September 16, 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?
I don’t…when there are cocktails involved my friends don’t talk business! 🙂
Nearly everyone is somewhat familiar with trade associations or professional societies. Few people would ever think about the infrastructure needed to run these organizations. I explain simply that Kellen provides staffing and operations to make good associations great!
If they still don’t understand that, I tell them I’m a fireman…
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?
When I discovered that my dream job of being an heir to a family fortune was out of the question, I decided that I wanted to be in business. I’m pretty sure I didn’t know what that meant at twelve. But my blue-collar immigrant grandparents always spoke about “businessmen” with awe and respect, since they created jobs and the American dream for so many people. I am lucky enough to be living their dream, contributing in a small way to the good work of the Kellen Company team.
How did you end up in the industry?
I spent some time in the magazine business, publishing trade magazines for several associations. After that company was acquired by another publisher, one of our association clients asked me to help them “fix” their business. It was a great opportunity to learn the association business from the bottom up. Luckily, we had success with that client and grew our business from there.
What’s your favorite part about working in association management?
In no other business can you meet so many smart people from so many different industries, doing so many different jobs living in places all over the world. Association management professionals have a truly unique entrée into the inner circles of virtually every industry on the planet. My favorite part is shutting up and hearing the stories of the successes of these people and their businesses.
What do you think the association management industry will look like in ten years?
Now, and in the future, associations will need leaders, not managers. The speed of change demands leaders who are insightful, impatient and courageous. The challenges we will face over the next decade will be unprecedented. But each challenge creates an opportunity if we are nimble enough to look for them.
I truly believe Kellen is in great shape! As I transition into becoming one of the industry “old guys,” I am awestruck by the talents of our future leaders. Their energy, passion and creativity are phenomenal. The work they do, and the value they create for our clients, is spectacular and inspirational.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
We often get so embroiled in the frantic pace of business, that we lose focus on what is most important. We cannot operate effectively in constant crisis mode.
A business colleague who was in a very important position in a Fortune 500 Company would remind me that our work, though important, is not lifesaving. His catch phrase, which I have adopted, is “No one is going to die.” If an email goes unanswered for an hour, if we actually take a vacation and turn off our cell phone, nothing really bad is going to happen.
Bottom line – try to keep perspective and balance.
About Pat Farrey
Pat Farrey joined Kellen Company when his firm, Landon, Farrey & Associates was acquired in 2011. He continues to manage Kellen’s Chicago office and the eleven clients serviced there.
Pat is an original South Side Chicagoan, making him a White Sox fan and sparing him the lifelong heartbreak of the Chicago Cubs. He has three boys, Ryan (21), Keegan (17) and Nolan (13) that share his passion for all things Chicago.
In his spare time, Pat is a decent cook, a terrible golfer and an avid power-boater, enjoying his time on the lakes of Northern Michigan. Pat and his boys reside in Naperville, Illinois.