Hello there, welcome to this episode of Ask JP. The question today is, who do you consider to be your professional role models and mentors?
I love that question and love what I learned from Tom Donohue, the former president and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce. I had the opportunity to work with him at the chamber and at ATA. Although wasn’t a direct report, I observed, and I took so much from his leadership, that I wanted to show you at least a couple things or describe a couple things that I learned.
First and foremost, he had a real bias and a motivation around business development. I’ll never forget when he said, “if you don’t have the cash, you don’t make the dash.” The fact of the matter is, he was a business development guru. We used the resources to help fulfill the mission of the association. I’ve seen so many times in my history over the last 30 years, or my experience over the last 30 years, that organizations that don’t have resources just can’t fulfill the mission, and really do all they can for the membership of the organization. Okay, so his ability to put that as a priority enabled us to be a better organization. We could put more resources on programs, we can hire more staff, we could keep them happy because we could increase their salaries and benefits and all those things.
Here’s the other part of business development that I think I didn’t anticipate, and that was if you give people ample opportunities because you’re in the field asking them to join and become a member and all those things, you also have the ability to differentiate a member from a non-member. You have the chance to say, oh these are all the things that you have, and by the way, you don’t get these things. I think he was very good at drawing the line between, hey we’ve got these people that we’re working on behalf of because they’ve chosen to join us, and hey you’re fine folks, we like you over here that are non-members but make no mistake, we’re not advocating on your behalf. You gain that leverage by being out in the field asking people to decide, are you with us or not? So, I thought that was an incredibly valuable thing that I didn’t anticipate.
The second thing is his undeniable attitude around the value of government relations as a key part of the value proposition. We put more of those resources into lobbying, into grassroots, into being politically effective, endorsing candidates, and he was willing to determine who was supporting the organization and who wasn’t. For those that were not, we would pose you in elections and those types of things. So that’s the thing that I learned from Tom. There’s a number of things that I learned from him, but those are two aspects that really resonate with me. I hope they’re helpful to you.
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