Running a marathon is about 50% training and 50% determination, so when you hear that Kimberly Kayler has run eight marathons and 49 half-marathons, you know that when she has a goal, she develops a plan to accomplish it and gets to the finish line despite the inevitable pain, inconvenience, and distractions. Since becoming president of AOE, the for-profit subsidiary of the American Concrete Institute, in 2018, her determination has led her to look hard at how to deliver value to its clients.
AOE has a client list that includes both industry associations and privately held companies such as contractors, engineers, and product suppliers. Industry associations that are currently fully managed by AOE include the Post-Tensioning Institute, the American Coal Ash Association, the Slag Cement Association, and the Great Lakes Cement Promotion Council, but they provide a la carte services to more than 40 mostly concrete-related associations and many for-profit companies.
What do the associations being managed by AOE—instead of having their own dedicated staff—gain from this arrangement? “Salaries are typically the majority of an association’s cost,” she explains. “Finding a way to have experts in each function yet keeping overhead down is key and AOE offers a shared services model that provides such an economy of scale. Since everyone is housed in the same building, the associations aren’t buying separate office space, they have access to equipment, access to conference rooms and technology. Our shared services model means we have experts handling everything from event services to magazine production to website production to HR and accounting, and we even have access to experts in the concrete industry.” This model has served these small niche associations well. They share services and can even collaborate on projects when mutually beneficial but are still able to focus on their members.
The key to success as an association is to provide value to the members and expectations are continuing to increase. Association members today, whether companies or individuals, expect their staff to be able to communicate the return on their membership dues. “Mergers and acquisitions have changed the membership of all of the groups I interact with,” Kayler says. “Some of the firms that now make up the membership rosters of our associations are owned by venture capitalists, and in some cases by people that know nothing about the industry, so that makes it even more incumbent on all of us to make sure we understand what we’re delivering and how to communicate it. Association boards have always required technical expertise for their industry, but they are now also requiring more business and member relations expertise. The 15-plus boards I interact with in the concrete industry are asking, more than ever before, for greater performance metrics.”
Kayler came first to the concrete industry in the 1990s as marketing director for Con-Steel Tilt-Up Systems. She founded her own public relations firm, Constructive Communication Inc., in 2000 with a focus on companies and associations in the construction industry. Her first client was the Tilt-Up Concrete Association and that soon expanded into for-profit companies. Her reputation for providing high-quality case studies to the industry meant that clients’ information was soon featured in many leading industry publications, including this one. Merging her company, and her skills, into ACI’s association management subsidiary was a logical move.