In his book “Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time” Howard Schultz, Starbucks President & CEO says “Vision is what they call it when others can’t see what you see.” In a slow domestic growth and a global uncertain economy, how will the future state of associations be defined?
Are economic tides shifting again? According to the Conference Board, corporate profitability may face headwinds resulting from higher costs as “the business cycle matures.” They also suggest that “America’s strength in technological progress needs to help accelerate productivity.” If member companies introduce more innovation to drive more profitability, is your association positioned to respond with equal or greater amounts of innovative solutions?
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that if the current trend continues, Data provider Dealogic estimates that Global Mergers and Acquisitions will climb to and exceed $4.58 trillion in 2015. In a low growth economic environment, corporations seeking growth are actively pursuing the best merger combinations. Although associations don’t control the external business environment, they do have the ability to move away from a “here is what we do for you “posture to a “together we succeed” posture.
With so much new technology available, should associations develop an innovation strategy? Not necessarily. Your association might want to understand what strategic initiatives it should put in place in order to drive your organization’s impact on member business outcomes. If technology is a delivery mechanism to deliver impact on member business outcomes, then it’s an example of Association Outside In Innovation.
In an economy more driven by intellectual capital than ever before, executives actively seek information from multiple sources. Whether it be Greece’s Debt Crisis, market access concerns, or industries seeking new and more opportunistic markets, your members are “in the know” constantly. Is it more impactful to deploy an Association Loyalty Strategy or an Engagement Strategy?
What Association doesn’t want to slow down its Member Resignations and improve retention performance? Member losses are difficult especially when an Association loses larger members. Yet the painful lessons from these resignations can help your organization reposition itself and drive accelerated member engagement and achieve improved operating performance. Since member companies are disrupting their industries to stay ahead of the curve, today’s associations are expected to be nimble strategic partners or members will vote with their feet and go somewhere else.
If your members face top line growth challenges, generational transfer issues, and evolving consumer expectations, how can your Association support member success? Through a strategic planning process that transforms your organization from an inside out focus to an outside in focus. The process starts with a highly engaged and strategically focused board and concludes with a strategic plan amplifying industry growth objectives.
Association Innovation Delivers Growth
What capabilities should your association have in order to deliver revenue growth and strong retention? In the Strategic Member Engagement Survey, Associations & Professional Societies reporting upward 3-year operating results are far more likely to have a very high level of board understanding and strategizing about the business and professional outcomes members seek, and actively engage members in creating new solutions. For IARW, the International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses (Global Cold Chain Alliance Partner), these new and innovative capabilities are serving as an accelerant to revenue growth and retention.
Return on Member Engagement
“Together we achieve a return on member engagement” reflects a six month strategic planning mantra employed by Corey Rosenbusch, President and CEO, GCCA (of which IARW is a key partner) and the Association’s Board of Directors. Collaboratively they determined their industry’s strategic business outcomes and developed an innovation focused strategic plan to drive worldwide top line growth.
Throughout the process board members keenly focused on capabilities and priorities they wanted from their industry association. Their Board Task Force surfaced opportunities to broaden strategic alliances that will extend the industry’s visibility and global reach.
Business Outcome Focus Drives Revenue Growth
Identifying member industry “up-at-night” issues and positioning IARW as a strategic partner to drive business growth is already showing results through recovering former member dues, membership and sponsor growth, and a potential windfall through a new Global Cold Chain Expo to be held in Chicago in 2016.
Association Innovation Delivers Growth
Although Rosenbusch understood the risks of utilizing a different planning process he focused on a different path based on innovation and member business outcomes. To date he reports over $200,000 in new revenue and sees opportunity to grow substantially more and help the industry IARW serves achieve its business growth objectives.
Driving Member Business Outcomes
Can an Association transform itself and become a strategic business partner to the very members they serve? The International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses (IARW) did as much through an intensive strategic planning process. Seeking to understand their impact on their member business outcomes, the Association initiated the process with Board Interviews and a Member Impact Survey.
Forward Looking Data
The Member Impact Survey is forward looking by design and focuses on desired future outcomes that members seek to address their “up at night” issues. The results also generate focused conversations among senior managers and Board Task Force Members.
The decision to move past the traditional member satisfaction survey format reflected a strategic and important departure says Corey Rosenbusch, President and CEO of the Global Cold Chain Alliance, of which IARW is a key partner.
Changing Board Perspectives
At IARW, the results shifted perceptions and thinking about the Association and how it could be utilized to actively promote the industry in key markets. (“Survey uncovers members’ “up-at-night” issues”) It also generated significant dialogue about the future of the industry while it drive culture shifts at the staff and board level.
Although the survey results played a critical role in the update of IARW’s Strategic Plan, Rosenbusch utilizes the impact survey results in member meetings and also in conversations with industry partners. The data helps him paint a picture of the industries’ key opportunities and concerns.
Driving Member Business Outcomes
The journey starting from an “inside out” focus to an “outside in” focus is nearing completion. According to Rosenbusch, “IARW is entering a new arena” and it’s one in which the Association, his staff team, and board are building a more and compelling future for their industry.
A snapshot by the Conference Board of both the U.S. and Global Economy doesn’t necessarily paint the rosiest of pictures GDP growth is projected at 2.9% in the United States while economic performance in the rest of the world will be shaped by “volatility.” In what appears to be a low growth scenario, how and to what extent can Associations be transformed into market disruptors that support market growth?
Be assured that the current slow growth environment or an economic downturn will inflict significant pain on your revenues and membership at some point. Organizational Association balance sheets took significant hits in 2008 and 2009, and there little reason to think otherwise in the current environment. Knowing this should CEO’s maintain traditional Association product and service offerings or should they analyze strategic alternatives?
New products and services penetrating the marketplace have disrupted the U.S. economy from the start of the Republic. At each turn throughout our history, new entrants reshaped a dynamic marketplace. With big data, predictive analytics, and emerging technologies new companies are in several instances upending the marketplace and driving innovation and boosting higher levels of productivity.
Can an Association go beyond traditional roles and provide nontraditional solutions to industries in a slow growth environment? Are boards and volunteers ready for their Association to position and help drive their industry positioning and growth in domestic and international markets?
Since the great recession for profit firms are aggressively developing innovative solutions and products to more immediately help companies address business challenges and grow revenue. Why can’t your association play the same role?
Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available for all Association Executives at www.potomaccore.com.