Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How to Make a Video in Your Hotel Room Your Members Will Rave Over

WOW!  I know the first thing you probably thought of is, "Where the heck is he going with this blog post?"  Video...hotel rooms...how does that all connect in with my members?  Well let me tell you, there is nothing more powerful at your final night dinner than lowering the lights and combining the meeting mission, overall message, and pulsating music, to engage your members emotions with scenes of the entire conference they just attended.

Hear me out on this...  Video does for an association, what Steven Jobs did for Apple.  It portrays a brand that makes you more than just a product someone buys.  It makes you something people love and "WANT" to be a part of.   It builds trust, shows your members you care, and displays your passion.  You can't do that with text in any format, as well as you can video.

When I took over as CEO in November 2008, I replaced a CEO that had been here for 31 years.  He was an icon with alot of friends in the industry.  Typically the new CEO has real challenges following someone of that magnitude.  I needed a way to speak to the membership, which covered 40 states and Canada, in a way that they could begin to trust in me, see how much I care, and the passion and energy that I have for them.  Video was the answer, and it worked!  I've walked into member companies, without ever meeting the owner, and you would think we had known each other for years, because he was so familiar with me through our monthly videos.

Video empowers associations to communicate in ways they never thought possible, and for next to nothing, if you do it right.  The following are a few things we do with video (click on them to see examples):

Meeting documentaries
Promoting your industry
Bi-weekly news casts to share the latest excitement surrounding our association
Meeting promotional videos
Meeting highlight videos
Member testimonies
Introduction of a new program
Promoting our supplier's/sponsors to the industry

Everything we do as an association, has a video element to it to drive the emotion of our members to want to be a part of something big and exciting.   Some of the videos are produced by a professional team we outsource to, many videos are produced by me on planes, hotel rooms, or at the office.

Many think that producing videos takes a lot of staff time and a huge budget.  I'm here to tell you that it can take neither.  The following is all you need to begin to take advantage of all that video offers an association:

- HD video camera with a lavalier mic plug in:  $300
- Lavalier mic and extension for cord:  $15
- Tip-pod for camera:  $15
- Mac computer with iMovie software:  $1,300 (if you don't already have one in office)
- Portable video lighting:  $150

Basically, for about $480, if you already have a Mac computer, or $1,800 if you need one, you have a full blown portable video studio in your pocket to interview members, do news updates, take video highlights of meetings, and push it out to members through your website and e-communications.

Bottom line, if you are not pushing out some type of video to your members it's like feeding them food that has no taste.  Take the time to purchase the above supplies, and engage a video intern from your local college, or someone on your staff to help you produce some amazing videos.

It's easier and less expensive than you think, and the reward of member excitement, loyalty, and engagement is priceless.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Leveraging Year End Sales Bonuses for Great Meeting Deals

This past week I was talking with a few of my many hotel friends, asking them how business was going and if they were going to finish strong at year end.  I was amazed at how many indicated they had numerous associations who were on hold or waiting until after the holidays are over to move to the next step or make a final decision on their meeting destination.

If you are in a waiting mode with your meetings right now, you are missing out on one of the most prime opportunities of the year to squeeze the "best deal" out of almost any hotel location.

Why?  Because it's year end!  Hotel's General Managers are working hard to make year end revenue goals, and the sales rep you are working with, most likely gets a bonus in some fashion on how many contracts or rooms they book each year.  They need those year end contracts to meet bonus in many instances.

In 2009, when the economy tanked, we went into overdrive on contracting meetings all the way through 2013.  Our members have raved about the deals that we negotiated for them.  The key is:  we saw the opportunity and seized the moment to take advantage of a very soft economy.  That still exists today for a little while longer, hence we are about to complete contracts for our meetings through 2017 with some very good value around the country.

If your #1 goal is to deliver member value, you are missing the boat by not leveraging the hotel and sales rep's motivation to close contracts by year end.  If there is a time the hotel will say "YES" to the things you need to maximize attendance, the last month of the year is it!  And guess what...when they say yes to the things you really need, that creates member value by making your meeting more exciting or more affordable for members to attend.

Here are a few things that I feel have worked well for MTI in getting some amazing deals and partnerships with hotels:

Use a Third Party for Site Selection and Contract Negotiations
With so many venues available, I feel it's a must for meeting planners to use a third party, or the local CVB to assist in finding the right venue and negotiate the contract with the final choice.  First, it doesn't cost the association a dime to use those services.  Secondly, if you use the right one, they provide you an easy-to-read spreadsheet for you to quickly make a short list for site visits.  Third, you leverage the amount of business they have on the books with hotels as well.  Think about it, if a hotel upsets one association meeting planner, they may lose one 400 room night event...upset a third party and you could lose thousands of room nights from the many clients they represent.

