By Amanda L. Gutshall, Editor, ABF Journal
As Gregory Fine entered his new position leading the TMA as CEO, following a predecessor that had a successful 11 years at the helm, he took his association experience and his staff, members and volunteers and set about looking at ways to improve not only the association’s offerings, but its resourcefulness to the expanding TMA community.
After graduating from the University of Montana with a degree in political science, Fine began his association career as a lobbyist in Washington D.C., working for the Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition. Next, he moved to the membership marketing and operational side of association management, and it’s here he has spent the majority of his career, covering the broad spectrum of the different aspects of membership, communication and marketing. Previously, he was the vice president of marketing and communications for the Association of Corporate Growth.
In addition to speaking regularly on associations for a variety of organizations, he also serves on the research committee of the American Society of Association Executives, and was formerly the chair of the membership section council. He was a co-author of a book called the Essentials of Membership.
Armed with this extensive background, Fine was more than ready to lead the TMA, and it shows in his enthusiasm for what he does. “The TMA is a highly chapter centric organization. We deliver a significant portion of member value through our chapters and I have a lot of experience working with other organizations that have chapters, so the ability to recognize the value of and leverage the chapter network has certainly provided me a solid foundation for my TMA tenure.”
And working with the ACG helped Fine understand the mindset of TMA members. “There is a membership overlap between the two organizations so I have familiarity with some of the issues that are faced within TMA… I also have a passion for what TMA members do.”
With his first anniversary as CEO drawing near, Fine reflects on the highlights of the last year, with an important one being getting to know the culture, the staff and its members all over the globe. This year, he says, “I will have traveled on TMA business nearly 120,000 miles to chapter events around the globe and meetings, and so the opportunity to really get to know our members, to get to know the chapter leaders, to engage at all levels of the organization has been a real highlight.”
Fine also notes, “We also have an incredible and talented team here at TMA global headquarters in Chicago… A highlight every day is working with these folks to serve the TMA membership and advance the organization .” It has also been instrumental for Fine to come to know the leadership of TMA — the executive board and board of trustees, understanding what they do and how that “makes such a huge difference for the global economy.”
In one short year, Fine and his TMA staff, in addition to enhancing the relationship with its chapters, accomplished many goals, but three stand out. For the first time in at least three years, membership in the TMA is on the rise. “We are on track to see a membership increase for the first time in many years,” Fine explains. The goal, he says, was to remain flat and not lose members as the association did in 2009, 2010 and 2011. “It looks like we’re actually going to be up over our 2011 number, and perhaps even exceed where we were in 2010 … that’s our goal… I think we’ve stabilized membership and hopefully we’ll go back to growth.”
The association is also embarking on a multi-year project to revamp and change how TMA delivers education to its members, and as Fine says, “really create a system that allows us to deliver to the membership and to the turnaround, restructuring and corporate renewal community — the information that they need, when they need it and in a delivery model that’s appropriate. It’s a huge investment.”
The TMA is using resources from its cornerstone designated board fund, which Fine says was a fundraising effort to raise money to support aspects to enhance education and advance the profession. A three-to-five year project, Fine notes that the TMA spent the past year surveying the membership and building the foundation for the program.
A third accomplishment was to integrate the ATCP, or CTP. Fine explains, “ACTP and TMA merged a few years back and we have fully integrated both organizations solidified that CTP is a key component and critical part of the TMA future. Our ability to certify turnaround professionals effectively and create value and community for those people who have the designation is very exciting. The CTP is a major focus for us next year and going forward.”
Fine looks into the next year continuing to focus on much of the same goals that the association has committed to over the past 12 months. “We will continue to focus on how we can deliver value to our membership and enhance and improve the experiences our members receive at the chapters by working with our chapter leaders and providing additional support there. We want to continue to see membership growth and grow by providing greater value, more opportunities and programs to our members.”
Education remains a chief priority for Fine. “We will continue to invest and roll out new courses over the next 12 months. Also, we will create a strategic focus around raising the visibility of the CTP and making the greater community aware of what it means to hold a CTP and why it’s important.”
As the TMA strives to become even more member responsive under Fine’s watch, education will also play a part in providing more benefits to members in the future. “We’re currently looking at how we can streamline the member affinity programs that we have, and we will continue to do that.” The biggest benefit, Fine says, is significantly investing in the kind of experiences members have at the association’s events including The Annual Conference in Boston in November and the Distressed Investing Conference in Las Vegas in February. The spring event in Chicago will be revamped, Fine notes. “We’re still strategizing on what the focus of the spring conference will be, but it will be something different and unique.”
He adds that the most important goal is to be more responsive, to “look at what our members’ need and address those.” For example, the TMA conducted a membership survey and found that members want two things: that the TMA provide a “network for them to grow their business, to build the connections they need to secure new business or grow existing business,” he says. The second aspect they wanted from their association was educational tools so that they could continually improve performance.
Members also said the TMA could do a better job representing the industry by clarifying the role that turnaround practitioners and corporate renewal specialists play in a distressed situation, Fine explains. So, he adds, as the TMA begins to lay its foundation for 2013, it intends to be a disseminator of information that amplifies the unique nature of what the TMA community is all about.
While many members may worry about economic instability here and abroad, Fine says his focus will be mainly on aspects that can be controlled, namely creating a community where member interaction can be facilitated to foster new relationship building and professional development.
That focus is not only for the members in North America but also for those globally. Fine wants to continue to see the international chapters grow, and he says the TMA is on pace to have 2,000 members outside of North America by 2013. This coincides with many larger turnaround firms that are expanding their reach throughout Europe and into Asia.
“The TMA is a global organization, and so as we build cross-border relationships, there’s no doubt that what’s happening around the world has an impact on everyone — that what happens in Spain can have an impact on lending in the U.S… We believe that as we look at expansion outside of North America and outside of our current chapter network, we will continue to focus on primary business centers where we do not have a current presence. Particularly in Asia, we will look at Singapore, and begin to try to lay the groundwork for how we may enter the market in China.”
Fine notes that TMA’s European chapters are relatively mature so the organization will continue to expand to cities where there may be interest. A turnaround is often times a product of a local jurisdiction particularly in regard to how a practitioner may be impacted by issues surrounding bankruptcy and restructuring, Fine says, and adds, “The TMA wants to build educational and certification programs that can be rolled out that allows us to be unique where we need to be but also can share common best practices in turnaround management. There’s a huge amount of opportunity for TMA internationally, and I think the focus as we move forward is to make sure that we are leveraging that in a way that allows members who want to do cross-border business may use the TMA platform as a way to do that.”
In summary, for Fine it’s been a phenomenal year full of challenges and gratification, and there’s not a day when he isn’t excited to come to work. “I think what the TMA members do, again, is really exciting, innovative and cutting edge. It’s an absolute privilege to be able to lead this organization and work with our volunteers and our members to ensure that we’re here.”
The TMA celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2013, and it’s a milestone that Fine takes seriously. “The organization is relatively new; it’s only 25 years old. So to be in a position where I can help guide the future and lay the foundation for the next 25 years is an honor, a privilege and a little daunting too. You want to make sure that we build an association that will live on well past all the volunteers, the leaders and CEO that are sitting here today. We have the volunteers to do that, they are committed to that, we have a staff that is committed to that, and I see a very positive future for our organization.”