Friday, January 22, 2016

How the Over-Networked Can Manage Their Contacts

With success comes many things — including a greater number of relationships and more requests for help.

The day I declared that I was hosting an angel investment network was the day my circle of relationships seemed to grow exponentially. Suddenly there was a new swath of people who were “friendly” toward me. It’s nice to feel useful, though there is a point at which the number of relationships and requests becomes overwhelming. How on earth do you keep in contact with all these people? How can you meet all the requests they make of you?

The feeling of being overwhelmed can paralyze us — like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming car, we freeze, not knowing which way to go. Or we can try to please everyone by saying yes to everything — like a rabbit hopping randomly all over a garden. By attempting to do everything, we exhaust ourselves. And whichever way we react, we never get where we want to go.
There is an alternative to people paralysis and people pleasing: review your relational ecosystem and recalibrate your relationship priorities so that you can allocate your resources accordingly.

First, clear out some time on your schedule and use it to write a list or draw a mind map of all the people you spend time with — and all the people you wish you saw or talked to more frequently. It may be helpful here to flick back through your diary, your social networks, or the contacts in your phone.

Once you have a picture of your relational ecosystem, count the total number of names and apply Pareto’s 80/20 rule: Think about your most important relationships and highlight the top 20% of them. For example, if you have written down 150 names, 20% would be 30 names. These 30 people are the ones I recommend you deploy 80% of your time, energy, and resources with. Proactively set up regular lunch dates, walk-and-talks, coffees, and face-to-face encounters. You can get creative and commute to work together, take up a shared hobby or interest, or bring together a small group of peers who could support one another and start a mastermind group.

Now consider how you can invest in the other 80% of the relationships in your ecosystem. This is often the harder challenge because your time, energy, and resource allocation are more limited.

A “networking” approach would say to “drop” or “prune” the other 80% of people and just focus on those who can be most helpful to you. But while you can’t have a deep relationship with everyone you know, building authentic relationships means treating everyone well. So save 20% of your time, energy, and resources for these relationships. Develop an approach for both keeping in contact with these people and finding efficient ways to help them when they ask.

Keeping in touch

If you move the people you see fortnightly to monthly, monthly to every other month, and quarterly to biannually, you double the time you have for these less-close contacts.

Creating a regular social event can also be a great way of keeping up with second-tier contacts. You might want to think about organizing something two or three times a year for just this purpose. Alternatively, you could start an online discussion group to keep in touch. These approaches also have the advantage that you can add value to your relationships by introducing people to one another.

Handling requests

You can’t always say yes to all the requests you receive, so look for efficient ways to meet the requests. Talk on the telephone rather than meeting face to face. Refer the asker to other people who may be able to help, especially if they could be a better help than you could. And sometimes the answer simply has to be “No, I’m sorry, I can’t help on this occasion.”

In these ways, you can continue to invest, nurture, and protect your relational ecosystem — which is the greatest determiner of your ongoing personal happiness and professional success.

Matt Bird is the founder of Relationology, a unique approach to achieving business growth through the power of relationships. He is an international keynote speaker and author of Relationology 101.

We’re Having What Kind of Meeting?

What’s the difference in a board meeting and a special meeting, or an annual meeting and a town meeting? Confused? Here’s some clarification.

Annual Meetings

Annual meetings—or annual membership meetings—are required by our governing documents, which specify when they’re to be conducted and how and when members are to be notified about the meeting. This is the main meeting of the year when members receive the new budget, elect a board, hear committee reports and discuss items of common interest.

Special Meetings

Special meetings are limited to a particular topic. The board can call a special meeting at any time, and they must notify all members in advance. The notice will specify the topic so interested members can attend. Special meetings give the board an opportunity to explore sensitive or controversial matters—perhaps an assessment increase. Members do not participate in the meeting, unless asked directly by a board member, but they have a right to listen to the board discussion.

Town Meetings

Town meetings are informal gatherings intended to promote two-way communication; full member participation is essential to success. The board may want to present a controversial issue or explore an important question like amending the bylaws. The board may want to get a sense of members’ priorities, garner support for a large project or clarify a misunderstood decision.

Board Meetings

Most of the business of the association is conducted at regular board meetings. Board members set policy, oversee the manager’s work, review operations, resolve disputes, talk to residents and plan for the future. Often the health and harmony of an entire community is directly linked to how constructive these meetings are.

