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Client news

September 2017

  • Lessons Learned from Hurricane Irma

    September 14, 2017

    We didn’t have a big conference this week.

    That’s not usually something worth writing about. But here is—as those of us old enough to remember Paul Harvey would way—the “rest of the story.”

    You see, until Friday of last week, we were scheduled to be running a conference for nearly 1500 people in Orlando, Florida from Tuesday to Thursday of this week.  Hurricane Irma had other plans.

    The storm was expected to hit the Orlando on Monday morning. After an initial decision to shift the conference to start on Wednesday, on Friday we elected to cancel the event altogether to allow the venue to provide more room to evacuees from South Florida. As a result, more than 1300 nursing home residents were able to take our room block.

    This was the biggest event we’ve ever cancelled on such short notice. Along the way, I learned quite a few lessons. Here are a few.

    • Get Great Information. Gordon Gekko had it right in Wall Street 30 years ago (note:  second reference revealing how close to 50 I am getting).   Information is the most valuable commodity there is.  I spent last week monitoring forecasts, talking to security and operations personnel at the venue, reading about prior hurricane damage to our hotel, and more.    Along the way, I found quite a bit of misinformation and rumors—it’s critical to dig deeper to find the correct, accurate info.
    • Critical Communications. We sent daily email updates, tweets, mobile app alerts and more to our attendees as our plans evolved through the week.  Once we made the decision to cancel, we got word out within minutes.   Doing so enabled people to change plans and avoid being stranded at airports.
    • Six members of our team were on site during the storm.  The resilience and commitment of the hotel staff, nursing home staff, and others was inspiring.  A favorite moment was a singalong in the lobby with nursing home residents as the storm was starting to hit Orlando.  That’s our staff mixed with the crew of a movie that was filming in Orlando.
    • Money Matters. Of course, canceling an event of this size has significant financial implications.  Our advance planning with event insurance has been critical, as has keeping lines of communication open with all vendors.

    We’re fortunate that the storm did not do damage to our hotel.  Others in the area weren’t so lucky, with problems from downed power lines to flooding.   More critically, our decision to cancel made a huge difference for the residents of Atria nursing home—as soon as we cancelled, buses filled with nursing home residents began arriving.   Having seen the heartbreaking photos from Harvey of nursing home residents in waist deep water, we were pleased to be a very small part in preventing a situation like that.    And we sure learned a lot along the way.

August 2017

  • Virtual: A Day in the Life of a Staff Accountant – Jessica Jimenez

    August 17, 2017

    Q&A with Jessica Jimenez, Staff Accountant at Virtual

    What do you do at Virtual?

    I work on the Finance and Accounting team at Virtual. As a staff accountant, I handle accounts payable process for our association-based clients. I track everything from what invoices and dues are coming in to how much is being paid out. Since non-profit and for-profit organizations have different regulations and rules regarding managing finances, my department provides organizations with access to an entire finance department, from the part-time services of a CFO for budgeting and forecasting to accounts receivable and payable staff. As a result, I work with the larger financial services team to ensure our clients always have a clear picture of their organization’s fiscal health.

    How did you learn about the role?

    I applied for a part-time accounting role, which led to a full-time opportunity three months later. My part-time role enabled me to gain first-hand experience in nearly every part of the Virtual accounting services department. This year, I will be celebrating my seventh year in accounts payable at Virtual, and am very happy with where my career has taken me.

    What is the most rewarding part of your job?

    I love that my role enables me to give back valuable time to each association. Many organization leaders already have a full-time day job – in addition to running their association. By providing a clear picture of their organization’s accounts payable and other accounting information, I know that the organization’s Board and staff can focus on other strategic activities.

    From a Virtual perspective, I love that my department and managers are always encouraging me to grow in my role. I recently took advantage of training at a financial services conference, which provided me with new insights that I was able to apply to my client projects. Virtual’s flexible work schedule makes me feel trusted to do the work I know I need to do in order to appropriately serve my clients.



July 2017

  • Looking for an Executive Director? Here are five tips for an effective search

    July 21, 2017

    Every year we have a handful of clients that conduct searches for Executive Directors. I’m often involved in those processes as a search committee member or key player on the search.

