An Executive Director's point of view


June 13, 2017: Always return calls

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt

More than a week ago, I emailed a dozen places requesting information I thought they'd have. Only two emailed back. (A couple more didn't have email so I had to call. They said somebody would call back but nobody did).

My initial thought was that the ones that blew me off were a bunch of jerks. But I realized, no, they're probably just clueless.

They may not have possessed the info I wanted and didn't know what to say to me. So they said nothing.

They were wrong. Here's the proper way to handle things:

1. If you don't have the information someone requests, say you don't have it and refer the caller to another place, if you can. Don't ignore people.

2. If you don't have the information but can get it, tell that to the caller, get the info, and call back with it. Don't leave people wondering if they'll ever hear back from you.

3. If the request falls outside your area of activity, say so. And apologize for not being able to help, even if there is no reason for you to help. Don't ignore people.

4. If you think you get too many calls, improve your ability to handle the volume. Don't ignore people.

5. If you don't think people should be calling you for this information, figure out why they are and then find a way to change that.

You don't have to return unsolicited sales calls. But you do have to return everybody else's calls.

Don't ignore people.

March 13, 2017: Retroactive funding

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Don't work for free.

If your organization is promised a government grant or contract, don't begin work until a document is signed.

You can't be certain you'll be paid retroactively for work performed prior to the contracted start date.

If you are worried about potential clients or customers not being served or the organization missing a valuable opportunity, check with your attorney before you commit resources to a project.

Guarantees - verbal or written - may not be honored.

March 06, 2017: Don't play it safe

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
So, another ASAE keynote speaker called upon association executives to take chances.

Unfortunately, most won't follow that advice.

Taking chances doesn't mean being reckless or jumping off cliffs.

It simply means being willing to do something in a way you may not have done it before - and preparing properly for it.

It means it's OK to disregard benchmarks, to challenge established "customs," to break rules, and to disagree with everybody else.

It means not doing things the way everybody else does just because everybody else does things that way.

So, don't hide from controversy, strive for unanimity, or follow "conventional wisdom."

Do things the way you think is best. Don't merely ape what others are doing.

February 20, 2017: The elusive meeting time

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
When planning Board and committee meetings, it's best to establish a firm schedule at the beginning of the year.

Stress the need for everybody to attend and stagger meeting times, if necessary, to try to accommodate everybody's schedule.

Some people may want to meet during work hours, others outside of work hours. Some may not be available on particular days. Others may not be able to interrupt work activities to join the meeting.

So, set a schedule at the start of the year or term to provide participants with ample time to make arrangements to be present.

Note: For national associations meeting by phone, Skype, or other venues, take time zones into account and don't schedule meetings too early or too late for people on the coasts.

Unfortunately, international association meetings will have to break into people's personal time or even sleep time. Still, establish a schedule at the outset, so the same people won't always be excluded.

December 01, 2016: Field decisions

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
A woman approached the registration desk at a running event, said she wasn't able to run that day, and requested a refund.

Refunds are NEVER offered at running events. Sign-up forms clearly state, "No Refunds," and it is routine for large numbers of paid participants to not even show up.

I politely apologized and told her we could not refund her entry fee.

She began to cry. She had miscarried a few days earlier and wasn't able to run.

I did not ask her to submit a doctor's letter or any other proof of her condition. I did not direct her to complete a form. I did not refer her request to a committee for resolution.

I immediately handed her a cash refund.

More than 11,000 people had registered for the race and I felt I could issue one refund. I was the CEO and I made the decision.

Don't impose a bureaucratic process on every association activity. Instead, designate one person to resolve issues onsite and grant that person authority to handle matters in whatever manner is thought best.

October 26, 2016: Pre-payment should be the norm

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Purchase orders for registration and product should be the exception in associations, not the rule. Structure your payment process, as best you can, to make it more likely customers will pre-pay.

If a customer wants to be invoiced, you can email a bill and ask for immediate payment. This practice is far more common than it may have been in the past.

If you accept purchase orders for membership, you may want to let the payer know that the membership will not be activated until payment is received.

Whatever you do, try to not be forced into triggering a collection process to recover payment from delinquent customers or members.

August 12, 2016: Parents

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Many American employers (businesses and associations) claim to possess "family values," but don't seem to realize that family responsibilities accompany those values.

Here's how one company profits by realizing that.

August 08, 2016: Doing business differently

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Associations continually change the way they operate, often challenging long-standing customs and traditions.

They may be prompted by the evolution of their industries or professions, the changing work habits of volunteers and staff, advances in technology, or shifting member expectations.

But whatever the reason, it is generally considered wise to always consider alternative ways of doing business.

Leaders in other endeavors, however, may not share that belief.

Here's a take on the need for a new business model for the Olympics.

August 03, 2016: Not-for-profit trickery

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Many not-for-profit organizations utilize trickery to gain members, subscribers, attendees, or donors.

When for-profit businesses employ these same tactics, they are often demonized as deliberately misleading (and they should be).

But not-for-profits often think it's OK when done for a good cause.

Here's one instance of an alleged misleading message and how the organization responded to it.

August 01, 2016: No vendor shakedowns

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
When targeting businesses for ad sales, exhibit booths, sponsorship, or anything else (including contributions), identify potential buyers because they will benefit from the purchase, not because you think they should feel obligated to support you.

Vendors, in particular, should rarely be on your list. You've paid them for a product or service and they've delivered it. They should not be expected to pay you extra for that opportunity.

That's called a payoff, kickback, shakedown, or pay-to-play. It is always unethical and often illegal.

Think from the customers' point of view, not yours, and determine whether your organization should even be included in their marketing plans. If you think it should, then offer it something that will help implement that plan.

Every company will be different. Try to sell each what it wants, not what you think it should want, and especially not what you simply want it to want.

Don't expect each of them to want the same thing and don't try to sell each of them the exact same thing.

If a company says it doesn't get customers from print ads, for example, don't try to sell it print ads.

And, if you think that buying a booth, ad, or sponsorship will yield results, provide data that supports your assertion.

Remember - this is a business decision, not an emotional one or a political one. Companies should buy to help themselves, not to help your organization.
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