The First 90 Days as CEO

Take it in increments!

There have been many articles on the subject and I’m a fan of those who suggest segmenting your course of action.

The first week, the first month, the first quarter might be something that works for you.

The key is to have a strategy.  Internal an external (staff vs members, starting with your board.

Think of it as a listening tour.  Almost everything I’ve read starts with a listening tour of your members, in their environment, not your office.  Your members will appreciate it!

Once you’ve completed your tour, now it’s time to show your leadership, in sync of course with your board, and set a course for the chamber. Remember, it’s their chamber not yours.

And don’t forget to possibly engage a professional coach whose been in your shoes.  They could be tremendously helpful to you!

Don’t rely on the previous CEO.  You are the new CEO and there probably was a reason for the transition to new leadership (retirement, new direction, etc.).

Don’t get stuck in the old way of doing things.  You have a window of opportunity to chart a new course for the organization.  Make the best of it by getting the right tools in your toolbox, and a professional coach might just be the best thing, at least for your first year.

For more information on professional coaches go HERE.

Good luck!

Membership Growth

I recently attended a seminar where Shari Pash, a membership and sales strategist, outlined what you should be focusing on in your membership development.

What is your member’s “Why?”  Do you track that information for each of your members?

She challenged each attendee to have a strong data management system so you can track member and prospective member interactions.

You must record and document member touches and interactions.

Think building relationships.  That statement has been said many times on this blog in the past and go HERE for a post titled Never a Transaction: A Relationship.

She went on to talk about prospect levels (A’s, B’s and C’s) and how you might treat them in your recruitment pipeline.  It’s important to spend your time wisely in recruiting new members.

You need to give a definition to each so you can track progress and again spend your time wisely to grow membership.

Focus on the A’s and B’s, your retention levels will go up.  The C’s are the ones that will drop their membership and drive your retention rate down.

Don’t spend too much time chasing the C’s.

Define your goals.  How many new members per month do you strive for?  How much revenue?  I hope you have goals for both and that you’re tracking both.

Transaction vs Relational - selling a renewal or sponsorship vs how can we continue to be part of your strategy of growth.  There is a big difference.  Again, build relationships.

Intentional Recruitment - move from chasing and convincing to motivating. Tell a story, use testimonials, maybe in your email signature line.

Overcoming the objection of no time, I don’t attend any events.

Respond with ways for a member to get exposure without attending an event:

  • Share how many hits they’ve gotten on your directory;
  • Participate in our social media - like, share with our 10,000 followers.

She recapped with a review of moving away from chasing a prospect to motivating your prospects to join.

Build your pipeline, keep and active sheet that you can track your calls, communications, etc.  Do you have a 30, 60, 90 day forecast?

For more information on Shari and her program of work go HERE.

Final thought, you must have a strategy and data to be successful!

Podcasting: Is it Right For Your Chamber?

Do your homework first.  Find out what technology will be needed that you currently don’t have.  The good news is that the price point barrier in the past has come way down.

What is your goal of the podcast - is it another communication from the CEO?

The content should be consistent with your other communication vehicles (i.e. newsletters, website, white papers, etc.).

Decide on a frequency (once a week, once a month) and stick with it! Just like your blogs you need to build an audience and the best way to do that is by a consistent schedule and don’t forget to archive your podcasts.

Once you’ve decided on a frequency let’s think about how long they should be.  They need to be digestible.  For a resource on deciding what might be right for your chamber go HERE.

Questions to answer:

  • Frequency - once a week or once a month?
  • What kind of content do you want to cover?
  • Advocacy?
  • A new regulation?
  • Highlight a new member?
  • Is this the new ribbon cutting so many chambers are involved in?
  • Who’s responsible?
  • Who’s the voice?
  • Does it change?
  • Lecture or is it an interview with a member?
  • How do you select the member without upsetting those who are not picked?
  • Should you set-up criteria for selection?

Now let's talk about selling sponsorships to fund the podcast and the vendor/partner gets a commercial at the front end - sponsored by “you name the company.”  I suggest you only sell quarterly sponsorships and make sure you have a full years worth before launching.

Remember, you want people standing in line to sign-up!

This could be a great new revenue stream while also delivering real-time content in a timely manner.

For examples of chambers who are podcasting go HERE, HERE or HERE.

And finally, for a great resource to podcast right from your iPhone go HERE.

Good luck!

Good Board Governance

Is your board strategic versus operational?

Board meetings should be used to have strategic discussions on big issues facing your chamber and community - a shrinking main street, workforce, economic development or infrastructure projects, etc.

