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Chairman Rorrie wants to make things better.

PARTWAY THROUGH OUR INTERVIEW ASAE's CHIEF ELECTED OFFICER PAUSED TO ASK ME A QUESTION: Were his answers providing me the information I needed to produce an article? That's Colin Rorrie, Jr., CAE: considerate, collaborative, thoughtful, and thorough. Bottom line: He wants to make things better.

At the American College of Emergency Physicians, where he has served as executive director and CEO since 1982, he improves on what's come before by collaborating with a staff of 97 and hundreds of volunteer leaders among a membership of more than 2l,000--not to mention with other organizations with complementary concerns. ACEP, located in Irving, Texas, focuses its resources--including a budget of approximately $17 million--on improving emergency medical care by fostering high standards for emergency medical education and practice. Day to day, Rorrie and ACEP are immersed in initiatives ranging from advocating passage of legislation banning prior authorization for emergency department visits, to improving public understanding of emergency medicine as a specialty and of the societal role of the specialty, to providing emergency physicians with technical assistance such as clinical guidelines.

Volunteering came early for Rorrie, with stints during faculty days at the Washington University School of Medicine. With a doctorate in hospital and health administration from the University of Iowa, he managed a large health program at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for four years. When he moved into the field of association management, William Nelligan, CAE, then with the American College of Cardiology, encouraged him to get involved with the American Association of Medical Society Executives. "Bill sort of took me by his hand and got me involved," recalls Rorrie. "I found they were looking for people to work on issues, so I just volunteered. So it was early mentoring that got me involved, and I try to make sure those things happen to other people now."

Rorrie has been saying yes to volunteer opportunities ever since. He insists it's fun, and it must be. Among his recent voluntary roles: chairman of the ASAE Foundation, elected president of the American Association of Medical Society Executives, and chairman of the Medic Alert Foundation. And when he's not leading ACEP or fulfilling his voluntary roles? Rorrie spends time with his family: his wife, three grown daughters, and two grandchildren. Oh, and sometimes he swings a golf club--he's trying to make that better, too.

ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: Given the scope of ACEP's work, you must work with other organizations on many initiatives. Will coalescence and collaboration continue to increase?

Rorrie: Where there's a common issue that impacts all medical specialties in some way, increasingly we realize that there's greater strength to act as a body. For example, sending a letter to the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services saying these 25 organizations all believe in X, Y, and Z underscores that. I think collaboration will continue because there are common issues that we deal with. Certainly we've seen that at ASAE. I also think that from a resource-utilization standpoint, there are more demands coming from our members. But our revenues are not growing at the same rate as the expectations that we're going to pursue all of these things. More and more, we realize that we can achieve much more by working together.

ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: In this environment everyone's placing a premium on resources. How can organizations move ahead in spite of stable, or even diminished, resources?

Rorrie: By placing an increasing premium on strategic planning. An integral part of ACEP's annual board retreat is looking at the external environment, our current plan, and our objectives. This year we made substantial progress in moving from 21 objectives to 9 key objectives. And those nine objectives drive the strategies and tactics to support the objectives. Bringing the board more into a partnership and saying, "Our dollars are not Increasing at a rate commensurate with the expectations of our members, and you as a board are going to have to be much more focused in setting priorities. What are the key things that the members are looking for? What's the value that they are looking for in our association?" So strategic planning and having a more refined group of objectives have become much more important. And then doing a lot more market research -- including focus groups and a member-satisfaction survey every few years--to find out what are the key programs and services people want. For example, we found out that advocacy is the top activity that members want us to spend resources on. So this year about 30 percent of new program dollars went to support our advocacy efforts in Washington.

ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: How do you zero in on members' needs?

Florrie: Recently, we've been getting useful information by saying, "You've got a dollar. How would you spend the dollar?" And we give them a list of activities or a forced choice. "It's this or it's that: Where do you want to put your dollars and resources?" If you re not out talking to your members, then chances are you might use some of your scarce resources on things that the members don't want. You also have to be careful about relying extensively or universally on what your leaders say the issues are, because there might be some congruence of issues, but as we have found out there are sometimes other things that the members thought were more important.

ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: Yet the board's role is to look at the big picture.

Rorrie: Right. Absolutely. You can't go exclusively by what your members say either. If we're doing our job as staff, we're providing a lot of information to our leaders in terms of that external environment. Our day-to-day member's environment is what's happening in that hospital emergency department. Our board is obviously being exposed to a broader array of information, and what we want them to be doing also is talking to a number of people on the outside and looking down the road and saying, "OK, here's where we see the health care system going, and we need to be positioned as a college to deal with these issues." But we also have to recognize that we can't be too far ahead of the membership in terms of what they are confronted with in their own emergency departments. Marrying these two perspectives becomes very important.

ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: How would you relate what we've been talking about to the ASAE context?

Rorrie: We're attracting people to the board of ASAE who are leaders in their own industry or profession, and what we're trying to do is take their vision of what's happening in their environment -- whether it's electricity, oil, or the American Heart Association -- and bring that information to ASAE with a certain sense of making sure the direction of ASAE is right. But also through things like the allied societies partnership, we're trying to reach out to the day-to-day member much more and say, "What is it that we, ASAE, need to be doing to help you?" So we have to make sure that we continue to have a well-balanced board and that we can have people who are reflective of a range of environments. We also need to make sure that our strategic planning process continues to be an active tool that we use as a board working with the staff, and that we continue to do extensive information gathering as an enhancement to our strategic planning to find out where the day-to-day member of ASAE needs support, particularl y if they're in a small association. And we need to marry that information with the information that the board members are seeing from their vantage point. I see a lot of similarities between what many of us are doing in our own associations and what ASAE is faced with. Because our revenues for the last year or two have been basically even, our membership has basically stayed the same, so our revenue sources are more restricted than they probably were several years ago. But the demands of our members continue to grow because of the external pressures that they're facing in their own associations.

ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: What are some of the keys to identifying and developing the leaders of the future?

Rorrie: One is that we are probably going to have more instances of calling on people and saying, "We have a singular task that we'd like you to do, and once you complete that task, we're not going to ask you to do anything more this year." We've been very successful with our clinical policies committee at the college. We have a committee of 14 members that break up into subgroups around a particular clinical policy. Then each subgroup goes out and finds people who have a special expertise on that topical area. And they work on that particular clinical policy and when they're done with that policy they have completed their commitment. Increasingly this also becomes a leadership development area for us. So we find people who are particularly good, and then if they're interested we move them on to the full committee. So we grow them in this process. More and more in our associations, we are going to have to do more of these things--small groupings of people who have particular expertise, where they work on a si ngular task. At the college, we are also bringing young physicians to our annual leadership conference in Washington, so that they become exposed to leadership concepts at an early stage. Finally, almost every one of our committees has at least one or two residents in training on the committee. And we ask the senior member to be a mentor to that new young physician.

ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: What other issues are the primary concerns in the association management field?

Rorrie: A big issue is increasing the understanding of the value and work that associations bring to the community and those who are involved with them. And beyond that is the concept of association management as a profession--that this is a career that is sought by people. We still have a lot of work to do to get people to understand what associations are, the valuable roles that associations play in the community in terms of what we do to rebuild our society, and that associations are out there contributing people and dollars to the betterment of our communities.

ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: What do you see as some of the payoffs of increased public understanding of the profession and associations' contributions?

Rorrie: First, I don't think we'd see as many proposals like former President Clinton's proposal to tax the interest revenue of associations. I think we would see a lot more articles in the media playing up the valuable role that associations play in the community, dollars that members of associations are contributing to the health and welfare of the community and also to the economy. I think the attractiveness of association management as a profession would continue to grow, and we'd see an increase in the number of advanced education programs for people who want to have a career in association management. We're dealing with that right now, but I think in a certain sense we re still struggling to get more educational institutions interested. I liken it to my experience. My professional training is in hospital administration, and 40 years ago there were very few programs. But increasingly, hospital leaders began to realize that just anybody couldn't manage a hospital-that there was a level of sophistication ne eded that advanced training in hospital administration would provide. And with that you saw a sort of meteoric rise in the number of academic institutions that were putting together graduate programs in hospital administration. We need to continue working on an association management body of knowledge and enhancing the awareness and acceptance of that body of knowledge. And we need to use our public relations efforts to educate people as to the sophisticated management at multiple levels that it takes to make these organizations effective.


Rorrie: One of the key issues that ASAE as an organization looked at this past year is technology. In the eyes of CEOs or other professionals or associate members, how should ASAF. be using technology to assist them in performing their responsibilities? Teams of board members and staff worked together on this particular issue. This has been a good model-to bring the staff of ASAE together with association leaders. The issue we discussed earlier, association management as a true profession, is one of three mega-issues that we think are important focuses for the coming year. And we're going to replicate this idea of teams of people working together on an issue. The board meeting then becomes a discussion forum where we engage the full capacity of the board around these issues. (Along with positioning association management as a true profession, the two other mega-issues are increasing marketing and communication effectiveness and expanding professional development and competencies to include governance.)

ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: Here's the inevitable: How do you view your year as chief elected officer of ASAE?

