Company secretary. Nolan. Cadbury – no, not the crap chocolate bars. Code of Openness. Standing Orders. Public consultations.
You name it, I knew it.
Health legislation. Dealing with mental health incidents according to the law? That too. Nursing home regulations. Complaints. Serious incident inquiries.
There was little got passed me when I was in a board secretary role ie company secretary.
The only thing I refused to do was run the Audit Committee, boring accountants’ work. I did write new complaints procedures, new standing orders, did all the papers for meetings, set the agendas, ran public consultations and merrily drove around at midnight delivering urgent papers.
At least I got paid (no overtime for driving around at midnight though).
This week, I wrote and printed fourteen sheets of paper for each board member. It was far later than planned because even I have a personal life and last week that had actually got in the way of my board papers.
I delivered the papers personally. I spoke to two neighbours and the two others received them through their letterbox. I’d received apologies from one of my directors who was going on holiday but obviously he still got the papers for information.
The letter to each director specifically asked them to give apologies if they couldn’t attend. It’s basic board policy but it seems people don’t know about that. A bit like one prospective director didn’t realise she had to turn up at meetings. You don’t get to write Director after your name in my block without doing something. And that means reading your papers and turning up to meetings, or at the very least sending apologies for absence.
Oh, there is no money involved here. No non-exec little number because you know the right people and you get a few grand a year for doing stuff all.
Directors, give their time, and get a say in block management. No more, no less. I give a lot more time. I charge for consumables ie paper, cartridges, stamps, drawing pins, envelopes. All at cost. No add on. I don’t charge for my time. The block could not afford my premium rates.
So when people don’t give their apologies for absence from a meeting, I am not a happy chair.
Me and another director sat outside the room, chatting away waiting for the other two to turn up. They didn’t. We discussed a couple of items informally, but obviously couldn’t take any decisions because we were not quorate (we need three directors for a quorum).
I closed the door of the meeting room and informed the reception that we had finished with the room (that we never actually sat in).
So not only did the absentee directors waste my time and that of the other director, I had booked a room for a couple of hours that wasn’t used.
I rebooked the room for two week’s time. I put a somewhat blunt notice on the board pointing out we were unable to hold the meeting, gave the new date and added:
Please note, it is standard procedure at board meetings for directors to send apologies if they can not attend the meeting. It wastes other people’s time to sit around waiting for people who are not going to turn up.
I did show it to the director who had turned up, and he thought it was perfectly acceptable. He immediately went to put the new date on his calendar. Not exactly difficult to do is it? Or set an alarm on your ‘phone, which is what I did.
Yesterday I received an email from one of the absentees. She’d been meaning to go but she forgot. Could I give her a nudge in future? What sort of nudge? I’m not a shepherdess rounding everyone up. I’m already spoon-feeding them as it is.
She’d received the papers the night before, might that have been a gentle reminder that there was a meeting the following day?
We had one director who was appointed at the first meeting and never turned up or sent apologies for any subsequent ones. She didn’t get reappointed.
It’s not as though it’s an onerous commitment. One meeting a quarter that lasts for less than an hour. And they have to read through the papers, because I like a structured meeting. Minutes, I&E, block maintenance, and date of next meeting. We also have a private part where we discuss non-payers as I think it is unreasonable to discuss individuals in public, even if they are scamming the block.
There is no Any Other Business. And there are no tabled papers. Back in my health service days, one person would always table papers at a meeting. It didn’t matter what I did, they never sent them to me in advance. It is plain courtesy to send directors papers in advance and give them chance to read through in case they have issues to raise.
No-one else suggests items for the agenda, nor do they provide any paperwork. The only one who does anything apart from me is the freeholder, who does make a few ‘phone calls to wheel and deal, sends bills for me to pay, and sends me copies of any letters relevant to the block so I’m kept informed.
When he ran the block himself he took 5% commission. When he appointed a managing agency, they charged 35% commission. Our fees went up by 40%.
Now the block gets free management and I can spend the funds on maintenance and refurbishment, which it badly needed.
Our annual meeting is coming up later this year. I’m currently thinking about knocking up some standing orders to allow more leaseholders to stand as director. Currently it can only be one per flat, which excludes my partner. This isn’t to fix any voting as he and I don’t always agree anyway. But if we are going to have problems reaching a quorum, it’s one way of achieving that.
Most of the block isn’t interested in management. They want low-cost charges and to see something for their money which is what they are currently getting.
Apathy eh? The cause of many of today’s problems in society. My block is a microcosm of the world.