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Staying Agile in Association Excellence

Updated: Feb 22

 

We just finished annual reviews for all our Association clients, a time to look back, celebrate the wins, and, of course, identify where we can kick it up a notch for the upcoming year. This is our version of a performance review and our strategy session about innovative ways to continue challenging the status quo for Associations we serve.

 

This process is not just a look in the rearview mirror; it's a practical guide for progressive organizations poised for growth. In our ongoing mission to assist organizations through evolution, there's a clear advantage for associations intentional about their own organizational well-being.

 

In today’s blog, we're diving into the top five behaviors that can act as a compass for your Association’s overall health with a focus on how to elevate your functionality from within.

 

1.     Fix it before it breaks!

If a process has been unchanged year-over-year and still works, it might be tempting to leave it untouched. But even seemingly effective processes need a tune-up. For associations stuck in a decade-old system without incremental refreshments, a time may come where a complete overhaul might become necessary all at once, making it overwhelming.

 

It's not just about your system breaking; it's about staying agile in the business landscape. The vitality of an organization hinges on its ability to engage seamlessly with others in the business ecosystem. Take video conferencing as a prime example; in 2020, we all swiftly embraced this technology. If your organization lagged in adopting video conferencing, it not only created frustration for others but also hindered your ability to seamlessly join calls and do business. What other buzzwords are circulating among your counterparts that are yet to become integral functions within your organization? Staying ahead of the curve isn't just a trend; it's a strategic move that significantly influences your capacity to grow.

 

In general, with updated software offerings, higher member expectations, and general realignment of priorities in how we must all run our organization, if you are not implementing improvements, you are working towards a breaking point instead of working towards overall betterment.

 

2.     Step away from the day-to-day! 

Beyond the periodic strategic planning sessions, it's vital to regularly dedicate time to work on organizational issues. Associations, often leanly staffed, require attention to run more effectively. Our experience as an AMC demonstrates that this regular exercise, when applied, yields efficiencies that compensate for the time invested and significantly impacts capacity and productivity.

 

Step away from day-to-day and dedicate a block of time to work on your organization from an entrepreneurial point of view. Engage in the use of a system with tools to keep you on track and accountable for the goals you have set for yourself and the trajectory of your association.

 

While the idea sounds appealing, stepping back from the daily grind for a high-level perspective demands intentional effort. Set short-term and long-term goals, identify hurdles, and regularly revisit your objectives. As you capture your incremental progress, you'll be astonished at the momentum you're building.

 

3.     Smart subscriptions! 

Ever heard the saying – there's probably an app for that? Despite the comfort of familiar routines, delving into new tools and subscriptions is essential. While the array of software options can be overwhelming, strategic investments in online products can translate into substantial savings in man-hours and heightened productivity.

 

These subscriptions may add up, but allocating a budget for these tools is now considered a standard cost of doing business. This tip aligns with tip #1, encouraging proactive engagement in new processes. In today's landscape, operating without any online tools in your operations likely signals inefficiency.

 

Maintaining balance is crucial however, as an excess of subscriptions may lead to information discrepancies across platforms. It's important to be mindful about streamlining processes, avoiding conflicting procedures and unmatched data. When executed thoughtfully, these tools should more than justify their cost through increased productivity for your organization.

 

4.     Call in the Experts! 

Whether you're steering an association solo as an Executive Director, or with a compact team, assuming you possess all the necessary expertise for optimal decision-making is unrealistic. In a role where decisions shape the trajectory of the organization, seeking expert advice isn't just realistic but crucial. Associations should earmark a budget line for professional services—an investment contributing to overall growth and sustainability.

 

This extends beyond seeking advice from lawyers or accountants. While an Executive Director may be a sought-after industry expert, running an organization requires different and unique skills. Investing in professional services to tackle time-consuming tasks can significantly accelerate your association's growth. Consultants or AMCs can prove to be invaluable resources, paying for themselves while complementing your team's efforts.

 

The key lies in trusting your partners and leveraging their expertise. Enlisting qualified partners not only expands your team but also fortifies your organization, enhances your skills, and positions you for progress.

 

5.     Embrace a Culture of Continuous Learning!

Associations that cultivate a culture of continuous learning lead with innovation. Encourage your team not only to keep up with new skills but to stay ahead of industry trends and embrace training opportunities. It's not just about staying current; it's about anticipating what comes next.

 

Whether through workshops, online courses, or fostering a knowledge-sharing culture within your organization, the pursuit of knowledge is the secret sauce for an association's longevity and relevance. Remember, the more you know, the better equipped you are to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.

 

As part of our internal annual review, we prompt team members to reflect on the time invested in learning and education over the past year. They identify necessary training for personal growth and pinpoint new knowledge that would benefit our organization. This intentional approach sharpens our skills and organically enhances our company services. Investing in our employees not only adds value to their roles but also contributes to the creation of a sought-after work environment.

 

Bonus Tip – Have you considered AI?

Artificial Intelligence, a sixth bonus tip, is a game-changer. It's not about whether it's coming; it's already here. Understanding AI and its vast potential is vital for staying ahead in the current landscape. When utilized effectively, AI can be akin to adding a whole new team member to your organization.

 

Stay tuned for more insights on this but if you haven't yet delved into what AI means for the association world, don't delay any longer. Even if you're diligently following the five tips above, recognizing the power of AI alone can either position you at the forefront or risk leaving you behind!

 

Conclusion:

These tips are crafted to guide you in introspecting on your organization. Taking a step back to assess internal controls and evaluating your approach to change and progress provides a clear picture of your organization's current reality.

 

While your association exists for the core purposes of operations, member engagement, and industry advancement, the lean nature of associations may create a mindset resisting change or improvement. If your current approach involves sticking with manual, in-house operations under the assumption of cost savings, it's worth noting that your overall cost of doing business may be significantly higher than it could be. If this resonates with your organization, consider this blog as an alarm bell, urging a shift in perspective.

 

Associations serve as the glue holding industries together. A strong association doesn't merely survive; it thrives, fostering prosperity for the companies and industries it serves. The magic unfolds when you proactively embrace change, leading with a visionary approach.

 



 

This blog was crafted by HOST Management, an AMC located in Moncton, NB, dedicated to empowering associations with strategic insights. For more information about our services or to get in touch, please visit www.hostmanagement.ca or contact us info@hostmanagement.ca

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