of things, right? Yeah. So what the board decided to do was there would be weekly email blasts that went out, they would post them up in the clubhouse or wherever they are so that people could not say where they were not informed. And then they instituted this was honestly, so brave, and the whole board did it. But Michelle was the one board member who attended every single one of these and what they were, were called board member chats. And so one, well usually two, maybe three board members would sit in the clubhouse, and it was advertised. And any homeowner could come in between nine and noon on Saturdays, and ask them any questions they want it. So it was just kind of like a roundtable. And it was informal. It was not a meeting. And I'm telling you that was really ugly. And a lot of times, I mean, awful, vitriolic, where these board members were accused of everything from malfeasance to treason. I mean, it was, it was horrible, but they feel that it really well. And Michelle was in every single one. In fact, one she fielded by herself because nobody else was able to go. And she took those questions. She kept her cool. She answered, very forthrightly, she answered calmly. And by the time that then all of this and there was a whole large because of the recall, there was another larger communication strategy that we had developed, and we're putting forth as well as these chats. But by the time we came up to the recall, which probably was four months out for probably about a four month process, whatever. When that started, it got to be the point where hardly anyone would show up because the board had been so forthright and Michelle in particular, was so I don't even know how to describe it other than brave and honest to go and confront people with absolute misinformation and absolute toxic behavior. And they wanted to conduct themselves badly. They wanted to put forth I don't know how to describe it other than evil. And if you've all been in homeowners associations for a period of time, you know what I'm talking about, and for her to sit there and take that and I'm not just talking slings and arrows, I'm talking flame throwers from these people. And after months of doing it, it calmed down So much that people weren't even showing up anymore at those board member chats which which which would have 200 people out of originally, right, the huge association with over 1000 units, so and then the good news is, by the time it was all over, they had beat back the recall. And it was the most and that was the most gratifying I was there with them when when the votes were counted. And it was just an incredible, amazing thing. But she was the biggest surprise because she was the naysayer, and they viewed her as a naysayer. Then I got to know her more, and realized she wasn't a naysayer, it took the rest of the board a while to trust her. But after that, it was just the most amazing experience for her. And for the board. And for me, I will say to me professionally, that was probably one of the ape, one of two apexes of my career was doing that consulting over that nine or 10 month period that I did with that association, I was there on site every week, for a week, a month, just helping them work through this stuff. Plus I was on the phone. I was on email every day I was working with them, especially with Michelle about composing communication that would go out and she would do the composition of the eblasts. And the and the articles that go in the newsletter. It was the most incredible thing. And here's what she said that I thought was so fascinating. Now you're looking at someone who's been in government before, right? And so she was a member of the previous member of the Canadian Parliament. And she said to me, she says, you know, Julie, it's so interesting, because when you're a member of parliament, or you could any governmental entity, she's you know, you're you make these decisions, and you're you're kind of one removed, well, you really are one removed, but you make a decision at a homeowner's association and Somebody's knocking on your door, the reaction is immediate and visceral. Whereas when you're making it in a government, it's academic. Well, I think all board members listening to this know that any decision you make is not academic people are going to react immediately whether they see you in the elevator or near the swimming pool, or out by the mailbox or walking your dog. And so it is I want to tell everybody, there are your some of you have been in terrible situations. Maybe you're in one right now with your association, whether it's a recall, or just some political turmoil that's going on and you or your board is the focus of that is that you're not alone. It's happened to many and please, Robert, and I would love to hear the stories and maybe help you work some of those things out through one of these podcasts. But you can live through it. If you have, you can live through it and, and thrive. Maybe not through it, but thrive beyond it as a community if you address the problems head on, and I think the biggest thing was understanding that communication. And again, honest, forthright, informative, relevant communication on a regular basis through a crisis, whatever crisis that is in your community, is everything. You know, people know the truth when they hear it. They know the truth. And you board members out there and you're thinking oh, if I'm that if I'm blunt about it, you know, maybe they won't like it. Maybe I got a soft pedal that truth I would tell you don't soft pedal be doesn't mean you need to be rude. I'm saying Be truthful. And don't embellish. You don't need to the truth speaks for itself. And you don't need to qualify it well. But we could have done this. We could have done that. No. Speak the truth. Move forward. I have seen it work. Literally, that was a miraculous thing that happened with that community and that board.

