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Association Bisnow
May 6, 2008

CEOs on


That's right, we're continuing our Il Mulino roundtable, where four major association CEOs shared too much wisdom to fit in one issue. This time, the subject turned to Boards of Directors.


Todd Stottlemyer of the National Federation of Independent Business; Harris Miller of the Career College Association; Arent Fox Chairman Marc Fleischaker (who played emcee); Bisnow sponsors extraordinaire Denise Grant of Russell Reynolds and Ellen Herman of The Staubach Company; Cris Collie of WorldWide ERC; and Kyle McSlarrow  of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. Apparently, Denise didn't get our memo requiring participants to wear charcoal suits.

Marc F: How do you select your boards?

We actually have extremely competitive elections. Our candidates file applications, lobby for votes, the whole thing.

Marc F: Are they more engaged because they've competed for the positions?
Harris: I know they take it seriously, and we don't have trouble getting people to meetings-my board would be happy to meet more than we already do. When I was at ITAA, board chairmen had two-year terms instead of the one year our chairman serves now. That's a change we're thinking of-going to two years.
Kyle: The chairman of my board held my job seven years ago, so he knows where I'm coming from on a lot of issues, which is great. We have one-year terms also, though I'd like to see the chairman serve for two years.

Our term is three years. A third rotate off every year so we get a completely new board every three years. Our officers serve one-year terms.  The only automatic extension is the president, who functions like the chief elected officer and chairs the Executive Committee.

Todd: We have 15 members, and they serve three-year terms with a maximum of three terms. Our chairman also serves for three years. We do something that's maybe a little different-we pay our board members. Unless someone is ill, everybody shows up for meetings.
Mark B: Can you give us a sense of the compensation?
Todd: It's $20-25,000 per year, and we have five board meetings. If you miss one, you would receive less money.
Harris: We've talked about something like that, but higher educators do a lot of things out of a sense of duty. I'm not sure how they'd feel about it as a concept.
Marc F: How regular is your contact with your board?

We have an executive committee call once a month.

Kyle: I find myself on the phone to one board member or another almost every day.
Marc F:

Is that to discuss specific questions or do you just make it a point to stay in touch?

Kyle: A little of both, really.
Marc F:

Why do association CEOs so often come from outside the organization?

Denise: Some people want to recruit a number one and a number two at the same time. We advise against that. You can have an overlap between an outgoing CEO and a new one, which can help a transition.  But creating a line of succession is difficult-for one thing, the chemistry might not be there. What we usually tell people is, when you're recruiting for your next leader, recruit for your next leader.
Cris: Another factor is that associations can't afford the bench strength that you have in the private sector.
Marc F: Some associations are going to a dual system of a CEO with a high profile and a COO responsible for management. Is that common?
Denise: Yes, that's a trend we're seeing more of.
Marc F: Are any of you involved in international partnerships?
Todd: Not heavily, but there's a Canadian Federation of Independent Business that was born out of the NFIB.
Harris: For-profit education is still very rare outside the U.S., so the opportunities for that are limited right now. But we have a delegation from China that we'll be hosting.
Kyle: Not us, but I keep telling my board we need an Italian alliance. One that requires lots of trips to Rome and Tuscany.
Arent Fox
Cardinal Bank
Intelligent Office
Congressional Schools of VA
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