STC Houston - Dateline Houston - March/April 2006

Vol 45, Issue 4

March/April 2006

STC Houston - Dateline Houston - March/April 2006

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STC Houston - Dateline Houston - March/April 2006

R5 Report and January 2006 Board Meeting Report

Sherry Michaels, Director Region 5

Sherry Michaels

The hard part of this column is to convey to you everything that I think is important to you as members, with all the color commentary that makes it come to life. I use “color commentary” because in my mind, sports is an easy, handy metaphor to explain things that are often strategic in nature, and the Board of Directors meeting is just that.

• Thanks to Tom Barnett of the Phoenix and UK chapters, the Region 5 web site is live and functioning at / You’ll find this column and a ton more information at this site. It’s got a new, current look, and if you want to link your newsletters and other info to it, let Tom know at the Region 5 webmaster link on the home page. Thank you, Tom! Well done!

• Thanks to volunteers Ann Wiley and her whole team, and Merrick Bechini, Director of IT, we put the STC Member Forum live. It is at You must register as an STC member. It takes only a second or two, and inside you’ll see all kinds of STC interests, including STC Governance discussion areas. Don’t miss this chance to participate.

• Thanks to Rob Moran and the office staff, for the first time ever, we conducted a member survey before the board meeting. More than 1,000 members submitted what they thought STC should be doing for them in areas we knew we’d be talking about at the meeting. There were a lot of diverse opinions! This information gave us a lot of clear guidance, and we will continue to conduct this survey before board meetings. The surveys will get better and more specific as time goes on. Please don’t hesitate to take part in them.

• I received the chapter reports and compiled them into successes and concerns columns. In particular, I presented as information to the board the viewpoint of some of you that we aren’t getting enough of the right information to you fast enough. This view was helpful to shape some of our priorities. In some cases, we can’t provide more information, because the committees involved aren’t ready to present their plans for approval by the BoD. This means that some awkward situations affecting community planning still exist, despite the best efforts of everyone involved. It is an unfortunate effect of trying to shape a better Society, and we regretfully realize the uncertainty this produces. Please contact me if you have any questions at all. I will be happy to assist you.

• We included STC Society office management staff members Peg Cottrell, director of administration; Merrick Bechini, director of IT; and Maurice Martin, director of publications in our meetings. In my opinion, this has proven to be one of the single most beneficial moves we have made. We are experiencing a whole new level of effectiveness by having the staff involved while we make our decisions. They can participate by letting us know what is feasible immediately. We are no longer simply lofting demands over the wall at them with no background or context. It is a most remarkable and welcome change.

• We performed a strategic planning exercise that culminated into four priorities for functioning over a 16-month period:

1. Telling our Powerful Story. We have more than 17,000 members within a hugely diverse profession. We have the resources to impress corporations about what we do and how we do it. We have focused as a board to implement changes to make this happen. As you read through, I believe you’ll see how all the things we are doing are interrelated.
2. Building Relationships and Choosing Partners. We have significant opportunities to work with other associations and with employer companies to provide additional benefits and opportunities to our members. Some of these relationships and partnerships are already under development. In all cases, as we go carefully into this area, we are using the following criteria:

a. How is this relationship good for the members?
b. What are the downsides, if any? Can we contain the risks, if any?
c. Is the business case overall compelling enough to undertake this relationship?

3. Generating Funds to Support Delivery of Member Value. As we become a more vital organization and deliver the value requested in your surveys and conversations, it is clear that we need, as a Society, to learn how to generate funds in other ways besides through dues. Currently, member dues do not fund everything STC offers to members. Although we are eliminating those things that do not deliver member value in our current budget, these efforts alone will not sustain the demands of our members. During the January meeting, we mapped out the priorities for achieving this goal over the next 12 months.

