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Associations and the Vision Thing

by | Apr 14, 2015 | Industry News & Trends

I am writing from Xperience2015, YM’s second annual customer conference, where we’re spending three days with more than 300 association leaders and staff. It is an extremely rewarding event for our customers and for YM’s staff and leaders.

A big highlight of day one of the conference was the presentation of YM’s roadmap and vision for the future. People want to know where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. There is always a lot of time and effort put into creating a roadmap that you essentially end up sharing with the world. Even though only a percentage of our customers will be in attendance, word travels fast…very fast!

We shared our roadmap last year at Xperience2014 and the reviews were very good. This was gratifying to everyone, especially considering we were just completing a merger and the resulting migration of our customers onto a single AMS solution. But we wanted more, in part because we knew our customers and the members they serve needed and expected more.

We were looking for a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) – a term coined in 1994 by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their best selling book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. They wrote, “A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.”

As Collins was quoted in a subsequent “Inc.” online article:

“In a world of constant change, the fundamentals are more important than ever. In this era of dramatic change, we’re hit from all sides with lopsided perspectives that urge us to hold nothing sacred, to “re-engineer” and dynamite everything, to fight chaos with chaos, to battle a crazy world with total, unfettered craziness. Everybody knows that the transformations facing us—social, political, technological, economic—render obsolete the lessons of the past.”

Collins wrote that in 1995, but it could have been yesterday. To his point, association leaders are facing change in unprecedented ways and at a pace that can seem more than a little overwhelming. Member recruitment, new revenue growth, generational shifts, technology demands, and the need to transform their organizations into “On Demand” service providers to meet the growing demands of their members – some or all of these make up the business climate associations must compete and succeed in today.

But back to that BHAG. Boy, do we have one. For some folks it started with YM’s acquisition of Job Target’s career center business unit in 2014. For others, our recent acquisition of LMS provider Digital Ignite was the start. These moves alone changed the conversation for a lot of people looking at the Association Management Software (AMS) industry, as it exists today. And once again, it looks like timing is everything.

Social networking giant LinkedIn announced on Thursday that they are acquiring online learning company for $1.5 billion, making it the largest acquisition in LinkedIn’s history. LinkedIn had previous announced they were partnering with, Coursera and Microsoft to ramp up an offering to provide online learning service, but altered their course with the acquisition of, who has been in the space for almost 20 years.

It’s no secret that LinkedIn has created services to connect people with job opportunities. They want to dominate the job board market. plans to connect people with education relevant to those jobs. In the current job market the skills gap is leaving millions of jobs unfilled. People won’t have access to opportunities if they don’t have the education needed to be qualified.

LinkedIn is creating a scenario where you search for a job, see the skills required for that job, and then get directed to a course from that will train you in those skills. Alternatively, a recruiter could search for qualified candidates based on the courses they’ve taken. LinkedIn already lets you add courses to your profile; however, courses endorsed by LinkedIn could potentially carry more weight.

How do associations compete with a giant like LinkedIn? I think you need to have that BHAG to succeed. We have one for all of our association customers. Everything LinkedIn is looking to do today is in the wheelhouse of most associations. You just need the resources to get it done. We are taking steps and making the investments for this to happen.

JP Guilbault, YM’s CEO, shared that vision with our customers during the opening session at Xperience2015; and there should be no doubt that with BHAG in hand, YM as a company is chomping at the bit to take on the future. We know you and your members are counting on us.

As a reminder,  YM’s next Thought Leadership Webinar to be held on April 22nd, titled Are You Ready for When Millennials Take Over? Join authors Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant as they share research, case studies and lessons learned from their newest book, “When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business” that identify the four key capacities that must be developed inside organizations to successfully adapt to this future of business.


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