Monday, March 31, 2014

Effective Association GROWTH is SIMPLE MATH: BI + SE * WF = MME + FS

As we end the first quarter of 2014, as a fellow association executive, I want to ask you a couple of questions:

Is your membership engagement strategy better, the same, or worse than it was 1 year ago?  2 years ago?  3 years ago?

Is your association building BELIEVERS, or just a roll of dues paying members?

Are you just providing services, or are you forging a MOVEMENT/ REVOLUTION within your industry?

In order for your members to truly be believers and to become part of your "association movement", they must be engaged at some level.  That engagement builds your movement, increases revenue per member, volunteerism, and helps you achieve maximum member engagement.  When maximum member engagement is actualized, recruiting becomes easier and retention rates rise leading to financial security for your association.

You see, if you have any set of members that are not engaged at some level within your association, they are, what I refer to as, "at risk" members.  These are members who have no real buy-in to your association.  They have been paying dues for any number of reasons, but have chosen to NOT engage in any programs, services, or volunteering.

These "at risk" members on any given day, can, and do, make a choice to non-renew their membership to save money and dedicate their resources elsewhere.  The next question for you is, are you tracking membership engagement in any fashion to be able to identify your fully engaged, somewhat engaged, and not engaged members?  If not, you should be.  It allows you to target  your messaging to each category of engagement, so as to draw your members closer to you.  There is no reason to send a company or an individual who is engaged in 80% of your programs, a letter to get more engaged.  They need a THANK YOU letter.   Someone who is only a "newsletter member", should not get a letter thanking them for all their participation…they aren't participating.  Rather, they need to get an encouraging letter asking them to get more engaged in programs, while also thanking them for their support.

Our association has actually established an Annual Engagement Award, which recognizes all members who are engaged in 75% or more of the association programs, and volunteering at some level.  We want to put those members on display to inspire others to be more active in the association.

If your current membership is engaging in your member programs, meetings, and volunteering, you have a great story to tell those who are not members.  If your member engagement is lacking, why would a non-member want to be a member if current members don't even participate?

For this reason, I believe associations should put focus on member engagement FIRST, and everything else will follow.  This leads me to my simple math equation for effective association growth in membership, revenues, and financial strength:

Board Innovation (BI) plus Staff Execution (SE) times Wow Factor (WF) equals Maximum Member Engagement (MME) plus Financial Security (FS)

For associations to sustain themselves long term, they must have maximum member engagement and financial security.  If you lack either one, your association will perform average at best.  If you don't have a good level of member engagement, many will say you don't represent enough people to speak for your industry.  Or your benefits and services appear to benefit just a few, and not the full membership or "why join, your current members don't see any value?"  If you don't have financial security, then you don't have the financial resources to take risk for your members and fund the necessary programs to meet your mission.

So what are the three things necessary to have MME and FS?  You can make a list a mile long if you would like, but it really boils down to 3 categories which all others fall into:

Board Innovation (BI)
Board innovation comes from having a business savvy mindset from your Executive Committee and CEO.  This group must lead the way for the rest of the board to get outside the box and think creatively about how they can engage the members in new ways.  They must create programs and meeting structures that hit at the heart of their member needs.  It's critical for the board to, at least every two years, analyze the question, "What can we do together for our members that they can't do for themselves effectively?"  Answering this question is the key to maximizing your value proposition.

Staff Execution (SE)
Once the board has a sound direction for the association to take, the next phase is staff execution.  This is a blend of staff working with the key volunteers (when needed) to execute each program, service, committee work, and meeting to empower your members to accomplish the association mission.  When people see real change and results happening within the membership and their own experience, they become excited and tell others.  Members want to see excellence within their staff.  They want to have a confidence that the staff is passionate about their association, and that they take pride in doing it with excellence.

WOW Factor (WF)
This speaks for itself.  In everything that your association provides for your membership, does it exemplify excitement, passion, and an emotional experience that draws them into your association?  This is everything, from the way you answer the phone at your association offices, to the entertainment you provide at your conferences.  Members should feel your membership…not just purchase it.


Bottom line, do you have an effective membership engagement strategy?  If not, you should.

