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Seizing the future.

Focused and determined, nine CEOs preview the year ahead.

What's on the minds of chief executive officers across the country as they gear up for 1993? In a nutshell, doing business better.

ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT contacted chief executive officers representing a broad range of associations to find out firsthand the challenges that will test their mettle in the coming months. We also asked them to share a bit of advice--profound or practical--with their peers.

Chief executive officers who responded to our questions plan to meet their challenges head-on. They know what their priorities are and they know how to tackle them. Confident types, they also seek to innovate. Above all, they want to get the job done.

The tight economy is no stranger to these chief executive officers, who vow to meet members' needs no matter how lean or mean the budget. Their agendas include identifying changing needs, overhauling recruitment efforts, redefining organizational purpose and direction, expanding international outreach, fighting legislative proposals, and attracting new revenue sources.

Specifically, ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT asked chief executive officers to respond to the following two questions:

* What is your greatest challenge, threat, or concern for the coming year? How do you plan to deal with it?

* What advice did you pick up in 1992 that you'd like to share with your colleagues?

Their thoughtfully chosen replies may provide a measure of guidance and inspiration as you chart your own association's course for 1993.

My greatest challenge is to focus on major issues and to set priorities that can be accomplished. A key issue |for the Newspaper Association of America~ is demonstrating to members that our programs and services are beneficial and worthwhile whether the newspaper is small, mid-size, or large. Another is the impact of technology on the future of newspapers. We have to show how newspapers can take advantage of new technology that enhances their position in the media marketplace and their ability to compete for readers' time.

The danger is in having too many priorities, which can deplete resources and energies. We are in the process now of establishing measurable goals so that we can move forward.

The best advice I've received is to always keep in mind that we--associations--exist to serve our member needs first. They are our customers. I plan to do this by meeting with members one-on-one on a regular basis, calling them at random, studying committee notes, and being visible at major newspaper meetings and industry forums.

Cathleen Black, president and chief executive officer, Newspaper Association of America, Reston, Virginia

After 20 years of unprecedented growth in states' revenues, expenditures, and responsibilities, we're in for a period of retrenchment and redesign. Taxpayers aren't going to contribute more to state government, and the federal government is in disastrous shape, so our members are going to have to do more with less and so are we.

We're working with our elected leaders to redefine our guiding principles and operational objectives. Our approach is proactive and positive as we try to engage our members in the process of identifying changing needs and strategies to meet them.

My advice to colleagues stems from insight gleaned during a visit to the 3M Company, which is known worldwide for its innovative abilities. While officials there encouraged us in our pursuit of consolidating and sharpening our association's focus, they also emphasized that changing an organization's culture is really tough work. I have found that, every bit, to be the case.

It requires constant work to aim your organization in a new direction. The process--which triggers tremendous anxiety, takes more time than expected, and incurs unanticipated costs--also offers no guarantees that you'll eventually reach your destination. Defining a new vision for your association is an exciting and tremendously important endeavor. But it is not something to be

undertaken lightly.

Daniel M. Sprague, executive director, Council of State Governments, Lexington, Kentucky

The biggest challenge will be updating the business plans of the associations we manage on a quarterly rather than on an annual basis. This change will allow us to make adjustments much more frequently and provide a more accurate reflection of the economy's impact on membership renewals, recruitment, conference attendance, and publication advertising.

I have several observations I'd like to share with other association executives. In these tight times, keep in mind that boards of directors are increasingly willing to consider proposals from management on creating new incentives for staff compensation, particularly in the areas of new member recruitment and increased net income at year's end. These are win-win proposals, because incentives are paid out of new dollars.

I'd also advise executives to involve elected leaders in business plan revisions to make this task more of a joint staff-volunteer effort, to utilize single-purpose task groups, and to develop new sources of revenue.

Michael S. Olson, CAE, president, Olson Management Group, Inc., Raleigh, North Carolina

Reforming our health care system--without sacrificing the quality of care--is by far the greatest challenge the medical profession will meet in the new year. It simply is not acceptable to the doctors of America that nearly 36 million people are without any health insurance protection at all.

Early in 1990, we introduced our own proposal for wide-reaching health care reform. Our plan--"Health Access America"--makes good sense because it builds on what we already know works well rather than throwing the entire system out altogether, as some would do. Virtually every major plan now on the congressional negotiating table includes elements of Health Access America.

