R. William Taylor should fit right in with Washington.
Taylor, the new president of the American Society of Association Executives, is described by one former associate as an "unredeemed workaholic" for whom "life is a sequence of jobs to be done as expeditiously and efficiently as possible."
"I normally live at a very fast pace," admits the 52-year-old, who just moved from Detroit to head up ASAE last December.
At a time when recession forced its first budget retrenchment in 16 years, ASAE will need energy. Last year, the recession reduced attendance at ASAE education programs by 15 percent to 20 percent and cut ASAE income by $300,000, according to former ASAE president James Low. he ASAE is an association of associations. So the ASAE president's suite is command central for what some count as the third largest industry in the Washington area. That's why Taylor wanted the job. The ASAE presidency is the "number one job in the profession," Taylor explained.
Taylor was general manager and executive vice president of the 60,000-member Society of Manufacturing Engineers in Michigan.
The ASAE has only 10,000 members, but those members are executives of other associations, with about 55 million individual members behind them.
What ASAE does is train its members how to lobby, how to put out association magazines, how to put on trade shows and conventions and how to expand membership.
Taylor "knows about as much as anybody in the country on association management," said Low. "You need a variety of talents to deal with a membership as diverse and as fickle, frankly," as the ASAE membership, Low said. The membership runs from the Sierra Club to the National Rifle Association, so communication skills are crucial. "Bill is a good communicator," he said. Taylor has a master's degree in journalism, and has years of experience with producing association magazines.
Taylor originated the idea of certifying association executives. Certification has become one of the foundations of ASAE's growth: by making association management a profession and administering the test to certify executives, the ASAE expanded its influence.
Taylor is going to change some things about the way ASAE is run. "Jim Low's management style is totally different from mine," he said. "I'm very structured and very textbook and very much by the numbers. Jim was very intuitive--a brilliant manager, but an intuitive manager.
"I believe very much in planning. I believe very little happens by accident and that you make plans and you make those plans come true." Taylor has his sights set on boosting his membership by 1,000 members a year for the next five years.
He also plans to emphasize the education role of the organization. "I think ASAE has one overriding mission, and that is education of the association executive."
Taylor is planning a new public relations effort to improve attendance for ASAE's educational programs.
According to Taylor, he had to overcome one weakness to get the job: because he worked primarily at associations based outside of Washington, he has less experience in government relations than managers from Washington.
However, Taylor added, only about 10 percent of ASAE activity is direct lobbying. When ASAE does get involved with lobbying, it is on behalf of favorable tax treatment for nonprofit associations.
The organization also expects a rise of the influence of state and local associations as federal regulatory control is ceded. Taylor says that growth will not be at the expense of the influence of the national associations, which are the major constituents of ASAE. "There will be plenty to do at the national level," he says. State and local-level associations will be a source of growth for the ASAE.
Taylor has been an active member of ASAE since 1968. In 1974 and 1975 he was its chairman of the board.