Providing tangible benefits while funding expanding advocacy efforts

In January, Marvin Irby, CFO of the National Restaurant Association, Washington, was named the 2013 CFO of the Year. Irby now gives his thoughts on association finances.

What do you think is the single-most important issue facing association finance professionals today?

Adjusting to the challenging economic environment by discovering additional revenue generating opportunities. The traditional association funding model is under tremendous economic pressure. Continuing to expand our business model while enhancing member value is a continual challenge.

If you had free reign, how would you fix it?

We are exploring a number of opportu-nities that will diversify our revenue stream. Our goal is to provide tangible benefits to the restaurant operator while also funding our expanding industry advocacy efforts.

Is it much different working in an association environment vs. a for-profit environment? If so, how?

One major difference is the duality of the goals. In a for-profit environment, it is ultimately about making a profit. In an association environment, it is ultimately about delivering the mission. The dynamic of managing these dual goals is both challenging and fascinating.

You’re in a room full of young finance professionals. They’ve given you only five minutes to offer career advice. What would you say to them?

Do as many different things as possible. Take on as many different experiences as possible. I have had the experience of working in classic accounting and finance roles. But I’ve also worked in situations where I’ve supported human resources, information technology, sales, marketing and restaurant operators. As a finance/accounting professional, it is always to your benefit to understand every aspect of the business. This is one of the few functions that has the opportunity to engage across the organization. Learning all aspects of the business can only benefit you in your career.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an association CFO?

Assuming I still have to work, I would like to be a CFO in a mid-sized, expanding organization. What I love about being CFO here at the National Restaurant Association is being able to help drive a decision and see the impact. If I were not here, I’d like to emulate that experience in another high-growth organization.

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