Remember:  BI + SE * WF = MME + FS

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

And the #1 Membership Recruitment Tool IS.....


When you look at your membership recruitment strategy, my question always is, "Have you empowered your members and especially your suppliers with the tools needed for them to communicate your story to non-members?"

Many think that just telling a member to call 3 or 4 of his "buddies" in the industry and say, "Hey, you should join because I think it's a good thing" gets the job done.  NOT IN TODAY'S membership environment.  Or pressing your staff to recruit 10% more members this year when they don't believe in your value proposition isn't going to work either.

If you are going to be successful in new member recruitment, it is imperative you have "the tool" that communicates the power, passion and excitement of belonging to your association.  This tool should be used by every volunteer, supplier and staff member.

That tool is a "VIDEO."  Having a membership video that is more than members just saying things in the camera and more than just sharing your benefits is crucial to inspiring non-members to join.  

YOUR VIDEO NEEDS TO BE LIKE A MOVIE TRAILER THAT COMPELS THE NON-MEMBER TO GRAB HIS PEN AND SAY, "WHERE'S MY CHECKBOOK, I NEED TO JOIN THIS GROUP."

Having a video as a tool allows your suppliers to easily forward your membership recruitment piece to all of their customers.  A video makes it easy for a volunteer or board member to send the video to his colleagues and say, "I would like you to watch this video and I will call you in 5 minutes."

If the video is great, the only question your volunteer needs to ask is.. "So why wouldn't you join with us?"

I'm writing this blog today to encourage every association to get outside your thinking and construct a professionally produced video that is inspiring, motivating, shows off your members and displays the power and presence of your association.

The Metal Treating Institute just launched its new membership recruitment video and it has already after first viewing got our board all fired up about membership in 2014.  It quickly reminded them the power they have collectively than individually.

I feel a fire burning in our volunteers that is going to push our membership recruitment to the next level.



Seek to find the right message, music and mission in a video that will engage your non-members to become members.


CLICK the video at the bottom of this post to view MTI's new membership recruitment video.   
Remember... No matter what industry you are in, we are all much stronger together than separately.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Key to Taking Risk in 2014 is Non-Dues Revenue

It is amazing to me how many association professionals believe that because you are a non-profit, that means you can't think like a "capitalized for profit" business when it comes to managing and developing new programs and services.  There is a lack of innovation, seeking out member's business needs, and listening for those things that could be huge drivers to member engagement, expanded revenues, and rising net worth.

After the 2009 economic bust, every non-profit should be doing everything it can to enhance revenue streams to build its reserve funds.  You never know when such a decline may happen again, and the last thing any association wants to have happen is to be forced to deliver less value and cut programs, because they didn't have enough money in the bank to thrive.

HERE ARE THREE KEYS BEHIND WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE SIGNIFICANT RESERVES:  
  1. Having significant reserves in the bank allows the board of directors and the association, to take on more risk when it comes to new program development, than members could take individually.  
  2. When you have significant reserves in the bank, your association can afford to create new programs without increased cost to the members.
  3. With significant reserves in the bank, your association can afford to NOT CUT costs during a downturn, just for the sake of cutting costs.  They can afford to keep member programs running full steam ahead, and the brand high.
You may be asking yourself, "Tom, what do you consider significant reserves?"  I'm glad you asked.  I believe that over one-full year's budget would be considered significant enough reserves. 

The next question you may be asking is, "Well Tom, how do we build up those significant reserves?"  That is another good question.

In order for associations to build healthy income streams, it take a diverse set of non-dues revenue streams that include meetings, services, training, and interest income.  Yes, I said interest income.  Think about it...if you have $1,000,000 in invested reserves, there are conservative investments in the marketplace that you could be earning $25,000 to $40,000 on your money, depending on your risk tolerance.  So don't rule out interest income as a revenue source.  

