IAVM Chair Karen Totaro, CFE, announced via a IAVM Board of Directors’ conference call that Brad Mayne, CFE, accepted the offer to become the association’s new leader. Within two hours of that announcement, he arrived at IAVM headquarters and sat down to discuss several topics regarding the news, including what appealed to him about the position, IAVM going forward, the transition from industry executive to association executive, family, and much more.
Facility Manager: Next to Kevin Durant announcing he would become a Golden State Warrior, this is the biggest industry news of the day. Durant said he had goals to meet and to bring the fans another championship. What are your goals, and what do you plan to bring to the IAVM membership?
Brad Mayne: I took this position as I have a great passion for IAVM. I would not be where I am in my career—and what I have been able to accomplish—had it not been for the professional development and networking this organization offers. It has been a great journey for me, and IAVM has been a very important part of it.
I was looking at multiple opportunities and it just kept coming back to me that this is something that I believed was good for me in my career—to give back to the organization that helped me obtain the successes that I have had.
On a personal note, it was a goal for my wife and me to return to the Dallas area where we have two daughters and eight grandchildren. Another daughter and grandchild live in Oregon. My wife, Cheryl, and I started talking and said, “This is crazy. What are we doing spending our time away from our family? Let’s get back to Dallas and be close to them.” That was one of our important goals.
Some of the goals I see for IAVM moving forward … obviously I would like to see IAVM become more prominent. There’s a lot of competition in the marketplace that was not there when I first joined (in 1987). First and foremost, our members are going to know that integrity is very important to me. Transparency is going to be an integral part of who we are and what we do. Our membership is diverse—different sectors, different regions, young, old, Allied, new student members, new members, members who have been around for decades. Because of that diversity, we need to find out what it is that they need. What can IAVM do to help them make their careers easier and more successful? To do that, we’re going to have to hear from our members. Surveys are always good and wonderful things to put your metrics together but I really want to hear from the members. What is it that IAVM needs to do?
Last, but not least, is this organization is run by a board of directors. It is important that I understand the board’s vision and that we are working together on the association’s strategic goals. There’s no reason we can’t be successful when we are all on the same team.
FM: What precipitated a change from managing an NFL stadium to becoming an association executive?
BM: At first, when I was approached to see if I would be interested, I said no. I think the reason I said it is that my focus has always been on these major facilities in major markets. My last three moves have been from Anaheim to Dallas to New York. I was always focused on what that next opportunity was going to be. The timing was such and this was an opportunity, as I said earlier, to give back to an organization that has been so important to the successes that I have had in my career.
The other part is I wanted more work/life balance. Working weekends, evenings, and holidays, times when people want to be entertained, is when we venue managers go to work. That doesn’t really work very well as it relates to families—that balance of, how do you have a successful career and still have time for your family? I just felt that after three decades of working those weekends, evenings, and holidays that it was probably time to take a look at the family and get back to my roots and get back to those things that are really precious and important to me at this time in my life.
FM: You are coming in at a critical time as IAVM moves forward. What are your thoughts on that?
BM: With the new governance our organization has gone through in the last five or six years, I think it is important that we have a good, strong CEO in place. The IAVM Board of Directors are there for the vision and the direction but the CEO is there to carry out that vision. Given a good amount of strength and authority to the CEO position and, like I said, I just feel it is important that we have somebody that brings everybody together, builds upon the successes that have been created, and really takes a look at where this association needs to go to continue to be relevant and, in fact, build our relevancy. If there are some directions we can go, whether it is with CVBs, performing arts organizations, professional sports, college conferences, or whatever, there are people that I believe could be very much involved in IAVM who currently are not.
Within our organization, I don’t want to go back to the day when there was the top individual and the second individual in that venue who are the only ones who can have membership. That’s not where I want to go but where I do want to go is … We’ve been seeing many of our top level executives sending their mid-level managers to all of these meetings. That’s great because that shows that our professional development for the association is second to none. The concern is that those top individuals aren’t as active as they were when I first joined IAVM. So we need to ensure we keep finding relevancy for them. We need to find things that we can do that they want to be part of. They do want to be part of the solution in building IAVM to a stronger level than it is currently. The fact you have a good, strong base to work from is a blessing for our membership. I think we just need to now take a look at where IAVM can go. What heights can we reach and who is it we need to help us get there?
