Ten years ago, I completed my final week at Institute in Tucson and followed it by serving on the Board of Regents at Villanova for a few years. Like many, I used those class hours to sit for the CAE examination and earned my CAE designation thanks to all of the wonderful Institute instructors and fellow association and chamber executives that I’ve met all the way. You would think that I’ve learned everything I’d need to know to succeed in association management. After all, I’ve been in this career for close to twenty years now. Although Institute can teach you so many things, it can’t teach you everything, but it can give you all the tools to figure things out and set you on a path of lifelong learning.
When I took on the role as the head of the Retail Association of Maine, I had no experience in being a commercial landlord, for example. I inherited a building full of tenants and leases that hadn’t been updated in years. There was a lot of learning along the way like when the copier room flooded after a spring thaw or when a jammed shredder started smoking and set off the fire alarm or the scam artist tenant that took up residence in the building. There must have been an Institute elective that teaches you how to evict a tenant, right? Not exactly, but the class in negotiation certainly helped.
Thankfully, the relationships and networks that sprouted at Institute helped me immeasurably along the way. My association network (and a good attorney) helped us navigate the tenant eviction. I had a good crisis management plan in place for the flood and fire thanks to Institute. I always knew where to turn when we undertook a strategic planning and rebranding initiative. When we needed a membership recruitment refresher, I know who I can call. And I would be remiss if I did not mention that the only reason I knew about the availability of my current role is because I ran into an Institute instructor at a regional event who tipped me off.
Many of my Institute friends are still in “the business” and it’s great to see where their careers have taken them. I have one colleague who recently completed her first year of Institute and another one slated to attend Tucson next January. I have no doubt that they will develop their own relationships and networks that will continue to pay them dividends down the road.