Pick the Hotel You Want and Tell Them It's Their's to Lose
I know many meeting planners who don't get everything they want because they spend so much time playing all the hotels against one another.  This is a huge waste of time in my opinion.  My experience has been, when you look the hotel rep in the eye and say, "We have analyzed all the sites and proposals, and this is YOURS TO LOSE", all of the sudden the hotel rep gets real serious and they really work hard to meet your rate and concession requirements.  Making that statement says, "we want you to be our partner and we need these certain items to help us maximize attendance and revenue to your hotel."

Know the F & B Spending and Value of Your Ancillary Member Spending
This is a biggie for any association.  Hotels want associations to come who bring not just room rate revenue, but spa, bar, food, and group activity revenue.  Share with them your need to work on a rate that helps you maximize your attendance; that will maximize their food & beverage and ancillary attendee spending.  The more numbers you can put to that, so you can let them know the other types of revenue your group will bring to the hotel, the better rates you can command.

The Key to Getting is Knowing What You Can Live Without
In the art of negotiations, everyone wants to feel like they gained something, or didn't give away their best hand.   As a meeting planner, you can't ask and expect everything.  You need to be a profitable piece of business for any hotel, or you won't get the first class service you want for your members.  When looking at your list of concessions and the rate you are trying to obtain, make sure to know which items you are able to let go of and what is the top end rate you can afford to have for your members.  If you are able to let the hotel win on some items, they are more inclined to work with you in other areas, and give you a much better rate.

For me, the goal is to get from the hotel the best set of rate and concessions that help us put the best team on the field to win the game of "maximizing attendance."  Sometimes that looks different from venue to venue, but knowing your various meeting revenue streams to the hotel, and how your meeting flow impacts your member's spending habits, can go a long way to getting everything you need to create  the maximum member value at your meetings.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

5-Stages to Building Believers in Your Association

Every month, we as association executives, strive to build a value proposition and brand that make our association a priority in our member's daily course of business or personal development life.  When the dues renewal hits their desk, it is one of the top priorities to be paid.  In a bad economy, it's the one bill that doesn't get dropped.

Those are called BELIEVERS!  Everyone else is just members.  So do you have BELIEVERS or just members?

BELIEVERS are part of a revolution.  Members are part of an association.  So is your association part of a revolution of change or just an association providing services.

BELIEVERS believe they have a competitive advantage by being a member.  Members just belong.

Creating BELIEVERS in your association is about building a relationship with a member long before they are ever a member.  It's no different than dating towards marriage, making sales calls to convert a huge customer, or getting a big donor for a foundation.  Those don't happen without the following 5 key elements taking place first.   Creating BELIEVERS in your association is no different.

My question is, "how many of your association action steps with meetings and communications fall into the first 4-blocks before someone is a member and the first year after they are a member?" 

 The five key steps to building BELIEVERS are as follows:

People want to know they can trust you in all your efforts and activities...especially when they are giving you money.  A lot of associations suffer because their members don't really trust their activities...especially the "good old boy network" syndrome.  Trust is built when the association's actions match up with their words, and those actions and words are deemed highly valuable assets to their development or success.

After trust comes Developing Care.  Do your actions at events and your communications say, "We really care about your needs and want to help?"  Or does it say, "We want you to buy this membership so we can stop our retention falling off the cliff?"  Developing CARE comes more from asking questions about what a member needs and wants for their development and success, than shoving what the association can do for them down their throat until they join.
This is one most associations struggle with.  This is all about your value proposition.  Your relevance is the center of creating your revolution.  It's critical your association leadership establish "what you can do for your members that they cannot do for themselves, and that are really meaningful to them."  Once you do this and move forward with action steps to make them happen, you gain immediate relevance to your industry.

This is the area when people are on the verge of joining or have joined.  From here, they are tapping into your information, meetings, financial data, programs and services, and experiencing the personal or profitable growth that comes from being a member of your association.

This is where members make the change to BELIEVERS.  They see a tremendous difference in themselves personally or in their business by being a member of your association.  Your association now becomes a priority for them...they get involved.  They want to do more to be a part of the association REVOLUTION. 

My question is simple, "if you put the above diagram up on the wall and stuck a pin in for all your actions in the categories they belong, where would they be?"  For most associations, they would all be near REAL CHANGE.  Most associations don't care about you until you become a member.  With that attitude, all you get are members with a low retention rate.  You are stuck needing to generate more new members than you lose so your membership trend doesn't move south.  

ACTION ITEM:  Put the above diagram up on a board and put a pin in the block you feel your events and communications belong in.  Be honest.  Don't put them in places to make you look good...put them where they belong.  If you have very few in the first 3 blocks, you need to reshape your member recruitment and member engagement plan.

Building members is about a financial transaction.  Building BELIEVERS is about a relationship that you can trust us, we care about you, and we are relevant to your cause.  Tap into your BELIEVERS today, and build your industry REVOLUTION!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

PARTY: To Refresh, Revive, Energize

We are now on the final "P" in the Power of "P" series.  This "P", in some sense, is the most powerful "P" of all because it is the one you actually engage in, that brings out the "real you"...he one that drives your inner soul to refresh your spirit in life.  It's the PARTY in all of us.