    As I’ve watched searches unfold, it struck me recently that you can generally categorize the archetypes that organizations look for in an executive director into five main profiles. Here’s my list:

    1. Steward:  Sometimes things are going well, and all an organization needs is someone new and trusted to “mind the tiller.”  This tends to be the case in mature organizations in stable industries.  On a side note, this is a role I am not particularly suited for.
    2. Change agent:  Kind of opposite the steward— this type of ED is well-equipped to drive an association to make some hard decisions to take the group in new directions.
    3. Evangelist:  An outward-facing individual whose primary responsibility is to be an advocate and spokesperson for the group and/or its work product.  Someone in this role often comes to the table with significant external relationships and deep gravitas in the industry(s) served.
    4. Subject matter expert:  This type of person knows his/her stuff on the subject matter of the association—e.g., a leading cardiologist running a cardiology group.  This skillset is often needed in groups with a significant technical focus.
    5. Growth champion:  Essentially a sales person for the organization—someone who excels at growing memberships and sponsorships.  This capability is often particularly critical in the early days of an organization, or perhaps when an organization is trying to stake out new directions.

    No doubt, every organization needs a bit of all of these—but ask yourself which one will benefit you the most the next time you’re involved in a search.

  • Consent Agendas: Freeing Boards to Be More Strategic

    July 10, 2017

    It’s the common pining of many Boards of Directors: They want to be focused more strategically, but struggle to get out of the weeds of operational or tactical matters. One effective way to achieve this goal of up-leveling a board’s focus is to keep them out of the weeds in the first place. Based on experience, using consent agendas can be an effective tool to help accomplish that.

    A consent agenda is a practice that bundles standing reports and routine decision items into a single board meeting agenda item. Therefore, a single motion can be made to approve all items within that “consent package.” In short, the use of consent agendas keeps these important but routine matters necessarily in front of the board, but does not absorb precious board meeting time.

    What if someone on the board objects to an item in the consent agenda package, or feels that item warrants more discussion? It’s simple: Boards that use consent agendas should adopt a standing policy that any board member can have the ability to request that any item be removed from a consent agenda and brought into the regular meeting agenda under new business. That safety valve provides an assurance to all board members that the consent agenda is being used as a means to streamline board proceedings, not to give the board leaders or staff a means of keeping controversial items off the radar screen.

    Interested in adopting the consent agenda approach for your board? If so, consider these basic rules of the road:

    • Establish a consent agenda policy: This doesn’t need to be more than a few paragraphs, but it should put in writing what types of materials will be allowed on consent agendas, the voting threshold to approve them (if not defined in other governance materials), and the steps needed for a board member to request movement of consent items into the regular agenda.
    • Distribute consent agenda materials well in advance: The goal of using consent agendas is to streamline board meetings, not to give board members less exposure to or information about what’s happening in the organization. Thus, consent agendas are really a means to give board routine updates and action requests in written form versus in the format of in-meeting updates. To support that practice, though, it’s necessary to give board members plenty of time (at least a week is highly advised) to review all of the materials that they’ll be asked to approve in a consent agenda.
    • When in doubt, put it on the regular agenda: Again, consent agendas are intended to be a means for boards to address routine association matters more efficiently. If, in developing the agendas for a board meeting, the staff or leadership is in doubt about whether a particular item is the right fit for a consent agenda, leave it out. Any matter that might readily initiate a discussion among the board should be left for the regular agenda. On a related note, boards that adopt consent agendas should always build time into their meetings to address any items that were requested to be removed from the consent agendas.


June 2017

  • Happy Tenth Birthday

    June 29, 2017

    My 10th birthday was a good time. The Yankees had just won the 1978 World Series behind the bat of my hero at the time, Reggie Jackson. Presents no doubt centered on slot cars. And I’m sure I got a Carvel cake (because is it really a birthday without one?).

    But the reality is, I hadn’t done much in my 10 years. Sure, I’d learned to walk and talk, but that was about it.

    Today, we’re celebrating another 10th birthday. The iPhone was first released on June 29, 2007.

    Much as I hate to say it, the iPhone’s first 10 years were more impactful than my own.

    Consider that 10 years ago, the vast majority of people did not carry a smartphone.  Since then, smartphones have ushered in a new era of communications that we couldn’t have imagined back in the day. The ubiquity of social media and the widespread availability of information are just the beginning. Today, iPhones—well as Android devices, which are more than a year younger—are at the center of mobile payment, navigation, digital assistance, and so much more.

    Much of this work is grounded in standards. From the NFC chip in the latest iPhones to bio metric security to data interoperability. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, we’ve all been part of a global village that’s helped speed the amazing evolution of the smartphone.

    But the exciting part isn’t what’s happened, it’s what’s still to come. Only a decade ago, no one had touched or seen an iPhone. Today, of course, you’d have to go to the most remote parts of the world to find someone in that category.

    Which makes me think: what new technology will we be saying that about 10 years from now?

