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From Site Selection magazine, January 2021

Leading a Service Organization In COVID-19 Times

Jennifer Roth

It is difficult to have predicted or even imagined that when I joined IAMC one day I’d be leading an organization, which includes many of my professional peers, during a civil and social emergency. It’s very humbling and downright scary at times when we watch what is occurring around us daily. But at the same time, it’s a privilege to serve as chair of IAMC’s board. Our IAMC organization came to me relatively well positioned to weather the storm, and I can even muster some confidence we could come through in a better service-providing and competitive position than beforehand.

So, where are we headed and how will we get through? The answers have less to do with me than with pursuing our core purpose in this world: serving the members. If we can understand the challenges they are facing and will face, we can then develop a plan to be relevant to their professional needs now and in the future. That’s the key to making this successful — staying deeply connected with our membership. This is the primary qualification for leadership.

We hear daily from dozens of members, and they often share how they’re dealing with pandemic-related business issues. From these conversations, we know Economic Developers face budget pressures, travel restrictions, and uncertainties regarding the status of some corporate facilities in their jurisdictions. Most of our Service Provider companies have seen a revenue decline, as well as many member individuals restricted in their travel. Our Corporate members face similar challenges with not being able to travel, but their work continues apace as they manage their existing facility portfolios and support construction of new space.

I know this represents at best a high-level understanding of members’ situations, but consider this multi-step and more rigorous process we use to learn how the members are doing and the professional development programs they want: The process first utilizes the Professional Forums where we invite industry leaders, such as CBRE’s Bill Concannon at the recent Virtual Forum, to address general sessions and discuss emerging industry trends they see through their firm’s many client relationships. Concannon spoke at some length on COVID-19 impacts on commercial real estate. Also, at our Forums we monitor what the Corporate members choose to discuss at the program called Peer-to-Peer Corporates for emerging topics. Lastly, the Forums’ post-event surveys and IAMC’s Cornerstone discussion board are both rich sources of fresh CRE issues and new program ideas.

Based on what we learn from these sources and talking to members, we often frame and implement a response. For instance, early in 2020 we saw members could not travel. So, shortly after the pandemic hit, we expanded webinar offerings from an initially planned six to an eventual total of 16. We pushed fresh issues into the programs, which engaged hundreds of members, many of whom were working from home. In September, we conducted our first virtual Forum, which was well received by the attendees.

In our world today, no one is a true leadership expert, but we all possess fundamental traits to lead with the knowledge and facts we have in front of us. This includes listening to what is occurring in the world around us. Within IAMC, I will challenge myself — as well as fellow board members — to do the same. Periodically, we discuss what we’ve learned and how this possibly should change various aspects of IAMC. We are open to your questions, comments and criticisms. If you have advice for how we can serve you better, call me or send an email. I’ll welcome your input.

Until next time, stay well and safe.

Jennifer Roth
Chair, IAMC Board of Directors

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