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About Reena Van Aalst

About Reena Van Aalst

I have had an interest in business and management since I was at school. Though I chose to study pharmacy, my interest in management continued.

University was full-time and during those years I had a casual job in a large pharmacy near home and it was a precursor to the large discount pharmacies that are prevalent today. My casual work included assisting pharmacists, ordering stock and attending to the needs of customers and patients. On graduation I was offered a full-time job as a pharmacist at the pharmacy and despite my youth became the pharmacist in charge which included co-managing the non-pharmaceutical part of the business.

The best on the job training included  meeting the needs of patients, customers generally, supervising staff older than me and dealing with my co-manager who was the son of the owner and not a pharmacist. I worked shifts on weekly rotations three 13 hours shifts one week and four shifts the following week. I grew up fast.. it was matter of sink or swim. Additionally I learned discretion, discipline, patience and to provide for people’s needs with deference. These qualities have held me in good stead as the same attributes are required to successfully manage and run an Owners Corporation and my business.

As a pharmacist, one is conscious that a mistake could impact on a patient’s health and perhaps their life. This is good fear and apprehension and contributed to the growth of my concentrating and organisational skills. Education, organisation, discipline and communication skills are necessary ingredients to running a successful Owners Corporation.

Dealing with patients also required sympathy, patience, listening and respectful counselling. These attributes were also required when dealing with doctors but on another level, particularly if one queried a script. Different folks, different strokes and discretion is always the better part of the valour. Successfully running and managing an  Owners Corporation requires the same elements but not necessarily in the same order.

My co-manager in the pharmacy was not a pharmacist, he was the son of the owner. I learned how to manage being talked down to and being called “Reens”. But when he asked me to clean the toilets that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I learned the art of “positive no” but I admit not before I gave him a right serve. He dropped the idea of toilet duty but continued calling me Reens. That was a pill I was willing to swallow.

Saying “yes” is easier than saying “no”. From experience I have learned the skill of saying “no.” If used appropriately “no” will have resultant benefits in the end. It is unwise to manage an Owners Corporation or join the Strata Committee if your aim is to simply say “yes” or “no” for no’s sake or if the reason behind either is to be liked or approved.

Listen objectively, consider issues on the merits and put the interests of the Owners Corporation first. So if you say either “yes” or “no”  it is based on reason. The bad news is either may end in you being disliked but you will have more chance of being respected and isn’t that what being professional is about?

No one is perfect, so if  you lose it once in a while and allow emotions to overwhelm you, reflect why that person(s) got under your skin. Develop a strategy, to deal with provocation or rudeness better the next time.

It is not unusual to be confronted with owners, residents and committee members who exhibit an attitude of self-entitlement. If one serves on a committee, like pharmacists it is best to listen, counsel and ignore the “slings and arrows” and resist the “sea of troubles…by opposing them.” (“Hamlet”).Try not to take things personally. Sometimes it is better to let the ball go through to the keeper.

When you do manage an Owners Corporation some people will say and do reprehensible and unjustified things. It comes with the territory. Occasionally you will be complemented  -treasure those moments.

Members of committees are volunteers….why they do it I don’t know….but they are and by and large to be commended. When one becomes a member of the strata committee, one undertakes responsibility arising out of statute and the general law. Read and learn the law applicable to committee members.  Don’t guess, either research or ask someone in the know for example your strata manager or a lawyer. Know when you don’t know.

Over the years the responsibilities and complexities of the Strata Committee have grown exponentially and that will continue but that is what makes being involved both challenging and satisfying.

In our next newsletter I will write about running a successful committee and general meeting.

Reena Van Aalst


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