4. Building a Business Model. This title is a little misleading. STC has always had a business model. Importantly, however, the business model has not supported the membership as it exists today. We put together plans for bringing a new, more viable model online and aligning it with the old one. We will potentially adjust the budget to include line items that we haven’t had before, but we will hold that budget to more rigid standards during BoD meetings. For instance, in order to “Tell Our Powerful Story,” we unanimously approved having a special “expert columnist” for the web site. Our hope is to get a columnist that already has national and corporate readership on a “high fame” level, because it is part of our strategy to elevate STC’s corporate and national image. It is a new line item for budget approval. Our new business model will have enough flexibility to accommodate special projects, but we will refrain from too many “exceptional expenditures.” We will view all expenditures in terms of whether they meet the majority of STC members’ goals.

• The Leadership Community Resource (LCR) is much closer to providing support to all communities. In fact, they are about 12 months ahead of schedule in some areas:

1. Some communities feel they’ve been “on the bubble” for years and have desperately needed some mentoring and advice. The Triage for Communities in Crisis will be ready to assist communities by May 2006.
2. By fall 2006, the Mentoring Students Community will be available to assist student communities that feel the need of the active support of mentors.
3. New presidents or managers of communities have a whole host of questions, including community guidelines. The Mentoring Leaders and Communities Committee will be ready by May 2006.

• The work of the board continued:

1. We approved the awards for Fellow, Associate Fellow, and Distinguished Chapter Service Awards.
2. We approved the recharter of 7 communities.
3. We reviewed the projected budget as it compares to the actual budget. Our treasurer made his report. Our budget is in good shape. The finance oversight committee made a report and found everything to be in perfect order. Our auditors submitted a report and found everything to be in perfect order.
4. We have begun and will continue a technology upgrade that will assist the BoD, office staff, and community leaders in meeting and exceeding member needs. Our technology hasn’t given our volunteers or staff the tools they need to implement well. We are pushing to change that.
5. We are implementing a communications plan that helps us to be more effective. Our goal is to make communications succinct, accurate, and timely. Our focus is to continue to get more information from you, respond to it, and get the results back out to you effectively. It is one of the toughest challenges we face. It’s a lot harder than it seems.
6. We are working on new models for getting corporations involved. Two other companies are interested in taking part in a program that involves them at the corporate level and adds new members to our ranks that would not otherwise be able to join. Here are the criteria for these programs:

a. Is this fair to new and existing members?
b. Does this provide new members that grow to be loyal members for the future?
c. Does this provide opportunities for all involved?
d. Does this make business sense for the Society and the members?

7. In her board report, Paula Berger announced that the first 2006 BoD meeting will be held in London, England, to coincide with the R2 conference. The BoD has met in Europe only once before, in September 1998 in Paris. Paula reported that she considered the following items in making her decision:

a. Airfare from U.S. cities to Europe is generally less than airfare within the continental U.S., thus our actual travel costs will be lower.
b. Assistants to the president will not attend this meeting unless they have a specific business case to present and defend.
c. This meeting is an important opportunity to meet a greater number of members at one time. Further, it is part of STC’s continued strategy of global image and impact.

As usual with BoD meetings, the days of the January 2006 meeting were jam-packed. We discussed many topics and made decisions or asked for business plans. Secretary Lori Fisher will be posting the minutes as soon as she can. Be sure to read them to get details without “color commentary!”

Here are some excerpts from John Hedtke’s perspective on this meeting from his letter to Region 7: “The way I think about [all the changes] . . . STC was like a room that had filled up with ratty furniture, dusty boxes of old books, and a threadbare rug. The [Society leadership] has gone in and cleaned out all the old stuff and mopped and vacuumed. The place looks clean right now . . . but it’s a little empty. What we put into the room is something that’s still being discussed, but we’ve gotten the old stuff out and cleaned up the mess.”

I do not believe we are finished with the house cleaning. Housekeeping is a nearly daily chore. I would say, however, that we’ve done a fair amount of work, and we are still thwacking away at it.

All this effort has been very effective and is very exciting. I wonder if previous BoDs have had this much fun and excitement in the past. I see “old-timers” on the board who share in our amazement and sense of adventure as we grapple the old mantras that no longer work and throw them out, replacing them with the mantra of “Does this provide member value?” It’s so cool!

Please let me know if you have any questions. I’m available at and through the R5 Region site!

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