Let me ask you something.  What do you think of when you hear someone say.... "That guy/girl knows how to Party?"  I'm always amazed when the word "Party" is used in the same sentence with someone's name, people associate that person as being a crazy drinker, out until 4 a.m., or takes things past the extreme.

I want to change your thinking on the word PARTY.

You see, to me, being someone who knows how to really "Party in life"means you know how to live life within your world that engages your inner most soul, refreshes your spirit, energizes your emotions, and strengthens your body.

For some, Partying is sitting on a beach reading a good book.  Others, it's hiking through the mountains taking in the awesomeness of creation.  For others, like me, it is dancing to amazing music deep into the night.  I love the energy and exercise of dancing.  It's an activity that makes me feel incredible both emotionally and physically, especially when I'm out with my closest friends.

If you have been told your entire life that it's a sign of growing up to leave the excitement of your youth, and go out and living life, then I would encourage you to turn away from that thinking.  Embrace the concept that you can "Party Like a Rock Star" in life and also be great at what you do...as well as be responsible.

Life is about a blend and balance.  To feel the ultimate joy in life, it's imperative you have a blend and balance of fun, excitement, social networking, and responsible purpose.

ACTION STEP:  Think about what engages your soul and do it as often as you can.  As I always say during our conferences.... LETS PARTY!!!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

PURSUE: What Stops You?

My last eight posts have outlined the keys to defining your PURPOSE, discovering your PASSION, deciding your PRINCIPLES, setting your PRIORITIES, surrounding yourself with good PEOPLE, putting together a PLAN, getting over your PAST and being in good PHYSICAL shape to achieve all that you want to achieve in life.

The 9th "P" focuses on taking the steps to PURSUE all that you have prepared and planned for.  So many people get everything in order and for some reason do not PURSUE their dreams.  For many it's because they don't have all the "Ps" in alignment, they fear failure; many even fear success, or they have been told they will never amount to anything so why pursue success.  

The key to PURSUING is making the "decision" to PURSUE.  That's it.  If you have worked through all the P's noted in my posts and feel good about them all, then the only decision to make is to take the first step towards your dream.  Don't let anyone tell you that you can't make it.  Don't let distractions or time wasters keep you from achieving your dream...eliminate them, GO FOR YOUR DREAMS, and execute your life plan you have built!

Remember why people tell you can't achieve things...they don't believe in themselves or their dreams, so the way they make themselves feel good is to make everyone around them feel less worthy or incapable of achieving their dreams.  This ensures that they aren't left behind by their friends who ARE chasing their dreams.

SHORT TERM ACTION STEP:  Each Sunday afternoon, sit down and write down the steps you need to take in the next week to continue the PURSUIT towards your PURPOSE and dreams you have established for your life.

LONG TERM ACTION STEP:  Open up your day-timer and write in the action steps that you know you need to take in 30 days, 90 days, and 6-months out to PURSUE your PURPOSE and achieve your dreams.  By doing this, these are in your plan and can't get lost.  

Remember, the difference between an average life and a great life, is simply the courage and willingness to PURSUE.

Seize the moment today!  Get your "Ps" in alignment and make the decision to PURSUE your dreams. Don't let people, your past, or circumstances stand in your way.  Make today, the start of the rest of your life!

Monday, September 24, 2012

PHYSICAL Self: Do I Have What it Takes to Achieve Greatness

Wow... this is one of the Power of "P's" that will hit home with a lot of people.  When I do my live session on the Power of "P" and ask everyone to discuss which one of the 10 P's do you struggle with the most, outside of their PAST, their PHYSICAL well-being is always one of the top two.

Lets face it... if you aren't 100% physically, you can't give 100% of yourself as a leader of any group of people or organization.   How we feel physically affects so much of our emotions and decision making.  When you are not healthy physically, it leads to a higher number of poor decisions and mood swings.   Knowing that, it makes sense for you to do everything you can to take good care of yourself.

Everyday, people depend on you to be at your best so you can function at the highest levels of success.  Your association members, your staff, your family, and groups you volunteer for, need you to be on your game so you can be there when needed.

The crazy thing with being healthy is so much is in our control:
  • We can get more sleep
  • We can work out
  • We can watch what we eat
  • We can watch what we drink
  • We can get our annual physical
  • We can take the medication the doctor prescribes for any illnesses
There are a lot of health issues that are out of our control and there isn't much we can do when they occur.  My goal today is to encourage everyone in the areas we have great control over.

Most healthcare costs are driven by a number of conditions that we can have influence on including:
  • Obesity
  • Heart Conditions
  • High Blood Pressure & High Cholesterol
  • Liver Issues
The following chart was taken from Men's Health Network to illustrate controllable risk factors and their relationship to chronic diseases.  Take a look:

As you can see from the top line, poor decisions about your health greatly enhance the opportunities for you to have poor health, which will eventually work its way into your job performance.

I want to encourage everyone reading this blog to take charge of your physical and emotional health today.  Take the steps to ensure you are healthy.  See a professional if you have to.  When you are healthy, you feel great, which leads to building confidence and better job performance.

