The Elements of a Successful AMC Client Transition
The Elements of a Successful AMC Client Transition
February 3, 2014
By: Sue Pine, CAE
Summary: Transitioning a client association in or out of an AMC doesn’t need to be painful. When both AMCs start with some critical components, a transition can be a smooth, efficient process that guarantees continuity for the client. Here are some tips from the experience of a recent successful transition.
I’ve been reading association publications for more than 30 years, and I’ve noticed that articles about association management company (AMC) transitions often seem to have a negative spin. In June 2013, I had the opportunity to play an active role in the transition of the American Neurological Association from L&L Management Services, Inc. to Association Headquarters, Inc. After meeting with L&L Management President Linda Scher, MBA, and Vice President Tisha Kehn, I committed to sharing with the association and AMC community how a successful transition might unfold.
Whether inbound or outbound, some critical components of the transition process can be of assistance to you in the future when transitioning clients to or from your AMC.
Section 3.5 of the ANSI Standard of Good Practices for the Association Management Company Industry clearly defines the need for Accredited AMCs to establish transition procedures that at a minimum include
- a time table to include the closing or transferring of all accounts, shipment of client materials, and notification to members
- a list of clearly defined responsibilities of current AMC, volunteer leaders, and new management
- established procedures as well as fees and charges for agreed-upon services that may be rendered following termination
- a process and timeline for the shipment of materials in an organized manner, with clearly marked files
- the methodology to be used for timely notification to all vendors of management change
- an outside audit by a certified public accountant of the financial records immediately after the transfer of financial responsibilities, or, if no audit is authorized, a release in writing from the client board of directors that it will accept the financial records as transferred
Beyond these requirements, here are a few more critical components that I would recommend for a successful TRANSITION.
It is so much easier to start a transition process when an element of trust already exists between those involved. This is where involvement in ASAE’s AMC Section Council or AMC Institute can play an important role. As an active supporter and facilitator of the AMCI Accreditation program, I have personally had a chance to meet both Linda and Tisha at an accreditation workshop. This allowed us all to approach the process with a high degree of trust.
During the transition process, it is important to remember that we need to have realistic expectations regarding the availability of the staff of the other AMC. Having a conversation about a set time for transition meetings benefits both AMCs.
Accountability (on Both Sides)
AMC owners must set the tone for accountability of their staff. Accredited AMCs have committed to train staff on the elements of a successful transition. Commitments outlined in timelines need to be honored.
AMCs that are proactive in sharing the nuances of the client being transitioned contribute greatly to a successful transition. We all know that written policies and procedures only go so far in explaining the unique nuances of an association’s culture and preferences.
Surprises: Count on Them!
Even in the best of transitions, you will find a few surprises. Surprises sometimes surface in the details of vendor contracts related to who owns designs or codes. Other surprises could relate to program details that slipped the mind of the volunteer leader during your contract negotiation. These are examples of the type of issues that might surface and just need to be dealt with through the course of the transition process. They are just a part of life!
Interest of the Client
The client’s best interest needs to be the focal point of the transition. When AMCs are able to keep their egos in check and focus on delivering the transition with the best interest of the client front and center, everyone wins.
Starting with a realistic timeline makes a transition unfold in a smooth fashion. Ideal transitions include a 90-day timeline that allows both AMCs to prepare for what needs to be done. Accelerated timelines of 30 or 60 days challenge the transition process but don’t necessarily mean the transition can’t be accomplished effectively.
Transitions built on the integrity of the transition participants on both sides are destined for success. When situations surface (and they will) that you are unprepared to deal with, it is knowing that the other AMC shares a core value of integrity that will help to deal with the issue.
Don’t hide behind email. Yes, it is important to document conversations and plans for tasks and responsibilities, but it is also important to know you can pick up the phone and have an open and honest conversation about any blip in the documented plan.
In summary, it is important to embrace an element of nimbleness through the transition process. While the AMCs are working through the transfer of data, files, and checklists, the show must go on regarding the programs of the associations. A successful transition will be virtually transparent to the average member, and, at the end of the day, isn’t that the goal?
Sue Pine, CAE, is the vice president of client services at Association Headquarters, Inc. in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. Sue received the AMC Institute “Lifetime Achievement” award in 2009, after a 30-year career at Fernley & Fernley, Inc. Sue also is the AMC National Account representative for the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org