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Rewarding the achievers.


Some men succeed by what they know; some by what they do; and a few by what they are.

Six ASAE award winners share their views on issues affecting association management.

Recipients of ASAE's annual Key Award, the Distinguished Contributions Award, and the Academy of Leaders Award embody those high standards of success articulated by author Elbert Hubbard in 1927 in The Note Book. Each recipient in his words and actions has demonstrated his commitment toward advancing the association management profession.

This year's Key Award winners (pictured left to right, top and center rows) are Ray Roper, CAE, president, Printing Industries of America, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia; Lee VanBremen, CAE, executive vice president, College of American Pathologists, Northfield, Illinois; Thomas A. Shannon, CAE, executive director, National School Boards Association, Alexandria, Virginia; and Walter Kurth, CAE, president and CEO, Associated Credit Bureaus, Inc., Washington, D.C.

James Evans (bottom left photograph), senior vice president of sales, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Chicago, and William C. Downes (bottom right photograph), manager of the Delta Meeting Network for Delta Air Lines, Atlanta, are recipients of the 1991 Academy of Leaders Award and the Distinguished Contributions Award, respectively. The Academy of Leaders Award, presented infrequently, recognizes those who have advanced the association management profession. The winner of the annual Distinguished Contributions Award is an associate member who has contributed to ASAE and the association community. Downes received his award in March at ASAE's Spring Convention & Exposition. The remaining award winners will be recognized this month at ASAE's 71st Annual Meeting & Exposition, in Washington, D.C.

Association Management asked the award winners to share their thoughts on issues affecting association management.

Empowering staff

When Ray Roper, CAE, became president of the Printing Industries of America, Inc., in 1987, the then-100-year-old association was floundering. During the previous two years, PIA had incurred a $2.1 million deficit and the quality of existing member services had declined--resulting in diminished credibility among PIA's approximately 11,970 members.

"PIA's previous [leaders] focused on new technology as it applies to our industry," Roper explains. "They invested in high-technology products. Although they had a lot of vision in terms of what they proposed and what was implemented, it caused PIA to incur substantial deficits."

The deficit was quickly eliminated but a credibility problem persisted. One of PIA's solutions to reestablishing credibility among its membership entailed an intensive travel schedule. Since 1987 Roper and PIA's chief elected officer have spent 100-150 and 50-100 days a year, respectively, on the road meeting with members.

"The demands that have been placed on a CEO have increased dramatically over the past 10 years," he explains. "I don't think a CEO today can stay on top of how these demands--technology, demographics, global forces--are impacting the organization unless he or she spends a significant amount of time with members in the field."

But for CEOs to spend this critical time on the road with members, they must have a competent staff that produces without the luxury of a CEO two doors down. Roper's philosophy of giving staff the tools and the authority they need to do their jobs has enabled him to spend 40 percent of his time each year meeting with PIA members and related organizations.

"We used to say the board decides and staff implements. In today's environment, it's got to be a team effort. The focus can't be on protecting prerogatives. The focus must be on achieving the objective."

Empowering staff--often referred to as participatory management--has no magical formula. Simply put, Roper says empowering staff consists of involving them in the decision-making process, keeping them up-to-date on issues affecting the association, encouraging them to take educational classes related to the industry or their job, and providing them with the tools needed to do their jobs.

"I have always believed that the primary reason associations exist is to enable members to achieve collectively what they can't achieve effectively as individuals," says Roper. "We [PIA] look at our members as our customers. The staff doesn't work for me--they work for our members. My job is to empower them to perform to the utmost of their ability so that they can be responsive to the needs of our members."

Appreciating volunteers

"I have worked all my life as a volunteer. It's in my blood. It's to a large extent who I am," says Lee VanBremen, CAE, executive vice president, College of American Pathologists (CAP). To name but three of his volunteer activities, VanBremen has been chair of the ASAE Foundation, president of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, and a director on the board of his local American Red Cross.

His 30 years of volunteer leader experience have given him a better understanding and appreciation for CAP's more than 2,500 active volunteer leaders. "CAP could not exist without its dedicated volunteers," says VanBremen. "It requires commitment, expertise, energy, and vision on their parts to meet the changing needs of clinical laboratory medicine in the United States. We could not afford to buy their services even if they were for sale."

