3 Lessons: Schooled in Management

Associations Now November/December 2012 Issue

Classroom experience gave Julie Stelter a model of association leadership.

Julie Stelter
Walden Group
Cedarburg, Wisconsin

Inexperience can be an asset.

"I've had a full career in many professions, but never association management. So I think of the AMC I run as a nontraditional one. [In choosing clients] we look for organizations that are ripe for growth and that make us passionate about their work. 'Growth' can mean a variety of things: the profession is in demand, membership is engaged, there's an undertapped industry. I feel free to make those definitions myself."

Associations are classrooms.

"I started my career in a surprisingly association-like role: I was a high-school teacher. The teacher is the CEO. The students are the members. The principal is your board of directors. Like association professionals, teachers are concerned with engagement, relevance, content, knowledge, and communication. My teaching experience has convinced me that any association's main purpose is to keep its members informed."

Your best work wins.

"In the book Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne describe a business strategy that matches my personal philosophy: If you put good work in, good work will come back in abundance. Recently, a client was worried about a new organization that relied on the same donor base. Instead of engaging in a turf war, the board used careful dialogue and strategic rethinking to find a larger untapped donor base."