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Q: How have recent scandals in the business world affected your organization?

The business scandals have actually strengthened the appreciation of our board and membership for the association. We have always (sometimes painfully) operated in the sunlight and have been up front on issues that affect the organization or industry that we represent, While members may feel uncertain about some other groups, they appreciate our honest candor. It is always better to tell it like it is rather than being a spin doctor.

William H. Baxter, CAE President and Chief Executive Officer, Retail Merchants Association of Greater Richmond, Virginia;

Recent scandals in the business world have caused our board of directors to be a little more cautious in three areas: financial reviewing, communicating with the grassroots membership, and looking at the ethical implications of decisions. Financially our board members are conservative, but recent business improprieties have made them review the financial reports more fully and question areas that concern them. We have added a new financial report to indicate when budgeted line items are out of sync.

Reports and e-mails to our membership have become more frequent. We are attempting to keep everyone updated on ongoing association business and events. The board looks at the potential ethical implications in their decision making for the membership at large.

Elaine H. Ernest, CAE Chief Executive Officer, Greensboro Regional Realtors Association, North Carolina;

Recent company bankruptcies have caused significant public and investor concerns. As the association of the shareholder-owned electric companies, we have taken a very active, high-profile role to address these concerns. We have under way a major project to ensure investor and public confidence in the industry. This includes a resolution passed by our board that reaffirms our member companies' commitment to integrity and the highest ethical standards, and pledges to work with policy makers to improve governance, financial, and accounting practices. Additionally, we are working to ensure that any new legislation or regulation is efficient, streamlined, and not unduly burdensome.

Thomas H. Kuhn, CAE President, Edison Electric Institute, Washington, D.C.;

Our association has responded to the business scandals by taking proactive steps to minimize potential risk and liability for the organization. One of the most significant actions we have taken is the formation of an audit review committee. We have also communicated with our members about the steps we are taking to guarantee that our financial and business activities are principled and sound.

Missy Henriksen, CAE Executive Director, Composites Fabricators Association, Arlington, Virginia;

After the scandals, our board of governors has become much more aware of their fiduciary responsibility and has taken a keener--but not disproportionate--interest in our audit and accounting practices. Second, our members are insurance industry professionals who hold the CPCU credential, which includes an enforceable ethics requirement. Plus, the organization will play a role in heightening the awareness of these ethical obligations.

James R. Marks, CAE Executive Vice President, Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters Society, Malvern, Pennyslvania;

We are a small national association that has firmed up its financial policies and guidelines in the wake of the business climate. Because we have such a small budget, I am keenly aware of the checks I write and sign for, and I take the extra step of sending overnight checks made payable to my firm to two officers, who endorse them and send them back.

Andrea M. Faizarano, CAE President, Management and Consultant Services, LLC, Leesburg, Virginia;

Q: How do you evaluate members' satisfaction with your products and services, and what steps do you take when a product or service is no longer providing value?

We evaluate our members' satisfaction with products and services by continually checking in with them. Many times during the week, our staff talks with members on the phone, communicates with them via e-mail, or attends meetings with them. The entire staff has the responsibility to gather data on members' perceptions and feelings about what we are doing. We share these comments on a regular basis in staff meetings and use the input to help guide current and future programs. While this process is somewhat informal, we find that the informality is where its strength lies. We have found that detailed surveys get little response and eat up our time and financial resources. Gathering information on a regular, informal basis provides more data and that allows us to make more meaningful decisions.

Rich Gottwald Executive Director, Plastics Pipe Institute, Washington, D.C.;

We assess members' satisfaction with products and services by asking members periodically through needs assessment surveys, focus group discussions, and ongoing evaluations. Educational programs in particular have a significant evaluation component. Most new programs are put in place for a specified period of time to ensure evaluation of their usefulness before they are considered ongoing programs. Newer programs don't get institutionalized unless there is enough demand. The budget process ensures that established programs are reviewed at least annually so that necessary resources are in balance with the income that might be generated.

During the budget process, rationales for programs are requested and some programs are folded. If a small group champions keeping a program alive, each strategic planning process incorporates a review of all programs in terms of attractiveness, weaknesses, and competitiveness. This allows the leadership to set priorities and redeploy resources to programs that best fit the organizational goals.

Marsha S. Block, CAE Chief Executive Officer, American Group Psychotherapy Association, New York City;

In addition to various surveys, we have several advisory bodies that help plan--and often implement--program services. They serve as a window into our markets and provide feedback used to determine whether we continue to offer the same array of products and services. This feedback augments the ongoing strategic planning that sets priorities and program mix.

Robert K. Goodwin President and Chief Executive Officer, Points of Light Foundation, Washington, D.C.;

We base the value of a product or service on the number of members using it and whether it represents a profit center for the association. When problems arise, we seek input from the board or appropriate committee to ascertain why the product or service is failing. If the problem is due to marketing or servicing shortfalls, we can often re-energize the product or service by addressing that specific area. When something has outlived its usefulness, usually the cause is external technological advances that affect pricing, features, convenience, or availability. If we are able to adapt to the new environment by evolving to keep the product or service viable, we will reinvest in its future.

Donnelly K. Eurich, CAE President and Chief Executive Officer, Eurich Management Services, LLC, Lansing, Michigan;

It is essential that an association listens to what its members want. Every two years, we conduct a large survey of our members as well as nonmembers of the legal profession to determine satisfaction with our products and services. We also use focus groups and e-mail surveys to understand on a qualitative basis what members think of our offerings. The bigger challenge is to cease providing a product or service when it is no longer giving value to members. It is hard to make the decision to stop providing a service, but you have to keep plugging away.

John Hoyles Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Canadian Bar Association, Ottawa, Ontario;
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Publication:Association Management
Article Type:Interview
Date:Feb 1, 2003
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