Running an association is a lot like a team challenge on a chef competition, where the team is given a box of ingredients that need to be used to make a meal. It takes a lot of creativity, risk, diligence and commitment to the group; as well as the ability to follow directions, function in high pressure situations, and probably most important of all, push your team to do things that they don’t realize they can do.
For those of us whose careers are in association management, the ingredients in our box are each staff member, chapter, new officer, board member and often a few other surprise elements. Of course in the background, we are still expected to maintain the same level of gourmet meal no matter what’s inside.
I paint this picture to give you an idea of the many skills HFTP staff members need to have to remain successful, to express the impact of volunteer changeovers and how the staff must manage such frequent changes. For example, when a very active volunteer who has been with HFTP a long time and has been a core ingredient to the Leadership Summit suddenly leaves the industry, it is up to the staff and the other volunteers to replace that person with just the right skill set so that program “tastes” as good, or better, than it ever has before.
This week marks the 20th anniversary of the second longest tenure of any staff member in our history: Lucinda Hart, CAE, HFTP’s chief operations officer. Here is a little bit of her story, and as I tell it, those of you who know her will recognize how much of a key ingredient she has been to HFTP’s success.
Lucinda started at HFTP in spring of 1994 as a temporary receptionist, answering the phone. From an office point of view, we were in a bit of a flux because of a change in staff leadership. At the time, I was acting CEO at 31 years old, without much management experience. In those days, we had a very small staff and would surround the key staff with lots of temp help. My first real conversation that I recall with Lucinda was on our way to a staff morale building happy hour one Friday after work. Lucinda said she wanted to attend but was not able to. Since she was new, I thought she was a bit shy and perhaps just needed to catch a ride. The big shock to me came when Lucinda informed us that she was not yet 21 years old! Lucinda came into HFTP and started learning so many things and making such good suggestions, that I was sure she had had years of work experience under her belt. Needless to say, we offered her a permanent job within days and she accepted.
During Lucinda’s tenure, she has been the receptionist, membership assistant, executive assistant/board liaison, director of membership, staff vice president and finally chief operations officer. During these years, she has always given HFTP 110 percent, while raising a family, earning the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation, earning a bachelor’s degree and this year will graduate with an Honors Masters in Business Administration. She has always been strongly supported by her husband, Will, a retired Army Master Sergeant, and her children Mercedes and Jared.
HFTP has been blessed for many years with long tenured star employees. Lucinda is a star among stars. Throughout her 20 years, HFTP has seen some great successes and sometimes major challenges, but we have overcome each and every one of them with lots of help from dedicated volunteers, staff and leadership. During these times, Lucinda has provided more than her fair share and HFTP is lucky to have her. Please help me congratulate Lucinda on her years of service with HFTP!
Frank Wolfe, CAE is the CEO of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) and an inductee into the International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame. He often speaks on hospitality technology through the GUESTROOM 20X program. Follow him on Twitter @frankwolfe.