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The Secret to a Smooth Annual Meeting?

What steps can boards take to ensure they’re running a controlled and productive annual meeting?Well, the first thing is that you really have to know what’s going on in your community. You have to know the issues before you go into an annual meeting. You don’t want to get caught off-guard. Board members need to be organized and on the same page so they present themselves as a team to the shareholders. Not only do you look good, but the shareholders will feel well represented. Annual meetings are really like a final exam on your work – and the managing agent’s work, too. Should boards have an annual meeting strategy?Yes, we call it stealing the thunder. Sometimes shareholders are looking to catch you off-guard, and it’s always good to bring items up before sharehold-ers do. You’ll also want to present the financial picture, so we usually have the accountant attend the meeting. The trea-surer gives the introductions and goes through the financial position, including the reserve fund. The president will go through all of the building accomplish-ments during the course of the year and what projects we’re expecting to tackle in the near future and long term. Are there any shareholder questions that typically come up?An interesting topic that comes up a lot is, “Why didn’t you do a reserve study?” We recently had an annual meeting where we knew the issue was going to be raised by a couple of residents who had been on a campaign to have a study done. So before the meeting, we asked the accountant, who was handling a lot of co-ops throughout the New York metropolitan area, whether we should do one.What was his response?A formal study requires an architect or engineer to analyze the physical components of the building and determine their useful life, then a financial analysis to determine the cost and a funding plan. He said he never recommends them because they’re too expensive and rarely accurate. That said, it’s always a good idea for the board to do their own informal study and present that to shareholders.Another sticky issue at meetings is contested elections, which can really stir the pot.It certainly makes things more stressful, since people might come in with personal agendas. It’s important to keep order and not let people hijack and run the meeting. Setting ground rules at the start is a good strategy.So how can people air their grievances?They can come speak to us personally after the meeting, and we’ll make sure we address them. We also make it clear at the beginning that this a time for them to bring up any suggestions and comments that affect the whole community, and hopefully they will be minimal and civil.If you were going to give a board one piece of advice about the annual meeting, what would that be?Be very prepared, be very organized, and keep control. The only comment you want to hear from shareholders at the end is: “Thanks for doing a great job and representing us well.”

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