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How to Free Up Time for You and Your Team (and do things better)

Dave Will
May 3, 2024

This image says it all. We all get wrapped up in the day to day operations of answering emails, checking boxes, filling out forms, putting out fires, and going to the bathroom for a little break from it all. And when someone asks how you’re doing, what do you say? “Ugh… Busy!”  The first problem here is that it's an unpleasant way to live. More importantly, we’re spinning our wheels missing opportunities because we’re too busy to slow down and see the way out of it all.

I’m 52. But, I’m a really young 52 and if I shave my beard I look even younger. (Obviously ChatGPT isn’t writing this article.) In my 30+ years of making the donuts, I’ve focused on one thing. Process. My job for 30 years has been focused on changing the way things are done (process) and improving them through optimization and automation.

What I’ve learned over the 30 years is that many organizations will pay a boat-load of money to hire a firm to do just that. They hire a company to come in and take a look at the way they’re doing things, optimize it and spit out a more streamlined solution, often involving tech. 

However, a lot of organizations, associations included, don’t have a boat-load of money to take a chance of improving processes and their tech stack. While that would be awesome, you can do it yourself and make good progress towards finding a better and more efficient way of doing things. 

Warning: You’re going to have to stop running around like a chicken with your head cut off for a bit. As a good friend once told me, “You will need to slow down to speed up.” 

Slow down a little and follow these steps to make your team more efficient:

1. Review your strategic goals - Identify what’s important to the organization. Is it retention? Growth? Is it that your members are disengaged? Is there a new non-dues revenue opportunity? Is revenue an issue? 

2. Identify the problems - Now look at each of the goals and identify the variable affecting the goals. What’s the problem associated with the goal? Or, more likely, the problems.

3. Prioritize your problem solving initiatives - Imagine if you could solve each of the problems. Which one would have the most positive impact on your organization? 

4. Build the “As-Is Process Map” - Map the current process surrounding the activities. Get as detailed as possible. Remember: this is how you do things today. How you do this and to what level of granularity doesn’t matter as much as just doing something. Now, let it brew. This is important. Give it some time while you work on Step 5. 

5. Educate yourself on the areas of interest - Get curious. Talk to peers. Have internal group discussions. Read books. Google stuff. Ask AI. Learn about AI. Turn to your industry suppliers. Gain as much awareness around this particular area of expertise as you can. Now, you’re an expert. 

6. Optimize, Automate and Outsource - Now it’s getting fun. This is the time to think radically. Dream. Think big. Get out of the weeds and figure out what you can do better by mapping out the “To-Be Process.” Blow it up! This is where you get to optimize the process using new methodologies. In doing so, you should be thinking about what technologies you can use to create efficiencies through automation. And whatever you can’t automate and whatever your team isn’t good at, then outsource it. Find someone to help. 

This process should take a couple hours a week for about three months with your team. You can divide and conquer, and in doing so you will find that not only are you working more efficiently and saving time, but also the output should be even better and more consistent.

Anyone can do this. You don’t need the Executive Director or VP to drive this initiative. Are you in Membership? Work with your teammate(s), or if it’s just you, carve out an hour a week to work on it. You can do better. You can save yourself a lot of time. But you need to slow down for a bit.

Why did I write this? I’m the Co-Founder and CEO of PropFuel. I know how important it is for association executives to grow and retain membership. It reflects your impact in the community. You make every attempt to get to know your members so that you can serve them well. But, most associations are doing that ineffectively and therefore it’s not helping with the growth or retention. In fact, many associations are losing ground to a plethora of competitive resources. You’re competing for your members’ and prospective members’ attention every day. 

PropFuel is a way to automate the process of capturing insight to engage your members better. All of them. At the individual level. Can you imagine doing that over the phone? Or through broadcast email?

That’s why this topic interests me so much. 

Quite often I hear, “I love what you do. We really need to listen to our members better, but we’re implementing a new AMS and we have a big conference coming up.”

Yep - and the hamster wheel continues. Sometimes we need to slow down to speed up. Carve out some time for improvement.

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