Just because you are not on a professional sports team, doesn't mean you don't have to be in shape.  The rigors of leading an organization, at any level, can be demanding both physically and mentally.  It's critical you have an effective training plan that includes:
  • Periodic reading on leadership and management to keep your mind healthy with new ideas
  • Some type of physical activity; training 3 to 4 times a week
  • A balanced diet
  • Networking with friends to keep your social mind fresh
  • Take a look at other habits or decisions you make that can lead to poor health and seek advice on them
A recent study showed 37% of America is considered obese, and by 2030, 50% of America will be obese.  For many, they can take control of their bodies and not be one of those statistics.

There is nothing wrong with, "work hard, play hard."  The question is..."are you being responsible in your playing hard, or are you working out hard so you can play hard without diminishing your health?"  Put a plan together today on how you will begin to take better care of yourself so those who depend on you, can count on you, because they know you care enough about yourself to take care of yourself.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

If You Don't PLAN, You Don't Maximize Success

One of the most important of the 10 "P's" is the process of PLANNING.  Planning is what gives your association, or life, the sense of organization.  It allows you to work through each facet that can impact you, and prepare for it.  Remember, you need to quit planning for a future you cannot predict, and start planning for the future you WANT!  It's a totally different mindset when you pursue what you want.  Most people wonder around lost in disbelief because they can't predict the future, and forget they actually have control of many things that can help them achieve their purpose.

The key to any plan is to have it written down someplace.  If it's written down, you can be held accountable to it.  A plan without accountability is no plan at all.

When looking at your plan over time, you need to see three things:

1) Where did I want to be,
2) Where am I, and
3) A plan of attack to make up the difference quickly if there is a gap.

The problem with any planning in life or business, is many do not write them down, leaving them to wing it.  A year later, they are wondering why they are still in the same place spinning their wheels.

The key is to make a plan, write it down, and ask the three questions above throughout the plan.

Your plan should be specific enough to keep you on course towards your purpose, but agile and flexible enough to take on new opportunities that may allow you to reach your purpose quicker, or in a way you never thought possible.

There are lots of different planning styles and programs...I frankly think they over-complicate the process.  You spend 8-hours analyzing what you could have found out in about 3-hours.  After years of going through many different planning styles, I've boiled it down to a few simple steps.  I use this in both my personal life, as well as, our association planning.  Here are the steps:

Step One:  Identify Your Threats to Achieving Your Purpose

On your journey of achieving your purpose, various obstacles are going to get in the way.  They may be the economy, an ineffective boss, divorce, or a competitor.   Regardless of what they are, you need to identify what those threats are, and then determine whether they are controllable or uncontrollable.  If they are uncontrollable, write down what you should do as a contingency if it were to occur.  If it is controllable, this is where you want to put your real effort.  I have found in my life, most people are so worried about what they can't control, they forget to be 100% effective and focused in what they can control.

Step 2:  Identify the Resources You Have At Your Disposal to Achieve Your Purpose

These are the tools you will use to overcome the obstacles in step 1, and take advantage of opportunities that come your way.   Resources may be your job, your network of people,  or training you are involved in.  After you have a full list of resources, brainstorm what resources you need to acquire to be more effective at achieving your mission for life, or your association.  Once you have this full list, you have all the tools you need to be successful.

Step 3:  Ask Yourself Three Questions:
  1. What am I doing now that I should be doing differently?
  2. What I am not doing that I should be doing?
  3. What am I doing that I should stop doing because it's done?

After deciding what your purpose in life or business is, performing these three simple steps helps to keep you on track with minor adjustments, as opposed to waking up one day and having to create radical change because you let yourself go adrift.

I want to make one final point on planning in the area of life...this is soooo important.  I think everyone should have a plan in the areas of physical health, emotional development, spiritual growth, and financial accumulation.  I want to end on the financial accumulation issue because it is a biggie.  Many people think the illustrious notion of retirement, "just happens."  They spend their entire life having fun, and then wake up at 60 with the reality that they don't have enough saved to quit working, or have the option to enjoy life.  I want you to take a close look at the following chart.  It represents the four stages of life.  Stage one is childhood through college.  Stage two is mid 20's and early marriage.  Stage three is your mid 30's though retirement.  Stage four is actual retirement.  You spend your entire life pushing the ball of savings up the hill hoping to get to the final stage and retire.  The data at the social security office tells us that of all adults who reach 25 years of age, 69% of those people will have their ball roll all the way back down the hill at age 65, and have to depend on others for one or more of housing, healthcare, transportation, and food.

I want to highly highly encourage everyone reading this post to take the time to sit down NOW and access your financial risk plan.  Things that cause the ball to roll backwards include divorce, daughter's weddings, unexpected disability/death, taxes, job change, being fired, etc.  These are all "threats" to your idea of retirement in the future.  The earlier you put a plan in place, the less expensive it is to cover the risk and do something about it.  If you want to have a $50,000 a year income at 65, you need at least $1,000,000 in the bank.  Are you on target to have a million in savings at age 65.  If not, get serious now about a plan.

