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Aug 27 2015

Key Findings from Year 2 ASAE Global Growth Study – Interview with Nikki Walker

ASAE 8.2015 podcast











Two Part Interview with Nikki Walker Discusses Recent Global Study

The first phase of ASAE’s Global Management Series, culminating with the report Achieving Global Growth: Establishing & Maintaining Global Markets, examined the practices of associations growing globally, but it left a number of questions unanswered.

  1. How do associations build strategies around these practices?
  2. What are the potential roadblocks?
  3. What’s required in terms of research, governance, and member relations, and what other factors are important to successful global growth?

Global Growth Strategies summarizes the answers we received when we put those questions to a diverse group of association leaders. In this report, you’ll learn about the key steps to take and the important partnerships to make to succeed in international markets. Global Growth Strategies provides valuable considerations for associations establishing operations in foreign markets and for associations looking to take that step.

This report also includes the “Special Focus on China,” which examines the strategies and operations of associations working in that country. This special examination was crafted from interviews with 40 association leaders, translating the themes of those interviews into actionable advice on a variety of topics, including strategic planning, operational decisions, and cultural issues.

This report on global strategy represents the second year of an ongoing effort to provide a common roadmap for associations as they plan, execute, or refine their global efforts. The ASAE Foundation and MCI Group joined forces to study processes and strategies of how associations are operating globally.

Aug 19 2015

IMEA – Combining Fabulous Wealth & Potential You Need to Put on Your Radar

GS N11

This article was written by Ms. Sumaira Isaacs, Chief Operating Officer, IMEA Region (India, Middle East, Africa) for  MCI Group. 

Since 2001, emerging markets have become the world’s economic engine. As companies fiercely compete for market share, professional and trade associations are also seeking to penetrate these rapidly growing economies, with many looking to build and grow chapters by defining locally relevant member value.

India, the Middle East & Africa (IMEA), a region where hyper-growth and huge local investments exist alongside well-documented social and political challenges, is currently leap-frogging ahead in terms of business and
innovation, particularly in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Although IMEA has a relatively short history in terms of the association industry, continued economic investment and expanding education is creating a growing desire for professional learning and development. As governments realise the full potential of associations to support the flourishing business environment, political will teamed with sheer population scale is providing the perfect environment for associations to thrive.

Let’s put this into context:

  • With some 78 countries counted in the region, IMEA has the highest number of emerging nations in any region as well as the world’s fastest economic growth rate of between 7% and 20% annually.
  • IMEA has a population of 2.7 billion (around 37% of the world live here) and a total GDP of 8 trillion dollars.
  • IMEA is a region of extremes, boasting the second largest populated country in the world (India), the richest country in the world by GDP PP (Qatar), and the poorest country (South Sudan).
  • The region enjoys foreign direct investments (FDIs) to the tune of over $50 billion annually.
  • The region is collectively the world’s largest producer of oil and gas (40%).
  • The region also boasts the world’s biggest fleet of A380s and Dreamliners alongside the world’s largest airport and tallest towers.
  • IMEA has one of the world’s highest mobile technology and social media penetrations and pioneered ‘Mobile-Money’ for the rest of the world.
  • With an average median age of 25 (younger than China), the population is young, dynamic, and very ambitious.

Key Country Focus

Turkey, the world’s 15th largest economy, a bridge between Europe and Asia and the driving force of the Levant region (including Turkey, Iran and Northern Iraq), is making huge investments in infrastructure. With larger
airports and sparkling new convention centres on the horizon, including a new airport in Istanbul with a capacity of 150 million passengers and plans to transform the current airport into a convention centre, the association  meetings industry here looks set to flourish.

The African market is an interesting mix of European business fundamentals with the drive and ambition of Asia. South Africa is leading the growth of the association meetings business on the continent, but there are also over 300 associations based out of Kenya, with its own dynamics and opportunities. Business people in the region don’t
talk countries, they talk Africa, so associations have to build this nuance into their business model and ensure a more continent- centric strategy than in other regions.