Robert Nordlund:

Yeah, that must have been fun to see that. To written down.

Julie Adamen:

It was it was painful to

Robert Nordlund:

have growing pains, but positive growing pains, very possibly the opposite of descending into chaos is emerging. And I heard you say things like the board member chats having that communication, that transparency, where we've got nothing to hide. Michelle kept her professionalism. And my thinking is, and I've heard it so many times from so many different sources, people need to be heard. And the pressure release where you have a steam chamber where you got a lot of pressure and you just need to release the pressure. And the 200 that were appearing on Saturday mornings finally dwindled when the board had answered their questions and some more things. For the board members listening, things can change. It may take time it took months in your case. You need to be brave, you need to be honest. And I think you need to keep your cool because it's one thing to use the word vitriolic for people to be angry at you, for people to be upset. But you can duck and you can dodge simple questions like why do you think that? How do you know? And some of those revealing questions in You can say, well, actually, let me show you the, the financial report here. And if you do the math, if there's a large plan development of 100 bucks a month, times, 12 months times this many people, this is our budget. And let me show you the pie chart of where it goes to all these kinds of things. The truth is amazing when it can let the pressure out of a problem.

Julie Adamen:

Honestly, you know, Robert, it's the truth will set you free. I mean, it's it applies to HOAs, as much as it does to your regular life. I think sometimes we lose sight of that. And it's not that it's not that the board doesn't want to tell the truth, it's sometimes that the truth is painful to the owners, especially if a community has not been well run for many, many years. And they don't realize I mean to speak financially. I mean, and obviously fabric This is sinks to you is that these are the biggest truth is that we our reserves are highly underfunded, this community was, was funded like 4% reserves, it was 30, some years old, with huge infrastructure going to clubhouse and golf courses and everything. And they had didn't have money to fix it, because they had just, you know, duct tape and bubble gum and you know, but that's how they held it together.

Robert Nordlund:

Everything costs money. I keep saying it, Mother Nature and Father Time are undefeated, and they will tear your property down to the ground. So you need to put up a good defense. Right now we're dealing with a lot of upset Florida community associations, or I should say community associations, community of homeowners who are upset that their homeowner assessments are going to have to go up because at least partial elimination of the waiving process and Florida homeowners have been allowed to waive reserve funding, they've been given a line item veto on that. So so many Florida homeowner associations are way behind on their reserves. Again, Mother Nature and Father Time, they really don't care what the law says. They're beaten down roofs, painting asphalt, tennis courts, deck systems, planter boxes, whatever is meant of stucco in every man, yeah, Stucco and everything. And when the homeowners have been given the power to vote to say not, we're not going to pay for that. The building is just the deterioration is going to get ahead. And when the reality comes that, wow, these are some big bills we need to pay. There's a lot of upset people saying but I've been counting on$350 a month. The dues have been set at 350. For the last five years since I've bought a unit at this association, and CI in the last five years. What is inflation done to everything that we touch on our lives with people are suspicious? A little story that stands out in my brain was one. Not long ago, I was playing golf was a single join a threesome, little chit chat. And I say I'm in the community association business. I help associations with their reserve fund help know how much you need be setting aside for roughing and painting and asphalt those kinds of things. And one of the guy says, Ah, you got to work at my association because they're a bunch of fools and they're a bunch of thieves. My association dues are this much and I know they're stealing from me. I'm like, where

Julie Adamen:

does that come from? Seinfeld? It comes from a Seinfeld episode. Yeah. Yeah.

Robert Nordlund:

Well, that's a good point. Kramer running for the board and fun things like that. I don't think we can blame people for being naturally suspicious. That's part of the human nature. That is just who we are as a people. But there is something incredibly disarming in. Like you said, the truth shall set you free. And maybe that is one of the strongest things a board member can do. Let's take a quick break, we'll come back and talk more about board member characteristics. And what we can learn about that and look for in our board heroes.

