3 Lessons: Small and Sensible

business operations Associations Now July/August 2015

According to Jenifer Grady, CAE, a tight budget can be a blessing in disguise, requiring smart decisions about priorities and future plans. One caveat: Sometimes spending a little more is the right thing to do.

Jenifer Grady, CAE
Executive Director
Nashville, Tennessee

Use smart succession planning.

I am the first full-time executive director of a small-staff association, inheriting the structure (and filing systems) of three part-time predecessors who worked somewhat autonomously. My goal is to ensure that new staff, volunteers, and my successor have an easier time becoming acclimated and efficient. We often think about succession planning in terms of people, but peace also comes with an intuitive system and comprehensive documentation.

Prioritize expectations.

When our association was choosing an association management system, a database expert told me to prioritize what I expect from a system. No system would be perfect, but lower priorities on my wish list could be achieved through workarounds, other vendors, or changing our processes. The same lesson holds true for staff, board members, and me. I keep my sanity by remembering that everything we want and need cannot hold the number-one spot.

Thrift affects reputation.

Saving money is laudable, but not at the expense of your association's reputation. For instance, I should have invested more in cellphone service; it's embarrassing when my voicemails are unclear to the recipient or calls are dropped. The quality of envelope paper weight or a website, or the variety of snacks at a meeting, aren't necessarily luxuries—they can shape perceptions about financial stability and the professionalism with which the association represents its membership.