As president and CEO of the Ohio Society of CPAs and chair of the American Society of Association Executives, Scott Wiley wears multiple, interesting hats. He is a forward thinking leader inspiring innovation and excellence in the association community.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Jeff talks with Scott about how and why OSCPA has been able to foster a culture of innovation, the importance of truly understanding members to create and deliver value, and the potential role of associations as leaders in the “third sector” of education.
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[00:20] – A reminder to check out the Leading Learning Symposium, an event designed specifically for senior leaders at organizations in the business of lifelong learning, continuing education, and professional development. The symposium takes place this year on October 24-25 in Baltimore, Maryland.
[01:25] –A preview of what will be covered in this episode where Jeff interviews Scott Wiley, president and CEO of the Ohio Society of CPAs (OSCPA) and chair of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE).
[03:06] – Introduction to Scott and some background about OSCPA, who they serve, and his role there as president and CEO.
[04:50] – Scott discusses what ASAE has been doing recently and his role as the new chair. He says that ASAE’s culture embraces and expects great governance and associations operate in a unique environment where risk and opportunity exist side-by-side. As the new chair, Scott wants to make sure he understands the challenges and opportunities their members are dealing with. At ASAE there is a culture for risk-taking, creating solutions to help associations thrive, and making mistakes is expected and embraced.
[06:36] – OSCPA is recognized both within the CPA society world and more broadly as being an innovative organization – and certainly that applies to your learning initiatives. How do you make that kind of innovation happen at an organization? Scott explains that it’s not a “top-down” or a “bottom-up” thing, but rather an “all-in” thing and that this is part of their DNA. They recognize that the businesses where accounting professionals are employed are expected to not only think about the future, but also to help shape it, and they are looking for a valued partner to help them in that work. Scott believes their role at OSCPA isn’t just to provide programs, products, and services (a retail model), and instead of focusing so much on “member engagement”, they should focus on creating and delivering value to consumers.
[09:53] – Scott adds that member engagement is part of a value strategy but it’s not the end all be all for associations. Associations need to begin to better understand how it is they create and deliver value to those who consume their offerings (individual member, organizational member, or a hybrid) – once that is figured out it needs to be replicated. Everyone at OSCPA, no matter what their role, has an enterprise-wide responsibility for the organization with accountability for making it happen.
[12:38] – To cite a specific example of an innovative initiative OSCPA is known for, we interviewed Josh Goldman for the Leading Learning podcast and talked about the 10-minute CPE. How does that kind of thing come about and what’s your role? Scott shares how this idea came about and how it was a multi-prong, yearlong effort, with the hardest part being around regulation. Ohio became the first state in the nation to have their regulatory body approve a rule change to allow nano-learning in increments as small as 10 minutes and this created an additive element to their learning environment. This example illustrates their “all-in” approach and Scott explains how a win like this gets people excited and takes conversations from, “Can you imagine…?” to “What if…?” – if this happens daily, he says you’re primed to innovate.
[18:37] – There seems to be a good crop of innovation across accounting societies. Is there a correlation between being in a regulated environment and innovation happening or should asking, “Why not?” and rallying the team be happening in any sector at any association? Scott says it should be happening in any sector and there are complexities that a regulated environment create, not all of which are bad. The regulation that happens in their space is focused on how to ensure that quality, integrity, and care are a part of their work, centered around protecting the public interest. In unregulated spaces, he believes you can create a “What if?”, innovative culture by focusing on three questions: “Where are we?”, “Where is the future moving?”, and “What do we see as the chasm that’s really preventing us from getting there more quickly?”.
[ 20:22] – There’s been a growing amount of discussion in recent years about the gap between the skills and knowledge employers need and those that the typical college graduate possesses – you’ve recently discussed this with Elizabeth Engel and Shelly Alcorn about their whitepaper, The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm (we also interviewed them about this in a past episode of the Leading Learning podcast). What if associations are a part of the solution? What role do you feel associations can or should be playing to help address that broader gap in the education and learning opportunities that are out there right now? Scott points out that outside of the college/university marketplace, associations are the largest provider of workforce development and training in the U.S. today. If you add on the growing challenges in the college/university business model, this creates a new opportunity that associations are well poised to slide into. Scott emphasizes that it’s important for associations to understand that we aren’t just serving the profession/industry, but also representing it, which means we need to do a much better job understanding it (needs, challenges, and opportunities).
[23:00] – Scott talks about how the people at OSCPA have spent their time working to understand their members needs, challenges, and opportunities and how their organization exists to advance the state of business – both the state (nature of how business works) and the State (of Ohio). He emphasizes how important this is in order to demonstrate how they create and deliver value, which positions them as a valuable partner for their future. Changing our mindset about understanding our consumer’s yesterday to understanding their tomorrow is critical. Associations recognize the next generation of talent has the skills but they need to have somebody help shape them to prepare them for the future – and associations are uniquely positioned to do that. Whether or not associations step up to the plate to recognize this is going to be the question that defines the future of this community.
26:58 – We often talk about associations as the “third sector” of education, for the other 50 years, but it seems like they aren’t necessarily perceived as playing that role. Do you agree with that and how can we work to make their role more visible and change that over time? Scott agrees and explains that as association professionals we need to contribute to people not thinking that. He explains how we need to change our mentality to understand that it’s not about how people respond to us, it’s how we choose to participate with them. He’s learned that by better understanding their members (business practices and approaches), they gain much more insight into what their concerns, fears, and opportunities are.
[29:03] – Scott shares information from a survey OSCPA gave as part of a market research project several years ago. It revealed that the top three business challenges members were facing included: talent management, the regulatory environment, and business development. The follow-up question on the survey asked if they would turn to an organization like OSCPA to help with these top three challenges and only 21% of respondents said they would. There is a chasm between an organization that has high loyalty and high brand value for what it’s been and what the needs are of the future. This demonstrates that what has made us successful in the past is not what’s going to allow us to be successful in the years ahead. He explains how they have worked to create a greater level of value through deeper, more meaningful relationships with members.
[33:05] – What do you see as ASAE’s role, or potential role, in helping associations be fully appreciated for what they’re doing and to be better at what they’re doing in terms of workforce development, lifelong learning and really being the leaders of that third sector? Scott believes when you look at ASAE, they serve as the community’s convener – when ASAE speaks, not only do people listen but they come together around an idea, problem, challenge, or opportunity. He adds that the ASAE foundation is fast becoming the community’s innovation incubator. Both of these things together have positioned ASAE to lead the community’s renaissance. With ASAE, it’s not just about how they help develop their people, it’s about carving out a path for associations to look at “next” practices to determine the best path. He shares an example about work they’ve done over the past decade around diversity and inclusion.
[37:50] – What are some of your own lifelong learning practices/habits? Scott shares that he tries to digest as much information as he can before 8AM so he can put it to use, he tries to make sure he reads a variety of things (not just association related), and he also tries to pick up what their people are reading about.
[40:30] –How to connect with Scott and OSCPA:
[41:09] – Wrap-Up
A reminder to check out the Leading Learning Symposium.
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[42:54] – Sign off