Welcome to Change Your Mindset (formerly known as Improv Is No Joke) where it is all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. The way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation. Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant, will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers, all the while, growing their businesses.
Ep. 61 – Chris Jenkins: Why Associations Need to Stop Treating Members as Customers & Start Fostering Fellowship
Chris Jenkins, CEO of the South Carolina Associations of CPAs, joins us today to discuss how you can better engage an audience of any size when you are speaking, and to discuss how we can improve association management.
Although Chris is a technology guy – we originally met when he served as the Chief Information Officer at the Ohio Society – he believes that Associations, and business professionals in general, are relying on technology far too much, and using it improperly.
Professional organizations need to re-emphasize, and re-facilitate, face-to-face human relationships.
Chris has always had a knack for engaging large crowds of people, but he used to struggle with small group interactions. Partly due to technology, we have lost the skill to connect with people one-on-one – because of this, Associations and businesses need to offer more professional development opportunities for soft skills.
Chris learned to engage people one-on-one through an unconventional training exercise: he was locked in an elevator for an hour and tasked with talking to every person who got on and learning what they did.
When you’re in an elevator and you’re in that contained space, you catch people off guard by looking at them, greeting them, and asking about them. People are shocked, and you very quickly get over your fear of engaging people. The other thing that you’ll learn is how to stop a conversation properly before they got off the elevator.
You can learn how to network and manage a room by being locked in an elevator – and I know I’m going to try this exercise out soon! It’s also just a great improv exercise because it will train you to listen to understand.
Leaders Need To Build Trust
Leaders NEED the ability to engage people in one-in-one and small group conversations.
If you are in a large group and you want feedback, people will naturally want to be nice. A group of 10+ people is not going to give reliable feedback. But it’s important that leaders are able to go in and make people feel comfortable with giving you bad news, or news that they think you don’t want to hear.
So leaders have to build trust, and the only way to do that is in very small groups, and to lay yourself out there and say what you’re trying to do.
If you can’t make them believe that you’re actively listening and listening to understand them, you’re just going to get what they think you want to hear – and a bunch of people telling you what you want to hear is the most deadly thing that you can have in a leadership role.
The Difference Between Members and Customers
Associations also struggle with engagement because, increasingly, they treat members as customers.
What’s the difference?
Simply put, the difference between a customer and a member is the experience, and fellowship is a big part of the member experience.
You have to look at your business and you have to see what you’re selling, and professional associations are businesses with something to sell. However, we’ve shifted to selling CPE… and that’s not what we’re supposed to be about; that doesn’t foster fellowship.
When we start looking at CPE as a revenue stream and membership as a revenue stream, it’s easy to start looking at people as customers. And when you look at customer service, you want to make sure that that individual customer has the best possible experience… and then when they’re gone they’re gone. So a customer relationship is something short.
But a member relationship is a long-term relationship, and it’s not just a relationship between the company or the association and the member. It’s about fostering the relationship between the members themselves. They need a network of peers that they know that they can rely on. They need a community, and they need that fellowship.
You can look at it from the other perspective as well: as an association, your stakeholders are the members on your board. That’s who gets the pay out of our efforts.
In a customer relationship, your payout is to stake holders who have invested in that company so your goal is to get as much money as possible from your customers so that you can pay out to your investors. We have a completely different goal.
An association’s goal is to give its membership the maximum value for the minimum price, and we’ve lost sight of that in many ways.
The unique value proposition of state societies is the fact that they’re local. They have local networks in every community. They have a local network at the state level. They have local meetings with real people, both social and educational.
When associations embrace the fact that they’re local – when they don’t look to compete with national brands for CPE and don’t look to compete with Facebook – they create a very strong network of professionals, and that network has incredible power.
As associations, we are uniquely positioned to create human experiences and we have to come back to it.
- Connect with Chris: SCACPA.org | LinkedIn
- The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line by David Horsager
Production & Development for Improv Is No Joke by Podcast Masters
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