This is my third lunch this week and after nearly one year of lockdown and hardly going out, this almost feels too much. In fact, I am not that hungry. Our meeting place is at Nuevo Reino in San Pedro right on the beachfront which is where I met Ruth, the ex-president of Las Terrazas Puerto del Almendro.
The sun is shining bright and hot, without a single cloud in the sky. It is one of the first days of excellent weather.
I had a number of questions to ask Ruth and she began her story by saying that she first came to Spain in 1985 as her friend’s parents had bought an apartment in Las Terrazas. She fell in love with the place and always knew that she would like to live here one day.
In 2002 her friend called her to say that an apartment was going on the market for sale which she thought would be great for Ruth. A week later she flew down to Spain and completed on the purchase shortly after.
Asking about her background, she said that she started working with EMI Records in 1982, initially leading a small team in stock control and production management, customer service, print buying and generally incorporating the logistics management side of the business within the marketing company. She then moved onto working for EMI Music in 1993 setting up the customer service centre in Holland where she stayed until the late 1990s.
From there Ruth went on to set up a management company working with healers and complementary therapists until 2002 when her life changed again. In the midst of the music industry waking up to music piracy and the likes of Napster, she was called back in by EMI to help implement anti-piracy policies for a three-month consultancy post. She ended up spending the next 10 years within the UK team, then within Europe, and finally globally.
EMI Music was eventually sold to a private equity firm and her final year at EMI involved being elected Chair of Employee Representatives involving leading the company through a major redundancy programme. She adds “it was 3 months of hell and a very sad and horrible job to have done”.
Ruth then reverted to a consultancy role within EMI for the next two years and simultaneously went on to spearhead a music learning programme for primary school children. In 2012 she then created a music creation app, translated it into 14 languages, and achieved 1.6M downloads.
The waiter comes around to take our orders. I have eaten in this restaurant before but as she is more of a local I ask what she would recommend, “Everything” she replies.
Back in 2014 the then president of the community suggested that she joined the committee within the community and somehow she ended up being persuaded to stand as Vice President. She remembers that when she started in this position the community had not been painted for years, the administrator worked for the family who had built the community and there were a lot of disagreements on how things should be done.
The following year Ruth volunteered to stand as president and at the AGM the administrator also changed and her introduction to the president’s role was like a baptism of fire. Gathering a good team around her, gradual change began.
I tease her about what was the best and worst part of being the president and she laughs light-heartedly saying there is no good part about being the president. It is a thankless job. Yet she continues to say that she believes that she and the team brought about many positive changes, got things done, and worked with the administrator to manage the community’s debtors. Seeing the positive change is what makes her most happy and that some people appreciate the change has been good.
I have a few more questions for Ruth. In particular, should a president be paid for their efforts and expenses, to which she responds “absolutely not!” People suggested it to her and it was something she was totally against. She says that in her opinion if you get paid then a job description should be available, which should come with any normal job benefits – sick pay, holiday entitlement, etc and therefore you are responsible and need to be available 24 hours a day. Neighbours would believe they were entitled to demand and knock on your door at any time. She adds that “The most important thing in a community is that people need to have some respect and perspective. “We are living in paradise and if you just stop to think for one second, then there is less reason for complaining”.
We have both cleaned our salad dish, but even with one portion of calamaritos to share between us, there are still leftovers. Under any other circumstances I would have eaten them, I hate waste and I hate food being thrown away, however, I have another meeting to attend after this and I am full to the brim.
My final question just before we leave, “How does she think technology will change the future of communities”, she thinks a little and says it remains to be seen. “There are always people who won’t embrace change”.
My thoughts “will there be any youngster in the future who can avoid the technology and the software-controlled world we live in? I doubt it…, and equally, if community presidents were compensated in some way or another for their time and effort, it may not be such a bad idea. Not all jobs require you to be available 24 hours/day. As a president, it is you who sets down these rules.
When I was elected as the president of my community, my wife started calling me the janitor. Basically, I started doing everything and anything. However, after a few years, I realised it is me who is allowing it. We had set up a website and if anything was not urgent it could be said and dealt with on our website and if anything was urgent that’s why we had an administration company and that was their job. I have to say that in the end technology did help me as a president. I kept everyone informed and updated. There was a track record of everything I did and when the time came to hand it over, the process was easy and simple. All the documents and everything that was ever said or left to be done was available on the community’s website. ”
I wonder how long it will take before other presidents realise that keeping all the information on their computer is not safe and self-made programs and excel sheets are not the way forward. Time after time I come across communities, where someone builds a website and once they leave no one has access to it, cannot run it, or knows anything about programming. Using off the self-packages removes these problems and pitfalls. Urbytus is one of the platforms, we don’t claim to be the only one but at least we are one of the services that make life easier for the presidents, committee members, owners, and Administrators.
Would you be interested to join me for the next lunch? Join me, Ali Parandeh, Founder of Urbytus and The Presidents Club. Every week I intend to interview one president and highlight how they have made a positive change and impact on their community. https://thepresidentsclub.urbytus.com/