For those of you who don't know, I'm currently in my third, decade-long career. I left school at 15 years old with absolutely no idea what to do.
After trying a number of jobs, my brother eventually talked me into enlisting in the Royal Navy. For the next 10 years, I traveled the world and had an absolutely brilliant time. Now it's fair to say that back then, I was never really a career man (apparently I had issues with authority). The main reason was my innate ability to question orders.
After my final three years spent in Hong Kong, I returned to London and left the navy to go back to school. The great thing about going to college when you are older than almost everyone else in the room, is you can reflect on life experiences when writing your papers. Even though many of my sailor experiences are probably best not written about, I was shocked at how many management experiences I had been at the receiving end of, which allowed me some reflection. This is when the light started to dawn on me - while trying to question every order and re-engineer the business processes of the navy was probably not a good military career move, it was in fact a skill.
What my former superior officers failed to recognize was I tended not to question orders to be insubordinate, but often it was in an attempt to try to figure out if there was a better or different way of achieving the same or superior results, and even though something had always been done a certain way, doesn't mean it was the right way of doing it.
After finishing school in 1999, I moved to New York to start my second career. I was lucky enough to find my first professional job that also happened to be for an association. As the head of technology, I was finally empowered, and more importantly, expected to question the norm and improve processes. FINALLY, my military training was about to pay off!
It's incredible how naive I was back then. Just before my first interview, I remember having to look up what an association was. During the interview, I was asked something about Chapters and Journals. I remember thinking, "I don't think he's talking about books or my diary". Thankfully, back then my English accent was stronger and I just said something quickly and hoped he didn't understand me. Later I found out that he didn't understand my response and assumed it was due to my accent. A nice little trick I've used on more than one occasion.
Ten years later, after much deliberation I had automated, streamlined and reinvented things, which quite frankly, probably didn't need reinventing. I eventually left and decided it was time to start my third career, and so I joined forces with my good friend and mentor, Rob Wenger. Together we started what became Higher Logic.
Since learning I was to receive this Association TRENDS honor, I've given a great deal of thought on what makes a good "Association Partner". After much deliberation, I realized the answer was staring at me in the name of the award itself. Notice how different it is than "Association Vendor" or "Association Service Provider"?
In the past, when I've asked associations who they are using for a particular technology solution, they often refer to everyone as vendors. Similarly, when I speak to service providers, they refer to their clients. While reflecting on the various relationships I've had over the years with associations and providers alike, without doubt the most successful have been where each side views the other as a partner. Remember though, if there is only one partner, it's not a partnership.
My advice to both vendors and associations out there today, is to question the status quo. Try to look at your side of the vendor/association dynamic, and if you're not being a partner, re-engineer your business relationships until you are fulfilling your side of the partnership equation needed for the most successful relationship.
I want to extend a huge thank you to Association TRENDS for bestowing this incredibly prestigious honor on me. I also would like to thank the 500+ absolutely incredible clients we are lucky enough to call our partners.
Finally, thank you to my wonderful family. Especially to Kelly (my wife) and my wonderful children, William, Campbell and Oliver. And of course, thank you to all the staff at Higher Logic, especially to the Customer Success team. Without the support of you all, there is just no way I would be receiving this award.