Executive Session

The governing documents require the association to notify you in advance of all meetings, and you’re welcome—in fact, encouraged—to attend and listen. The only time you can’t listen is when the board goes into executive session. Topics that the board can discuss in executive session are limited by law to a narrow range of sensitive topics. Executive sessions keep only the discussion private; no votes can be taken. The board must adjourn the executive session and resume the open session before voting on the issue. In this way, members may hear the outcome, but not the private details.


Occasionally the association notifies all residents of a meeting at which absolutely no business is to be conducted. Generally these meetings include food and music, and they tend to be the best attended meetings the association has. Oh, wait! That’s a party, not a meeting. Well, it depends on your definition of meeting.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Popular TV Shows Give Community Associations a Bad Rep (...or do they?)

On Sunday night, January 17, I joined millions of Americans on the sofa to watch TV and discovered two mega-hit CBS shows included one of my favorite subjects in their storylines:  homeowner associations. However, I was disappointed to see that both Madame Secretary and The Good Wife portrayed community associations in unflattering ways. Each episode featured violations of association rules handled inappropriately at best and downright badly at worst. Unfortunately, I know as a professional manager of community associations who partners with the volunteer boards of countless associations in NC and SC, that real life can be stranger than fiction–and a lot unfriendlier. That’s why I do what I do: helping community association boards create successful, happy communities begins–and ends–with professional and courteous interactions with everyone, from visitors to vendors to residents.

In Madame Secretary, Secret Service agents were parked in the community association common area with their cars running constantly as per their rules...and against association rules.  The Good Wife was running a business out of her home, in violation of her community association covenants. These are the kinds of complaints community associations get on a day-to-day basis and, in both shows, the community association boards handled the incidents aggressively and angrily. Sure, it makes great TV but it makes terrible neighborhoods.

What My Favorite TV Shows Taught Me About Community Association Governance and Problem-Solving

Those shows were a good reminder of what should be a part of every community association’s primary mission: to create a harmonious, happy, successful community. It’s just that simple...and just that difficult, sometimes.  That’s an important part of our service at AMG: to counsel and train our community association clients to deal with problems by, first, listening to gain an understanding of what’s really happening and then, armed with information, move towards a solution, together, with empathy, not nastiness. Community association governance is a delicate balancing act of preserving the rights and preferences of diverse people living close together. While conflict keeps TV viewers glued to a show, in real life, it can drive residents away from a community, decreasing property values and, ultimately, leading to community failure.

Yes, associations are technically correct in prohibiting certain activities such as running an office from home, yet the TV shows highlighted a common problem in community governance: the parties involved often are unable to see the effects of their actions on others. While I’m the first to support association covenants, I’ve learned that doing so with empathy and kindness often delivers a better result. The association representative who approached Madame Secretary’s family rebuffed her initial efforts to have a friendly discussion. It’s our experience that an open and receptive conversation has a high likelihood of solving the problem. And, if discussion doesn’t work, other measures are still available. From my perspective, there is never a good reason not to start resolving a potential violation with friendly discussion.

The TV shows also reminded me that, in many cases, this way of handling difficult situations is fiction, thank goodness! The good news is, research from CAI, Community Associations Institute, shows 90% of homeowners believe their community association board acts with their best interests at heart; 70% believe their association rules protect and enhance property values. While these are impressive statistics compared to how citizens feel about politicians, the people who govern our nation, that number could be even higher if association leaders took the time to understand the nature and details of the problem and, always, began from a place of kindness, courtesy and understanding.  Bottom line, if community associations want to stop being seen as unreasonable, they need to stop acting that way.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Preparing For A Homeowner's Association Meeting

The comfort level of our living in our home should be well maintained at all time. We need to make some improvement or repair jobs each time we find the necessity. As a good homeowner, we are obliged to maintain the standard quality of our building. This would be one of the main reasons of the establishment of HOA or Homeowner's Association. Being managed by the property owners, this association is not a profitable organization. Every meeting held by this association is always important and beneficial for every involved homeowner. Thus preparing for a homeowner's association meeting should be treated very seriously. It is very important that you throw this meeting in a regular basis so that every new issue or business related to your properties will be well accommodated.