Don't let another day go by without putting some thought into where you are, where you want to be, and a plan to make up the gap if one exists.   When you are in the second half of your life, you will very happy you did.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Your PAST... The Obstacle to Ultimate Success

This week, the focus of "The Power of P" is on you looking at your PAST.

Lets face it, many people know their PURPOSE and PASSIONS, have their PRIORITIES in order, have solid PRINCIPLES and are surrounded with great PEOPLE, and still never achieve their maximum potential because of one thing.  Their PAST.

In today's world, there is a lot of hurt and pain in individuals.  That pain leads to fear, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, hesitation, and an unwillingness to take risk.  All of these are huge obstacles in people achieving their maximum potential in life. 

Most of that pain is related to your PAST.

Many people have pain from divorce, abuse, bad relationships with their father, mother, boyfriends, girlfriends, or just life experiences.  Too many give "subconscious" control of their emotions over to those who have hurt them in their life.  Because of that hurt, they never move forward and achieve all the potential and excitement they desire for their life. 

You need to eliminate the negativity of your past.  You need to eliminate time-wasters from your life.  You need to know you were put here for a PURPOSE and a PEOPLE to serve.  Don't let your past and negative people drown your dreams.  Eliminate them and pursue your dreams with all your might.

In order for you to experience a life of freedom and to maximize your potential, you must let your past go.  You must turn from looking backward, so you can put focus on the future.  When it comes to experiencing the fun, excitement, opportunities, and freedom that life has to offer, your past is like a huge bag of rocks weighing you down.

Letting your past go, means dealing with your unfinished business.  Unfinished business means facing your past.  This means having the "discussion" with whoever was involved to reconcile the issue and   most importantly, "FORGIVING" whoever wronged you.

Forgiveness is the most important part of this process.  Remember, forgiveness is not about letting someone off the hook.  It's about unstrapping the bag of rocks on your back with all the pain and letting it go.  Let your past be a set of lessons for a brighter future.  Not a set of obstacles that break you down and keep you from your future.  To forgive, you don't even have to talk to the person, you can simply write a letter, an email, or just in your mind, have that conversation with yourself and forgive the other person.

From there...you walk forward in FREEDOM with a renewed feeling of joy, excitement, and optimism.

If you have a desire to experience the ultimate life, do whatever it takes to wipe away the pain of the past.   Let today start the rest of YOUR LIFE.  Your future awaits you!

Monday, June 25, 2012

PEOPLE...You Are Who You Surround Yourself With

This week we will focus on the 5th "P"... PEOPLE.

Now that you have defined your PURPOSE, discovered your PASSION, decided your PRINCIPLES, and set your PRIORITIES, it is a must that you surround yourself with great people to pull life and business off successfully.

I've learned throughout my entire life that there are few vital things to remember when you look at the PEOPLE part of your life.
  • You never "ARRIVE" and know everything (we all need people)
  • You CANNOT do "life" alone
  • You ARE the PEOPLE you surround yourself with
  • Choose them WISELY
People are a MUST in life.  It's too busy, chaotic, and tough to try and do it alone.  To be successful, you need to master the art of networking and grow a group of people around you who know your heart, soul, and mind, and can give you incredible advice on big issues.

Networking is perpetual, so NEVER STOP networking.  You never know when someone can help you years down the road.

Let's side bar to being a master networker...there are some keys in growing your power network around you.  Here are a few:
  • It is a MUST Life Skill
  • It is all about the CONNECTION
  • Focus on finding INTEREST GROUPS you want to grow in
  • Get connected to at least two MENTORS
  • KNOW yourself and; others  (be a master of the 4-personality types)
  • LISTEN more than you speak
  • GIVE more than you receive
  • Give WITHOUT expectation
  • Always have BUSINESS CARDS on hand
  • Be VIRAL (Online)
  • Remember NAMES
  • Not everyone will LIKE YOU (that's okay)
  • Minimize or eliminate TIME-WASTERS
The key to people is to find people who challenge you to grow, are not afraid to tell you what you need to hear, ask the hard questions, are there when you need them, and most importantly, encourage you in your life journey.

When choosing to surround yourself with the right people, choose people of character.  Character is defined as someone whose beliefs and behaviors are in direct alignment.  They say what they mean and mean what they say. 

Choose people who are better than you are.  Think about it...if you want to improve your golf game, you don't ask someone who shoots 10-strokes worse than you, how to improve.  ...you ask someone who is shooting 10-strokes better than you.  The same holds true in business and in life.

The greatest leaders, business owners, and successful people in life, surround themselves with a TEAM of people who will help them achieve their goals.  Start looking at your Linkedin, Facebook, and Outlook contacts.  Are the people in your network, both online and offline, the people who can help you reach your goals in life?  If not, it doesn't mean you need to alienate those from your life, but it tells you that you need to expand your networking to meet some new people who will help you achieve success.