Use your consent calendar for all operational reporting - reporting on membership, annual meeting, etc.

And if I could add an additional thought, pick board members with an eye towards their intellect, passion and money (put another way, a decision-maker within a company).

Communications is key from CEO to Board - setting expectations, weekly or monthly calls or communications is a great way to keep your board informed of your organizations activities. I would definitely have a weekly call with your Chairman of the Board.

Getting the right mix on the board - skill set, diversity (gender, race, age, size of company, geography, etc.) and experience with issues you may tackle in the future (i.e., buying a building, embarking on a capital campaign, deciding if you want to start a PAC). 

Trust - you must have trust or you have nothing.  We all know how CEO’s get fired, they get cross ways with the board and it generally starts with a trust issue!

New Board member orientation - set the expectations!  By the way, you should already have a set of criteria that your nominating committee uses to select board members.

I recently read an article that described selecting board members should be conducted like a search firm - you go out and get what you want, not like an HR shop where you’re picking from who raised their hand to volunteer.  Something to think about?  That’s probably the best way you can take your board in a strategic direction if you’re not there yet!

And one additional thought.  Are you surveying your board members after each meeting?  This would be a great way to reemphasize the role of the board as being strategic not operational.

Always remember, it’s about relationships.  Build one with your board and board chair for a successful partnership!

Building a Next Generation Association for a Next Generation Workforce

Seth Mattison, Chief Movement Officer, Luminate Labs gave a presentation at ASAE's Annual Meeting last year that I attended.

What a fascinating presentation and subject matter.

Below are my notes that I thought I'd share.  Change is inevitable.

Relevance - your individual relevance and your chamber's relevance.  You must think about this everyday!

We need to adapt and change from time to time to stay relevant.

What are the "best of the best" doing to stay relevant - future proof yourself and your chamber to bring relevance to our organizations.

Three Characteristics:

  1. Past, present and the future;
  2. Leaders are always thinking about this and understanding the value of what has made you successful without holding on too tight that you miss what's coming next; and
  3. Leaders can keep their feet in the now and execute and continue to evolve to find out what's coming around the corner.

The future is being defined by two forces:

  1. Hierarchies - how we grew up in the workforce; and
  2. Networks - the current generation, no lines of authority, they grew up on the web, they don't know anything different.

Most of us grew up in the hierarchy, think staff organization charts.  No debate, no discussion.  You never go above your boss!

The future

Study generational shifts, study the youth, personal empowerment!

Are you moving away from hierarchies to a networked team-based organization?  Studies say that's the #1 thing in today's work moving forward.

Seth says you need both, you need balance.  You can't have winners and losers.  Hierarchy provides security and stability and clarity but very little freedom.

Networks allow for freedom but ambiguity and uncertainty as things move and change very fast.  Freedom brings responsibility and accountability.

What does the future-maker look like? The new leader leads from the center of the network.

Five key shifts I took from his presentation:

  • Technology shift - you upgrade your tech tools.
  • Process-shift - you need to change the process, think "that's the way we always do it."
  • Experience-shift - it's about your members experience.  Do you remember the term the experience economy?
  • Skills-shift - half your skills will be irrelevant in 5 years. How to future proof yourself, having the ability to collectively take input and be able to give a clear vision of the future for your chamber.  That's the skill every leader needs.
  • Inner shift - the inner person of you must first change for your chamber to change.  Otherwise, your organization will not change/shift unless you and your staff do it internally first.

Technology has hijacked our minds.  Instagram has a one second delay before your notifications post.  They do it on purpose.

Be present in the moment with your staff and members at the chamber.

We are always competing for our members attention. That's why our experiences for them need to be the best!

Three employee experience shapers:

  1. Culture;
  2. Workspace design; and
  3. Technology.

High performing jerks - they're toxic!  They are culture killers.  What values do you have in your organization?  Are they simple to understand?

Studies show that when values are known and understood employees are 39x more likely to be engaged.

Drivers of talent engagement:

  • I have confidence in senior management;
  • I can own and develop my work; and
  • I have confidence in the future of my organization.

He ended with four things so we can future proof yourself:

  1. The future is not fixed;
  2. Contemplate where order/freedom can and should live in your chamber;
  3. Commit to create remarkable experiences our customers and employees deeply value; and
  4. Find your way back to yourself so that you can access your greatest source of wisdom - you!

Design and Implement a Successful Sponsorship Program

If you're like the rest of your peers around the country securing sponsorship dollars, new and legacy, you might want to review the tips below as you move forward.

