Lauren Clawson, CPA, is a partner at KRD in Schaumburg, Illinois.
After nearly two years of pandemic stress, associations are looking to strengthen their teams. Using a six-step process, organizations can help ensure everyone is on the same page as they reach for new goals.
While times of stress and uncertainty create hardship, they can also be opportunities for finding clarity and for gaining new appreciation of the people, systems, and relationships that helped to keep your association afloat. With new clarity comes new opportunities to make team members partners in your association’s success. However, for this to happen, you must offer them information. Consider these six steps.
Gather up your team members and revisit your “why” (based on Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why and his TEDx talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”). How did recent events allow you to bring your “why” to life? Where did you come up short in your vision?
Revisiting your association’s “why” and connecting with your teams is a great reset in times of flux. For example, let’s say your association exists to support its members by providing the necessary training to remain competitive in the marketplace. Are you on track?
For team members to support your goals for a given financial period, they must first understand them. Only then can they grasp their role in achieving them. Frontline workers, when given enough education to understand the connection between the actions they take and financial results, become energized and empowered, and begin to change their behaviors in support of the desired outcome.
Once you have measures in place, you need to make progress visible. Dashboards can be as simple as a virtual pop-up on everyone’s screen tracking collections, or keep it low-tech with a dry erase board.
For example do you want to speed up the number of days to collect your membership receivables? Are you trying to increase conference registrations by investing in social media? Do you need to reduce rework costs on a publication?
If so, your success depends on the teams behind these results. They can’t align behind goals they haven’t been given.
Select one goal to start. Then, review the processes associated with that goal, which are a mixture of inputs, actions, and outputs. Brainstorm with your team members, and leave plenty of “space” for them to offer their observations and ideas. Staff at every level know which actions create the most favorable outcomes and can align these with the association’s goals. Those who participate in creation of the plan will always be more invested in its results.
We’ll use “reducing receivable days for membership dues” as our chosen goal in the rest of this article. With that in mind, questions one might ask include: What are the steps involved in membership billing? Are these processes documented?
Your team members should help identify measures that can be used to monitor the activities identified above. Examples of questions you might ask at this point: You need to track membership and collections, but does the level of membership matter? Is collection affected by pairing conference registrations with annual renewals?
Get input from your team. What patterns have they observed? Once you have information, you can focus on measuring different activities. Some questions you might ask: What are the collection days of membership billings sent out same day versus end of month? What is the membership retention by type of membership? What are the collection days by membership type (e.g., organizational versus individual memberships)?
Consider both financial and nonfinancial measures and regularly check for alignment with your goals and overall “why.”
Although this sounds simple, it cannot be overstated: be selective and pick just two to three measures with direct impact. Resist the temptation to do too much. If you measure everything, then nothing is important. You might decide to use key measures like average days to pay or percent of collections more than 60 days past due.
Once you have measures in place, you need to make progress visible. Dashboards can be as simple as a virtual pop-up on everyone’s screen tracking collections, or keep it low-tech with a dry erase board. Maybe you show the percentage of overall members who are current, 30 to 60 days overdue, and over 60 days past due. Let everyone know the goal, what’s being measured, and share progress regularly. To make adjustments, your team needs data as it happens—not six weeks after the end of the event.
Team members can be partners in your association’s success, but they often lack the information they need to see themselves as drivers. When provided enough education to understand the connection between the actions they take and financial results, they become energized and empowered and begin to change their behaviors in support of the desired outcome.