When looking at non-dues programs, there are three types to look at.  I personally believe that two of them should get very little of your time, and the third one should get all of your time.  It is critical that associations build value based benefits and programs, because the next generation doesn't have the emotional attachment to it that their grandfathers and fathers had.  The WWII and baby boomer generations birthed a lot of the associations.  Gen X grew up as kids in them, and have somewhat of an emotional attachment.  Gen Y is far removed from the birth, and with that emotional detachment, they are looking for value.  The following are the three types of benefits:

Program Type #1 - Those Your Members Can Get For Free Anywhere
Associations used to have a lock on those types of programs that generated information.  However, the growth of the internet and Google search have virtually taken away this golden handcuff for associations.  We are not the only place to get information now.  An Association's niche in this area has been changed from being a knowledge provider, to being a knowledge manager.  There is so much information available now, that members can "WASTE" a ton of valuable time wrapped up in it.  The value of an association is in being able to get the right information to your members...quickly.

Program #2 - Those You Are Going to Do Whether We Are Members or Not
These programs generally focus a lot in the area of advocacy.  With all their strong efforts in state capitols and Washington D.C, .almost every association has heard this comment after delivering to a prospective member, "Well you are doing that whether I'm a member or not, so I'm not interested right now."  With the distaste many have with the governmental process, for many associations, there is a huge risk making this the key value you bring to the table.  For some it works, for the majority, it does not.

Program #3 - Doing Things For Your Members More Effectively Than They Can Do Themselves
In my opinion, this third type of program or service is where associations should focus the vast majority of their time.  This type of program maximizes value because it fits a direct need or want of the member.  Yes, they could do the program on their own, but at great cost in time and financial resources.  

Some key programs and services that associations can always do better than their members are:

Networking Meetings:  A member could never bring the best minds together once or twice a year for the cost of dues and the meeting.  The time it takes to coordinate a meeting alone would take them totally away from serving their own customer.

Online Training:  This is like printing money.  Once your content is in place, members enroll, take courses, and money flows into the association bank account with little human interaction.  If you are not doing online training, you are missing an amazing program that saves your members a great deal of money on training, and drives revenue into the association.

Financial Benchmarking:  Being able to see how you compare to your competitors, sales trends, and cost ratios, help any association member to make really good business decisions.  Benchmarking takes an unclear future and makes it pretty clear, if done right.  Another benefit of benchmarking is if you get great participation, there are companies who will purchase the compiled results from the association.  Again, members could never do this alone because other members would never submit their financial numbers to a competitor, but they would submit them to a third party research firm that the association has partnered with.

Leadership Training:   When it comes to leadership training, large companies can afford to bring in a high-caliber company.  The average association member, which represents about 90% of memberships, cannot.  They have to be satisfied with little, to no training at all.  Our association has proven that if you choose a top notch leadership training company, who trains Fortune 500 companies, and bring them aboard, then you can provide the same high-caliber training to every member for a fraction of the costs.  The benefit here is, you engage the next generation of leaders, and you have a year in the program to motive and inspire them as to why the association is so important to them.

The key behind discovering the programs and services that will maximize your member engagement and per member revenue reside in two things:
  1. Having a great understanding of how your member operates, and what their pain points in business are.
  2. Choosing to develop programs in areas that the association can do more effectively than the member can individually.
Our association developed this mantra in 2005, and since 2006, our per member revenue has increased 33%.  The increase in annual services income has played a large role in our association going from having 1 month of reserves in the bank in 2006, to now having 15 months of reserves in the bank today.


So what is your next step:  Take a team of members and staff, and analyze every aspect of your member's business, operations, and financials.  Look for the areas that cause your members the most heartache in the daily grind of doing business, and solve those pains with programs from your association.

A key element to program development is, who should you use as partners.  We only partner with the best in any area.  I've placed the companies and contact information for our partners for your reference. I have also included a couple of companies I know who are excellent in their area.  For meetings, I've noted a few incredible speakers because they brought great value to our meeting experience which led to higher attendance.

