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How to Listen and Respond to Your Shareholders

The Challenge

A 190-unit Greenwich, Connecticut, co-op that we manage borders a large church, which has a philanthropic program, providing food to the needy. Produce is dropped off there, and people come by and are fed. About eight months ago, we were notified that the church was planning on moving the program out of the basement of the church into a newly built structure of about 20,000 square feet. That would make it a much larger operation, blocking sightlines for the residents and also meaning more delivery trucks and more noise.

The Solution

We could have ignored it, arguing that it only affected 20 units. But we felt that everyone counted. So we attended many meetings, explaining the situation to the community that this was a well-meaning charity, which we supported, but that the proposed change would be detrimental to the co-op. We then approached many government officials, arguing our case, and it looks like the church will probably have to move the program elsewhere or considerably downsize it.

The Lesson

The dispute had unintended positive consequences. It drew tremendous support from the community, and the shareholders gained confidence that this is a board and a management company that listens to their concerns. We earned a lot of good will from the shareholders. The lesson is, in the end, you should never discount anything. Every issue counts.

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