One great thing about IAVM is all the volunteers that we have willing to give their time, expertise, and influence. We need to build upon that and engage those people who are still members but aren’t necessarily participating. One of the challenges the association has had is it takes a lot of time out of a daily career to get into the top leadership positions at IAVM. Is there another way that we can engage those individuals who don’t have the time but have that influence and definitely the interest? It’s important for us to get back to doing that.
FM: How important is face-to-face dialogue to you as you speak with members?
BM: One of the things I was asked by the interview committee was what would be one of the first things I would do as CEO. I told them it would be important to talk with individuals. I should say communicate with individuals because some folks prefer to do it on the phone, some by email-, or text-driven, and others are social media, but I think it needs to be direct one-on-one contacts. There are too many members to be able to do that with everybody. That will be one of the challenges in figuring out how I can become available to as many of our members as often as possible. In order to do that, I am going to have to have somebody working for us here at IAVM in the office that can handle the day-to-day operations to free up the CEO to be able to get out to the membership and find out what its needs are.
Something that I teach in the leadership class for the Graduate Institute at Venue Management School (VMS) is creating your circles of influence. It’s really important to have people who can advise you, can guide you, can counsel when needed, that can mentor, that are there and available. I think one of the things the CEO needs is those circles of influence so all of our membership, have involvement. The Allied group is so important to us. I know that we got close to a vote a few years ago of giving them additional opportunities to serve in our association, and I think that’s where we need to go but it needs to be done right. We have filters for anybody who goes into a leadership position as a professional in the association. There should be ways we can do the exact same thing with our Allieds. They are so important to who we are and what we can accomplish. These are folks that, in many instances, have funded a lot of things that we do. They’re such an important part of our successes, and we need to make them an important part of our operation as well.
FM: Speaking of the Allied membership, what are your thoughts on the trade show?
BM: It is the marketplace for our industry, but there have to be other vehicles available to us, as well. That is something we’re going to have to research to determine. That’s why we need the Allieds involved as part of our leadership. I don’t want people to think, “Oh here we go, we’re going to turn the association over to the Allieds.” That’s absolutely not the direction I believe we need to go. But I do believe they need opportunities to be in IAVM leadership and we have to determine with the membership’s guidance and direction and obviously with the board of directors’ approval to pursue. We need to find what those vehicles are and what those opportunities can be for our Allied members.
FM: You have been a very engaged member. What has the “pulse” of the membership been like in recent months during this transition period at IAVM?
BM: First, we are fortunate that Carol Wallace was available and was able to come to the office and keep things moving along during the CEO search. Not many organizations are that fortunate. We need to show members what our future is and show them how we get there, and we need them to help us define what that leadership is going to be moving forward. Of course, my circle of influence doesn’t reach out all the way through the whole membership at this point. But I am in contact with individuals who lead their organizations and all of them are very fond of IAVM. They were participating and it has been an important part of their career. There’s no question in my mind that the spark is still there. We just need to put that plan together, engage members, and get them excited and engaged with IAVM at levels they had in the past while we continue to build and train our new leaders.
If you look back at our chairs of this association, there are some incredibly talented individuals who once they went through the leadership … yes they’re here, yes they’ve been active but they haven’t been as active as I think they should be.
I don’t believe they’re burned out. If you’ve ever been in a leadership position, and for whatever reason you’ve moved away from it, there’s an emptiness that is created from those associations and those experiences. That’s something that we need to address as an association. We have to look back at who we’ve been in order for us to move forward. We’ve got some great chairs out there who haven’t really been as involved as I would hope they would be moving forward.
Another thing I have learned from my experience of more than a couple of decades with VMS is that as the younger generation is coming in I don’t fully understand where they’re coming from but I’ve got a general sense that this new generation does things differently than my generation. That’s fantastic. That’s what we need to do. We need to tap into the young individuals in the organization, as well. I was pleased that when I went in for the interview for this position that IAVM had a young professional on that interview committee. It is important that they be very much involved in the leadership of the organization and make those determinations as to where we need to go. That’s what is so great about our association. It is so diverse.
FM: There is so much more competition in today’s marketplace. What must IAVM do to make it truly distinctive for future growth?
BM: Competition is going to continue to come. I think the collaboration with some of these organizations is good. I am talking about creating alliances with people that make sense. Take a look at some of the entrepreneurs that are out there who have created their own organizations and are very successful. Many of the people that attend their meetings and their programs are IAVM members. So there really should be some collaboration in working with one another. That’s got to be strategic and that’s not going to happen overnight. I have not been an association executive, so I’m going to have to come up to speed on whom these different organizations are, but it is important to create those opportunities to work with one another. I’m not talking about having our national meetings together but if you are having meetings that are important to our members, we should be supporting you and helping you with that meeting and getting our people to it but at the same time we need reciprocity and they do the same thing coming back in our direction.
