Late last month I took over as chair of our community’s association. The association serves our expatriate community and manages the community’s myriad assets. We have a large facility and lease space to several vendors, including Quiznos Sub and Starbucks. We manage some extended-stay suites, event hall rentals, a business center, and merchandise sales. We have many revenue streams and offer many services to the community. We also host social events throughout the year, and we plan to invest the association’s excess cash so that we can meet the future needs of our community. We’re a non-profit entity, but because we have so many revenue streams, we function like in many ways like a corporation. It is truly an amazing operation. I don’t use my MBA much on the job, but as part of the association’s Board, I am able to put my business skills to work. I enjoy it very much.
Lately, the association faces several big challenges. We haven’t had a cafeteria since last March, and we just lost an important vendor in a messy divorce. Our business center vendor’s lease is almost up, and our facility desperately needs some maintenance. We have to put on several key events for our community. We’re losing some valuable employees. Our association has a full-time general manager who’s been working hard to manage our operations. However, I think her job is too much work for one person to handle. She has a small staff, but each employee is assigned to a specific function. As chair I’ve tried to work closely with her and her staff to make sure we do everything that needs to get done in the next six months. Although some people in the community think a Board chair should sit back and take a passive role in the association, letting the GM function like a CEO, I prefer to be much more activist and as involved as I can be. The GM appreciates this. Corporate boards that serve at the whim of the CEO (in this case the GM) are not doing their jobs. Corporate governance experts tend to agree with me. I also see the chair role as a that of a visionary, where I help instill a vision of what the future of the association will look like and work with the Board and general manager to make it happen. Many of the best boards in the corporate world are led by dynamic Board chairs who guide their companies and ensure the best interests of shareholders are served. In this case, I need to look out for the interests of our community.
Right now the association faces several daunting challenges. Last night, the association hosted a major reception for the community. I emceed the event. I don’t like public speaking, but I did fine addressing the crowd of about 160 people. The reception was a culmination of the joint efforts of many people who worked to make sure everything was perfect. I was really happy to see how we all pulled together to make it happen. Today the Board approved the new business center vendor, who will offer Vonage phone service and business services to the community. They will also build the association a professional web site which will serve as a portal for our potential customers. If they deliver what they promise, the community will have a viable, alternate phone and Internet service provider. For the next few days, we need to focus on finalizing the divorce from one of our vendors and finding a replacement vendor. I hope we can accomplish this within two weeks. The new vendor will offer food and coffee to our customers, and the absence of the previous vendor has been conspicuous. Next, our attention will turn to reopening the employee cafeteria. At the same time, we will sell merchandise at the upcoming APEC Summit in Busan in mid-November, and we will host Halloween and Thanksgiving events. We will also finish facility maintenance before winter arrives, and we will invest our excess cash in low-risk, high-yield municipal bond funds. Juggling all of these commitments is a momental task. It feels at times like a perfect storm. While overwhelming, we must weather these challenges and persevere.
When the dust settles and the smoke clears, our vendor contracts will be in place, and we will have given back in myriad ways to the community. It’s a lot of work, and at times my wife asks me why I expend so much effort volunteering on behalf of the association. It’s because someone needs to do it. At this critical juncture in the association’s existence, we need to get through the challenges and outlast the storm. And after my term ends in five months, I hope that the next association chair will be left with a tidy ship and calm waters.