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From the Fall 2020 Issue

From the Executive Director

The Lasting Opportunities of Normal

Message from the Executive Director || Paul B. MacDonald

As I reflect on my first year as the Executive Director of ACMO, I shake my head about the surreal situation we find ourselves in. The so-called ‘new normal’ thrust on us by the pandemic is anything but normal. The pandemic is unprecedented and came with challenges most of us were ill-prepared to deal with. The direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic are considerable, with many Canadians struggling with job loss, countless companies closing permanently, and the economy contracting. This is not normal.

It is no surprise that ACMO has not been spared from the negative impacts of the pandemic. Membership renewals are down as members cut expenses to make ends meet. Our event revenues are non-existent because our events have been cancelled or postponed due to the limits on indoor gatherings. Our commercial revenues are down as our sponsors and advertisers trim their marketing budgets. All told, we estimate that our annual revenues will be down about 35-40% this year.  This is not normal.

In light of this, the organization is taking positive steps to manage risk and mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic to protect member’s equity in the association. We are implementing a variety of austerity measures to manage costs, and ACMO still enjoys healthy reserves. Unlike many associations, at present ACMO is in a relatively good position to weather this storm, knock on wood.

Notwithstanding the challenges presented by the pandemic, there are positive aspects and opportunities arising from the pandemic that we are pivoting our operations to take advantage of. Like most organizations, we have been forced to embrace technology more than ever and be more creative and innovative in the development and delivery of programs and services. For example, we recently conducted our first virtual annual general meeting using an online meeting platform incorporating real-time voting. The meeting was very successful and was conducted at a fraction of the cost of an in-person meeting. As such, we are giving serious consideration to conducting
all future AGMs virtually. Similarly, we have implemented monthly webinars and are planning to hold our very popular luncheons, education seminars and conferences by virtual means so our members can continue to learn, and our sponsors and advertisers can continue to promote their products and services to our members.

Another positive aspect of the pandemic is that we have had more time to work “on” the business instead of working “in” it. By this, I mean we have had more time for strategic planning, program development and operational refinement because we are not as busy running in-person events. All of our internal operations and governance procedures and policies are being given a much-needed overhaul, and recently we launched several marketing research initiatives to gather input to improve our programs and services and reshape the association for success in the future.

So, despite the widespread negative impacts of the pandemic, there will be lasting positive impacts as well. Long after the pandemic eases and we return to ‘normal’ operations, the technological and innovative practices we adopted as temporary measures will become a permanent element of how we deliver value to customers. Even the technological Luddites among us must concede that the virtual normal is here to stay.

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