March 25, 2013
Like many people in the association management industry, Kellen Company employees have enthusiastically answered the question, “And what do you do?” only to receive a blank stare and a polite “Huh?!” Although association management employs tens of thousands of people, most of the world doesn’t know about the thriving industry. Many of us didn’t even know about it when we started our careers. In this ongoing series, we’ll share how our employees discovered this career path and why they’ve stuck around.
How do you explain your job at cocktail parties?
After many, many social failures in this arena (the building products industry can have that effect on people), I’ve changed tactics and will try to explain my job by using an example from a more accessible industry, like one of Kellen’s food/beverage clients. I first try to clarify what a trade association is, who its members might be, and then explain the types of issues that would cause the association to form and how Kellen can help them navigate those issues. Only after I’ve gotten my listener all the way to this point will I delve into details about issues facing asphalt roofing manufacturers or what I was doing at the International Builders’ Show earlier this year – details which can otherwise halt a cocktail party conversation rather quickly.
What did your 12 year old self think you were going to be when you grew up? Are you doing anything related to that dream job now?
My 12 year old self, like my high school, college, and grown up self, never had a good sense of what the dream job would entail. I’ve always loved to learn, and I wanted to do something that would allow me to continue learning. My work at Kellen has provided exactly that – I find myself learning more and more every day about industries that I would never have expected to know anything about.
How did you end up in the industry?
I came by my job with Kellen quite by accident. I had moved to Washington, DC without a job and the posting for Kellen was the first I applied for. It took me until about halfway through the job interview to even understand what job I was applying for; I think I believed that I had applied for a very ambiguous consulting job that dealt with how people associated with one another, rather than managing trade associations. Even then, it was another two weeks on the job and a lot of acronyms later to fully comprehend that there was an entire AMC industry that I had previously never known about.
What’s your favorite part about working in association management?
There’s a lot to love about association management: how no two days are the same (or, oftentimes, even remotely similar), and how you are able to constantly challenge yourself with changing gears between clients, juggling a huge variety of tasks, and taking on issues that could have a real effect on the future of industry. But I think what I love most about this job is how it somehow always leads you into bizarre experiences in faraway places – whether it’s hearing ghost stories from a battleship caretaker after a member reception on the USS North Carolina, talking about roof coating regulations in a loud Greek restaurant in Chicago, or catching a sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge after a day exhibiting at the Pacific Coast Building Conference – all of which are far more memorable than a typical nine to five in an office.
What do you think the association management industry will look like in ten years?
I’m excited to see how association management will continue to grow and evolve, especially given how our world continues to become more interconnected and how a globalized economy seems to become more and more inevitable. It will be interesting to see which groups will turn to associations to help guide them through the changes brought on by rapidly developing technologies, the proliferation of social media, and whatever other changes the next decade holds in store!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Growing up, my dad’s mantra was always: “Look and listen, and you will learn.” It’s such a simple concept, but one I always try to adhere to, especially in association management. Our member company representatives have such a wealth of knowledge, and you can learn so much by just asking questions and hearing what they have to say.
About Kelly Franklin
Kelly has been a Staff Associate with Kellen for just over a year and a half, and has been working primarily with building product clients during that time. She is currently the Staff Associate for the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA), the Roof Coatings Manufacturers Association (RCMA), the American Institute of Building Design (AIBD) and the Composite Lumber Manufacturers Association (CLMA). Through her work with these groups, she has represented associations and Kellen at a variety of industry trade shows and events.
In her spare time, Kelly likes to travel and cook, and loves to go to hockey games (let’s go Caps!). As an English major and Spanish minor, Kelly has a lot of interest in language, literature, and writing, and is an avid reader of contemporary fiction.