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Executive Q&A - For lifelong exec, long term is key

Lynda Patterson and AMP featured in Wisconsin State Journal business column

Lynda Patterson runs her home the same way she runs her businesses. “We have a household manual,” said Patterson, executive director of the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives and owner of Association Management Partners. “We’ve had au pairs living with us up until last fall, so the household manual goes over the philosophy of our family: what things are important to us, what things aren’t as important to us, the values we live by.”

She and her husband, TJ, have four young children. “There are a few things that are very important to us: reading every night, getting enough sleep, eating a relatively healthy diet, going to church, being respectful of one another.”

Q: Explain exactly what you do in your businesses.
A: I run nonprofit trade and professional associations as my primary business. Rather than hiring staff, the board of directors or leaders of an association hire our firm and we manage all aspects of the association for them from their membership recruitment, member retention, all of their communications including their newsletter, website and whatever other public relations or marketing efforts they have.

Q: Why did you start this business?
A: I’ve always run multiple associations. It goes back to my childhood, being a member of an association we call a family — one of seven kids. I think I have a natural ability to be with people, to work together with groups of people and organize and rally the troops, if you will. As I was finishing graduate school in Milwaukee, I was recruited to be the executive director of what is now called Easter Seals Kindcare. I was 25 years old and I was very fortunate that the chairman of the board really took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. We worked on shifting that from really a charity model to a business model to the point where we raised enough money to buy our own building and consolidate some of our operations. That position was housed at an association management company. The association management owners asked me to stay, and I was there for 10 years. Then I got to the point in my career, after 20 years and certification and other recognition, that I had the confidence to go out on my own.

Q: How many associations do you represent?
A: We represent a total of six. We just now are helping to start up a solar energy association in Wisconsin. That is a real mix of business owners and entrepreneurs in the solar industry.

Q: You seem very entrepreneurial. How would you describe your style of entrepreneurship?
A: I really look at the long term, and I have to challenge myself to do that because sometimes I worry about purchasing the next laptop or who’s going to share offices. But I really try to look at the long term and focus on our clients, our members and what their needs are. I am trying to always stay ahead. For example, there’s been a time with associations where we saw a lot of mergers. So you have to have that personality, that spirit of partnership. I’ve been very successful in growing associations by working together with other trade associations.

Q: What do you envision for your business?
A: Well, that changes all the time. My original business plan called for growth of up to 10 employees. I want to have a company where we really live our core values: community, innovation, transparency and excitement. I want to know everyone who works here and, as important, I want to know our volunteer leaders, their associations, their missions, what’s important to them.

Q: How did you grow this business with four kids ages 6 to 12?
A: I feel so supported in every aspect of my life, and I had to consciously and deliberately realize that I wasn’t going to do everything A-plus. If I signed a kid up for the wrong age group in soccer, which I have done, that’s a B. I give myself a B on that, and we’ll work it out. I can’t be A-plus all the time so I don’t get too stressed out or too anxious about that. My kids have a level of independence that I’m proud of and they are very supportive of one another. In my company, in my home, we all have our areas of expertise, but we all just work together — and that’s what you do in an association.

Q: Did you have substantial capital to start this business with?
A: I needed capital. I have an investor who is an entrepreneur and a coach for me. He built his business from the ground up and sold it in nine years. He challenges me. I know that I need to think what’s going to happen to this business beyond 10 or 20 years.
I knew I wanted to start my own business and I didn’t want to skimp on anything if I was going to do this for the long term. So I put together a five-year business plan. I could have started this with my own money and retirement funds, but I didn’t want to touch that. Just through my networking, I had two or three potential investors.

Q: What’s the best advice your coach has given you?
A: Not to skimp on investing in the company.

by Patricia Simms, Wisconsin State Journal. See full article here.


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