By Dan Varroney
President & CEO, Potomac Core
Reprinted with permission from http://potomaccore.com
It’s been seven years since the end of the great recession and one economist thinks there is a 60% chance of a recession next year. As global uncertainty and slow U.S. economic growth dominate the landscape, CEO’s should assess whether or not they are leading a recession ready association. While the next recession may not be as severe as the last one, be rest assured that business leaders are continually increasing scrutiny over expenditures not related to corporate performance.
While traditional associations discuss member “loyalty” strategies, is that enough nowadays? Business executives are swimming in a tough sea of challenges and according to Business News Daily, the ten top 2016 challenges include: “offering flexibility, expanding employee benefits, the presidential election, obtaining capital, reputation management, moving fast enough, finding new employees, genuinely connecting with customers, cybersecurity and hackers, and managing growth expectations.”
Are business challenges and strategic issues part of your board discussions? Discussions focused on organizational performance will fall flat, and your board leaders will tune out. Telltale signs of boardroom boredom include more focus on their mobile devices than on board deliberations.
External Factors That Define the Recession Ready Association
Even if the economy doesn’t move into recession next year, market conditions continue to evolve as business challenges accelerate. The status quo may not suffice because companies who have fewer resources and increased demands will be viewing their participation through an ever evolving lens:
- Slow Growth Economy – If they must be out of the office, busy executives seek allies to help overcome market challenges & drive business outcomes.
- Return on Engagement – As earnings, profit, and operating performance pressures increase, the expectation that members learn new solutions only matters if they can apply them immediately.
- Association Competition – Executives have more choices than ever, for profit firms, self forming interest groups, emerging industry coalitions, and emerging new associations offer more choices for executives.
- Strategic Partner – The Association is viewed the focal point and therefore perceived as “the industry.”
Does your organization address some or all of the factors that define the recession ready association?
Why External Focus
Forward thinking associations are going to great lengths to help their member’s industries achieve business success. This is already occurring as some organizations are successfully transforming their associations into the role of “positive disruptor.”
Chris Jahn, President & CEO, TFI, (The Fertilizer Institute) goes to great lengths to make sure his association focuses on the external factors that impact his member’s industry. The organization’s continual focus on industry business performance guides advocacy strategies and has already been instrumental in helping the industry achieve substantial cost savings.
3 Key Strategies to Become the Recession Ready Association
In February 2014 survey research revealed that Associations with upward trending 3-year operating results utilize an external focus to keep their organizations focused on industry outcomes:
- Very highly engaged boards who are strategic in focus
- Very high degree of board understanding and strategizing about the needs of the average member
- Regularly conduct member impact surveys (not merely “satisfaction” surveys)
The Recession Ready Association
Transitioning your association’s focus to “outward” from “inward” will help connect your organization more directly to the external priorities that matter most to your members and the industry you serve. More importantly your association will become more durable and even more vital to the industry you serve.