Financial Benchmarking
Ilumen:  www.ilumen.net - Michael O-Schannesey - 404-446-1600 x1607 moshaughnessey@ilumen.com

Online Training Platform
Mindfash.com:  www.mindflash - Jason McMurtry - 800-771-1900 x21- jason@mindflash.com

Others in Online Learning
Peach New Media:  www.peachnewmedia.com - Dave Will - 770-805-6292 - dwill@peachnewmedia.com
Digitec Interactive:  www.digitecinteractive.com - Amy Bassett - 407-299-1800 - abassett@digitecinteractive.com

Leadership Training Program
The Corps Group:  www.thecorpsgroup.com - Kyle Howlin - 678-464-7037 khowlin@thecorpsgroup.com

Key Speakers Who Will Bring Value to Your Conference
Kenn Kington:  www.kennkington.com - kenn@kennkington.com
Kenneth Gronboch:  www.kgcdirect.com - ken@kgcdirect.com
Janine Driver:  www.lyintamer.com - janine@lyintamer.com
Dan Thurmon:  www.danthurmon.com

Association News & Conference Video
Association Studios:  www.associationstudios.com - Jim Wacksman - 850-556-9669 - jim@AssociationStudios.com

Website and Graphics Design
Design Extensions:  www.designextensions.com - Jay Owen - 877-378-6101  jowen@designextensions.com

So there you have it, the choice is yours in 2014.  Don't let dues drive your value!  Seek out the areas that are the most painful to your member's daily operations and needs, and plug in programs that will maximize engagement and revenues.  Remember...."You will only achieve, what you can conceive."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Don't Go Another Year With a Board With Old Thinking... Make 2014 Count For Something


It's December 2013 and every association is about to embark on a new year.  A year in which we want our associations to go to a new level, membership to increase, more members engage in our programs and a vibrant board who is thinking futuristic with great ideas and innovation at the forefront.



In reality, the problem is many boards are still stuck looking into the past, not the future.  Hanging onto traditions, which at the time were amazing, but that aren't meaningful to the overall membership any longer.  Trying to appeal to the new wave of members in ways that don't draw them closer to the association.


Associations are currently experiencing one of the biggest dynamic shifts in technology and demographics ever experienced in human history. Business is changing at lightning speed, traditional business models are no longer relevant, and each demographic group wants things differently.

Yet many boards are choosing to ignore these changes and instead make decisions and instead make decisions that are driving their associations to become irrelevant to their members.   One of the biggest challenges associations face today is motivating and inspiring their boards to face facts and take steps to move their association’s communication strategy, value propositions, and member service models into the future.

The problem, you see, is that many board members believe they are in the membership business. Success and failure is defined by asking, “How much did we grow membership this year?” That is wrong thinking.

Right thinking is to not just sell a membership, but to sell a cause.. a revolution built behind a passion of decisions that can empower members and make a real difference in their lives.

Your association is in the business of creating a financially strong organization that has the funding to do the purpose of the organization. If you do that, people will want to join.

The questions that you, as a board member, constantly need to ask are, “What real value are we delivering to the member?” and “Is it shifting with the changing demands of our current and future members?”

Many boards today are predominantly controlled by baby boomers, who in large part rebel against making radical changes away from how it's always been done to adapt their associations. Baby boomers belonged to associations just to belong because their fathers were there at the birth of the organization and they ran around as a child at the association meetings.  The younger generation was not there and is far removed from the emotional experience of the start of the association.  They want to know, "What's in it for me?  What is the real value?"

Engaging with the concepts of innovation and change isn’t about making some radical shift that disrupts the association so much it splits the membership. Successful innovation and change starts with small steps, and continues with targeted, incremental changes that sees member value, loyalty, and excitement rise year after year. (I’ve seen this in my own association, where in the past eight years membership has increased 13%, non-dues revenue up 132%, and our overall net member surplus increased 858%.) 

Some associations may actually require a radical shift, but most simply need a series of small consistent changes over time to create the wave of excitement every association longs for. 

Below are three of my ten keys for tapping into innovation as a board member and building that Association Revolution that maximizes the recruitment, engagement and strength of any association:

Identify the problems you need to solve as an association:  I’m amazed at how many associations embrace solutions because “everyone is doing it” without identifying the problem first. You shouldn’t be putting up a Facebook page without answering the question, “What problems are we solving by having the Facebook page?” Real innovation means matching up tangible solutions to meet real member problems, while also introducing futuristic ideas to solving problems we aren’t aware of yet. The key is to define the challenges of your members, and help them solve the problems they can’t solve effectively by themselves.