In terms of the Middle East, the traditional association hubs of North Africa and some Levant countries, such as Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Lebanon, are going through major political and economic meltdown. GCC countries are capitalising on this, with the United Arab Emirates and its population of only 5.8 million leading the charge and reinforcing its growing reputation as the Hong Kong of the Middle East. These countries are also focusing on
investment in mega projects such as Expo 2020, the Olympics and FIFA World Cup in Qatar, with the UAE’s foreign trade expected to touch Dh4 trillion by hosting Expo 2020.

A 100% tax free environment, re-export hub, developed free zones and strategic location are without a doubt the UAE’s main economic strengths, however, like most GCC countries, international associations cannot be set up as legal entities in the region. For this purpose, a free zone like model was incorporated under the banner of Dubai
Association Centre in 2013, enabling international associations to base themselves here and operate independently. This initiative has opened the door for association expansion in the Gulf region and looks set to turn Dubai into a key global association hub.

With a population of 30 million people, Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the GCC and is working hard to diversify its economy by moving away from its primary reliance on oil. Boasting one of the strongest institutional structures in the region, with several independent professional bodies driving industry standards and classifications, Saudi Arabia is also home to some of the region’s largest universities, catering to a burgeoning Saudi youth population.

The majority of regional pharmaceutical budgets sit in this country, and some of the largest medical meetings of the
region take place in Saudi, for a majority Saudi audience with some regional and international attendees. The Saudi associations behind these organisations typically reach out to their regional and international counterparts
in terms of content development as well as best practices, but there is clear potential for more structured
partnerships and strategic growth. More needs to be done to relax entry visa permits for foreign companies to enter, while social segregation and women’s limited role in society remain problematic for various international associations looking to develop in the country.

India is its own market, with a unique ecosystem and strong institutional structure. With a quarter of India’s 1.2 billion people currently defined as a strong emerging middle class – in absolute numbers this is about as big as the
entire US population – India is a dream market in terms of both growing consumer numbers and a growing demand for higher education and professional development.

Thanks to this ever-expanding middle class, India is where many international associations out of the US and Europe are looking to expand their membership bases, as well products such as training programmes and
international meetings. Successfully tapping into the Indian market is not easy, however. A long-term view and  perseverance are vital, and international associations need to invest in strong local expertise and knowledge, ensuring that 90% of strategic decisions are made in the country and 10% come from the HQ, balancing local responsiveness and global standardisation.

Beyond IMEA: NEXT 11

In 2007, Goldman Sachs identified the Next 11 (N-11); eleven countries that could potentially rival the G7 over time, even if they lack the scale to become the next BRICS.  Made up of Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, South Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Turkey and Vietnam, the N-11 is a very eclectic mix identified in the context of similar BRICS themes; energy, infrastructure, urbanisation, human capital and technology.

Despite their differences, there are many examples of these countries working together economically and, as most already have existing strong institutional and association frameworks despite their ‘motley crew’ backgrounds, the opportunities for associations are clear. From an IMEA perspective, it’s important to note that six of the N-11 countries fall well within its territories. While today’s association growth drive in IMEA is focused on the GCC countries, it will be increasingly important for forward-thinking associations to keep up with developments in Egypt, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey.



Aug 07 2015

New ASAE Study Offers Lessons from “Growers” on Expanding Your Global Business

Achieving Global Growth. Year 2

“It’s not a decision to be global, it’s a decision not to be.”

– Healthcare Association Executive

The latest ASAE Foundation research on global growth strategies and operations sponsored by MCI Group is now available for access today.  The report  represents the second year of a partnership to provide a common roadmap for associations as they plan, execute, or refine their global efforts.

This year we brought together a diverse group of association leaders all of whom participated in the Year 1 study and had indicated that their associations were experiencing global growth.  In Part 1 of this year’s study we used a series of focus groups to explore how associations determine their strategy and direction relative to the conclusions of our Phase I report and to more deeply explore strategy, understanding what tools associations use to cultivate new markets and what decision-making processes support those selections.

