An Executive Director's point of view


February 22, 2017: Open workspace

Posted by: David M Patt

September 30, 2016: Why I always keep a time sheet

Posted by: David M Patt
I've always been a CEO and I've always kept a time sheet.

It wasn't to prove to anybody that I was working, to track billable hours when freelancing (that's something different), or to comply with an organizational requirement.

It was to keep an accurate record of the time I spent on various association activities and not force me to rely on my memory for a guesstimate. It helped me plan my day more efficiently.

It also helped the accountant, who used the "gen admin" hours for all employees to calculate the allocation of overhead when conducting the annual audit.

Tip: Record your hours no less than daily. If you wait any longer, you'll forget some things and may unintentionally underestimate the time that was actually required to conduct some tasks.

August 30, 2016: Bad location

Posted by: David M Patt
Association employees whose offices move from suburban locations to urban downtowns will now be subject to increased costs and greater inconvenience.

Free parking may no longer be an option. Highways, streets, and public transit may be seriously congested during their commutes.

The association has harmed them economically and badly messed with their work regimens.

A better choice for association relocations may be to establish offices near the border of major cities. Select a site that offers easy access to suburbanites, free parking, and a public transit connection for city dwellers.

That will serve existing employees while also enabling the association to expand its connection to the local labor force.

May 07, 2016: A special room

Posted by: David M Patt
ASAE provides a lounge at its conferences for members who are CAEs.

It serves as a place to do work or check email between educational sessions, to meet with colleagues, or to just drop into a chair and take a nap.

It's better than searching for a stool (near an electrical outlet) in a secluded, convention center hallway or retreating to a hotel room to toil at a cramped desk with limited lighting.

And it's not about prestige. It's simply making use of an opportunity to do whatever you were going to do anyway.

So, if your association wants to create a special place for members at a conference center, courthouse, library, university, or anywhere else, make it useful.

If you want to confer prestige upon some people, find another way to do it.

August 12, 2015: Do it yourself

Posted by: David M Patt
Beware of suggestions that you try to become an expert at everything.

Pitches are often made to association professionals (especially those working in small associations) to purchase software that will enable them to become designers, accountants, technicians, and just about anything else involved in organizational work.

Why hire others, we are asked, when we can save money by doing everything ourselves?

I wonder how often association Board members ask themselves that same question when deciding if they really, really need a CEO, or if they can save money and simply manage things themselves.

June 01, 2015: Priorities

Posted by: David M Patt
As the new CEO downsizing an organization that was heavily in debt, I unearthed a fair number of uncashed checks that had been hidden in cubby holes throughout the office. It was not the only sign of financial irregularities in that association.

I wanted to punish the perpetrators of the apparent fraud, but our attorney advised us, instead, to move forward and not spend time on problems whose solution would not help the organization. He felt that digging out of debt was more important than investigating possible wrong doing by previous staff.

We followed that advice and implemented a very successful turnaround.

Lesson learned? Set sensible priorities. When you are stuck at the bottom of a pit, find a way out. Don't waste energy griping about how you got there.

November 26, 2014: The right to fail

Posted by: David M Patt
One of the greatest challenges for association professionals is persuading organizations to do things they way we (association folk) think are best.

But our attitudes are often viewed by organizations as an assault on their culture, or at the very least as demonstrating a lack of understanding of their associations, professions, or industries.

Leaders and members of associations often conduct organizational business in the same manner in which they perform their own jobs. And they think that is perfectly correct.

Are they accustomed to making decisions or following other people's orders? Are they used to delegating tasks or doing things themselves? Are they employed in large bureaucracies or in small agencies or businesses?

Do they create their own work environments or do they follow rigid rules that were set by others? Do they normally work individually or in groups? Do they like to talk about "the big picture" or focus on operational details?

Do they feel comfortable reacting to already vetted ideas or would they rather construct proposals from scratch - at Board meetings?

We (association folk) may often think they are disorganized, misguided, dysfunctional, or just plain wrong. But they frequently think we are the odd ones, even when their way of doing things does not yield positive results.

It's important to remember that associations belong to them, not to us. They have the right to bumble through things without accepting our guidance or advice. And they have the right to fail.

October 28, 2014: Overhead

Posted by: David M Patt
Overhead is not a dirty word.

July 23, 2014: The sky is not the limit

Posted by: David M Patt
Growth for most associations and businesses is limited. The pool of potential members and customers may become exhausted. New audiences may need to be found or new products created for existing audiences.

But growth is not unlimited.

At some point, income or participation may plateau. And that is not always a sign of poor performance. It may merely be a sign of market saturation.

Posted by: David M Patt
Make sure you are prepared to work with a new Board or Committee Chair.

Before the end of the incumbent's term, meet with the next Chair (or with the person you think is likely to become the next Chair) to find out what that person wants to achieve in office and to figure out how the two of you can best work together.

You may have already developed a good working relationship, but that was in a different situation. As Chair, that person may think and act differently - and that may require you to think and act differently, as well.

So, get ahead of the curve and be ready. Determine how you can ensure that the Board or Committee - and the organization - can benefit from the service of the new leader.

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