  • Virtual: A Day in the Life – Business Development Manager

    June 27, 2017

    Q&A with Sheila McDonnell, Business Development Program Manager at Virtual

    1) WHAT DO YOU DO AT VIRTUAL?Day in the _Life_Kim_Wyman_2.png

    I manage the company’s business development, which includes introducing new prospects to the right mix of Virtual services and staff so they can focus on what they do best and keep their operations running smoothly. I also assist internal teams with adding new service lines to existing clients so their organizations can succeed and prosper. I am usually the first point of contact for new groups or individuals when they inquire about who we are, what we do and how we can help their associations succeed. By introducing associations to Virtual and the services we offer, I can build a successful partnership that enables the organization to flourish.


    Every association is different. I love learning about the many different types of associations – there seems to be an association for everything! Virtual’s specialty is working with technology-based industry trade associations, standard-setting organizations, industry alliances, professional societies, consortia, and forums. The fact that associations’ missions and visions are all unique makes my job even more exciting. I always enjoy learning about each association and watching them evolve and grow.


    My skills and responsibilities include keeping an eye out for new initiatives in the tech space and developing relationships with individuals and groups to further the Virtual brand. In initial conversations with prospects, I strive to understand their pain points and introduce unique ways Virtual can offer solutions. I then coordinate efforts with our internal teams so we can deliver the optimum services to the client in the most efficient and strategic manner.


    It’s important that someone in my role has a good understanding of how we can help clients achieve both short- and long-term goals. I need to be able to clearly convey how Virtual can work with an association to improve its operational and member service efficiencies, among other areas. Many of our clients’ organizations are composed of volunteers who have their own day jobs while trying to manage their organizations at the same time. So conveying the benefits of how Virtual can cover key functional areas and provide support is key.



    Keeping pace with technological advances in our ever-changing world. Many of our clients are working in cybersecurity, identity management, open source and other software-related fields. Along with our senior team, I’ve spoken with prospects in a variety of new and interesting fields. I am always fascinated with the solutions these organizations have developed!


    To be successful in any growth or sales-related role, I’d recommend that an individual has a sense of urgency as well as exceptional organizational and follow-up skills. Technology groups typically have important milestone timelines to consider and need to keep pace with rapid advancements. At Virtual, we need to operate at the same speed to ensure our clients’ strategic goals are met. Success in my role means being responsive to an association’s important timelines.


    I enjoy being part of the larger Virtual team that works with associations to help them chart a new direction, turning an idea into a thriving organization. I also enjoy getting to know the prospects that eventually become our clients. An interaction that starts with just an email or phone call can be transformed into a lasting partnership with Virtual. Also, many of our clients are global and, when I get to meet them face-to-face, it is a huge bonus!


    Enjoy people and be excited to learn how new technologies impact our world.

  • Spring Cleaning is for Associations, Too

    June 1, 2017

    Most of us know the routine from our personal lives: as winter breaks and the warm weather appears, we get the urge to clean up a bit. We tackle that hallway closet we’ve grown somewhat afraid to open. Or we contemplate an attack on the overcrowded garage, rekindling the dream of one day getting the car back into it. Such spring cleaning efforts are important because they force us to take the time to remove clutter from our lives.

    Spring cleaning projects are also highly recommended for associations. Unlike on the home front, though, the focus of associations in their seasonal cleanouts should be around content and programs, not necessarily material goods. (Although it never hurts to thin out those stacks of outdated tradeshow brochures or the giveaway bags with the association’s old logo on them.) Like many organizations, associations tend to apply strategic direction and goals on an additive basis. That is, they continually look at the challenges facing their members and their industry and create new programs and work items to address them. Most times, the group’s existing programs and activities continue as-is even while a slate of new work is introduced. While such forward planning work should always be applauded, such net-additive efforts tend to simply expand the universe of activities that require volunteer effort and staff or vendor resource. What tends to happen, then, is that either previously running activities start to get impacted by the dilution of focus and resource, or the newer activities don’t get the right traction because there are too many competing priorities.

    So what’s the best approach for an association spring cleaning? In general, your organization shouldn’t feel the need to pull up a trash dumpster and start tossing programs into it. Instead, groups should use their spring cleaning time to sort through their programs and activities carefully, keeping the ones that deliver the most value to members or which have the most potential impact on achieving organizational goals. As for the work items that don’t meet these thresholds, it doesn’t mean they should all be thrown away. Instead, they should be examined closely in the light of day and evaluated against the organization’s current strategy and goals. Some activities can keep going as they were. Other may see their focus or approach adjusted or optimized. Some activities may be stopped if they’re clearly not adding value or, conversely, draining resource or focus away from key priorities. Perhaps most importantly, a spring cleaning effort should not introduce pressure to act. After all, just as when cleaning the garage at home, even if you don’t end up throwing anything out, there’s always value in taking everything out even just to give the garage floor a good sweeping.