Survey your membership:   As a board member, you serve the membership. That’s why you were elected. A key element to making great decisions as a board is to survey your membership on its thoughts about problems and solutions. Keep your finger on the pulse of how your overall membership views programs, services, and technology, and use the data to drive your value proposition. If they believe in the programs, they’ll remain members.

Look at your financial trends:  There are four key metrics you need to look at over time. These four numbers tell you whether board decisions are enhancing member value, or driving the association into the abyss.

  • Total Member Surplus at Year End. This displays the overall success of the organization in building financial resources to do the work of the association.
  • Total Membership Each Quarter. This tells you the direction of member confidence. If members have confidence in your association, retention rates are high, and membership continues to grow. 
  • Rolling 12 Months of Revenues and Expenses Each Quarter. This helps you see the impact of your board decisions on monthly basis.
  • Revenue Per Member on a Quarterly Basis. This shows how engaged the members are in member programs.
  • Quarterly Non-Dues Revenue vs Dues-Revenue.  This allows you to see the connection of non-dues vs dues revenue to your overall budget.  If dues is level, yet non-dues revenue is growing, you don't need to think about a dues increase as seriously.  It helps you make good decisions and not knee jerk, "We need to raise the dues."
Looking at these trends graphically at a board meeting will tell you within seconds if you are on the right track, or if you need to do something different. It’s amazing how quickly the conversation changes when you see any of those numbers heading south.

NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS:  Would you spend $495 to change the thinking of your board?  I have recently launched my "live" presentation online, "How to Get Your Members to Scream Your Name and Beg for MORE".   The most common comment after my session is, "I wish my board would have been here to hear this."  Well now they can.  Click the short promo video to the right to see what others think about this session.

SPECIAL OFFER:   Purchase the 90-minute energetic program before December 31, 2013 and you will get it for $495 ($500 savings) for up to 20 of your board members and staff to watch.   Each one will have until March 31, 2014 to complete the session on their own, its 24/7 and able to be viewed on computer, tablets and other mobile devices at their convenience.  It includes my powerpoint handouts, the 90-minute session and a set of ten mini-breakouts in a document for each one to work through a series of thought provoking questions from the video.

Don't go another year letting your board think the way it was done in the past is going to sustain their association in the future.  Help them make the shift in thinking NOW!  Enroll your board and staff in my Association Revolution session today.

CLICK HERE to see full details, promo videos and order link.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Power of Networking.... Maximizing Every Handshake


Networking, as defined by Webster Dictionary is, “a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals or groups having a common interest.”  Today we live in a business climate in which the demands on us as individuals can be almost overwhelming.  It moves at light speed; change is constant, and the ability to keep up with it all seems impossible.   With this fast paced and changing environment, in a world where we can never really “know it all”, why would anyone try and go it alone?  

The first key to any advancement or growth in personal life, professional development, or business, is surrounding yourself with a constantly growing network of people who can provide you or your organization help at any given time.  To build a network of people effectively, you have to understand the art of networking.  In my opinion, networking is one of the greatest life skills never taught to us as children or as business people, yet we are called upon to do it everyday.

The way to build a network is not about entering a conversation to see what a person can do for you.  The first step in networking is to get to know people and see how you can help them.   Zig Ziglar stated years ago, “If you help enough people get what they want, you will always get what you want.”

Recently I attended the MPI WEC meeting at Amelia Island, Florida, where I heard Laura Schwartz    She stated over and over that while she was working her way up through the ranks, whenever she would enter any social event and meet people, her number one question was, “How can I help you?” 
speak about how she rose from the position of intern at age 19 in the White House, to the Director of Events and Meetings for the White House. Ultimately, she produced every event President Clinton was involved with.

In the world of networking, people always remember those who have helped them be successful, and typically they are more than willing to return the favor.   The key to this element is that you give to help them achieve their goal without expectation of the return favor…that makes it genuine.  To be the best at networking, you must be a giver of help…not a taker.

