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Association Bisnow
September 27, 2007
Worldwide ERC’s Cris Collie


You’re on the great Pennsylvania Avenue. Why are you moving to Ballston?
Our lease is up in October and the rent was going to double. Economics drove us to move across the river. Working with Cresa Partners, we found a great location at 4401 Wilson Blvd.

Do you see that happening with other downtown associations?
I think it’s likely. It seems the DC location has become harder to justify for the bottom line especially considering the accessibility to the Hill from all areas of the region.

You guessed it: Cris likes golf. His last global golf experience was near a university in Beijing and arranged by school officials who wanted their business students to know something about the game. These golf balls bear the logos of his member companies.

What’s Worldwide ERC?
ERC originally stood for Employee Relocation Council. Today we’ve broadened our mission to address all workforce mobility issues. We have 14,000 members and a budget of $14M.

Who are those members?
HR managers who oversee worker mobility programs in companies like Microsoft that often move their employees around the world. Other members are companies that provide services to relocated employees, such as movers and real estate brokers.

You talk a lot about managing the healthy tension between a member-driven and staff-driven organization. What’s that all about?
Our members own the organization and are engaged as volunteers on task forces. But they’re busy with full-time jobs so it’s a balancing act to keep them engaged while allowing our staff to drive projects. In most associations, the pendulum swings back and forth, and finding the right balance is very important.

So what does Cris read? Leadership books, mostly. Here are two recent titles from his reading list.

How important are your member volunteers?
How you select and use your volunteer talent is really the key to a successful organization. Peter Drucker once said well-run associations were the most efficient of any business organization because they could rely on volunteers to be staff.

How many volunteers do you have at any given time?
About 300. Twenty serve on the board, another 20 on our foundation board, and the balance participate on task forces that typically last 12 months.

How are your 20 board members elected?
Board terms last three years so one-third turn over each year. There is a nominating committee that slates new candidates, and the board votes on them. The members do not vote but there is a petition process. Thankfully, our board elections have not been contentious.

Though Cris brings in special speakers for his annual board retreats, he facilitates the two-day meetings himself.

How often does the board meet?
Three times a year. Two are part of our semi-annual member meetings and one is a two-day strategic planning retreat that we hold here in DC or in a resort setting. I facilitate the retreat but we bring in outside speakers and make it as much a learning experience for the board as official business. For example, last year we had a branding consultant speak which was a great benefit to our board members who took those lessons back to their companies.

Where are your meetings this year?
Our global meeting is at the Hyatt in Denver this fall. It’s a good location because the Denver airport can accommodate members flying in from 40 countries. Last spring we met at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is always our biggest draw.

How do you recruit and retain your professional staff?
We retain a compensation consultant to assess market rates for both non-profit and corporate positions so we can match, and in many cases, exceed market rates. We also have a bonus program that every employee is eligible for. It’s driven by our overall success and profitability as an organization.


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