My best advice to colleagues in the health care professions is to realize the power that exists in unity. It no longer is a question of if health care reform will occur. It is a matter of when reform comes about and what form it takes. The stakes--and emotions--are high.

As we each feel the tug and pull of parochial interests, our job will be to keep our vision clear and work in common cause to ensure that the final resolution to the health care dilemma puts patients first--and political expedience last. It is vital that we continue to move forward together and resist the forces that would pull us apart.

Dr. James S. Todd, executive vice president, American Medical Association, Chicago

The American people trust the Red Cross to be there when needed. They trust the Red Cross to do what's right. This tradition of trust is our most valuable asset.

To ensure the continuing effectiveness of our services, the American Red Cross will continue to break new ground with the bold initiatives it has embarked on:

* a transformation of Red Cross Blood Services that anticipates the biomedical needs and technology of the 21st century;

* a revitalization of Red Cross Disaster Services to meet the highest standards of performance and accountability; and

* a reorganization of the Red Cross structure to ensure the greatest efficiency and the best possible services to the American people.

Elizabeth Dole, president, American Red Cross, Washington, D.C.

There is no issue more important to our members than how they're being taxed. So our greatest challenge is tax legislation at both the federal and state levels. We'll have to allocate a major portion of our time and resources to lobbying against proposed tax increases, especially at the statehouse and grassroots level.

Another opportunity of pressing importance is expanding knowledge of professional association practices around the world. There are 37 direct selling associations around the world; seven new organizations are now being created. We have to share our association management expertise with our international peers. I traveled to Hong Kong in November, for example, to teach "association management 101" to a group of new association executives. Likewise, association executives would be wise to stay current on international trade and multicultural issues, because the future is international not only for corporate America but for associations as well.

My advice comes in the form of a helpful tip on how to save time and money when making credit-card phone calls from your hotel. When you're finished with your first call, don't hang up. Instead, press the pound symbol, and you can make another call without having to pay an additional access charge and without having to reenter your calling card number.

Neil H. Offen, CAE, president, Direct Selling Association, Washington, D.C.

Several areas will be commanding my attention, not the least of which is our new convention center. We've doubled our capacity--from 134,000 square feet to 276,000 square feet--so we'll be trying to attract more business in the coming year. This will be quite a challenge for two reasons.

First, associations in general are taking longer to make decisions regarding site selection. A secondary factor is that many other convention and visitor bureaus are also building or upgrading facilities. We're adding more direct-sales people to respond to this challenge.

Another major concern is trying to increase private sector funding other than through membership. We have to find new ways to generate business support. We are trying to offer more cooperative marketing programs--such as trade show promotions--and a full menu of services.

It's been the trend that funding is more and more difficult to obtain, so the only advice I can offer is to exercise prudence and work smarter. We have to be more selective as CVBs in the things we offer.

Melvin Tennant, president and chief executive officer, Charlotte Convention & Visitors Bureau, North Carolina

With regard to convention and visitors bureaus, our greatest challenge in the coming year will be to obtain adequate funding in order to market our destinations aggressively and to service all of our customers at a level commensurate with their expectations.

As for advice, the point I'd like to make is that it is often easier to obtain forgiveness than permission--just do it.

Charles Ahlers, president, Anaheim Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, California

Membership recruitment will be a top priority for 1993. The Kansas Pharmacists Association represents only 50 percent of the practicing pharmacists in the state. Given the current focus on health care reform, we need the support and input from the entire profession if we are to be active participants in this movement.

We need to completely overhaul our membership recruitment process to make this a reality. Priorities include doing a better job of targeting the various segments of our membership and attracting nonmembers.

At ASAE's 72nd Annual Meeting & Exposition I learned a lot about total quality management principles, which emphasize the importance of constantly reevaluating and updating processes to determine if they contribute to overall organizational quality. For example, each time a new staff member comes on board, both the hiring process and the selection process need to be reviewed. There's more to replacing staff than plugging a new person into an established position.

Robert R. Williams, CAE, executive director, Kansas Pharmacists Association, Topeka
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Title Annotation:nine CEOs share their previews of 1993
Author:Daily, Linda
Publication:Association Management
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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