Rorrie: [Immediate past chairman] Jeff Raynes, CAE, and I often talked about a seamless transition. I want to build on the progress that we've made. My efforts will be to support the staff of ASAE, to work with the board of directors, and to continue to forge that partnership effort. We will continue to be the body that addresses key issues, and my goal is to have an actively oriented board. That is, the board meetings will be devoted to discussion of key issues. I see my role as a facilitator.

ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: Why do you volunteer?

Rorrie: I have found that there's so much that can be done in our community today. Whether it's ASAE, or Medic Alert, or the emergency aid center in Dallas where my wife is the volunteer executive director and I'm finance committee chair, all of these experiences have allowed me to work with good people. And I find that I feel so much better about being a part of these efforts in which I can try to give something back to the community that's been very good to me in my career and my life. So I continue to say yes. We all have an opportunity to leave our communities better than we found them. That's why I volunteer.

Keith C. Skillman, CAE, is the e in chief of ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT.


Incoming Board Chairman Colin Rorrie, Jr., CAE, and the rest of the members of the ASAE Board of Directors will be joined by 11 new board members this year. Though these faces are new to the board, they bring a vast and diverse perspective with them accumulated through years of leadership. Here they offer up some words of advice gleaned from their own volunteer experiences.


Occupation: Principal, Association Management Center, Glenview, Illinois.

"Approach volunteerism as an opportunity to both learn and share. If your eyes and mind are both open, your contributions will grow significantly. Prioritize your volunteerism on both a personal and a professional level. A good balance of both makes a well-rounded person."


Occupation: Executive Vice President, North Carolina Association of Realtors, Inc., Greensboro.

"Making a difference as a leader doesn't mean you have to leave a legacy, so share the spotlight with others. Focus your energies on those issues and projects on which you can have an impact. Always take time to appreciate the efforts and skills of paid staff."


Occupation: Executive Director, Regulatory Affairs Professional Society, Rockville, Maryland.

"Be a mentor to others but always remain a student as well. Never lose sight of the point that being a leader isn't supposed to be a self-promotion--your role is to serve the community and to create the structure and momentum for a strong future."


Occupation: Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, American Society of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, Silver Spring, Maryland.

"Initially I volunteered so that I would know people when I attended ASAE meetings. Now I volunteer in order to give back to a profession and an organization that have given me a lot. I get satisfaction from knowing that I am making an impact within ASAE, as well as helping to define the future of our profession."


Occupation: Executive Director, USFN--America's Mortgage Banking Attorneys, Tustin, California.

"I think the single biggest piece of advice is to try and find the balance between blending your unique skill set and expertise with others without dogmatically trying to advance an agenda that only you care about."


Occupation: Consultant, Fripp Island, South Carolina.

"Among my mentors in association management is ASAE Past Chairman, Rod Geer. He taught that 'you must put something back into the professional organization that has done so much for you."'


Occupation: Executive Director, Society of Actuaries, Schaumburg, Illinois.

"Volunteering is a priority for me. As a staff executive, I work with highly motivated and dedicated volunteers. Those who serve in leadership roles do so because they see value in advancing their profession and the skills and abilities of those practicing within it. Serving as a volunteer myself helps me understand volunteerism and thus, do my job more effectively. In my experience, time spent volunteering is more than balanced by the benefits received."


Occupation: President and Chief Executive Officer, American Frozen Food Institute, McLean, Virginia.

"Sometimes it's difficult to find enough hours in the day to do all the things I would like to do, not only with my association responsibilities and volunteer work, but also with making sure there is enough time for family. But I've made the choice that service as a volunteer on behalf of ASAE is among the more important ones. I have made this choice, and will allocate the hours necessary to it, because I so enjoy the networking environment ASAE creates for its members."


Occupation: President and Chief Executive Officer, Rubber Manufacturers Association, Washington, D.C.

"Serving as a volunteer at ASAE is precisely what our members do with each of our organizations. If I am to practice leadership in my industry association, it is axiomatic that I would contribute something to my own association and profession through ASAE."


Occupation: President, Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Delaware.

"Working with and learning from the best and the brightest association executives; giving back to the association management profession; and seeing the ASAE volunteer board experience from the same perspective as my own board has motivated me to serve in a volunteer capacity."


Occupation: Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Missouri.

"Serving on the board allows me to return some of the knowledge gained from being an ASAE member, with hope that sharing my experiences can strengthen the association and further its mission."
COPYRIGHT 2001 American Society of Association Executives
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:American Society of Association Executives chairman Colin Rorrie Jr.
Author:Skillman, Keith C.
Publication:Association Management
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2001

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