If You’re Not Remarkable, You’re Not Relevant

I found 7 Measures of Success—What Remarkable Associations Do That Others Don’t inspiring. Perhaps because it was the Good to Great version for associations and that the ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) project was founded upon Jim Collins’ work.

Of all the associations that were nominated, only a handful had the “secret ingredients” that influenced their success:
1) A Customer Service Culture
2) Alignment of Products and Services with Mission
3) Data-Driven Strategies
4) Dialogue and Engagement with Members
5) CEO as a Broker of Ideas
6) Organizational Adaptability
7) Alliance Building

What I resonated with the most were the first four ingredients and those seemed to me to influence member retention the most. I fell in love with this quote from the book and have used it many times in my proposals to help associations develop tiered membership models: “Remarkable associations build their structures, processes, and interactions—their entire culture—around assessing and fulfilling members’ needs and expectations. No one presumes to decide what the member needs without asking first and then listening to the answer… providing excellent service to members does not translate into ‘We’ll do everything or anything the members ask.’ It does mean the association makes every effort to understand the members’ needs and attempts, within the confines of the mission, to meet them. It means always being on the lookout for the possibilities and opportunities presented by the members’ needs and expectations.”


The book came out in 2006 and years before others such as Race for Relevance and The End of Membership As We Know It shook the foundation of membership-based organizations after the 2011 recession. That’s when I realized that the last two ingredients were the most important. But, this book didn’t tell you how to make your organization remarkable if you weren’t or how to become great again after the fall.
Imagine if you were a brand new CEO taking the helm of an organization just before the recession. Soon after, the oil & gas industry, your largest sector and biggest investors and supporters, crashes. But it was really the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” That’s the beginning of the story in Making Remarkable, the newly released book written by Adam Legge who was the President & CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce from 2010 – 2018.

Adam’s quote in the Introduction sent chills down my spine, “I’ll be honest: I didn’t know where to start. The challenges that the Chamber was facing were significant: financial difficulties, disengaged staff, declining membership and support, struggles adapting to the changing world, legacy staff issues, a weak brand and a relatively non-existent value proposition.” Sound familiar?

But the story has a happy ending and it wasn’t because of a fairy godmother.

It took a lot of grit and work. Adam set out a mission to make the Calgary Chamber “remarkable” which he describes as, “Remarkable enables the finest work to be done. Remarkable makes the biggest impact and leaves the greatest legacy. People pay attention to remarkable. Remarkable gets the best people. Remarkable gets the best funding. Remarkable is a magnet. Remarkable is irresistible.”

The Three Pillars of Remarkability

I liked how Adam not only shared the come-back story of the Chamber, he also provided a roadmap and tools to help other organizations undertake their own Remarkable Agenda. Adam explains the need to undergo an organizational assessment that leaves no stone unturned. Once the facts are clear, the organization can assess and design the Three Pillars of Remarkability:

1. Purpose — Define and being clear about your “Why,” which is your DNA and creates a unique brand and a compelling purpose for the organization’s existence. More importantly, it delivers on Jeff Bezos’ definition of a strong brand, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” After listening to community perceptions, the leadership team needs to facilitate an inside-out change to redefine the organization—why it exists and why it matters to the community. Once purpose is redefined, the culture needs to emulate through the employees and you either have the “right people on the bus” or you have to replace them.

2. People — Build a high-performing culture led by great leaders who demonstrate exemplary
governance that is focused around the Three F’s:

  • Focus on the future with long-term outcomes, strategy and fiduciary responsibility.
  • Form of people and skills based on the needs and culture, diversity, size, terms and an aligned
    committee structure.
  • Frame of effective and efficient governing policies and procedures and streamlined meetings.

3. Platform — Activate your purpose to create value and value propositions that deliver. This only happens when you really understand the market you serve, their challenges and what programs and products will align with their needs. Develop the digital know-how and the technology to communicate effectively and facilitate extraordinary experiences.


Subscribe to Cathi Hight's Monthly LIVE Webinars | Hight Performance Group


It sounds easier than done, simple to explain yet complex, and an overwhelming undertaking. But that’s what it takes to become remarkable and to stay there. Start with the book 7 Measures of Success—What Remarkable Associations Do That Others Don’t to understand the elements of great organizations. Then read Making Remarkable and the story of how the Calgary Chamber became remarkable and greater than they ever were. I think you’ll be inspired too!

You can also join Adam Legge and myself during my next live webinar as we talk about "Making Remarkable: How Can You Achieve Remarkability?" It is at 10am CDT on Thursday, October 25, 2018, so register today to save your spot.

If this blogpost makes you want to reassess your organization or just share what’s going on in your world, reach out and let’s chat: Schedule a 30-minute conversation with Cathi Hight!


Making Remarkable | Adam Legge | Hight Performance Group


Cathi Hight, thought-leader and author of The Member Retention Kit, A New Approach to Tiered Membership, and Work Smarter, Not Harder programs helps you attract, engage, and retain members. She teaches you how to evolve your organization to stay relevant, deliver benefits your members value, and effectively communicate the value of membership. Learn more at www.hightperformance.com.