In an era where most associations "are putting more demands on their volunteers and when their jobs are putting more demands on them," it is imperative that associations give their volunteers the recognition they deserve for their unique contributions.

Toward that end, a recent CAP survey found that most of the association's volunteers wanted to reduce the amount of time they spend away from home on CAP business. "This survey and other information points out the need to focus on exactly what [our volunteers'] jobs are, what value they can add-and perhaps look to staff to complete tasks on which they could do just as good a job.

"One of the critical aspects of my job is being an interface between a large, highly technical staff and an extremely active volunteer structure, which together have responsibility for programs generating more than $50 million in revenue," he adds. "I'm trying to clarify what the role of volunteer leaders is as well as to work with staff to be sensitive to changes that are taking place in our relationships.

"One of the biggest challenges is to make sure that the volunteers don't think we're trying to push them out of the way. Undoubtedly, they are our best resource."

Advancing advocacy

Asked what his top priority is, National School Boards Association Executive Director Thomas A. Shannon, CAE, responds without hesitation: advocacy for educational excellence and equity through local school board leadership.

"Associations, such as NSBA, exist to bring people together--to do something together as a group much better than they can individually," he explains. "[Advocacy] implies keeping people informed, putting them into the decision or action loop on issues, and bringing the membership into advocacy to advance the mission and goals of the association."

Just as advocacy is the number one priority for Shannon, so it is for NSBA's 97,000 members: volunteer school board leaders who set policy for the nation's 15,300 elementary and secondary public school systems. Since the early 1960s, NSBA has instituted a federal advocacy program. NSBA's Federal Relations Network--which consists of more than 1,200 local school board members from the nation's 435 congressional districts--has been responsible for its active federal advocacy program. The purpose of the network is persuading Capitol Hill to support public education throughout the country. The network does it through testimony before Congress, publications to inform local school board members of impending federal action on key issues, and so forth.

Widening demands for change in how public schools are governed and administered led NSBA to expand its advocacy efforts. In 1987 NSBA implemented its Advocacy/Action Agenda, a plan that addresses the educational needs of America's children, as reflected in President Bush's national education goals. The new agenda applies not only to federal government matters impacting school districts but to any national issue affecting public school governance.

"Our role at NSBA is making sure that the perspective of local school boards is considered in all major decisions at the federal and national level," he says. "We work closely with federation member officers and leaders of special constituency groups to be sure that the school boards have an influence in precipitating and nurturing education reform and guaranteeing equity."

"Our job [via advocacy] is to turn the educational focus away from Washington back to the local communities where education actually happens," he explains. "Local communities are the key to educational improvement because it's the determination and will of the local people that count in educational reform.

"If you are going to shape the future of the field you serve, you have to be at the leading edge of the issues," Shannon adds. "Thus, you need to have a plan and persuade others to embrace it. That's the essence of advocacy."

Providing a vision

The credit bureau industry was in evolution. The industry was undergoing a major change: a consolidation of credit bureaus that left but a few larger ones. Against that backdrop, Walter Kurth, CAE, joined the then-Houston-based Associated Credit Bureaus, Inc., (ACB), as president and CEO. "I sensed a need for the association to look at the way it operated and to look down the road as to what the future was likely to be," he says. "I felt that we were five years behind what was happening in the marketplace. Like a large ocean vessel, it was going to take time to change direction."

One of the first things Kurth did was set up a long-range planning committee of ACB members to visualize and set the course for the association's future.

Among the group's actions, it * identified member services to better meet the needs of the five major credit bureau companies as well as services for the smaller credit bureau member companies; * reduced staff from about 85 to 28 by selling the association's subsidiary company and concentrating on services of highest priority; and * moved the association's headquarters from Houston to Washington, D.C., to better represent the membership before the federal government and allied credit-grantor associations.

Kurth says helping the association's leadership form a vision for the organization is a primary responsibility of a chief executive officer and his or her staff. "If you were starting off with nothing and you were going to create an organization, you would have to decide what you were trying to achieve," says Kurth. "Most of us in association management are hired to run an ongoing organization. Like other volunteer organizations, they have their ups and downs and can become stagnant. The stagnant ones are the ones that have lost their vision of what they want to accomplish and what they can accomplish.

