We Are All In This
My name is Gary LaBranche, and I am an association professional. With those words, I introduced
myself to the Forum’s Search Committee in
March 2003. And so it is appropriate that I say
good-bye with that same expression.
It is an expression of pride, of passion and of commitment. It
doesn’t define who I am, but it declares how I see myself professionally. And it helps to explain why I am leaving the Association
Forum to accept a new job.
As of September 1, 2008, I will be the president and CEO of
the Association for Corporate Growth. Founded in 1954, ACG is a
global association for professionals involved in corporate
growth, corporate development, and mergers and acquisitions.
Palatine-based ACG serves more than 12,000 members from corporations, private equity, finance, and professional service firms
representing Fortune 1000, FTSE 100, and mid-market companies
in 53 chapters in North America and Europe.
Serving the Forum has been the most fulfilling experience of
my career. I have enjoyed overwhelming support and encouragement from each successive board of directors. Forum leaders
have embraced innovation and worked in selfless partnership to
achieve organizational goals. Members have responded with
openness and enthusiasm to new ideas. Above all, I have been
blessed with the hardest-working, most creative and professional
staff that any CEO could ever hope to call colleagues. I am
absolutely confident that they will continue to serve the Forum
and our profession with exemplary skill and dedication.
Together, we’ve accomplished some notable things. The Forum
is now housed in a custom-designed office space with a state-of-the-art conference center, which has enabled a nearly 500 percent
increase in educational program offerings. A redesigned FORUM
magazine continues to garner awards and praise for practical and
insightful content. The recently launched digital version of
FORUM also is attracting attention and readership. Membership
has grown, a new PAC was launched, and the Economic Impact
Study was updated. Major initiatives have served as rallying
points for our community: Association Week and the Forum Honors Gala, introduced in 2004, and a five-year, $1 million commitment to the Diversity Workforce Partnership, announced in 2007.
Advocacy efforts included the defeat of a major hotel tax and
defeat of burdensome regulations on fax communications. We
showcased innovative marketing techniques, from viral marketing
to bobble heads. Efforts to explore and demonstrate new digital
resources included publishing content via Amazon’s Kindle, The
FORUM Effect blog, podcasts, Association Wiki and the highly
popular Knowledge Lab at Holiday Showcase. A new Web site
featuring social networking tools and integrated with a new
association management system is in the planning stages for
launch in 2009. Along the way, the gross revenue of the Forum
and the Forum Foundation grew from $2.997 million in 2003 to
$4.162 million in 2008. Net assets grew from $1.866 million to
$3.504 million in the same period.
The Forum’s success is entirely attributable to the efforts of
the staff, volunteers and supplier-partners who worked so hard
and gave so much to make these achievements possible. It is
hard to leave a job that you love, and harder still to leave people
whom you’ve come to respect and admire. Luckily for me, I am
only doing the former and not the latter.
Just as you have come to rely upon your peers and colleagues
for advice and support, I’ll do so as well. Association professionals
share a specific academic preparation for our work, and come to
the field from a wide variety of previous jobs. Much of our knowledge is gained “on the job.” Association professionals rely on
each other to learn and grow; it is up to us to develop new models of practice and discover new applications and approaches.
Our peers are our teachers and role models. That is why, over the
past five years I have often said, “We are all in this together.” In a
world in which boards change every year, and the world changes
every day, we are our best, most constant source of knowledge,
inspiration and professional support.
I decided to become an association professional while a
college undergraduate. Attracted by the diversity of tasks and
intrigued by the complexity of organizational management, it
seemed to be a field that offered intellectual challenges along
with being an honorable and rewarding profession. I have never
been bored, and have never regretted my choice. I am as proud,
passionate and committed to the profession of association
management as I have ever been in my 27-year career.
My name is Gary LaBranche, and I am an association
Gary A. LaBranche, CAE