When improving the performance of one’s association and its competitive position, the classic chicken and egg conundrum springs to mind. What comes first, improving your association’s performance or its competitive position? Let’s dissect our poultry…
Strategy, mission, vision and values
Associations must be driven by these four powerful words. A clear strategy, and common goals derived from this gives an association their measures of success and directive for planning. But what constitutes successful performance – is it footfall at the congress? Meeting member learning and accreditation KPIs? Impact? Is it turning over revenue to exist for another year? Measures of success or failure for one association can be negligible to another when viewed through the lens of their own strategy, mission, vision and values, and is rarely comparable.
Whilst performance is driven from within, we must consider the outer forces of any competition and competitive position. Relevance is critical – is your association’s vision relevant? Is your mission and strategy a reflection of what matters to your community? Is regular competitor analysis prioritized when racing for relevance? Are you developing strategic partnerships to raise your associations profile and widen your audience?
A forward-looking trajectory
Our past informs our future, so analyze your past, but look towards your future. A number of analysis tools exist so make sure you have one that works for your organization. The classic SWOT analysis is a trusty tool; consider using this from time-to-time to help you build on what you are doing well, expose what you may lack, exploit opportunities, and manage risks.
Don’t be afraid to ask hard and important questions – is it time to ‘sunset’ that declining product? Do we need ‘new blood’ from other industries to take us in a new direction? Are you being held back by historical governance structures? Are you investing enough in your people and creating the next generation of leaders?
The rise of open source, the sharing economy, kick-starters and influencers could result in new competition… Stay alert and make sure that you are the competition! Take risks and don’t be afraid to make mistakes; we are in the business of being human after all. Push forward by trial and adjustment and strengthen the community bond. This is the only way to evolve, lead with confidence and continue existing.
Focus on members
Remember that associations are led and valued by people with limited time to invest, so they should be at the core of any association’s mission and vision. Don’t be afraid to open up a dialogue and face the good, the bad and the ugly. What does your association stand for and how can its voice be best heard? Take time to decide what is important to your members and invest in that.
Creating a safe space that promotes a sense of belonging will continually drive your performance as your members cling to their tribe. Embracing, empowering and adding a smile to their faces will ensure they (and therefore you) remain relevant.
Will we ever never really know whether the chicken came first or the egg? Inevitably both are important and one wouldn’t exist without the other, so be passionate about both, optimize your performance and never lose sight of the competition or what makes you competitive.
For organizations wanting to learn more about AC Forum and membership, please visit www.acforum.net