‘3 Ps’ of a Successful Secretariat

Reflecting from Manila, Octavio ‘Bobby’ Peralta, CEO & Founder of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE), highlights the three key pillars of purpose, performance and people when it comes to an efficient association secretariat.

I was going over my old office files during the weekend when I came upon a set of transparency presentation materials. Remember these filmy, clear sheets of cellulose acetate that you write on or print over texts or graphics and lay over an overhead projector? For the younger generation, you probably do not know what I am saying since you came into this world using Powerpoint as a presentation tool!

Today’s column, however, is not about presentation technologies nor techniques; it is about the content of the transparencies that I have uncovered. It was on how to successfully manage a secretariat organization and this is what I wish to share with you. Entitled, “The 3 P’s of a Successful Secretariat,” it highlights the three key pillars of purpose, performance and people.

The first “P”—purpose—is based on Peter Drucker’s definition of the purpose of business, which is “to create and retain customers.” In the context of an association, the customers (and in fact, its owners, too) are its members. The challenge of the secretariat, being the management/executive team of the association, is not only to recruit members, but also how to retain, engage and increase them. In essence: to build and sustain a community of believers and advocates to fulfill its purpose.

To grow and sustain membership, the secretariat has to perform and deliver demand-driven services to its members. This is the second “P”: performance. But mere “performing” is not enough in today’s world. The challenge is to come up with new and “refreshing” services that benefit members. As such, the secretariat has to act in Internet speed and do it with a passion to succeed. Not doing this will compromise the association’s ability to generate the necessary funding and continue achieving the association’s purpose. Performance, therefore, is essential to raising and accumulating financial resources.

The third “P”—people—is the lifeblood of the association. Without good, dedicated, and talented people, the secretariat will be unable to perform well and drift aimlessly. So the challenge is twofold: one, the drive for excellence of the secretariat staff must be sustained and, two, its ability to network and collaborate with others must also be nurtured. In short, people is the engine that drives the secretariat to perform and accomplish its purpose.

Although I must have written this piece decades ago, I believe this is still relevant today. These “3 Ps” remain as guideposts in my continuing work as an association executive at ADFIAP and at PCAAE.

Bobby Peralta is presently the Secretary General of the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific (ADFIAP), the focal point of 106 development banks and other financial institutions engaged in sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region. With over 25 years of experience as an association executive, Bobby Peralta is a long-standing member of and contributor to the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and the CEO & Founder of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE).

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