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ISAE Blog

Ask the Exec: 5 Questions for Mark McSweeney, CAE

Posted by Shelly Pfenninger on Apr 16, 2014 4:30:00 PM

The association world is full of talented professionals, of which many hold years of experience managing associations. Over the next few weeks, you will see a blog series titled “ask the exec” where we ask executive directors questions about what they’ve learned throughout their careers and where they see the future of association management. 

Mark-headshotTo start us off, we had five questions answered by Mark McSweeney, CAE, an association professional with over 20 years experience.

Mark began his career in the for-profit world before entering the association management profession in 1993. Mark joined Raybourn Group International’s team in May 2013 to serve as executive director for the Vacation Rental Managers Association.

Question 1: What about association management do you enjoy most?

MM: Working with organizations that are trying to make a positive difference, be it for the member companies or individuals they directly represent, or for the public serviced or influenced by the industry they represent. It’s particularly great to see little guys thrive because of the exposure they get and the resources they receive as a result of their affiliation with their association. I guess in a nutshell, it’s the people.

Question 2: What about association management keeps you up at night?

MM: Volunteers with an agenda. We all have our particular passions, so I respect where those types of individuals are coming from. The concern is when the vocal minority influence the silent majority into either diverting resources into special causes or slowing down progress toward the big picture initiatives.

Question 3: What is the greatest challenge you face in your role as an exec?

MM: Juggling resources and attempting to keep everyone on the same page. It can be particularly challenging at times to be the mediator between board expectations and administrative realities–understanding we need to keep the volunteers and the staff both motivated.

Question 4: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started in association management?

MM: Patience! Technology has had such an impact on the pace of business and communication since I first started. It is very easy to get caught up in the perceived expectation of immediate service or resolution. I’ve learned that it’s okay to take a deep breath and use a reasonable amount of time to respond to a given situation or inquiry. It’s even okay to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll see what I can find out.”

Question 5: Where do you see associations in 10 years? 20 years?

MM: I still see us as an integral part of what makes business successful. There will always be strength in numbers, and associations have that unique ability to harness that energy and create an economy of scale. I don’t necessarily think we will continue to look like we do today. Traditional benefits of membership are becoming less and less tangible and relevant given the plethora of free or a la carte resources that are available to people through the Internet, social media and other private niche businesses. That said, I think most associations will experience a bit of an evolution in the years ahead, but provided they can figure out the terrain they should be around for the long haul.

Have a question for an exec? Submit them to ISAE by emailing info@isae.org.

Topics: blog, Board of Directors, Success, Leadership

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