As stated earlier, networking is about a connection to a group of people who, through your positive relationship, can help you at any given moment.  The key to a network is in your common interests or needs.  Some areas to think about building a network in would be:
  • Groups with similar interests
  • Individual with similar needs
  • Same age range
  • Mentors
  • Sphere’s of Influence
The second key to networking is to know yourself and others.   Take time to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the four different personality types.  The most successful networkers I’ve ever experienced have always been able to identify what makes people tick within minutes of talking to them.   Knowing this allows them to know “how” to talk to them.  Some people want to hear vision…some want to hear about your family…some want to hear the bottom line.   If you would like to see the strengths and weakness of the four personality types, you can visit www.tommorrison.biz and click on “Tom Morrison’s Handouts”.  There you will find a downloadable document that will be very eye opening about yourself, as well as, the people you meet.   The four personality types have all been characterized in many ways, including Greek words, shapes, animals, and colors.  They all break down to four:
  • Life of the Party
  • Decision Maker
  • Perfectionist
  • Can’t We All Just Get Along

Think about it…if you were about to enter a room full of people who spoke four different languages, wouldn’t you have a much better experience if you knew all four of the languages, and could talk in a way that they all understood every word you said?  The same is true with personality types.  We tend to speak to a person, like we are talking to someone who thinks just like us…big mistake.  You need to talk to people in a way that “they understand what you are wanting to communicate.”

The third key is to understand that networking is continuous and perpetual…it never stops.  Every time
you enter a room or shake a hand, it’s an opportunity to meet someone who may be the connection you need for a job a referral or help getting in the next door.

I know what many of you are saying at this point, “But Tom, I’m not a people person.  I’m uncomfortable in a room full of people, especially people I don’t know.”  Let me assure you that many people you may meet in that room feel the same way.  So my encouragement to you is to step out of your comfort zone, and introduce yourself.  At the end of this article, I will share a simple system for you to use on how to start up and move a conversation forward with anyone.

A few other keys you need to note on being a power networker are:

Be Viral:  A ton of networking and connection takes place online with LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Minimize and eliminate time wasters:  Your time is valuable and while you are talking to someone who has no interest in who you are, you are missing out on connecting with someone who will be a vital connection to your life.

Listen with your heart and often:  Simply put, be genuine and hear people’s stories.  Don’t fake whoBe real and transparent.  When you open up your heart to people and listen to theirs, that is when the ultimate connections are made.

Always be aware of where you are, who you are with, and who could be watching:  There’s a time and place for everything.  In the world of networking, you want to make sure you aren’t letting your hair down in an environment that could have negative consequences to some future opportunities you may have.

Be curious:  Ask lots of questions and get to know who you are with.  People LOVE to talk about themselves and what they do for a living.  They love to brag about themselves, leverage that to your advantage.  Share your wisdom when asked.  Always ask people for permission to give them feedback.  Help people create ideas and solutions.  Don’t be afraid to challenge ideas.

Remember and use names:  People love to hear other people call them by name.  If you don’t think so, try saying, “Thank you INSERT NAME”, next time you purchase something.  You will see the person smile.  Calling someone by name says, “You were important enough for me to remember your name.”

Not everyone will like you:  Remember that we are all different.  Not everyone likes certain personalities, there are differing opinions, many people have a past history that won’t allow them to like who you are and some are going to be jealous of you for whatever reason.  Don’t let it deter you…move on, they are most likely time wasters.

Everybody is somebody:  Always assume you need to meet a person…never under estimate who you  That person could know the person who is your next boss or next big client.  Always treat everyone you meet with respect and honesty as if they are the person who knows someone else you need to meet.
are shaking hands with.

Business cards:  Like the American Express commercial says…“Never leave home without it.”  These are how people remember you once you leave their presence.  The next level is to have a QR code people can scan with their phone, this way you are in their phone immediately.

Now that you know the keys to networking, I want to share with you a simple system for connecting with people once you have entered the room.  As you approach someone at the bar, or just in a small group, you have just reached out your hand and said typically, “Hi, my name is…..”  Most people don’t know what comes next.  Here is what comes next, it’s called F.O.R.M. 

FAMILY – everyone likes to talk about their family, so you start with simple questions like:
  • Where are you originally from?
  • Does your family live here?
  • How long have you and your wife lived here?
  • What are your kids into at their ages?

