The transition from one association management company (AMC) to another can be one of the biggest challenges an association’s board of directors will ever face. Even when the transition goes smoothly, replacing one staff team and headquarters with an entirely different one in a relatively short timeframe is always going to be difficult.
But while transitioning to another AMC may be challenging, it is often necessary. A board of directors and their AMC can become strategically misaligned. The association and/or the AMC may outgrow one another. There can be a need for new perspectives and new capacities.
Sometimes, you just need something to change.
When that change becomes necessary, here are a few things boards can do to help ensure a smooth transition.
Conduct an exit interview with the departing association management company.
There is a reason a board of directors and their AMC become misaligned or outgrow one another. From the board’s perspective, the need to find a new AMC might be entirely driven by the limitations or perceived failures of the management company.
In reality, it takes two to tango.
Over the years, boards can and often make decisions against the best advice of their AMC, only to see their association’s performance suffer. Once the decision to transition to another management company is a done deal, a board of directors should conduct an exit interview designed to assess its own performance over the years. Doing so requires the board to set its collective ego aside.
That’s not an easy thing to do.
But the payoff includes information that will help your board realize its strengths, weaknesses, and strategic errors.
Reflecting on that feedback will help the association and the new association management company develop a strong partnership and thrive in the years to come.
Ask questions and remain engaged.
As a board, it is important to remain engaged throughout the transition. Do not assume your old AMC and new AMC will just work it out. To begin with, the companies are competitors, likely with different systems and processes. While everyone involved in a management transition almost always works hard to make the entire process a success, it is wise for a board to remain a big part of the process throughout the entire move from one AMC to another.
Boards should also ask questions, make introductions between the new AMC staff and key volunteers and stakeholders, and offer information readily. The beginning of a new association/AMC relationship is the best time to ask questions. Your job isn’t to micromanage the AMC’s internal processes—but the challenges that can come from an engaged and inquisitive board are always preferable to the challenges created by a disengaged, apathetic board.
Your board and association will be better for it.
Set and monitor realistic short, medium, and long-term strategic goals.
Like any significant project, management transitions can go smoothly or have many bumps in the road.
The creation of a timeline is a big part of any change in management companies.
However, most timelines focus on tasks, rather than achievements.
Making sure the new AMC has login information to its online platforms is a task.
Making sure all association volunteers have been given a chance to learn about and ask questions of their association’s new staff is an achievement.
The line between tasks and achievements during a management change can be a thin one. That said, the difference comes down to “doing” versus “building.” Tasks are the things your board and your AMC must do to ensure service to members is seamless. On the other hand, achievements help build the association your members need.
A successful change of management companies depends on several things—but one of the most important aspects of onboarding any new AMC is an engaged board that looks at the transition as an opportunity to build a better future, rather than just dealing with a temporary problem.
Get input from the departing management company. Ask questions of the new AMC, especially after the contract is signed. Stay engaged. Facilitate key introductions and relationship-building. Set goals. Focus on identifying tasks and achievements.
If your board does that, you will start your new management partnership in a position to build a brighter future for the organization and your members.