Undeniably, the most torturous task as a business owner or manager is having to let staff go. The next most stressful job is finding the right people to hire when staffing up again. In this current economy, my target employee may be unwilling to make a move, even for a slightly higher salary. Complicating things is that the association management business is unique in its human capital requirements.

What skills, talents, preparation and personality traits are essential for work in the little-known field of association management? What does it take to run the affairs of a trade association or charity? To manage their health and growth toward their mission? One must understand that, while you have all the responsibilities of a president or general manager, you have no authority. You work for the boards of directors of non-profit corporations. This requires special skills.

There is a growing emphasis on soft skills across all industries, but it is essential in the professional services business.  One must glide smoothly from speaking with a corporate CEO to planning the events for a fundraiser; from traveling out of state to taking minutes on weekly conference calls. Non-automatable business knowledge-based skills are at the core of professional services. We are expected to offer strategic guidance and substantive input at retreats that could impact their membership for decades.

Trade associations and charities come to us for the broadest management skills. Yes, we have specialists on staff who support the account executives, but we prize a mid-career generalist with top communication skills … that proverbial needle in a haystack.

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