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Thoughts on Board Positions and Going Crazy

Jan 24th, 2014 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

Nick Kemper PhotoI think I mentioned in a previous blog that I am on the board of the youth baseball association my son plays in. We had an awful year as a league last year, online due to infighting on the board and poor choices for some of the coaching spots, health so this is kind of a last resort for us — me joining the board to try to keep the ship from capsizing. I’m not sure if I can pull it off. I do know one thing — it shouldn’t be this hard to run a youth sports league.

I’ve never held a post in a professional association. Well, salve almost never. Back in the late 90s, when I had moved into management at the impound company I worked for, my boss talked me into making a presentation about vehicle lien foreclosures at the local chapter of our state towing association. He was the president, and he had to line up speakers for each monthly meeting, and apparently he was desperate so he asked me. Supervising the lien department was one of my responsibilities and I was relatively well informed on the legal statutes so I put together a presentation and brought my wife with me to the dinner meeting.

It went over well — too well. Turned out there were a lot of tow company owners at the meeting who had very little knowledge of the legal statutes and some of them were skirting the legal process in their daily operations. We were trying to expand our lien department by performing the lien work for other companies so it was a good way to promote that part of our business. And we secured a few new accounts as a result of my presentation.

Although I had never spent much time at towing “events” at that point in my career, I knew many people at the meeting. It was held at a nice steak place and we had a good dinner. It so happened that the meeting agenda included electing new officers for the next annual term. Drinks had been flowing since we arrived, and somehow I was nominated for vice-president of the chapter — and elected. I must have been flowing my own drinks or I would have politely declined. I guess it was one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time.

The next day, of course, I came to my senses. I called the newly-elected president and “resigned” my position. This was back in the days of talking to people, rather than communicating significant information via email or text. He was not happy. I regained happiness.

What was it about the idea of being on that board that made me feel so uncomfortable? There’s always the scuttlebutt from the former and current members, who want to know if you are a sadist or just plain ignorant. Except for the president, who knows that he or she will have to do the job of any unfilled post, so they paint a very rosy picture for you. Two days ago I called one of the former presidents of our baseball board for some information about fields, and his first question to me was, “So what terrible thing did you do to deserve that position?”

I try to be open-minded, and I like a challenge, so if I hear someone’s warning I sometimes feel the desire to prove them wrong. I try to resist that feeling, but it’s there. In the case of the towing association, vice-president was probably an easy job, but I was already overwhelmed in my management position at work (I was just shy of my first Prozac prescription). Was it worth a monthly steak dinner? I decided not.

Now that I’m on the baseball board, I’m very glad I didn’t try it. Baseball is actually supposed to be fun, so being on a board for something involving work would probably have driven me right over the edge at that point in my life. Some of my fellow board members on the baseball board have me entertaining thoughts of violence. If I tried to run a business the way these people want their non-profit youth sports league run, I’d be out of business in about a week. They’re having a hard time grasping the concept of delegation. Think about it: if you had a body shop, and you delegated the operation to your body shop manager, and he wanted to spend hours upon hours haggling over the design of your business cards for your towing division, wouldn’t you just fire him and start over? If you couldn’t, you’d just have to call in a hit. Hence the thoughts of violence.

There are many good people doing good things out there in towing associations and other professional groups. I’m not sure what value it adds to the businesses that belong to the association, beyond getting the boss out of everyone’s hair for a few hours now and then, but I’m sure there is a benefit to the industry. And my hat is off to the volunteers who devote their time and energy to those groups, and I sincerely pray it will not drive them crazy.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper