What Association Execs Think
Lure an association exec from their desk with grilled chicken and burgers, and you'll get lots of insight. That was our tactic during lunch last week at STK in DC.
The mobile revolution is in full swing, but associations aren’t prepared, says ASAE CEO John Graham. Few have mobile apps even though members want to use mobile tech, whether at conferences or consuming content. (We always assumed Angry Birds was put out by the Audubon Society.) John says ASAE has invested heavily in tech, launching a Facebook-esque collaborative site. The association is also sharing content from its members, traditional media, universities, and its daily publication called Associations NOW. It takes mainstream news and makes it relevant to associations.
Private Equity Growth Capital Council CEO Steve Judge says limited resources prevent the 47-member association from doing more with mobile tech. Another challenge is office space. Associations, like most organizations, want to shrink square footage and maximize efficient use of space. And they need to responsibly spend member dues. So what’s going on in private equity? Low rates have driven up prices for sales of portfolio companies, allowing PE firms to return $180B to investors last year. But it also means buying companies is more expensive. (Well, there goes our Christmas stocking stuffers.)
Many associations have shifted their focus to 90% regulatory and 10% legislative. A few years ago, it was the opposite, says Consumer Bankers Association CEO Richard Hunt. He’s grateful Congress is “doing nothing because they’ve done enough.” Meanwhile, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has driven up membership. The economy is looking up, but he's still waiting for jobs and demand for loans to return. Richard says the second half of Q2 was much better than the first half of the year.
American Gaming Association CEO Geoff Freeman (left) encourages his 75 members to pay attention to Washington at a time of dysfunction and more state regulatory activity. He’s also focused on extending the benefits of membership to reach more aspects of the gaming industry. Natural Products Association CEO Daniel Fabricant came on board three months ago from the FDA and says natural product sales have been recession proof, growing in revenue over the last 20 years.
Former National Association of Manufacturers CEO Jerry Jasinowski, our wonderful moderator, says the country is facing a major skill shortage, including 600,000 people needed in manufacturing, that could affect competitiveness. He’s also concerned about political unrest in the world, including ISIS, which is becoming a bigger threat than Al Qaeda. Public policy has shifted to the states and regulators, so Jerry doubts any major piece of legislation will pass this year.
Heidrick & Struggles partner Julian Ha (right) says the talent gap has made the process of executive search even more competitive. Compliance is exploding so he’s seeing more demand for chief compliance officers. Cresa principal Jon Olmstead, who negotiates real estate transactions for associations and nonprofits, says DC is a tenants’ market. Clients still want more efficiency, which means less space but with the same number of workers. Many try to balance an attractive space for recruiting and retention with being prudent so resources can go toward their mission.
Big thanks to Heidrick & Struggles and STK for helping us throw a great lunch discussion.