Is Your AMC Committed to Mediocrity or Excellence?

Michael LoBue writes: —   I just returned from the AMC Institute 2008 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA.  Once again, this “gathering of the AMC faithful” did not disappoint.  There were many topics discussed and ideas generated from the rich interactions with the AMC members, as well as with all of the high quality associate members who provide a wide range of services AMCs utilize to support the successes of their client organizations (e.g., meeting venues, convention and visitors bureaus, printers, technology providers, insurance services, etc.)

The one topic that never ceases to interest me is how AMCs articulate the value of being a member of the Institute and being an AMC Institute accredited firm.  Clearly, the Institute members see the value or they wouldn’t spend the time and the hard cash on hotel, meals, airfare, etc. to attend these meetings.  We certainly have more than ample opportunity to travel to a wide variety of fine locations on behalf of our clients and their meetings, so it’s not that we need an excuse to get out of the office.

While the reasons may vary by firm for the investment of time and profits into this activity, I think there’s one universal reason why this type of investment is of value to our clients.  The clients of AMC Institute members benefit by our membership because membership and active participation in the Institute is a clear and tangible investment to provide the highest quality and value services.  It’s the difference between good intentions and taking concrete actions to produce a positive result.

Let’s face it — the principals of every firm providing association management services don’t open their offices every morning with the thought:  “Wow, I’m really looking forward to another great day of providing our clients with mediocre service.”  Of course not, we all believe we’re providing the very best services possible.

However, there’s a difference between providing “our” very best services and “the” very best services possible.  Members of the AMC Institute are in a very tangible way investing their time and capital to learn what “the” very best services are, and how to provide them.

So, it matters to an organization that an AMC is at least a member of the AMC Institute because it’s a tangible sign of the firm’s investment in staying abreast of what constitutes “the” very best association management services — because the definition of “the very best services” is a moving target — and Institute members are investing in staying abreast of this moving target.  And for those organizations seeking the “gold standard” in service providers, there are the almost 40 AMC Institute Accredited AMCs, which not only practice these standards, but drive best practices to ever higher ground.

Besides, doesn’t it seem odd that a self-respecting association would higher a firm to provide association management services that is not a member of the AMC Institute?  Isn’t that a bit like going to a minister for religious guidance who didn’t attend a seminary, doesn’t belong to an organized church, or perhaps doesn’t even believe in god?

In fact, it’s probably not much of a stretch at all the generally define an association management company as to whether or not that firm is a member of the Institute.  Membership in the AMC Institute constitutes the basic definition of being an AMC at all; AMC Institute Accreditation confers the gold standard for an AMC.

What is an AMC?

Michael LoBue writes: An association management company (AMC) is a for-profit service firm that provides professional management and administrative services to associations.   Perhaps the best way to understand the services is to list the benefits AMC client organizations receive from the relationship:

  • highly experienced personnel who often support more than one client organization at one time, thus able to bring rich and diverse problem solving skills to each client they support;
  • highly efficient use of resources and economies of scale as no client organization shoulders the full burder of occupancy and related fixed-costs of operations; and
  • because all staff are employees of the AMC, the association avoids all the obligations associated with being an employer

AMCs are viable solutions for organizations of all sizes; whether engaging an AMC for full management and operations, or for specific services to complement hired staff.

Quality AMCs also invest in staff development in training in ways that many associations with their own staff are simply not able to afford.  One way to identify quality AMCs is whether or not the firms support professional certification like the Certified Association Executive program from the ASAE, or firm accreditation from the AMC Institute.