How an AMC can help associations establish a presence abroad
By Richard E. Cristol
In recent years, evolving technology, transportation, communications and economic developments have led to increased global connectivity. At the same time, a growing interest in a worldwide knowledge exchange is breaking down the historical geographic and regulatory obstacles to global business and professional development.
With international trade and foreign direct investment continuing to surge, many association leaders are now turning their attention to other parts of the world. Global expansion, or even a recognized presence, can generate a range of benefits including increased membership and name recognition, more networking and business/professional opportunities, stronger advocacy, and a better understanding of cultural diversity and international legislation. It can also protect an organization from competitors. And in light of the recent issues involving the product safety of China imports, as well as the global subprime mortgage crisis, associations can also use their expertise to help influence international product compliance, standards development and technical regulations.
Globalization, however, is not easy to achieve. In addition to the expense attached to expansion, acceptable business approaches can vary considerably around the world.
An Association Management Company (AMC) can help an organization achieve its international goals. Representing thousands of associations around the world – and managing budgets exceeding $3.4 billion collectively – AMCs can offer the staff and expertise required to succeed in a foreign market. With an extensive network of international contacts and alliances, as well as professionals who are culturally sensitive and fluent in many languages, an AMC can be the ideal partner for organizations striving to become a global presence.
Here are seven ways an AMC can help an association operate on an international scale.
- Vision shapers. Familiar with the regulations impacting a range of industries and professions worldwide, AMC leaders are experts when it comes to expansion-related strategic planning and consulting for not-for-profit organizations. In-house AMC professionals can help clients fully evaluate their situation and resources to anticipate and realize their global potential. This could range from how to establish a footprint in China to planning a conference in Belgium or addressing legislative and regulatory developments in India.
- Helpful headquarters. Some AMCs already have international locations, while others have the desire to accommodate an association’s growing international needs. Either way, international AMCs can help global-minded clients by offering overseas offices and professionals with important contacts in their communities. Should full-service management be needed, the AMC would handle all of the day-to-day administration as well as direct assistance to financial, meeting and conference management – leaving the association with less overhead and personnel expenses.
- Government affairs masters. AMC employees are experienced when it comes to global government affairs representation. This might include working closely with European Union policy-makers, government officials in Asia and other world leaders and stakeholders to help shape and deliver effective legislation benefiting association members. From participating in government advisory committees to conducting educational campaigns, conferences and scientific symposia, AMC leaders have worked on landmark legislative and regulatory initiatives affecting client industries across the globe.
- Financial overseers. U.S. organizations already maintain strict accounting standards passed in the wake of Sarbanes-Oxley. Those with locations outside of their headquarters country, however, must deal with additional accounting practices. Many countries feature their own version of GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) and have beefed up corporate governance codes in recent years. Now, several are adopting International Financial Reporting Standards which are developed and maintained by the International Accounting Standards Board. Business leaders are pushing to merge U.S. and global accounting standards to make it easier for companies to invest overseas, but until the two agendas are completely synchronized, associations must be able to distinguish the differences. An AMC can provide the insight and expertise needed to help guarantee accurate accountability. From boosting revenue to analyzing membership costs and recommending appropriate pricing strategies, in-house AMC accounting experts can help ensure an association’s global financial stability for years to come.
- Legal eagles. Dependent upon the industry and region an association represents, there may be diverse legal issues – such as anti-counterfeiting, intellectual property protection, technology transfer agreements, licensing and research contracts – that require actions as significant as litigation. At the very least, an association should expect to change its bylaws when expanding into other countries. AMCs offer this kind of knowledge and experience.
- Best practitioner. Because AMCs manage a variety of associations worldwide, they are able to compare and contrast the most effective – and ineffective – rules and regulations. While international expansion strategies differ based on the association and location, the adoption of certain operating practices, principles and values can be the key to success. This might include providing regular briefings on any technical issues or regulatory developments impacting members, hosting workshops and seminars to promote networking and information exchange, setting up certification or standards programs, monitoring legislation and lobbying government officials on members’ behalf. In addition, associations must abide by strict operating rules and internal procedures, such as compliance with competition law policy. From contract procedures to member communications and service delivery to insurance coverage, AMC leaders can share information on specific sectors or topics to ensure all of their clients benefit from the best practices.
- Alliance builders. An AMC spends years honing diplomatic skills through partnerships – often the most critical component of international success. Through combined resources and collaboration with a trustworthy partner, an organization can better determine the different market dynamics, legal issues and culture. AMCs can help clients achieve their international objectives by developing unique sponsorship programs and partnerships.
Because of the depth of staff experience and expertise, an AMC often serves as a window into the U.S., Europe, Asia and the rest of the world. The full-service management option can also result in a more seamless transition, in terms of international expansion. Regardless of whether an AMC is hired, an organization should never “go global” alone – particularly if unfamiliar with the region.
As organizations operate in today’s shrinking world, it’s important to look internationally.
Richard E. Cristol is president of Kellen Company, an AMC Institute and ASAE accredited international Association Management Company with offices in the U.S., Europe, China and Singapore and strategic alliance partners in Bahrain, China, India and Singapore. Rick also serves on the board of AMC Institute. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Cristol wrote this article for republishing in ASAE’s Associations Now Guide to Association Management Companies, July 2008