By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA / Published July 2023
Various branches of the military analyze their operational environments at all levels and plan accordingly. Their operational variables include political, military, economic, social, information, infrastructure, physical environments, and time. Except for “military,” CAMs and board members have the same operational variables.
In times of disaster, CAMs and board members maneuver around many obstacles. At times, CAMs and board members must think they are in the midst of a battle. During those times it could resemble battlefield triage! If you look at a simple definition of triage, it’s easy to make the connection.
Triage is a system to sort the injured so the greatest number of patients can be helped when there are limited resources. In short, it is a method of classifying sick or injured patients according to the severity of their conditions so that medical facilities and staff are most effectively utilized. Triage allows health care professionals to determine which patients require immediate attention to survive, which patients are able to wait, and which patients are beyond help with the limited resources available.
Just as doctors prioritize the injured in a mass event, so managers and boards do the same. In times of fires, tornados, or hurricanes, CAMs and board members perform triage. They prioritize restoring power, securing the property, notifying residents, inspecting the property, coordinating for debris removal, and patching roofs and windows until contractors arrive. Many CAMs and boards must make decisions on the spot to mitigate damages or hire contractors before insurance adjusters can arrive to assess the damage or pay out insurance proceeds.
Community associations face so many needs and pressures. There are the demands of residents and vendors, ongoing maintenance, shortage of workers, rising insurance premiums, and capital repairs and improvements, all while waiting for insurance proceeds to arrive. This means managers are spending time prioritizing and maneuvering not only the tasks but the funds and other resources.
Maneuvered management is what CAMs and board members do when they prioritize administrative and operational tasks with the wise use of what seems to be limited resources. But are their resources limited? Actually, their resources are unlimited. In essence, when an owner purchases a unit, share, or home in a condominium, cooperative, or homeowners’ association, he or she has signed a blank check. The blank check says the owner will pay whatever it costs to protect and maintain the property and its value. With no intent of abusing the pocketbooks of the owners, boards of directors are charged by Florida law with a fiduciary responsibility to enforce and fulfill all the requirements of their governing documents. They are to prepare a budget that sufficiently funds the administrative and operational functions of the association. The proportionate share of that budget then becomes the responsibility of each owner regardless of cost or hardship.
Ethically and emotionally, the most difficult aspect of triage is designating some patients as requiring too much attention or being unlikely to survive even with extreme medical care.
Similarly, boards of directors have ethically and emotionally difficult decisions to make. While they can sympathize with the owners in their unfortunate situations, those feelings cannot be a factor in creating an adequately funded budget or in enforcing the covenants and rules and regulations, such as
Each of these is very unfortunate, but ethically, boards can make no other decision but to enforce the covenants, rules, and regulations and, when necessary, increase the budget requirements or special assess.
Emotionally, these decisions will take their toll. Directors will resign, and management will be blamed. Boards that don’t understand their fiduciary responsibility may make unethical decisions believing they can save money.
Maneuvered management may be needed even when there is no disaster. Here are some signs of a sick, diseased, or injured association:
Management decisions must be made based on logic, law, and ethics. Board members and CAMs have a high degree of fiduciary responsibility that, when violated, comes with various forms of statutory punishment.
Whether it is considered triage or maneuvered management, community association management is not for the fainthearted.
Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA
Owner, Florida CAM Schools
Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA, guides managers, board members, and service providers in handling daily operations of their communities while dealing with different communication styles, difficult personalities, and conflict. Effective communication and efficient management are her goals. Since 1999 Betsy has educated thousands of managers, directors, and service providers. She is your trainer for life! Betsy is the author of Boardmanship, a columnist in the Florida Community Association Journal, and a former member of the Regulatory Council for Community Association Managers. Subscribe to CAM MattersTM at www.youtube.com/c/cammatters. For more information, contact Betsy@FloridaCAMSchools.com, call (352) 326-8365, or visit www.FloridaCAMSchools.com.