You took over the management of a commercial condominium with some unique tenants – and problems. Could you tell us about it?
The situation was certainly different than most commercial condominiums. It’s a large property and contains about 11 missions to the United Nations. Each mission has a representative on the board, but they’re not unit-owners.
What did you find when you first came on?
Everything was pretty much in disarray. Most of these people are only here for a three-year term, and when they go back to their country, someone else takes their place. Members of the missions who had just joined the board had no idea what the previous members had been doing, so there was no continuity. We had to step in and create that for them.
How have you done that?
Basically, by making everything transparent. We’ve set up different systems for them that give people coming in a clear picture of what the issues are and what’s been going on for the past few years. That includes financial statements and minutes from meetings, which are stored on our website so they have easy access to them.
What about meeting with them in person?
We meet with all the new mission people when they arrive and tell them what to expect, what not to expect, and how condominium living works. A lot of these folks are used to having a large embassy or building in which they control everything. But here, they have no control of the heat and air-conditioning, or the doormen and security guards. We have people operating metal detectors and doing screening, which the mission representatives aren’t used to.
Do you attend board meetings?
I’ve gone to many of them. It’s a mini-U.N. You need interpreters to make sure everyone understands and resolves issues, such as when a country hasn’t paid its common charges. We’re constantly educating people, so it’s quite a challenge.
This must be a relief to the governments back home.
They care a lot, because these missions are a big part of their operating budget. We try to project costs years in advance, which allows them to set aside the right amount of money they need to fund their missions. We’re monitoring the situation and giving them the ability to plan for the future, which no one was doing before.
What’s the takeaway here?
You have to be very transparent and make sure people know what’s going on, just as you would at any co-op or condo. It helps things run smoothly, and it’s how you build trust.