What the Pandemic Taught Me About Business – Association Hustle Podcast Episode 235



JP Moery learned a lot about business over the past couple of months. Listen to this week’s episode to hear about the five lessons that he learned while leading his company and team through a pandemic.
Hello and welcome to JP Moery’s Association Hustle Podcast. President of The Moery Company, JP’s mission is to arm today’s associations with insight and strategy to thrive and a progressively complex and competitive business landscape. 21st century associations must move forward with a little bit of hustle and revenue development at their core.
Here’s JP.
Today’s topic is about the five things I’ve learned about my business during the pandemic. There’s probably another 25 but I’ve only got time for the top five today.
Here’s a little bit of context – I know we’ve got some new and international listeners so I want to give them a little insights – and a little bit about what The Moery Company does: our company is 10 years old, we are headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, and we have 13 members of our team.
Here’s a breakdown of our revenue:
60% comes from sales. We sell memberships, sponsorships, ads and exhibits for associations.
40% comes from consulting, usually around revenue growth, business models, sponsorship pricing, membership value propositions, categories, and things like that.
We’re 25% up in gross revenue and 40% up in gross profits. And, I can tell you, we are by no means out of the woods and, frankly, we never will be. I’m not sure I’ll ever be comfortable as a business owner ever again. However, we’ve certainly learned some things.
1. Inspired, focused, and motivated people rally. To be honest with you, I’ve seen the best work in the history of the company over the last couple of months. We’ve made 8,000 business contacts during the pandemic on behalf of our clients. We were empathetic, helpful, and absolutely dedicated to those association clients. Our team did the best work ever because it was about the people we were contacting and that made us better salespeople. My past expectations may have been too low for us or we might have been too comfortable. We started to really push and we really knew how important this work was. Business survival, frankly, was at stake. We actually sold memberships and sponsorship, when the economy was absolutely in a lockdown. Meetings weren’t happening. In fact, some associations were very nervous about moving forward.
Here’s a secret: I didn’t think this was possible. However, we move forward. Our team was inspired, focused, and did the best work they’ve ever done.
2. As a business leader, you have another gear. I’ve talked to several business leaders in the last several weeks and they all said a version of this, “Oh my gosh, I’ve never worked so hard my whole life!” Yeah, me neither. What I learned from this is what I thought was my very best would not be good enough for the future. I had this tightness in my chest to do more every day – and I did do more everyday – and I absolutely guarantee you that there’s more in your tank. Working more is now the standard.
I also learned to fight for my business more. We didn’t lower prices. It was tempting, but we didn’t panic. I watched some companies and associations pull up stakes. The fact is that they had less money coming in because they weren’t working for the new revenue or to take advantages of the opportunities that may have been out there. Don’t say no for someone else.
3. Don’t panic and make a plan. I’m not sure I’ll ever be comfortable again. I made three plans in the first week. The first was a big change that we implemented immediately: adjustments to discretionary spending. The second plan was created for a business crisis: significant changes to the team, with reduction of up to 50%. The third plan was for complete catastrophe and survival: stripping things down to one or two people, changing product and service offerings to sustain the business until recovery was possible. The fact that I had those plans in place enabled me to address the things that were right in front of me. Believe me, as you all know, opportunities were right in front of you every day. I wasn’t worried about all the long-term things because I had plans in place if I needed to implement them.
4. Don’t stop, ever. There are businesses, like I mentioned, that pulled up their stakes. They didn’t adapt, they didn’t change, they didn’t make adjustments. Other businesses did everything they could to stay open. I will never understand companies and associations that just stopped and threw up their hands because of an incredible, unprecedented – and hopefully never to come again – storm that we had.
If you have the means don’t stop, ever. Keep moving one step at a time. The associations that we worked with that did that were still thriving during the pandemic.
5. Some changes that were made during the pandemic will become part of the norm for associations going forward. Traditional meeting planner positions have, and will, continue to change. These folks will have to adapt and be better at the overall experience that association members are getting from the meetings, whether they’re face-to-face or virtual. The pace of communications with webinars, Zoom calls, and other types of virtual meetings will continue along with higher frequency of email newsletters. Recently, I saw a study where virtual meetings were going to be up 1,000%. Virtual meetings should stay. This kind of pace is what we need in the association community and I hope we keep it.
Your recent government relations work actually meant something to your members. You weren’t doing it because it was your job. You are doing it because you are trying to help them, and you are. That is why your members were so engaged with all this work. I’ve heard from several government affairs executives who mentioned that they have never had so many people on virtual government relation briefings. Specifically, briefs that covered PPP, reopening and liabilities. You know why? Because this information really matters to them.
We need to have a startup mentality in the association space. Your industry members are going through this and they’re going to be thinking about you and watching what you’re doing at the same when they choose to renew with you, or not, in 2021.
A lot of associations believe that they dodged a bullet because their renewals came in before the pandemic started. Let me tell you, in 2021, they’re going to consider what you did for them during 2020, during this pandemic, and if you helped them stay open. We just joined in association here at our company that we’ve never joined before. Why? Because of all the value we were getting from them such as the insights and the advice that we received during the pandemic. I’ll never forget that.
For the first time ever, in many of our professional lives, associations are seeing significant cuts. That’s not a good thing. A recent study came out saying that 20% of the associations were cutting back staff. Associations are cutting back people and they’re curbing salaries, just like regular businesses are. That means that we’re going to have to be more businesslike in the comeback, in the rebirth, in the rejuvenation of our association industry. And, you know what? We’re going to be better as an industry when we come out of this. Programs that no longer had value and legacy issues are going to go away. We need to support our member companies like our business and our careers rely on it because now they do and for the first time in many of our professional life associations are seeing significant cuts just like our businesses.
What will we look like coming out of this? That’s our greatest challenge. And, I think we’re up to it. I’ve seen it in the last several weeks, and I can’t wait to get in the game with you. Let’s talk next week.
How can we help your association move forward?
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We hope you enjoyed this edition of JP Moery’s Association Hustle Podcast. We’d love to connect with you. Check out our blog at moerycompany.com and subscribe to our weekly newsletter. You can also connect with JP on LinkedIn and Twitter at @JPMoery, as well as The Moery’s Company’s Instagram and Facebook page. To purchase a copy of JP’s book, Association Hustle: Top Strategies for Association Growth, go to JPMoery.com.


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