October 2009

As we slog our way through the morass of a stagnant economy we find ourselves questioning many of our fundamental beliefs about how and why we do business. This soul searching activity, while the result of a terrible set of circumstances, has tremendous positive intrinsic value. I have long held that any time you find yourself examining processes or procedures in your business and you ask "Why do we do this?" the answer must be something other than "Because we have always done this." If there is not a clear and compelling reason for how or why we do things in business, than we must question those things and either discover the reasons behind them or reject them.

So, as I sit here at my desk in Long Beach, I find myself both asking and answering that question. As a responsible manager I have had to question all of our activities, processes, procedures and habits and try to determine what justifies them. I am sure that many of you are going through the same process, one which is alternately enlightening and confusing and that at times becomes painful as we are forced to slaughter some of our sacred cows. Of course the obvious follow up question in this exercise is "How can we do this better?", and I find myself asking that question a lot.

One of the areas we identified as having lots of room for improvement for us is communication. We looked at how we communicate and came away feeling like we were pursuing a lot of archaic, expensive and ineffectual communication strategies. Lots of snail mail and printed cards and brochures and newsletters have come out of these offices over the last sixteen years, and we recognized a need for change. With that in mind we have developed a wide range of new communication strategies more appropriate for the way people talk to each other today. On September 30th we launched our newly redesigned website, with lots of interactive features and a clear and easy to navigate architecture. Imbedded in that site is an outward facing membership database. We can finally have a dialog with our members and they can easily access and update their own information without going through a series of contortions involving staff and lost passwords and member numbers - it is all very straightforward and based on e-mail addresses now.

We have also added an SCAA Facebook page, a great place for members to interact and for all of us to post communications. I also got something called a Twitter account. I have to ask my teenage children how to use it, but meanwhile our crack marketing and communication team here is "tweeting" about all kinds of things. Most importantly we have a commitment internally to keep members informed about all of the activities and benefits of membership. So look for an e-mail, an electronic bulletin, a Facebook update or maybe even a tweet. And go ahead, friend us, tweet us, or as always, give us a call. I hope to hear from you soon.

Ric Rhinehart