After the Annual General Meeting – Creating a Road Map for a Strong Year
by Lisa Seppala, True North Implementation
As all who have served on strata corporation councils can attest, your year can run smoothly or not, dependent to a large part on your fellow council members. You’re all volunteers, with disparate skills, experience, priorities, and capacity for work. Establishing the rules of engagement up front can significantly increase your council’s effectiveness.
Through my experience as strata council president, I have found leveraging tools from the corporate business environment can make managing in the strata corporation world a whole lot simpler.
One invaluable business tool I have brought from the corporate environment is the Terms of Reference (ToR) document. The ToR document sets out the rules of engagement for projects and programs so everyone is clear on the purpose, their roles and responsibilities, the available financial resources, and the deliverables to be achieved. Within the strata corporation environment, I’ve successfully used the ToR process and document to launch an Emergency Preparedness Program where none existed before.
Where I’ve not used the ToR before is to help guide the council process, but that’s about to change. I’ve just been re-elected for a second term as council president and there are new team members that will be joining me, along with a few others who’ve also been re-elected. Because it took us some time last term to get focused, I’ve prepared a draft ToR for the new council. Looking back at my past year, this is something that I would have valued had I been provided with such a document at the start of my first term as president. I will work with the team to complete the ToR within a month of our new term and we will be starting on solid ground with a clear plan, roles, and responsibilities. Early feedback from the new members is that they welcome such a document. For this coming year, I’ve adjusted the standard ToR template to meet the needs of our council, including the following elements.
Purpose – Council’s overarching goal for the year. A year from now, what will be accomplished? How do we want our term to be remembered by the owners we serve?
Objectives/scope – What will and what won’t be taken on this year? List them out.
Deliverables – Consider day-to-day operations, large capital projects, building of contingency reserves, review of bylaws, and ongoing long-term planning.
Stakeholders – Who is interested in the work undertaken? Stakeholders could be owners, tenants, employees, contractors, the property manager, members of the public, external agencies (municipality, fire department, WorkSafeBC, Technical Safety BC, etc.), insurers, and neighbouring buildings.
Roles and responsibilities
- What are the key responsibilities outlined in the BC Strata Property Act and bylaws?
- What are the official/formal roles and who will fill them? What are the functional roles and who will fill those?
- Are skills, experience, and interests aligned to the roles of council members?
- Are there new council members to train?
- Are the roles of the property manager and the building manager/caretaker clearly outlined and understood by all?
- Are the roles of contractors (e.g., cleaning, plumbing/mechanical, landscaping) clearly outlined and understood by all?
- Are the operating budgets and capital plans for the year defined and understood?
- Is there a timeline for both the short and long-term planning cycle?
Work plan and milestones
- Is there an overarching plan (including timing) for the year and key milestones?
Success factors, risks, and constraints
- How will success be measured? How will progress be shown to the owners throughout the year?
- What are the key risks and constraints (e.g., contractor availability, continued COVID-19 impacts on people, finances, and administration)?
The answers to the questions in the above checklist can form the ToR’s content, which if done well, will be a succinct road map to provide guidance to the council throughout the year.
For those of you skilled in the use of the ToR document and process, is there anything else that you’ve found essential that could work for this environment? I’m interested in hearing from you on this topic.
Lisa Seppala, Founder and Principal, True North Implementation and the Get Safe Strata program, has over 30-years’ experience researching, designing, and implementing programs. Through much of her career she held senior level leadership roles focused on safety and organization culture improvement