At some point, you then will transition into:

OCCUPATION – most people like to talk about what they do whether it’s good or bad, so you move into these questions:
  • So what do you do for a living?
  • How is the economy in that industry?
  • What are the major challenges a company like yours is seeing right now?
  • What do you like most about your job?

RECREATION – people have passions or outside work activities that they love:
  • When you aren’t at work, what do you like to do?
  • What do you like best about that activity?
  • Are you a sports fan?
  • Who is your favorite team?

After talking with someone about their Family, Occupation, and Recreation, it is now MY TIME.  The problem is you never get to “MY TIME” because you spent so much time letting the other person do what they like to do most…talk about themselves.

Your letting them talk so much about themselves, leaves them thinking you are this incredible listener, and an awesome person they just met.  BOOM!  Connection made.


Again, networking is a life skill everyone should master.  Start working on your ability to connect.  You never know which hand you shake that will change your life forever in the future.  A hand I shook in 1995, called me in 2005 to ask me if I would come be his #2 guy to take over as CEO when he retired in two years.   He said, while interviewing me, he always remembered how passionate my ideas were when he met me 10 years earlier…I was his only call to be his #2 person.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Long Live Your Education Sessions: How To Repurpose, Reuse and Recoup Meeting Costs


Over the last six years, if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s all content, if relevant, can be repurposed for new use.  Our organization lives in the world of materials and science where the content that was developed years ago is still relevant today.  The question for any association in this situation is, “how are you changing its delivery and purpose to engage your members in new learning styles?” 

These new learning styles are incredible opportunities for your association to create new income streams.

Many associations have printed content, some in book format, a lot in electronic format just lying around.  They have videos sitting in a closet.  They have PowerPoints that have been used in prior general sessions.  They are hosting conferences with no video camera in the room capturing what could be an incredible income stream for their association.

All of the above are pieces to a new revenue model called, “Repurpose, Repackage, Reuse,” to selling knowledge to your members.

Let me give you an example of how this looks in the real world.  Our association had a five module course that included a thick 3-ring bound Instructor’s Guide, five student handbooks and written tests.  The thick Instructor Guide was OVERHEADS!  Yes overheads. 

This program sat dormant for 2 years with none sold.  Then, one day the light clicked on.  We began to ask the famous… “What if we….?”  The “what if we” was, what if we converted the overheads to PowerPoint?  What if we partnered with one of our industry professionals to create 2 hours of video for each module to take the teaching out of the member’s hand?  What if we also gave an option for members to take the course online and call it the Qualified Furnace Operator Program?

One thing led to another and within a few weeks, we had everything we asked for:  A totally repackaged product that started selling like crazy in both print and online.  The print version sold for $1,200 while the online version sold for $1,000.   Within just a couple of weeks, we sold $20,000 of the printed version with many others taking the course online through our subscription program.

The key to the whole innovation was inventorying our content and then starting to ask… “What if we….?”

The next bit of innovation was purchasing a $300 HD camera and a tri-pod.  We began to take it with us to all of our regional conferences and video taped our sessions with the approval of our speakers in our agreements.  Most speakers were industry professionals and wanted the exposure.  We then began to build our online content, one live meeting at a time.  Now we have over 200 hours of content and over 350 courses being taken each month.  This has lead to an annual income stream of over $100,000 in just seven years.

And that content makes us money for as long as we can deliver it effectively.

“Small firms” like Boeing, Eaton Corporation and FedEx are all clients to our online learning center.   We finally found the golden nugget that pulled the big companies into our membership space.

By repurposing, repackaging and reusing content, it has enhanced our member engagement and increased our revenue per member from $1,500 in 2006 to $2,200 in 2013.  With our size membership, that was another $180,000 a year.  That is 100 new members we did not have to recruit!  That was huge!

Remember this…  it is more cost effective to convince your current members to spend their money on meaningful programs than it is to recruit new members.

In closing, I would encourage anyone reading this post to do the following:

1)    Inventory your current content or print, electronic, Power Point presentations and videos
2)    Inventory your meetings of all types and determine which you could record
3)    Seek out industry professionals who could put video to your printed content and PowerPoints
4)    Brainstorm an industry certificate program that members receive when they complete  “x” number of training hours
5)    Most importantly…  get your team together with all this information and then start asking the question:  “What if we…(insert idea)?”

