Paul Butler | Professional Organizations

Paul Butler: Going the Extra Mile

I’m a raving fan of professional organizations and believe if you have any interest in commerce, you should be affiliated with at least one. Regardless of whether you’re a business owner, an employee or even if you’re retired, I believe a professional organization can be so valuable. 

I’ve found there are two types of professional organization — general and trade-specific. Two examples of general professional organizations locally here in Santa Clarita would be our Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Valley Industry Association.  

A trade-specific organization is what the name suggests — an entity centered around one specific industry. Our business focuses on staff training and leadership development and so two professional organizations we’re members of are the Association for Talent Development, and the Professionals in Human Resources Association.  

With regards the leadership of professional organizations, I’ve noticed that some are tremendously well-run and others, not so much. The former have websites that work and events that engage. The latter have broken website links that lead to nowhere and only list events that have already passed. 

Within well-run professional organizations they always seem on top of their game and proactively provide opportunities to engage their members and therefore attract new ones. Well-run professional organizations are dynamically effective and efficiently run.  

Conversely, I’ve observed and subsequently unsubscribed from other organizations that seem stuck in the past and achieve little more than provide a job for one person to sit on top and do very little. Poorly run organizations are ineffective and inefficient and, in my opinion, do a disservice to their remaining members. 

As nonprofit entities, professional organizations are required to have a board of directors. I’ve noticed there are two types of board member — those who sit and those who serve. You’ll often hear people say they “sit on a board” but I’m always much more attentive when I hear someone say they “serve on a board.” There’s a big difference between “sitting” and “serving.” 

Interestingly, I’ve noticed there’s a direct correlation between what I’d deem to be a well-run organization and the spirit to serve within its board of directors. Conversely, poorly run organizations seem to attract and carry a bunch of dead wood who just sit on the board, rarely show up and actually achieve very little.  

Let’s turn our attention now to those who participate within professional organizations. I’ve noticed within my networking there are three types of affiliates — the Passive, the Proactive and the Pedestrian.  

The Passive member does pay for membership but they seem to only be interested in what they can get rather than what they can give. The Passives do attend the organization’s events but they listen very little and just want to throw their business cards out to as many people as possible, hoping some will stick. 

The Proactive member goes “Plus One,” meaning they often will volunteer to serve in some capacity rather than just be served as a member. Their “Plus One” may take the form of serving on a committee for the organization; being an ambassador or even a board member. The Proactivists listen more than they speak at events and due to the Law of Reciprocity, find they attract more business because of their genuine interest in helping others. 

The Pedestrian strolls the sidewalk but never actually commits to become a member of the professional organization — they pay the “non-member” price in more ways than one. Their window shopping causes them to be on the outside and what they don’t realize is, it’s much better to be inside the store with everyone else.  

Well-run professional organizations seem to attract the Proactivists and any Pedestrians walking by soon realize it’s better to cross the street and actually come inside. Sadly, I’ve seen that poorly run professional organizations seem to attract the Passives and have many Pedestrians wandering around aimlessly.  

In summary, regardless of whether you’re a business owner, an employee or retired, I’d encourage you to join a well-run professional organization; commit to go “Plus One” as a member and seek to serve in some capacity.  

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]. 

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