Step out of your comfort zone.  Look at your PURPOSE, PASSIONS, PRINCIPLES, and PRIORITIES, and start assembling the network of PEOPLE that can help you achieve excellence, excitement, and success.

Do it TODAY and make today the START OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!

Monday, June 4, 2012

PRIORITIES... Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Now that you have Defined Your PURPOSE, Discovered Your PASSIONS, Decided on Your PRINCIPLES, it's now time to get your PRIORITIES in order.  PRIORITIES are an association or individual's visual display of their actions, matching up with your words.  Specifically in two areas:

1) Where you spend your time
2) Where you spend your money

It has been said, "you can tell a man/woman's priorities and what he/she believes by looking in his/her calendar and checkbook, to see where they invest their time and money."

This is so true.  When I do my "Power of P" talk, I have everyone answer a set of 10 basic questions.  I'm never amazed at how many come back with the following:
  • How many hours do you work a week:  75
  • How would your spouse rate the quality time you spend with her on a scale of 10:  3
  • How would your children rate the quality time you spend with them on a scale of 10: 4
  • What is your top PRIORITY in life:  My Family
This simple example illustrates that family is NOT their top priority, but work is.  Now there are times when, in order to provide for the family, that someone must work more than 40 to 50 hours a week.  Knowing that, what would change this dramatically is if the ratings of quality time from the spouse and children were 8's or 9's.  This would say that even though your time is having to be pushed more towards work at the present time, your #1 priority is still your family.  And your family KNOWS it.

This is so true in associations as well.  More often than not, associations are characterized as a "good old boy network."  A good way to way to judge that is to look at where they spend the association's time and money, and how big of an impact it is having on the "full" membership.  Is it only benefiting a certain sector of the membership, or is the leadership making decisions that are for the good of the full membership?  Are your actions matching up with where your strategic action plan says you are supposed to be spending your money and time?

I have learned in both my professional association and personal life, that if your list of PRIORITIES are not in alignment with your PURPOSE, PASSION, and PRINCIPLES, you will experience conflict and frustration within your membership, yourself, and those around you (your Board, members, family, wife, children, etc).

As an Association and in personal life, it is critical that you have your priorities written down and ask yourself:  Do those we serve see our PRIORITIES matching up with our PURPOSE, PASSION, and PRINCIPLES?  If not, it's time to make some changes.

Take time over the next week to look at the following:  PRIORITIES for your Association and you personally, and ask yourself... are our actions matching up with our words?

Association Priorities

1) Layout your action items in your strategic plan from top priority to the last
2) Look at where your funding in your annual budget is allocated
3) Look at where staff and volunteers spend their time

Does the time and money you are spending have your association headed in the right direction, given the mission and action items outlined in your strategic plan?

Are your priorities aligned to help solve your members deepest problems and threats to their business?

Me and My Son
If the answers to these questions are not a resounding "YES", then you either need to change direction, or realign your priorities.

On a personal level, I would challenge you to take the following typical priorities in a person's life and list them from highest priority down to the lowest priority.  Afterwards, look at your day-timer and checkbook...better yet, have those around you (your wife, kids, and friends put these in order for you).  ...Talk about a humbling experience!

List of Priorities (put them in order related to where you spend your time/money)
  • Wife
  • Children
  • Other Family
  • Work
  • Faith
  • Volunteering (church/nonprofit work)
  • Friends
  • Personal Health
Investing time to make sure your professional and personal PRIORITIES are in alignment will pay huge dividends in member value, loyalty, and greater bonds with your family and friends.

Bottom line...let your actions match your words, and you will begin to experience the "Ultimate Life."

Next week I focus on #5 of the 10 P's...  PEOPLE.  Don't miss it!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Now that you have engaged your thoughts about defining your Purpose and discovering your Passions, the third element to living the "ultimate life" is to decide what Principles are you going to live by.  The dictionary defines Principles as:  a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived, a fundamental doctrine or tenet, a personal or specific basis of conduct or management, or a guiding sense of the requirements and obligations of right conduct.

The key words in the definition are truth, personal, conduct, guiding, requirements and right conduct.

You see, your principles are what guide your conduct, your heart, and your beliefs which speak to your character and integrity.  Principles are the road map of how you will go about accomplishing anything in your life.  They will determine the types of people you will surround yourself with, the type of actions you will take, and how you make key decisions.

When people look at you, what kind of Principles do they see in you?  When you are walking towards people in your company, what are they thinking about you as you approach?  How do you make people feel as you approach without saying anything?

Your Principles people see in you, drive what they think about you and how willing they are to help you.  If people do not think you are trust worthy, you will have a hard time finding people willing to help you.  If people see you as a user of people, you won't find people willing to step out on a limb for you.  If people don't see you as a hard worker, they will not be willing to jump on your team and work hard for you.

