Tag Archive for: Sacred Cows

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Sacred Cows in an Economic Downturn (1043 words)

What better time to grind up sacred cows into hamburger than during an economic downturn? Why; because the sacred cow protectors in your organization are experiencing lowered resistance when times are not so good. It is much more difficult for them defend their pet projects, products, and services that have reached their sunset when placed under the tight economic microscope.

Sacred Cow Defenders

Upper level decision makers pay especially close attention to questionable activities in an economic downturn, organizational restructuring, or during a merger. If you have even a faint indication that you might be a sacred cow protector, this is the time to realize that everyone will be attacking your pet sacred cow. Ask yourself if this cow is worth your career or might it be time to let go?

To help you work through the process of either defending or letting go, consider the following:

  • Why should this cow continue?
  • Who cares most about this cow?
  • Why do they protect it?
  • Which market or stakeholder segments does the cow still serve?
  • Is this cow still profitable?
  • Is this cow worth the organizational resources necessary to sustain it?
  • Has this cow reached its sunset?

Cow Grinders

This is the moment for which you’ve been waiting—to rid your organization of that outdated, resource sucking albatross that has, in your opinion, been dragging everyone down. While this is a good time to bring out the meat grinder, you’d better be smart about your actions. This is not the time to pretend you are a bull in a china shop but rather take a methodical approach to getting that cow into the grinder.

First, you must remain aware of the fact that most sacred cow protectors have their identify and self-worth complexly entwined with the cow that they protect so ferociously—a bit like a momma bear protecting her cub. And you do not want to get between them.

Broaching the Subject

How do you help an iron-clad mind to open up? Perhaps oil and leverage will do the trick?

  • The oil relates to the idea of slipperiness verses friction. Their iron-clad mind is the friction and you become the oil that helps movement. Your job is to help the protector see that there might be new or better ideas, products and services that might possibly, maybe, perhaps serve the market or stakeholders better than the currently protected cow.
  • Leverage relates to an outside object or force that allows ease of movement for heavy or stuck objects. Needless to say, the stuck or heavy object is the cow protector. The outside force could be higher authority or replacement product/service. Higher authority needs no explanation. Replacement however is formidable subject. Where or what could the cow protector use as an alternate crutch for channeling their passion? Figure that out and you have both oil and leverage available to help you, to help the protector move toward something better.

Grinding Cows in For Profit Organizations

  • We’ve always done it, our customers expect it, and so we should continue to do it. This is an area that can be overcome by numbers, metrics or measurements. It is difficult for a person or department to defend something that can be proven to no longer be performing.
  • The “not invented here” attitude can be a challenge when offering alternatives to the cow you want to grind. Leading the cow protectors to their own discovery of a replacement generally works well. The price you, the cow grinder, must be willing to pay is to relinquish an ego boost and the credit for being the cow grinder.
  • Sacred cow profitability always decreases with commoditization. For most things there is a season. Even sacred cows that are only approaching their sunset must be examined closely. The challenge is in letting too many old cows run the pasture. If in your organization there are a number of cows that are nearing their end of usefulness, all your organizations resources are being allotted to refreshing and keeping alive old cows rather than allowing innovation and discovery of new and profitable, non-commodity products and services to take their place. You can swim with the sharks in highly competitive regions or head for the open waters of innovation and creativity.

Grinding Cows in Non-Profit Organizations

  • Long-term equity is bestowed upon those that have participated through volunteerism for years. These folks also enjoy chronological credibility. Going up against this cronyism is wrought with landmines, especially for the younger, innovative, and excited members. The most critical challenge that faces non-profits today is honoring members with this long-term equity while simultaneously defending the emergence of youthful exuberance. Can they both co-exist—I believe so.
  • Changing member needs and desires compounds the above conundrum. This is an area where paid non-profit staff and the volunteer leadership must work toward mutually beneficial programs, services and long-term strategic plans to gradually turn the page to a new era. The need for this phenomenon generally occurs every decade or two. As an example, many organizations are now discovering that the sacred cow golf tournament that has always taken place before the convention can no longer sustain itself financially. The old timers defend it with all the oomph and gusto they can muster but the newer functionaries in the industry could really care less. Perhaps the tournament’s sunset has arrived?
  • Non-profits must be keenly aware of the current and emerging competition from non-traditional sectors. There might be products or services your organization has provided to its members since the dawning of time. And, there might now be for-profit companies that provide the same, or better, products or services faster, cheaper, and offering more choice than your non-profit could ever achieve. Might it be time to grind that cow?

