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The business of running a chapter.

The plane was in the air when the idea came to Paul Vilandre. En route to his first meeting with FEI's Western Area Operations Committee, the newly elected president of the Santa Clara Valley Chapter for 1990-91 had been brainstorming ideas for revitalizing the chapter. "Then I had a vision," he says. "I wondered if we could run the chapter as if it were a business."

Today, two years later, the Santa Clara Valley Chapter is one of the top-performing chapters in the Institute, and many believe it's because Paul Vilandre set the wheels in motion.

Like any good business executive, Vilandre took advantage of networking. When he arrived at the AOC meeting, he explains," I looked to see what my competitors [i.e., other chapters] were doing, and I wrote down all of their good ideas."

When he returned to the Santa Clara Valley, he formalized the list of ideas and floated it as a set of objectives among the other chapter officers and board members. Then he arranged for the incoming management team to meet for one half day, away from their business sites, to devise a strategic plan for the new fiscal year. By the end of the meeting, the Santa Clara Valley Chapter leaders gas established what they call their "measurable milestones" in support of each objective.

Here are several of the components of Santa Clara Valley's successful management-by-the-objective business plan:

* Improve communications - One of Vilandre's biggest peeves was the chapters roster. "It was at a point of disrepair," he explains, and with the high executive turnover typical of Silicon Valley, the board members felt the best choice was to make the publication flexible. They first invested in recreating the roster on a Macintosh data base, developing a reliable mailing system in the process. Then they collected and entered enough professional and personal background on each chapter member to fill an 8 1/2-x-11 page.

Vilandre also set up a fax network to speed the delivery or meeting notices to board members. Through a process known as "broadcasting," he connects the personal computer on which he writes the meeting announcements to his facsimile machine. Then, with the fax numbers of the board members already programmed in, he jets the notices to the group.

* Administrative help - Another big leap for the chapter was hiring a part-time business manager. This independent, professional secretary handles the invoicing for local dues, compiles information for the newsletter and manages its distribution, updates the chapter roster, coordinates chapter meeting, and prepares new-member welcome packages and member certificates.

Hired in 1990 at $6,000 a year, or $25 an hour for 20 hours each month, the business manager's salary increased to $2,200 for the 1991-92 fiscal year.

* Continuity - "Year-to-year succession was very difficult for us," Vilandre explains. "We did two things: created a new post for a senior vice president who will move up to the position of president and appointed two directors each to several key positions on the board."

Besides introducing continuity into the chapter leadership, the additional vice president helps relieve the president of some of the chapters workload and stands in for the president in his or absence.

The doubling up in positions: applies to these four program chairperson, secretary, academic program chairperson, speaker program chairperson, and newsletter chairperson.

* Membership development - "We decided to take a market share approach to new membership." says Vilandre. The board set as its objective a 35-to 50-percent increase in membership for the fiscal year and immediately began scouring the local business paper, the Mercury News, for names of top financial executives in the area to recruit.

The strategy worked. During Vilandre's term as president, and with the help of Membership Chairman Richard Giorgetti, the chapter's membership jumped by nearly 50 net new members, from 217 to 264, despite the area's heavy turnover. And, Vilandre adds, an overwhelming 95 percent of chapter members are in the active (rather than the academic or retired) class of membership.

* R&D - Because the chapter board members agreed that any successful business has to make a visible commitment to research and development, they set as one of their objectives to increase the contributions their members' companies made to the Financial Executives Research Foundation. By better explaining FERF's role to the members, the chapter ultimately increased contributions by more than 70 percent over the 1989-90 total.

Just as a thriving business today relies heavily on information management, the Santa Clara Valley Chapter is plugged in to the newest technologies. (Indeed, Mr. Vilandre forwarded to me via fax two separate items to view during our brief telephone conversation - without a brek in the discussion.) Of course, it doesn't hurt that Santa Clara Valley is in the middle of Silicon Valley, considered technology heaven to many and a great resource for the chapters.

Now for the big question: How much did these improvements cost the chapter? Vilandre estimates about $12,000 for 1990-91. But $6,000 of that is the one-time cost for upgrading the chapter roster, he points out. Another $6,000 went to the new business manager. And $1,000 each went toward sponsoring a hospitality suite at a Western Area conference - to improve local networking - and toward the dinner expenses of new-member prospects - about four per chapter meeting, Vilandre notes.

Today, under Chapter President Stanley J. Meresman, senior vice president and CFO of Silicon Graphics, the program continues. This year's business objectives are to encourage the growth and recognition of FEI, improve local chapter operations, and win recognition regionally for the chapter's academic relations program. The measurable milestones include accelarating the member mailing process; targeting deans at local colleges as potential members; and recognizing an outstanding financial professor in the area.

At the time of the chapter turnaround, Vilandre was senior vice president and CFO of Microvision. Since then, he's accepted a position as professor of finance at Menlo College's School of Business Administration in Atherton, California. Says Vilandre, "The ideas we've used for the Santa Clara Valley Chapter have been well received. The plan has been successful beyond my dreams."

If you'd like to talk to Paul Vilandre about his strategies for improving the Santa Clara Valley Chapter, you can contract him at Menlo College at (415) 323-6141 or fax him at (415) 327-8840.


FOR 1992-93

Clarence J. (Chris) Christie, senior vice president and treasurer of Sedgwick James, Inc., in New York City, was elected chairman of the board of directors of FEI for the 1992-93 fiscal year at the February board of directors meeting. Chris is currently FEI vice chairman. He served as FEI treasurer form 1989 to 1991 and as assistant treasurer from 1987 to 1989. Chris joined FEI in 1977 as a member of the Chicago Chapter, for which he later served as president. He's now a member of the New York City Chapter.

E.H. (Al) Creese, vice president, treasurer, and CFO of EMC Insurance Group Inc., of Des Moines, Iowa, was elected vice chairman of the board. Al has also been a member of FEI since 1977. He has served as Iowa Chapter president and Midwestern Area vice president and is currently a member of the national organization's Nominating and Member Counseling Committees and the Advisory Council.

W. Gordon Binns, Jr., vice president and chief investment funds officer of General Motors, was elected to a second one-year term as FEI treasurer. Gordon has been a member of FEI's Committee on Investment of Employee Benefit Assets (CIEBA) since it was organized in 1985 and served as the committee's chairman until 1988.

Robert E. Angelica, investment vice president of AT&T, was reelected assistant treasurer. Bob, an FEI member since 1989, is also a member of CIEBA.

The officer's terms will begin July 1.
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Title Annotation:running a chapter of the Financial Executives Institute like a business enterprise
Author:Deitsch, Mimi
Publication:Financial Executive
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Previous Article:Insurance on a global scale.
Next Article:GIC strategies for the '90s.

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