If it’s not Santa or UPS, it just might be your new executive director.
This month’s Corner Office Spotlight focuses on Frank Rudd, President & CEO of the Florida Society of Association Executives (FSAE), which will join forces with the Tallahassee Society of Association Executives in 2015 under Rudd’s leadership and the FSAE brand.
Establish your organization’s culture and game plan, then step out of the way and let your team do its job.
The personalized approach to member engagement can include calling members directly, getting rid of voicemail and hand-delivering welcome packages to new members.
It’s amazing how quickly you go from being an up-and-comer to an older member.
Association Adviser: Frank what prompted FSAE and TSAE to join forces after the two organizations have coexisted for nearly 30 years?
Frank Rudd: The opportunity to form one large organization and represent association professionals throughout Florida with one voice is a game changer. I’ve been a member of both organizations for a long time. The two associations formed a task force in June to look at options to strengthen Florida’s association industry and better position us for the future. The timing is right. We’re bringing forces and programs together that were not necessarily competing, but dividing the dollars.
AA: How tough has it been to bring two longstanding organizations together under one roof?
FR: Actually, it’s going pretty smoothly. Both organizations have similar member service-oriented cultures—members always come first at both organizations. I’m also pleased to report that nobody is out of a job as a result of combining the two organizations.
AA: You’ve known both organizations throughout your 30-year association career. But, with less than a year at the helm, do you ever feel like the new kid on the block?
FR: One of the first things I did was disconnect the auto-answering machine and make sure every phone call to the organization is answered personally. We can’t risk annoying the once-a-year “mailbox member.”
AA: What’s a mailbox member?
FR: Those are the folks who only call us once a year. But if they don’t have a good experience when they call, they’re throwing your dues notice out in the trash when they get it.
AA: What else are you trying to cut through the communication clutter and engage members—especially new and younger members—more effectively?
FR: We’re trying all the new techniques to catch people’s attention. I’ve done some old school stuff, too. I’ve called 193 new members that we’ve [acquired] since January. Sometimes you don’t get an answer. Sometimes you get a 20-minute conversation. And when you call 20-somethings, they’re not going to answer the phone, but they’ll text you right back to say “Thanks for the call!” You’ve just got to hit on a lot of different channels and make sure you’ve got a good message.
AA: How so?
FR: My team and I drive all over North Florida and hand-deliver welcome packages personally to all of our new members. Sometimes you have to get really old school and not try to do everything on mobile, social and the web.
AA: You deliver the packages personally to members?
FR: Yes. They really remember that when you’re standing there in their lobby!” You’ve got to get out and see people. You’ve got to spend a lot of time getting to know your members and being the face of FSAE. You want them to think, “Here’s someone who knows what I do for a living and can help me in my career.”
AA: How would you describe your leadership style?
FR: Confidently hands off. You have to be able to take a step back from the day-to-day noise of meetings, emails and phone calls and think more about your vision and the big picture. Again, I’m new at my current job. But, once you understand the culture and the game plan, you should step out of the way and just let your team members do their jobs. We’re shooting for 1,000 members. The more members you have, the more programs you can offer and the more resources you have to do those programs.
AA: You talked about cutting through communication clutter. What about cutting through the organizational inertia that sometimes pervades not-for-profit organizations?
FR: Associations are generally not good at being agile and turning on a dime. One of the worst things associations can do is keep doing things the same way, just because that’s always how they’ve been done in the past. We continue to look at every program every year. Is it something member want? Are they participating in it?
AA: What are the biggest concerns of your members?
FR: The economy. Remember we have a large share of members in the hospitality and tourism sector and they haven’t forgotten 2008-2009. Many are still afraid to hire, to invest and to spend money on professional training, education and dues. Everyone is trying to do more with less. Fear is a powerful driver. If you’re like me, with parents who grew up during the recession, you know what I mean. That fear of sliding back is always in the back of their minds.
AA: So, how is FSAE helping members with those concerns?
FR: By offering high-quality programs. It’s a two-pronged approach. We have to help them better manage their own organizations and also help them become better leaders. The QAS (Quality Association Specialist) program has been a big part of this effort. It’s a 12-part video series. You get 13 credit hours for this online training program that provides a broad view of the principles of association management. It’s a very useful for helping staff—especially those who are new to association management—understand how various association functions/departments work together.
AA: We understand you’ve been proactive when it comes to connecting with younger members of the profession.
FR: Yes. We’ve got a great infusion of young leaders involved. They have lots of enthusiasm and new ideas—it’s not just about mobile and social media. They’re essential for helping us get out of the “that’s how it’s always been done” rut. We’ve got everyone from CEOs to meeting planners. I want our volunteer leaders to help us set the future course of the combined organization.
AA: Speaking of go-getters, tell us more about your online career center.
FR: We get a lot of calls from people looking for jobs, as well as people looking to place people in their organizations. It’s a very robust site. We want to be THE go-to place for anyone looking for a job or placing a job in the Florida association world. You don’t have to be a member to use it. And yes, I used the site myself to get the job I have now by applying through Boxwood Technology [laughing].
AA: All things considered, things seem to be going smoothly. Anything keeping you up at night?
FR: Are we getting our message out to the members with the right programs? Can we get more CEOs involved so others in their organizations will follow? Also, it’s amazing how quickly you go from being an up-and-comer to an older member. I’m really trying to keep up to date with all the social media. I get old school sometimes.
What keeps your association staff up at night? Tell us in the comments below.