JP Moery, President, The Moery Company and Patty Leeman, Chief Analyst, The Moery Company recently conducted a workshop, on the title of this blog!

They structured their presentation around the following four concepts.

  • Why do sponsorships matter;
  • How to build a new sponsorship program;
  • How to assess sponsorship cost vs value; and
  • How to sell sponsorships.

My notes from the session are as follows:

Why do sponsorships matter?

Studies show it's a:

  • $600 million game
  • 75% considering new sponsorships

Sponsorships today meet multiple goals for the association and for the sponsors.

How to build a new sponsorship program?

Data tells, stories enable you to sell - interview potential sponsors, ask them what they want?

Build a program that goes beyond the 3 days at the annual meeting, they want to be connected the other 362 days a year.

Not only do you need to interview potential sponsors, you need to interview staff to make sure you can deliver what you're going to put in the prospectus.

The key is to have consistency amongst your staff to ensure you are delivering the product, and oh by the way, make sure you can deliver what you've put in the prospectus.

You need to start at least six months in advance so you can deliver the product of the sponsorship.

Do you segment your sponsors? Do you know where your sponsorship money is coming from?  How about the bulk of the money?  I bet it's coming from 20% of your list of total sponsors - think 80/20 rule.

How to assess sponsorship cost vs value?

Move to program based budgeting to figure out the real costs. What is the product or program going to cost, not just the cost of the pen, but the staff time to order, put in bags, etc.?

How to sell sponsorships?

The first two things to ask yourself and be mindful of:

  1. What is the buying season for the sponsor?
  2. When are they flush with money?

Once you've figured that out, it's time to put the other pieces into place. It's important to put the demographics in the prospectus.  Remember, the prospectus is built for the sponsor.

Write the prospectus that answers the business objectives from the sponsors perspective.  Naming rights are hot right now, think podcast, fly-in sponsored by ABC company.

How about the opportunity to speak on a panel?

Thought Leadership Program?  Think content produced over a 12 month period.  This can be very beneficial for both parties.  Pick an issue that is hot in your community.

By the way, don't forget to grow your current sponsors first before chasing that new potential sponsor.  I bet you're already doing this in your membership space. Think tiered dues where you upgrade a member to the next level.

Are you renewing their sponsorship right after the event for the next year when they are on a high from the meeting or program that just finished? If not, you should be.

Are you using a CRM (a customer relationship manager system) to keep track of your communications so you can track your progress with your sponsorship contacts?

Straight from JP, "If it's not in your CRM, it didn't happen!"

And their final thoughts:

  • Interview your sponsors;
  • Get the data to assist in creating your prospectus;
  • Develop prospectus for sponsor audience; and
  • Capture all communications in your CRM.

For more information on The Moery Company go HERE.

You Have a Great Story: Tell it Like a Pro!

I attended a great session recently on storytelling conducted by Brian Harrison, SEMA and Kate Sigety, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at an ASAE Annual Meeting.

The following are my notes taken from their presentation.

They started by telling the history, the process and the different perspectives of telling a great story for your members, associations and your career.

Here we go!


  • 8.7 million species in the world, only 1 can tell a story, us!  Cave scrolls to books, to TV to Facebook walls.
  • Purpose has not changed in storytelling.
  • What has changed is the delivery (Think social media, instant communications).

The Process

  • Three steps (connect, create, communicate)
  • Connect - with your audience, what are their values, what are their needs and how can you reach them?
  • Create - remember the basics, keep it simple, show, don't tell, build from your mission (think child stories that we remember).
  • Communicate - pick your platforms, produce a dialogue, get feedback, analyze results.

Storytelling Perspectives

For your members - make them care.

  • Stories vs messaging.
  • Messaging without stories equals cold and inauthentic.
  • Stories in support of messaging equals connection and motivation.
  • The best story is one that doesn't require you to tell it.
  • Your stories need to be: engaging, emotional, entertaining and scalable.

For your association - stories will always be told by your members, make sure they are the stories you want told.  Attach emotion to your association's:

  • Member benefits;
  • Annual meeting;
  • Research; and
  • Education opportunities.

For your career - you are responsible for your story, own it!

  • Do you believe in your story?  If you don't, no one else will.  Think passion!
  • What is the "Why" in your story?  The "How" will not survive without a strong "Why."
  • Your story doesn't have to be perfect!
  • Attitude - your attitude affects your story, which is your prophecy.  Create your own narrative.  Integrate into your resume and LinkedIn and be persuasive.

At the end of the day, create stickiness with your stories.  It was a great presentation and their final words - Lead with a story!