In Part 2 of our study, we feature a “Special Focus on China,” which examines the operational decisions and financial results experienced by associations.  China was selected because it was perceived as offering the greatest opportunity for associations according to our Year 1 report with 57 percent of growers (associations who identify their business to be growing globally) and 47 percent of non-growers (associations whose global growth is either flat or in decline) anticipated their greatest growth in the coming years would occur there.   Over 40 interviews with association leaders active in China were conducted and covers topics including business planning, operational decisions, and major challenges anticipated.  And a survey was also conducted to obtain quantified data on performance in China.

Here is an outline of the results and the link to the study below.

Part 1:  Key Considerations for Entering New Markets and Achieving Success

Motivations, Organizational Commitment, and Strategy Setting

  1. Can you deliver value locally?
  2. Can you find local assets to support your business growth?
  3. Finding a sustainable business model
  4. Overcoming Board or staff hesitance to expand globally
    1. Bad for local US market competitiveness
    2. Worry over losing money in early years of investment

Know the Market, Know the Customer

  1. Off the shelf information has little utility
  2. What is essential in gathering the right information?

Right Competencies, Right Capacity, Right Results

  1. Mistakes with partnerships; many are dissatisfied
  2. What are the keys to forming good partnerships?
  3. Are all partnerships the same?

Mission and Margin

  1. Do you launch new products or adapt existing ones?
  2. What is the impact of locally relevant marketing and business development to product sales success?
  3. Insights to protect IP

Avoiding Rude Surprises – Risk Management

  1. Establish clear time horizons
  2. Assessing investment size and defining specific goals throughout the early investment phase
  3. Protecting brand and reputation

A Challenge to Strategy and Process: Why Culture Matters

  1. What are the translation needs?
  2. What is the local pace of doing business?
  3. What is the attitude toward intellectual property?
  4. How do communication styles differ?
  5. What is the legal landscape?

Core Findings

  1. Establish a research-driven plan that persuades stakeholders to invest
  2. Educate yourself on culture and adapt accordingly
  3. Invest mindfully, but make a strong commitment
  4. Protect your brand

Part 2:  Special Focus on China (What’s working and not working operationally)

Establishing a Foundation through Relationships and Research

  • How are associations doing with their China operations?
  • The importance of gathering good market intelligence and customer insight, yet our survey shows many are not heeding this advice.
  • Do associations have a formal strategy for China and a relevant value proposition?

The Importance of Committed Investment

  • The American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai annually survey its members to understand the profitability and time to profitability of US companies in China.  The average time to profitability has been between 5-8 years.
  • 74% of US associations responding to the survey made less than $100,000 annually in China while those who have been in China for longer periods saw an annual improvement of $500,000 and higher.
  • 51% of respondents have yet to achieve profitability from their investments in China.
  • Our survey respondents indicated that the majority of associations do not have a formal business strategy for China. Interestingly, the less successful they were the more likely they were to say that.

Finding the Right Partners

  • Many associations are not forming the right partnerships to get the right results and this appears to be no different in China.
  • Who makes a good potential partner for an association in China?

Communicating through Cultural Differences

  • Culture and language issues are a problem for many and especially for those choosing to run their operations from thousands of miles away rather than having local teams of Chinese working with HQ team.
  • What strategies should be used to make culture and language less of a barrier?

What Sells?

  • 60% of respondents made very limited business capacity investments (less than $250,000) in China since they began operations.
  • 81% of associations conducted minimal to no marketing in local Chinese languages to build brand and activate demand.

Top Business Growth Challenges in China

  • Culture and language
  • Finding good partners
  • Lack of business capacity
  • IP infringement
  • Lack of market intelligence
  • Working with government

Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Find partners with a mind to establishing clear contractual relationships
  • Focus on offerings besides membership
  • Prepare to make a substantial investment
  • Establish goals without anticipating profit, especially early on
  • Recognize the different perception of intellectual property
  • Have a presence, and understand the regulatory landscape if you establish
    a brick-and-mortar one
  • Know that the government can be mercurial
  • Establish success metrics besides revenue
  • Consider the halo effect

The new report on the Phase II research, Global Growth Strategies can be found here.   

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