The key to Principles in your life is asking yourself:

- Who are my biggest influences in life?
- What do I believe in the areas of trust, truth, honesty, ethics, integrity, work ethic, friendships?
- What do I expect from other people?
- What are people's perceptions of me?
- Do my actions match up with my beliefs and what I say?
- Am I doing the right things when no one's watching?
- Who do I go to for advice when I'm in need of guidance?
- What books to I read do strengthen what I believe in life?

One of the the most comforting emotions in life is the "confidence" you have when someone says something and you can take what they say "to the bank" because their actions always match their words.  It breeds confidence in the workplace as a leader, in relationships as a mate, and especially in friendships.

I've seen one lie break 10-years of friendship.  I've seen people fired over dishonesty.  We have all seen marriages broken over mistrust.   Your Principles dictate how everything takes place in your life.  The question is....are your Principles aligned with your Purpose and Passions?

If you are running off course, in achieving your purpose, the first place to start is looking at the Principles that guide your life.  Look at your life purpose, your passion statement, and ask yourself... Is what I believe (My Principles), going to get me where I want to go?  If not, its time to rethink your Principles.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Life PASSION Statement Can Mean Everything

Everyday, people wake up in a fog.  You could be one of them.  You go through life each day doing the same mundane tasks.  You get up...you go to work...you come home...you do chores around the house...you go to bed...you get up and repeat.  This mundane activity ultimately drives you crazy over time.  One day, you wake up years later and feel like you have wasted years of your life with no passionate energy that gives you LIFE.

One of the most amazing reasons I love working for an association is it is an open forum to make a difference in people's lives...to transform their being from going no where, to heading somewhere.   Associations are all about making a difference and transformation.  The question is, are you working in the association for the "one thing" you have a passion for?  Is it the disabled, needy children, helping war vets, or sports?  You name it, there is an association for anything and everything. 

I've been working in association management since February 20, 1995.  I remember it like it was yesterday, and everyday has been an incredible journey.  It hasn't come without its set of challenging moments, but when your purpose is in place and you are serving in your area of passion, challenges are always seen as opportunities, not obstacles.

If purpose gives you a direction, then passion is what defines you.   It's what gives you energy everyday because you are working or serving in an area that creates an emotional excitement in your life.

What you are passionate about is what causes you to take ACTION in life.  My questions to you are:
  • What are you accomplishing with your life?  
  • What gets your blood boiling?
  • What do you care about?
  • What people would you like to serve/help?
  • What would you do if money was no object?
  • What would get you excited everyday to get out of bed?
  • Who would you help everyday of work for no pay because you loved it?
  • What is your hobby?
Some of mine are:  I LOVE playing drums...it drives my emotional high.  I LOVE dancing to 70's and 80's music...it makes me feel good physically.  I LOVE speaking to groups of people on life and association management.  I LOVE seeing them write down action steps to help them transform their lives.  I love making videos that share stories of how associations are making a difference in people's lives.  ...bottom line, I LOVE PEOPLE and HELPING THEM achieve success.

If you like your job, but it's not exactly your passion, check out the local charitable organizations in your city and decide which one allows you to help those you feel most passionate about.  If you don't like your association, start panning the globe for the association that you pinch yourself everyday and say, "I can't believe I get paid to do this."

Make a commitment today to design your Life Passion Statement and live it out.  Someone out there needs your passion in their challenging life.

Tom's Life Purpose:  To engage people in conversation and network them with others to help them reach their maximum potential to live a deeper and rewarding life experience.

Tom's Life Passion:  Seeing people go from "I'm struggling", to "I LOVE my LIFE!"

Next week I will share about the 3rd "P"...life PRINCIPLES..

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Achieving the Ultimate Life in Associations - The Power of "P"

Serving People on Mission Trips
Over the last year, there has been a lot of talk and blogging on how associations can be more human to take advantage of the human capital that exists in the workplace and industry.  While an association that taps into the human spirit of its people is the greatest possibility, a lot of associations do not have this quality.  The question is...what do you do as an individual while your organization is looking for that human spirit?  Lets face it, you spend the majority of your life at work and it needs to be a fun, exciting, and encouraging place to be.  Most people allow work to dictate the spirit of their life, both professionally and personally, because of the pressures of performing, a horrible boss/ supervisor, or just a bad work environment.

I'm hear to tell you it doesn't have to be that way for you as an individual.  You can be better than that.  You can rise above your circumstances to be so much more than what you are experiencing in the work place.  You can achieve the ultimate life if you put focus on a ten key areas I'm going to talk about over the course of the next several weeks.

I have found in my life that the letter "P" has more power words than any other letter, and can help you live the "ultimate life" if you choose to pay attention to them.  There are ten key words that can reshape your life at work and home...words that can begin to overflow from you into your other co-workers, where you begin to change the organization from the inside out.  No longer are you going to go home blaming your organization for your crappy day because it isn't a great place to work.  They will no longer have that kind of control over you because you are going to make a choice to be more than that...to see a vision for your life that allows you to experience the ultimate life everyday.

