Five months ago, I transitioned from a 10-year career as an association exec to being a product manager with MemberClicks (ahem, that’s right, a vendor). I’ve quickly learned some interesting lessons from making the switch to the “dark side,” as some call it. This post will outline these lessons in hopes both association execs and vendors alike identify with them, leading to deeper understanding of commonalities.
1. Value Values
Contributing passionately to a company’s positive culture, no matter what your level of employment, is very important. Negative, secretive or threatening cultures are not worth spreading around. On the flip side, cultures that are positively defined and exhibited feel safe, create loyal evangelists and halt negative attitudes and gossip. Make THAT contagious by valuing the values that create great culture.
2. Relationships Are Key
Picture a person who works with you, who is your mentor, who you first think of when you have a problem to solve. These people who readily come to mind are likely those who you rely on for advice; for information; for products and services; for camaraderie. Undoubtedly, we are more powerful thanks to strong relationships. Don’t squander great connections; nurture them.
3. Don’t Shy Away from Uncertainty
At any given moment, you may feel like you have no idea what is going on or what you’re doing. And that’s OK! Sure, you can try the “fake it ‘til you make it” strategy, but a better approach is transparency. Let people know you aren’t fully “with it,” and ask questions in those instances. You may feel silly for a second, but in the long run, being transparent offers a better opportunity to sharpen your knowledge.
4. Do No Harm
Perhaps one of most simple lessons: Don’t be a liar. Don’t be shady. Be honest. Be open. Sure, there are areas where proprietary discretion and information sensitivity are important, meaning you can’t proactively share everything with everyone. What you can choose to do is anticipate concerns; answer questions to the best of your ability and with a smile on your face; and cushion the blow of bad news. If you set out to first do no harm, the rest will fall into place.
5. Goals: They’re All on You
Times of transition and contemplation tend to force one to get really real about who or what controls one’s destiny. Hint: YOU control your own destiny. Certainly, while you rely on others for support, encouragement and mentorship, results are all on you. And keep in mind that “results” can be success, inaction or even failure. Take it ALL personally! Doing so will make you stronger and it will make you a better business partner and colleague.
6. Maintain Focus
You cannot go through life making decisions based on the idea that everyone is going to like you. Success sometimes means saying no or having a different opinion than the mainstream. And guess what? You will survive making unpopular decisions. You will even survive being disliked. You’ll be ok as long as you focus on being professional and making the best decisions for your organization.
With so many serious moments in business, it’s imperative to have fun and find humor in unlikely situations. For example, when a not-so-jovial board member leaves their wireless mic on while taking a potty break. Yes, that really did happen in my past, and it brought TREMENDOUS comedic relief to very high-stress meeting prep activities. Moral of that story: Don’t forget to smile; it helps you put things in proper perspective.
8. Keep Service First
Finally--and this is a big one--maintain a heart for service. If you keep service at the center:
- you are never wrong;
- your competitors can’t hold a candle to you; and
- your members/your customers will always be #1
So, do any of these lessons sound familiar? It’s probably because each of them is common to both association execs and vendors. We all get buried in expectations and demands and let our differences define and divide us. But no matter what side of the contract you are on, learning lessons based on our similarities will lead to greater productivity, understanding, appreciation and success.
Isn’t that what we’re all after? Vendors and association execs have a lot more in common than face value suggests. In fact, we’re all playing for the same, rockstar team.
Think about it this way: Most vendors, MemberClicks absolutely included, aim to help associations thrive. To find a vendor that will not only help you thrive, but will also be an extension of your in-house team, check out our free guide with questions you NEED to ask a potential AMS provider/technology provider to find that perfect partner.