Paige Daniels:

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Robert Nordlund:

Will Julia that's just a very inspiring story against the real people. We're not talking theory here. This is real people, real associations real transition, changing the culture Association and being courageous. I don't think we can overstate that. That is one of the tremendous attributes where you and the other people said we're not going to tolerate this at our association. We are going to run for the board they got elected. And you said it was a difficult transition where the old board wanted it back or recall But what a soldiered on. There's a couple of board stories that I think of. One is the courage at a small level. And there's one association in my portfolio. It was like a 30 unit plan development, simple little place. I think all they had was about 100 foot long trail that went to open space, and some V ditches. But there was one board member there, Dr. B. And it was an actual, absolute pleasure to work with him. I think it was every year through a number of years, where he cared about that budget, he cared like it was a 250 unit, twin tower high rise. And that courage goes the entire span. You talked about 1000 unit, big development with 100 staff. We're talking about a place that I don't even remember now, if they collected dues quarterly or annually. There's people like Dr. B that still stand out in my mind that they cared a they really cared about their association. And there was this one, where it was a significant high rise downtown, not downtown Los Angeles Wilshire Corridor area. And there is an element on the board that was somewhat disabled. He always came with his helper. And it was just amazing. If you go way back in memory, maybe you remember the EF Hutton commercials where when EF Hutton talks, people listen. Just the stature, the saying, right, the gravitas that this man had, he saw things clearly. He spoke peacefully. He brought, he brought clarity, he brought communication, he brought consensus, it was just amazing one person can do. And first name Ed, as all I can remember at this point in time, but just boy, the people that stand out, and yeah, just one member of the board. But he was able to be a pivot point. That clarity. So, boy, what are we talking about here? Clarity. Courage, courage, curiosity, curiosity,

Julie Adamen:

communication.

Robert Nordlund:

You talked about communication and curiosity. It's like, why do we have to live here with the board doing so many bad things? If indeed, the board is stealing from us? Run for the board? Fix it. You don't have to tolerate it. Yeah.

Julie Adamen:

It's interesting. It's, I think, the courage I want to address that really quickly. And I think what, when we say courage to everyone who's listening, I mean, this doesn't mean you're like, Oh, I'm being brave, I'm gonna go do that. Actually, it's more of just an acknowledgement of reality and saying, Well, someone needs to do something, and why not me? Why not me? If you're not on a board, you're just your resident homeowner who's listening to this podcast right now. And you see things that maybe need fixing, you're like, Well, I don't have time to do that, or I shouldn't do that. And sometimes you don't have time that this is true. But I would say most of the time, you do have time. I mean, I've sat on two boards at one time, and yes, this is my business. So it's, I guess it's easier for me, but there's still a lot of information to absorb. But I will say that it's the courage just to say, okay, use me, I'll step in, and I'll do it. That's the first step. And then once you are there, it's not as scary as it might or or as awful as you might think it's going to be so and you could be played a very large role in keeping it from being awful. And don't you want that for the place that you live for where your largest asset sits your home? To me, that's the courage part. It's not this big, ginormous thing. It's the little things. I mean, just like, Robert, you were talking about, I mean, it's a 30 unit complex with some V ditches and a trail. But they want he wanted that board member and others. I'm assuming what at that place to be the best it could be because they cared. It was their home care. Yeah. And he had and I guess if you say he had the courage to say, Yeah, I care. I'm gonna I'm gonna be on here and help. That's really what that courage is.

Robert Nordlund:

Yeah. One thing and also hero, the heroes are the people who surprise us, they stand out. But I think we all have an inner hero inside of us. And Michelle, the woman you spoke about, yes, she had a background in politics, but the thing, the things that she did, she just had peace. She knew that. She had clarity about what the numbers were, what the policies were, what we're going to do here, and it just takes what's another one we could do consistency. She was there every Saturday morning. Yeah, and just helping move the association forward. And defusing problems, and there was nothing magical about what she did now. It was just stepping up and being used

Julie Adamen:

You're spot on about that. Robert, is that a a tool for the Association for the good of the association. And starting to get goosebumps just thinking There's so many people who can do that you don't have to put up with well, and then maybe it's not putting up with maybe you get on the board and you find out, everything is okay. They've just been using the wrong words, or they've been needing someone like me that can do a every other week, a male or a once a month email, just things that have are posting it in a common area where all of a sudden, with transparency, people realize, Oh, we don't have to dread we don't have to fear the worst, because the worst is not happening. huge thing? Problem is? It's it's it's the lack of communication. And it's because actually, I think a lot of boards just maybe don't have the time. Or maybe there's not someone who especially if they're in house, you know, if they don't have a management company, it smaller associations in particular, that means it runs on all those volunteers and somebody needs to write that newsletter, right that eblast. And that's a really salient point. That it's it's that communication is everything. I mean, I'd rather over communicate and under communicate any day,

Robert Nordlund:

and everyone can communicate, it's a matter of getting the information out there. Maybe we have a culture of board members, I've been focusing on the the task at hand getting the heads down, go, what do the numbers say? What are the precedents was the landscape returning? Do we need to trim this tree, just the busyness of running the association without lifting the heads up and saying, we do have a great place here. What and then communicating that to the homeowners will regularly clearly transparently. And so everyone is able to say Oh, this is an OK place, I don't have to fear the board. They're actually taking good care of things for me. And the pool. The reason it was down for a week is there's there's a good reason the pump and supply chain or whatever it is a clarity, explaining and and just again, now I'm just buoyed by the concept that anyone can be a board hero. Sure, it doesn't require anything. Particular.

Julie Adamen:

Basically, it's showing up. I mean, really, who says it was a Woody Allen or many others have said 80% of life is showing up. But really, it's just showing up and doing the job and communicating and understanding what's going on around you and doing your best and not not faking it being truthful. And and being okay with being truthful whether they like it or not. I mean, like I said, people can tell they they know the truth when they see it. They smell untruth, when they hear it.

Robert Nordlund:

Yeah. And wasn't President Abraham Lincoln famous for having a was a cabinet full of rivals team of Rania. Yeah, Team of Rivals, yes. Where you are going to be on the board with other people. And it's just a matter of, yes, someone has this background, someone has another background, you bring yourself, you and your common sense to the board. And between the five of you, the three of you, the seven of you, the nine of you, whatever it is your association, you are charged with the task of moving the association forward. And that's all you're doing, you and these others have your own little team. And you can be the hero for the 50 or 100 or 30 or 2000 that are relying on you to move the association safely and successfully into the future. While Julie, just fascinating, again, that thinking heroes are everywhere. And we want to encourage them, we want to inspire other people to draw out the inner hero inside of you. And thinking ahead. I think on our agenda, we have a future episode coming up where we'll talk about job descriptions. And so we can talk more in detail about what are the actual tasks and of all what to look for in a board member. But thank you, Julie. It's always It's great talking to you, especially today when we can just focus on honoring board heroes. We hope you've learned some HOA insights from our discussion today that helps you bring common sense to your common areas. We look forward to having you join us for another great episode next week.

Announcer:

You've been listening to HOA insights: Common Sense For Common Areas, you can listen to the show on our podcast website, HOAinsights.org, or subscribe on any of the most popular podcast platforms. You can also watch the show on our YouTube channel. Check the show notes for helpful links. If you liked the show, and want to support the work we do, you can do so in a number of ways. The most important thing you can do is to engage in the conversation. Email your questions or voice memos to podcast@reserve study.com Or leave us a voicemail at 805-203-3130 if you gain any insights from the show though, please do us a HUGE favor by sharing the show with other board members you know, you can also support us by supporting the brands that sponsor this program. Please remember that the views and opinions expressed by the podcast do not constitute legal advice. You'll want to consult your own legal counsel before making any important decisions. Finally, this podcast was expertly mixed and mastered by Stoke Light Video & Marketing. With Stoke Light on your team. You'll reach more customers with marketing expertise that inspires action. See the show notes to connect with Stoke Light.

Having Courage to be an HOA Board Hero
A Surprising HOA Board Hero: Community Naysayer to Community Ally
Board’s Experience With a Recall Election in a Homeowners Association
HOA Finances, Transparency, and Growing Pains
Fipho Score
HOA Board Hero Courage & Communication
ANYONE Can be a Great HOA Board Hero