Educations and training, done right, can be like printing money for any association.  Start your printing press today.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

How Crazy Our Thoughts Get About Employee Retention...GET REAL!

I recently found two different threads of discussion most amusing on the ASAE online forums, related to the retention of employees, and board members "poaching" or recruiting one of your association employees to come work for them.  I was amazed at some of the conversation!  Many execs had no idea, or plan to maximize employee retention, and actually thought it was a good thing to control and discourage advancement of employees, by keeping them from leaving...even if it was to a member company.  I received so many positive emails regarding my responses, that I thought I would share my thoughts on my blog.

In my experience as an association executive, I've found employee retention to be easy.  By applying 8-simple ideas, I've never had anyone leave in 18 years of leading 2 associations.

...now that doesn't say someone will not leave, because someone may offer them a position in the top 5% of pay.  However, I've experienced that if you do the 8 things I speak of below, your employees will not actively go looking for employment...someone will have to find them.  That is huge in the area of having confidence that when you are traveling or not at the office, your employees are working to grow and protect your association, not on monster.com or networking online with other friends to find another association job.

As leaders, we make being employed way too hard.  Many associations want to pay cheap labor, with no benefits, for someone to come in and be passionate about their cause everyday, and they are shocked when they leave.  The management philosophy of many is:  "JUST DO YOUR JOB.  YOU SHOULD BE HAPPY TO HAVE ONE!"

If you aren't doing any of the 8-steps I speak of below, you are always at risk of losing people. 


If you don't want your staff to be tempted to leave, and say "NO" to any other offers, then take my advice and make sure you have the following 8 steps in your employee service strategy:

1) Treat employees with respect
2) Be fair
3) Communicate expectations openly with them
4) Pay them well (in the top 10 to 20% of their field)
5) Do something once every other month to say, "I care about you"
6) Give them an exciting, flexible, and positive environment to enter into everyday

7) Know their personal goals so your association is helping them to achieve them
8) Give them an incentive to grow through promotions or bonuses

These eight things must be backed up with actions...not just words.  Your employees will follow you wherever you go...not just where you tell them to go.


I'll give you a personal example of how you show you care as an association/employer.  As I was doing some planning for the future, my employees asked me, "Tom, what happens if you get hit by a truck or die prematurely?  What does that do to your contract, and how are we impacted?"  Like any management contracts, upon death, mine ends, meaning my employees have no job.  When you only represent one big client, that thought is unnecessary pressure on your staff.  I took that conversation to heart.  A month later I sat down with my employees and told them that I had taken out a life insurance policy on myself.   If I died prematurely as owner of my management company, they would pay each of my employees one-year's salary.  That one simple gesture gave a ton of relief to everyone.  If something happened to me, they now had a year to figure out (and find) what they would do to help generate income in their households.  That is called showing you care with actions...not just words.  Do you have actions...or just words?

Regarding board members recruiting an employee they feel could be of great value to their company, I say, "you can't control it".  
Some things in life you have to say, "I can't control it, so I'm going to make the best of it", and look at being a mentor to your people instead of trying to control their advancement.


I come to work everyday as CEO knowing because we put a lot into our people and demand the best, that one day, someone may offer them an opportunity that we certainly can't match.  It makes me proud to know that I've helped to make that person so valuable in the marketplace.

It makes me think how proud pro-football coach Bill Walsh, from the San Francisco 49ers must feel, looking around at the last 15 years, and seeing how many of his key assistant coaches are now head coaches... who were hired right out from underneath him.

Instead of having your head in the sand about your employees potentially being recruited away, network well enough so that other association staff know you do the above 8-things.  You will have highly qualified staff members from other associations lined up to work for you within days of your person leaving.

Don't live in a bubble.  Don't assume employees are never looking for another job.  Employees typically leave because of adverse working conditions caused by a boss, needing more money, or needing more benefits.  The question for you is...are you providing them the best in all of those areas?  Remember, the average person's home life is not an encouraging and fun filled adventure...it's tough.  If you give them an exciting, encouraging, and personally fulfilling place to be everyday, it will take a life-sized opportunity for them to leave.