My guess is there are people out there that should be members of IAVM that haven’t become members because they don’t know the relevance and don’t know what we can do for them. Anyone that gathers individuals—whether it is for the purpose of entertainment, for meetings, for economic development, for planning, for athletic competition, for the arts—there are a lot of organizations out there that do a very good job. They could definitely be assisted by the programs that IAVM currently has and programs that we certainly should be moving toward in the future.
FM: You mentioned not being an association executive. Did you have any trepidation about moving to the association world?
BM: Not necessarily. The only reason I say that is, I have been fortunate in my career to be successful wherever I have gone. I cherish new opportunities and doing things I have not done before. With that in mind, I’m excited to learn what associations are out there and getting to know who their executive directors are. I want to find out what works for them. There are associations out there that are very successful that have gone through some of the same challenges that our association has gone through. We’re fortunate as an association to have been around since the 1920s and been very, very successful. At the same time, I can find out things that haven’t worked for others that we can stay away from.
FM: Describe your leadership style.
BM: If there was an individual within a venue that didn’t report directly to me, I always had an open door. I allowed them to come and talk to me. I never stepped outside of the governance of that entity, but. I would let them talk to me and I always told them up front, anything you tell me is going to go through the proper channels, but you’re welcome to come in and talk to me. The other thing I would say is, “Have you already talked to your manager?” If they said no, I would say, “Then go back and talk to your manager before you talk to me. We’re not going to allow people to circumvent the program and the system.”
When I was at the American Airlines Center, we created what was called the Presidents’ Committee. You were appointed by employees and not by me as the president of the company and could not be a supervisor. You had to be a frontline employee. We met once a month. The reason we met was to talk about the atmosphere of the company. What was our culture? What could we do to make that culture better? What came out of that committee were a lot of different opportunities. I think many times leaders get into a position where, if I’m the leader, I need to lead these individuals and tell them what to do. I’m of the opinion that I’m the leader of a lot of diverse people and their thoughts and I need to know what their thoughts are because collectively we’re stronger than if one individual comes up with what these programs are going to be. One of the things that came out of this committee was we created our core values for Center Operating Co. What was interesting is it started with the committee and went through the whole organization, including part-time employees, like wildfire of “hey, the president and CEO of the company wants to hear what we think our culture should be and what our values should be.” It did change the culture for the better. People felt they didn’t have an ear to talk to and that no one respected them and that they were just told to show up and do their work.
The important thing for us is to figure out a way to be able to manage, everybody being able to speak up with what their needs are, working through the proper channels, through the governance of the association. We’re not going to bypass the leaders in this organization in any way, shape, or form.
FM: Will that style pertain to staff as well?
BM: Absolutely. I’ll have an opportunity in the next few days and weeks to talk to the employees here at IAVM. They’re an integral part of our success. There’s no question about that. I will have a one-on-one with every individual and talk to them and find out who they are. I know many of them because of my volunteer assignments I’ve had in the past, but there are some who I know their name but I don’t really know them as individuals. I don’t think you can lead appropriately unless you know who they are and what they can bring to the table. They’re going to have that opportunity, as well.
FM: Are you looking forward to being in Minneapolis for VenueConnect? What will you be doing while there?
BM: I am going to be drinking from a fire hose that is turned on full blast! I will have a specific itinerary. I will be in there early and meeting with the IAVM Executive Committee and Board of Directors. I will be guided and directed to where I need to be and who I need to talk to. One of the things I’m going to request is a time I will be able to get to the membership and give them an opportunity. Of course, at this late date you’re not going to change the meeting schedule but I will see if there aren’t some avenues that we can use to be able to visit as many people as possible. I would hate to think that I would get there and think I would go from one meting to another meeting. At the same time that is going to be important—to be with leaders of our association. But that doesn’t get me to all the other members, as well.
This is a divergent road that I’m taking from what my career has been, but at the same time it’s something I’ve been able to dabble in as a volunteer. I don’t pretend to know everything that the association is about but I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on it because I’ve been so involved in so many different ways.
I’m really excited about going to Minneapolis and being a more integral part of this association. FM