Whether you’re running an Association or a Chamber of Commerce or you started your own private company, you’re probably struggling with one of the most common issues I see as a consultant:  Clients so busy working IN their organization that they can’t find the time to work ON their organization.  In fact, many don’t have the skill set required to DO it…in large part due to the fact that very few of us actually were trained to run an organization.  I’ll use two examples:  Jay the plumber and Tony, the executive director of an Association.


Jay worked for another plumber in town for 20 years before deciding he could make more money working for himself.  So, he bought a van and some tools and went to work.  The challenge is that there is a WHOLE WORLD of difference between being a plumber and running a plumbing business.  One requires hands-on, technical experience and know-how.  The other involves…well…hands-on, technical experience and know-how, but in a different area or skill set.  Jay will be a very successful plumber, but without taking time to learn how to run a business, he’ll always spend more time working IN the business than he ever could spend working ON his business.  And THAT is where GROWTH happens.  In order for Jay to advance his business past a one-man show, he’s going to need to learn to budget, how to hire employees and pay taxes.  He’ll need to learn to run payroll and marketing and advertising and…the list goes on and on, doesn’t it?  Jay needs to make a choice.  Will he focus intently on the day-to-day, on turning a wrench, or will he make a conscious decision to learn more, to become more, to grow his business into an entity that employs additional people and makes a larger impact in his community and his own bank account?  The opportunities are out there for him.  He could take classes, attend Chamber or Association workshops, via webinars and YouTube videos and even get LIVE help free of charge at the local SCORE or SBDC offices.  But he has to FOCUS.

Tony is no different.  The chances that he (or any of us in Association or Chamber work, for that matter) had any training on how to be a successful Executive Director are pretty slim.  Now, he might have some of the requisite skills from other jobs he’s held in the past, and some of his college coursework might translate, but there aren’t too many of us out there you graduated from college with a degree in Organization Management.  That’s why it’s SO important that we take advantage of every opportunity we can to learn more about working ON our organizations instead of the constant race to put out one fire after the next as they pop up IN our organization.  There are advanced training opportunities available via the WACE Academy and the Institute for Organization Management.  We could attend our state or national conferences for additional workshops and classes.  Our local community colleges offer some interesting courses.  SCORE and SBDC offices in and around our communities provide even more ways we can supplement our skill sets.  And if NONE of that appeals to you or your budget (SCORE and SBDC are free, but OK…) you could always reach out to a colleague in your area and set up job shadowing days to share your knowledge back and forth between you.  Sure, we could settle for the way it’s always been done, but we can strengthen our organizations if we try.  We have to FOCUS.

Regardless of what you do for a living, whether you run a small business or a national Association, there are opportunities out there that will afford you the ability to strengthen your organization.   It’s about what we choose to FOCUS on.  So now it’s YOUR turn.  I want to see some comments below about how you FOCUS on professional development for yourself, your staff, your Board and/or your membership.  If you HAVEN’T been working on it yet, that’s OK…let’s hear what you’re willing, able, and most of all COMMITTED to doing this year to foster that personal and professional development moving forward.