The first of these power words is PURPOSE.  The definition of PURPOSE is "the reason for which something is done or created, or for which something exists."  The key words here for you are "for which something exists."  My question for you is why do you exist each day?  The most successful and happiest people have figured this out.  They have a center focus on why they were created, why they exist and who they were created to serve.  The heat of a bad day at the office or a supervisor screaming at them doesn't get them down because their "purpose in life" is much bigger than that one moment that most likely will not mean anything one week later.

The People Lives I Impact
If you don't think PURPOSE is a big deal, then why do so many reach 40, 50, even 60 years of age and look back asking themselves after all that time, "What has my life meant?  Why was I put here?  Would it even matter if I disappeared?"

My PURPOSE is to engage in peoples lives, to help them progress forward towards purpose and away from pain.  I like helping people solve the pain in their life so they are free from the troubles that keep them from enjoying each day.  Don't be that person that lives most of your life without a life PURPOSE.  Define it on paper and live it out in reality.

So my challenge to you, is define your purpose is in life today.  Here are a few questions to contemplate as your PURPOSE:
  • What brings the most meaning to your life? 
  • What people or cause do you feel for and want to help?
  • What life experiences have you had that has prepared you to serve?
  • What gets you excited when you see the progress
  • Where do you feel the most reward when its accomplished
Whatever it is, figure it out today.  It will change your life forever and make every day a great day no matter how un-human your association seems to be.  Stop blaming them.  Don't give them that control over your life.  Take control of your PURPOSE today.

Once you define your PURPOSE, nothing can shake your character, your emotions, or your strength.

Tom's Life Purpose:  To engage people in conversation and network them with other to help them reach their maximum potential to live a deeper and rewarding life experience.

Next week, I will blog about "P" #2....  Discovering your PASSION.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Return on Management.... Is Your Team Worth Your Board's Investment

As this past year ended and my review by my Board of Trustees was upon me, I contemplated a number of metrics I could provide them that could share in the big picture what our management team’s value has meant to the association over time.  I needed a number that quantitatively could, in the big picture, sum everything up, and that everything pointed to:

  • Was membership growing or declining?
  • How was our management cost in relation to other associations our size?
  • Were members participating in programs?
  • How was the net worth of the association performing?
  • Were association expenses in line?
  • Was meeting attendance growing or declining?
It was too much to push through and show metric after metric.   I didn’t want to show tons of trends.  I needed one metric, one trend line that everything pointed back to….a metric that every number, and all activities led to.

Meet the Geeks!
Then it hit me.  If we were to judge an investment such as a mutual fund, we would ask ourselves annually, for the amount of money we invest in the stock, how much is it worth at the end of the year?  That gives us a return on investment or ROI.  Looking at this number at the end of each year over time provides you a trend analysis of whether you should continue to invest or make an adjustment in your portfolio.

As I thought this through, I realized that we could provide the very same analysis for the management of an association.  We call it Return on Management (ROM).  ROM shows for every dollar invested annually into the management of your association, how much money is your association worth.  The calculation is an easy one to perform:

If the association is managed by an Association Management Company (AMC):
Total net worth of the association divided by the AMC annual fee

If association is NOT managed by an (AMC):
Total net worth of the association divided by the total of salaries, payroll taxes, employee benefits, the cost of office space, and expenses associated with maintaining an office.

ROM is Key to Inspiring Staff to Change
Here is a sample calculation: if the association’s total net worth is $800,000, and the total cost to manage it is $330,000, then the return on management (ROM) is $2.42.  What this says is, for every $1 the association invested in management, it has $2.42 in net worth.  Over time as management fees rise or fall and the association net worth rises and falls, the ROM metric gives you a trend line to help you quickly identify if you are on the right path or have a problem.

Keep in mind, this number doesn’t mean a thing for one year.  The power in this metric is trending it over time.  Seeing the direction of this number provides an incredible visual to management and staff.  It shows how effective they are as a whole in delivering value and building financial strength for its membership related to the cost of management.  Every activity we do as associations always leads back to increasing or decreasing our net worth.  If we are making good choices as associations, the net worth will rise.  If we make bad choices, the net worth will decline.

We mapped it out for our association and here is what it looked like:

In 1990, our association had $1.40 for every $1 it invested in management costs.  From there, they started a slow gradual decline to .25 cents in net worth for every $1 invested in management costs in 2005.  A 73-year old organization almost wiped out its reserves and didn't see it coming.   If staff and board members had seen this graph annually starting in 1990, I would venture to say that somewhere along the way, early in the 1990’s, change would have been considered.

Fortunately dramatic change happened in 2006, and as you can see, the ROM has turned around and has dramatically risen, and it's now over $2.

I challenge all associations to internally perform this metric on a trend line for the last 10 to 15 years and share it with your staff.    The direction of the line will quickly share with your team, if they are delivering value towards the financial strength of the organization.  It also is a great visual if it's rising, to provide your board a historical perspective on the value of the management team.  Sometimes it's easy for them to forget that value.

Summary is simple….if ROM is trending up, pats on the back, we are on the right path.  If ROM is trending down, change needs to happen...and now.   What is your ROM Trend?