October 2009

Richard Meyers – Interview

Richard Meyers

Welcome back to the industry.
Thank you. This industry combines entrepreneurship with service, so I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it attracts smart, pleasant people who have initiative. It’s great to rekindle many relationships and I look forward to developing new ones as well.

Congratulations on your appointment as Executive Director of OBCAI. What is your vision for OBCAI, in a general sense?
To focus on providing the best services and products to the owner/operators of executive suites while working with vendors and Associate Members to ensure that we do that together under the rubric of OBCAI. In short, to make OBCAI realize its vast and excellent potential.

What is your primary role?
First and foremost my role is to implement the policy that the Board sets and to do so within budget. However, based on my fifteen years of experience in association management – seven of which were in this industry – I won’t be shy about providing advice and suggestions to the Board. But at the end of the day, it’s to implement policy. The trains have to run on time first. Then, to carry the metaphor a bit, we’ll make the trains bigger and faster.

What are your plans?
Well, first off, I want to immediately establish constant communication to the membership on anything and everything that is going on in the industry. That means our website will be home base for the latest news, blogs, chats, schedules and updates that are relevant, including the calendar of local member network events as well as all industry events. It means an eNewsletter that is current, timely and insightful. It means that members can call the OBCAI office and tell us what they need and they’ll know that we know their name and their company and what they’re about.

Second, I’d like to present the Board with some basic options and viable choices for implementing some new services and products for members. These may include anything from a certification program for managers to a client referral program – but I’d like at least one concrete new program in place by the end of 2010 that provides measurable value to our members. Overall though, we’re going to provide and promote products and services to our members and we’re going to do it with pride and without apology.

Will that potentially infringe on existing companies’ business plans?
No, not at all. We’re the industry trade association and I believe that a rising tide will lift all boats in this industry. Quite simply, improved OBCAI services will mean increased membership, which means greater attendance at our conference which means more foot traffic for our exhibitors. We want to grow the whole pie for everyone.

What else?
Third are the less visible and less quantifiable programs that industry associations should be involved with that promote the industry. A key to that is using the industry survey data effectively. So, that’s a focus. Every time I read or watch a story in the media where an industry is getting promoted or an industry association gets mentioned, inevitably it’s because the association released some numbers or data to the media. We now have that. The industry Financial Study that OBCAI just made available to its members has data from 575 centers. That’s a legitimate sample size. The data in that survey is very real. So we’ve now taken the first major step toward garnering publicity. We have reliable financial information on the industry to release to the media. That’s big.

Finally, I want to aggressively grow our membership in North America and in Europe and Asia. I think a lot of operators are thirsting for an Association that they can be a part of as it flourishes and that we have a lot of untapped resources to take advantage of. Once the services start increasing -- and in many cases we have the services, but they need to be promoted a little better -- the membership will grow as well.

Sounds like a lot on the agenda.
It’s all fun. Which brings me to the conference. The annual conference is vitally important. It’s the one chance that the Association has to impress the membership on a grand scale. It’s the one time everyone gets to see their colleagues and friends all together. It provides the best opportunity to exchange information, to network and to discuss best practices. And it’s the one time you can attend nine educational sessions. But it’s a lot fun. And it’s my favorite time of the year and it has to be great. Simply has to be.

What gives you optimism?
The caliber of the membership, the Board and my staff team. That combined with the resilience of this industry – which is a great story and fills an essential need; let’s not forget that – in what should be a growing economy by the end of 2011 provide me with tremendous optimism that we will be able to do some great things.

I just got back from the San Diego conference, where the Board met and I was pleased to see that the Board of Directors is united. Our new President, Carolina Rendeiro, ran a highly efficient and very focused board meeting. And the number of members who approached me and said they wanted to do whatever needed to be done was just great. I’m excited and energized.

Tell us about your background and how you got into association management.
When I was in my early twenties I worked on Capitol Hill as a Legislative Director to a Member of Congress where I dealt with associations a lot. I eventually became the Director of Government Relations & Communications for a large trade association – health foods and dietary supplement manufacturers and retailers – and then stayed in association management. From 1998-2004, I was the Executive Director of the Alliance Network.

What is your business or leadership philosophy?
I’ve found that the best way to motivate volunteers is to demonstrate the tremendous satisfaction they will feel when they accomplish something for their peers – whether that be working as a team to put on a great conference, teaching a class, writing an article, finding an insurance policy for their peers or whatever – and then – without their seeking it – publicizing their efforts and achievements. They deserve that. It also has to be fun and provide value to their company.

What do you enjoy most about your work within the Association?
Without question it’s the annual conference. It’s really the only time of the year that I get to see all of our members together. The excitement that the networking, receptions, lunches, educational sessions and dinners generate is the highlight of the year. There are many great people in this organization and I know it’s a cliché, but the people are what make it fun. So, the annual conference.

How do you spend time out of work?
With my family – my kids are getting older now, they’re 16 and 14 which are great ages, because they’re both in and out and in again and out again of the house a lot. I also play tennis and I watch a lot of basketball games.