"You [the CEO] have the responsibility to help members recognize things that need to be done," he says. "You have to help them look at the bigger picture."

Making customer service a priority

When an organization loses sight of realizing what should be its number one priority--its customers--it won't survive long, according to William C. Downes, manager of Delta Meeting Network, Delta Air Lines. Downes should know. In his 25 years with the airline--ranked number one by the Department of Transportation for the past 17 years as the major airline having the least number of consumer complaints--he has seen the industry shrink.

Downes, who has marketed Delta's services to associations for the past 15 years, says top service is what associations expect and deserve from their official airline carrier when their attendees are flying to or from a meeting. "When you buy a car, long after you've finished paying for it, the service you get when you maintain it is what lasts in your mind," explains Downes. The same is true of airline service, he adds. "People will remember the service they get on an airline long after how much they paid for their airline ticket."

Downes says meeting attendees need not worry about escalating airfares. He believes airlines will continue to offer discount airfares for individuals and groups attending meetings, regardless of the consolidations within the airline industry. "Airlines, now more than ever, have more of a capacity to meet the demands of association attendees," he says. "[Airlines] serve more markets and offer more competitive choices."

The key, according to Downes, is knowing what to ask and what to look for. Delta Air Lines, for example, offers a 5 percent discount for those people flying to a meeting on its airline. Further discounts may be obtained by booking fares at least 30 days before the meeting.

According to Downes, a meeting planner can obtain additional airline discounts by booking a meeting over a weekend or perhaps choosing an attractive meeting site during the off-peak season. For example, associations are most likely to negotiate lower airfares and hotel rates if they hold their meeting in Phoenix during the summer months--typically not a particularly busy time for travelers in the city.

The bottom line, according to Downes, is for associations to build a relationship with their airline vendors.

Coping with an unhealthy economy

"There are probably very few hotels in America making money today," says Academy of Leaders Award winner James Evans, senior vice president of sales, Hyatt Hotels Corporation. The hotel industry--not unlike associations--has not gone untouched by the effects caused by an overbuilt market, the recession, and the Persian Gulf War, explains Evans.

Hyatt Hotels--which typically relies on associations for approximately 30 percent of its income--has seen a rapid decline in the number of people attending association meetings at its hotels. Evans guesstimates that the damaging effects of the recession and the Persian Gulf War have hit corporate-based associations the hardest: They may send only 15 people instead of 40 to association meetings. "When corporate America draws in its purse strings, it affects everything," he adds. "When major U.S. corporate leaders watch their expenses, that in turn affects their suppliers, which affects their suppliers, and so forth.

"Economists are projecting the recession will be over by the end of the summer. Thus, we're hoping that 1991 will not be a total disaster," he says.

The forecast for healing an overbuilt hotel market is not quite as rosy. According to Evans, in the early 1980s, lending institutions and other financial institutions made money very accessible to developers of both commercial and residential real estate. "You couldn't find a city in the country that wasn't building four or five new hotels every year," he says. The result was an inventory glut: millions of hotel rooms that remain vacant every day.

"And our debt is so high that it's not yielding hotel owners any real profit," says Evans. "Banks that lent [hotels] money are in trouble because we can't meet our payments."

How has the hotel glut affected associations? According to Evans, hotel rates have gone up 25-30 percent over the past five years. And Evans predicts it's going to take at least another three to four years for the demand to catch up with the supply.

"It's times like these when partnerships mean more than ever. Associations play a role in keeping the hotel industry healthy," explains Evans, "by constantly giving us feedback on our products and services and by telling us the type of innovations they're looking for."

Patricia A. Mascari is senior editor of Association Management.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:recipients of American Society of Association Executives's annual Key Award, the Distinguised Contributions Award, and the Academy of Leaders Award
Author:Mascar, Patricia A.
Publication:Association Management
Date:Aug 1, 1991
Previous Article:Expanding the horizon.
Next Article:Cheers for the volunteers.

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