So what’s a reasonable person to do? If you are a cow protector, be certain it is worth protecting. If you are a cow grinder, be sure that cow’s sunset has arrived. Grinding cows simply for pleasure or self-adulation is not an acceptable reason to flick the switch and start the grinder. The magic for your organization is for the leaders to have the wisdom in understanding and recognizing the difference.

The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.

Industry Supporters and Value Seekers; a CSE’s Dilemma (984 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

What’s In It For Me is what every association or society member ponders…yearly.

Exploring the Chief Staff Executive’s (CSE) dilemma…I have one important question to ask you. How much more could your organization do for its members if the yearly sustainable real-dollar value of membership was known?

My work with associations and societies has revealed that today, there are less and less “industry supporters” and more and more “value seekers” in the market place. Value seekers need more than the good feeling that they have supported their industry on order to join and retain membership in an association or society.

The Dilemma

In attempting to deal with the dilemma that has caused the above question to be so crucially important for the survival of today’s associations and societies, we must first digress. Especially evident in mature industries are the number of Baby Boomer aged supporters. Many joined at the urging of their fathers who were also in the business. Your Baby Boomer supporters grew up in a world where Dad took care of revenue generation and Mom took care of everything else. Dads then had much more leisure time away from the family available to them than the Dads of today.

Sacred Cows

The sacred cow activities, services, and products that your organization offers to its members are relics of the past world order. Older members surly recognize that these are losing propositions for the organization but are also their connection to the past. This connection creates value for some, yet rarely for enough to justify the loss to your organization. Resources are squandered to serve just a very few. Those same resources could be, and should be, invested in other programs that deliver a high return on investment (ROI) for a greater number of members.

The Value Seekers

Many of your prospective members are currently in their 20s and 30s, married, and have a spouse that also works. These folks have less, away from the family leisure time, and want to make the most of the time they have. Frequently, association and society meetings and activities have recreation or leisure elements built into the event—a draw for the Baby Boomers but not so much for their younger counterparts. These younger folks are much more computer and electronic communication savvy than their seniors and can find the industry specific training they need (which has been the decades old stalwart of associations) elsewhere.

The Advocacy Trap

While nobody will argue that traditionally associations and societies have done phenomenal work in the area of affecting legislation. This is one of the great benefits of large numbers collaborating for a common good. Additionally, nobody will argue that almost every player in a particular industry reaps the benefit of an organization’s advocacy efforts—regardless of their membership, or lack there of. The problem that has emerged for associations and societies is that the industry supporters, many of the Baby Boomers, are retiring. The “supporters” belonged to their trade association or society for a very different reason; to support their industry. The younger “value seekers” want something different, they want a return on their time and dollar investment. Since advocacy creates value for all, there is no actual return on investment because everyone gets the value regardless of membership.

Today’s Challenge

Associations and societies of today must show ROI in order to retain and recruit members. Organizations that have traditionally relied on their advocacy work to show value are finding themselves coming up short in today’s ROI column. Currently, your challenge is to create programs, activities, trainings, services, and anything else that deliver actual ROI for the dues their members pay. While many associations already do a pretty darn good job in this area, they also tend to do an awful job in measuring and communicating that ROI value to their current members and prospective members.

The Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process

Valuating the ROI on your various programs, services, and activities requires both art and science. There are a number of formulas (the science) for determining ROI and they are all based on having real-dollar numbers. What I believe to be the most honest way of determining the real-dollar value of any program, service or activity is to ask your members. This needs to be done in a live session facilitated by a non-partial third party (the art). Association staff and volunteer leaders have high-value determination agendas that generally hamstring the truth. Using audience feedback technology takes away risk by allowing anonymity. I want members to support, fight for, and stand by their valuation numbers, not to just offer random amounts.

When You Need Help

I have made a number of articles and other resources on this subject available to you at no charge; just visit http://www.rigsbee.com/association.htm and help yourself. I am now going to make a statement that to many, will likely sound quite self serving on my part. Conducting an honest member valuation process takes a skilled facilitator—you just cannot grab someone off the street to do the job. Please, please, please do not blow it with a lousy facilitator. And yes, the next potentially self-serving statement is this. I created the process, have been conducting the process for over a decade, and am darn good at it. If you do not hire me, at least hire someone as good as me. It is worth the expense to do this right.

Now You’ve Got an ROI Number

What now? Once you can honestly tell current members and prospective members how much they will get back for each dollar they invest in membership, you need to shout if from the roof tops. This information should be included in renewal notices, articles in your magazine or newsletter, on your web site, and everywhere possible. This is what the younger people in your industry need to hear. They need to hear why it is a good business decision to join your organization and pay their dues—year after year. They need to know what’s in it for them. Watch the video below for an effective tool for sharing member ROI.