Considering that this association has many members with different businesses and occupations, it is necessary to plan the Homeowner's Association meeting long before the exact schedule. It would be wise if you can schedule the meeting a year in advance. Every business related to the Homeowner's Association should be handles systematically especially the meetings. Let's say you have planned the meeting of this association in a certain month, you need to spread the words about it and make sure that all the directors or members of the association are well informed months before the meeting. Such an early notification will make it a lot easier for them to suit the meeting to their own schedule. That would give them plenty of time to make some rescheduling if necessary. In shorts, the directors will find no excuse for having conflicts in their schedule.

You need to understand that a meeting in your Homeowner's Association plays an important role in keeping the value of your properties. The association is here to make sure that the values of your properties is at its peak. Through the meeting held by the Homeowner's Association, you surely can share your thoughts with other homeowners in your area concerning some common problems or most recent issue about your properties. More importantly, you should see this as a very effective communication link that will connect you directly to the local government.

It is clear to see that the meeting of the Homeowner's Association plays a significant role in discussing the most recent issue and keeping the properties values. Thus, preparing for a Homeowner's Association meeting should be done properly.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Extended Warranties and Service Contracts: Extra Protection or Waste of Money?

When you buy cars, computer equipment, major appliances, home electronics or other expensive household items, chances are you will be offered a service contract or extended warranty for an additional fee. Often charged as a percentage of the purchase price, service contracts and extended warranties range in cost from less than $50 to several thousand dollars. While they may seem like a good way to protect your investment and buy some extra peace of mind, consumer advocates generally advise against purchasing this extra coverage and report that it is rarely worth the cost.

Most big-ticket purchases come with a standard manufacturer’s warranty that usually covers the item for a least the first year. More often than not, if a product is faulty, any defects will become apparent during that period and will be covered by the standard warranty. If a product is not defective, problems typically show up much later in a product’s life cycle, beyond the term covered by an extended warranty. In addition, extended warranties often overlap the manufacturer's coverage—you might buy a two-year extended warranty, but with the manufacturer's warranty covering the first year, you are really only receiving one additional year of coverage.

Another reason consumers are discouraged from purchasing service contracts is that they can contain so many conditions, terms and exclusions that they are virtually ineffective. In most cases, you will not have protection from common wear and tear, and some manufacturers do not honor contracts if you fail to follow their recommendations for routine maintenance.

One more thing to consider when weighing the pros and cons of service contracts is credit card coverage. Some credit card reward plans will double the length of a manufacturer's warranty, free of charge, when you purchase the item with the card, making additional coverage unnecessary.

If, however, you do decide to purchase extra protection for a product, make sure you read the fine print in the service contract and ask the following questions to be sure you’re getting the protection you’re paying for:
Does the dealer, manufacturer or an independent company back the service contract?
How are claims handled?
Who will perform the service and where it will be done?
What happens to my coverage if the dealer or administrator goes out of business?
Is prior authorization required for repair work?
Are there any situations when coverage can be denied?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Cloud Computing Technology

We all know about the clouds that shade the sun and carry rain. Now it’s time to get to know the other cloud—the one that delivers computing power, handy applications, and the ability to share information with others wherever and whenever you need. Like the atmospheric mass that provides its name, the technological phenomenon impacts our daily lives.

Cloud computing sounds mysterious and untrustworthy, but chances are you’re already working, playing and surfing in the cloud. If you’ve purchased an iPhone, Kindle, or any smartphone, tablet or computer recently, you’re probably taking advantage of its benefits. If you’ve downloaded a song from the Internet, chatted on Skype or purchased something from, you’ve used the cloud.

So, what does the cloud mean to you, and how can you harness its power?

It means you can pay your assessments online. You can access association documents and board meeting minutes from wherever you are. It might also mean, for the owners of second homes, that you can tune in to board meetings from the other side of the country.

It means you can work from a remote office without losing a beat. You can collaborate with others on a document without having to e-mail the file back and forth. You can store photos, music and files online without taking up precious space on your computer.

The cloud offers cheaper, stress-free alternatives to expensive hardware and maintenance. All you really need to take advantage of the cloud is reliable Internet access, but you should carefully consider security, privacy, the provider’s reliability and contract terms first.

How secure is your data and information on the cloud? What privacy rules are you subject to? Some cloud services include clauses that allow providers to access and use a customer’s data —often for marketing purposes—and can retain that data long after you’re done using the service.

What if the company providing the cloud service goes out of business? What happens to all your information? Do contact terms lock you into one program or application?

These are important questions to ask. And though the cloud is relatively new, it’s here to stay and will become even more prevalent over time. To see a list of cloud computing providers, visit