May 2017

  • Career Tips on Finding and Creating a Great Place to Work

    May 18, 2017

    Great Places to Work Open House

    If you spend at least 40 hours a week at work, you should enjoy what you do and whom you do it with, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many of us. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged at work. Virtual, Inc. is striving to fix that, one employee at a time. In line with our commitment to providing our employees and the broader community with valuable professional development opportunities, we hosted a Networking Open House on May 11 surrounding a theme that embodies Virtual’s core values: “Finding and Creating a Great Place to Work.”

    While nothing can quite capture the energy and passion in the room or adequately replace the conversations and connections made at the event, here are a few key takeaways extracted from our speakers’ presentations:

    Heather Wood

    Heather E. Wood, Vice President, Leadership Facilitator and Executive Coach at MCG Partners speaks during the Open House.

    What does “Work Fit” mean to you? Heather E. Wood, Vice President, Leadership Facilitator and Executive Coach at MCG Partners, stressed the importance of asking yourself a few crucial questions: What do you want out of your job? What are your needs from a career? And, possibly the most important question- what motivates you? If you find that a job looks great on paper, but it doesn’t provide you with an appropriate work-life balance that you need, that job would probably not be a good “work fit” for you, if work-life balance is important to you. But if you find a job that meshes with the culture you want, offers you the resources and development opportunities you need, allows you to balance your career with other parts of your life, provides you with managers who support and motivate you, and enables you to fulfill your passions and achieve your goals, you may have a good “work fit.” Keep looking within and asking yourself questions until you find a job or career that matches up with your answers.

    Find a company with engaged employees, and you may find the happiness you are seeking in your career. Allan Benowitz, Vice President of the Employee Engagement Group, discussed how “happy” does not necessarily equal “engaged,” but engaged employees are typically very happy with their jobs. Take a look at a company’s mission statement or list of values, and evaluate what they place the most importance on. Employees’ behaviors and feelings should be mentioned – not just the results of the company’s work. If you find a workplace that values respect, empowerment, and trust, the last of which is the #1 motivator of engagement, then you may have stumbled upon a place where you can flourish and grow professionally. While job hunting, make sure a company values the same things you do – and search for an organization whose employees feel engaged, trusted, and motivated.

    Companies can’t be pro-business without being pro-employees. This quote comes from Virtual’s President and CEO, Andy Freed. He previously worked on the 1992 presidential campaign for Paul Tsongas, who believed that “you can’t be pro-jobs without being pro-business.” Andy believes that in today’s economy businesses can’t thrive unless they focus on their greatest asset – their employees. Virtual strives to create an open environment conducive to learning and growing, and we do that by taking care of our employees and providing them with the resources they need to grow. If you have found a company whose beliefs align with yours, you likely have also found a place that values you and your skills, and will allow you to grow for years to come. The way a company treats its employees should be a key factor in your decision-making process. Look for a place that values everything its employees bring to the table, fosters learning and growth, and strives to continue improving opportunities for its workers.

    Present yourself in a professional manner. Danielle Newman, Relationship Manager of Talent Solutions at LinkedIn, gave us three quick career tips for building a strong LinkedIn profile: Post a profile picture that portrays you in a way you want to be viewed; write a catchy headline (spice it up by writing out your skills instead of naming your job); and write a strong but short summary – three paragraphs should do the trick. Put your best face forward and make sure you portray yourself the way you want your future employer to see you. If you keep making yourself available by attending networking events, maintaining your social media profile, reaching out to those you want to connect with, growing your skill set, and applying yourself whenever possible, you will increase your chances of finding – and landing – your dream job.

    Ultimately, the will to find your perfect match comes from within. You need to first ask yourself a few key questions about what you truly need from a career, what you value, and what motivates you. Your answers will guide your job search, especially in the initial stages. Once you have a solid idea of what you are looking for, you should be proactive in your search, honing your skills, attending career fairs or networking events, and maintaining strong digital representation (social media, resume, etc.). The next step in your search is to evaluate the workplace by reviewing their mission statement and trying to identify how engaged their employees are. Look for an organization that values their employees and is striving to provide high-quality development opportunities to them. If you can find a company that values the same things you value, can support you in the way you need, and enables you to have a healthy work-life balance, you may have found your perfect fit.

    Making yourself available and extending your networks will increase your chances of finding a job that will make you happy. Virtual, Inc. strives to provide its employees and the community with opportunities to network and focus on professional development. If you’d like to hear about more opportunities like the Networking Open House on May 11, 2017, follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook for frequent updates. We hope these tips and events provide valuable guidance in your search – not just for a job, but, more importantly, for happiness in your career.

    Virtual Inc Great Places to Work Open House

    Virtual Inc Great Places to Work Open House