My favorite season has to be autumn, with beautiful fall colors, cooler weather and playoff baseball. The playoffs feature the 'game within the game', strategic decisions made by the managers to create the best matchups between pitchers and hitters, that ultimately depend on which players perform in the moment. That's truly fascinating to me.
Another thing about baseball that fascinates me is the levels of organization established for every team. Major League baseball has a "farm system' composed of many levels of Minor Leagues around the country to develop prospective players and managers. Montanans benefit from this 'game plan' through the Pioneer League, featuring teams in Great Falls, Helena, Missoula and Billings. Such leagues also serve to market the game to remote audiences. Marketing and Professional Development!!! What organization doesn't need that???
As long as I have been on the MNLA board, we have always been challenged to maintain our membership. The Green Expo and Fall Tour help to encourage membership involvement and recruitment, but what about the rest of the year, how can we keep in touch with our members??? Can we take our show on the road??? What would happen if MNLA started our own league???
We could have teams in Great Falls, Helena, Missoula and Billings, just like the Pioneer League. And while we're at it, add teams in Bozeman and Kalispell. Board members in each city could call on past presidents and allied members to 'manage' the teams. Actually, we already have a team in Billings, managed by Steve Lehenbauer and his golf tournament planning committee.
OK, enough with the baseball analogy. Obviously we are talking about Chapter meetings. MNLA needs involvement from all of our members to support their local chapters, The Billings Chapter has begun a format that can be shared as an outline to follow on our journey to get the other Chapters established. In Billings, we have met once a month since June, with each meeting scheduled to last less than two hours. Meetings are informal, offering social and educational opportunity and prize drawings. Sponsors are allowed a short pitch for their businesses. And most important, the meetings have featured speakers that sometimes qualify for CEU's. So far the meetings, open to non-MNLA members, have been well attended, with 20+ people each time and typically last about an hour and a half, allowing for more discussion as individuals desire.
The meetings have provided a forum for professional development, for individuals, their businesses and more importantly our place in the industry. MNLA must encourage its members to ‘raise the bar’ of professionalism and in doing so improve the way we are perceived by our customers and clients.
The meetings have provided marketing for our association, by inviting non-members we have had three or four new members join in the last six months. Another marketing benefit that will happen as a result of establishing chapter committees is the pool of prospects for nomination to the board every January at the Green Expo. In addition, the chapter meetings will act as a conduit of direct communication between the MNLA board and its Membership, helping guide the board in decision making.
This is all food for thought come January in Bozeman at the Green Expo, a perfect subject for discussion at the Breakfast of Champions. I welcome your thoughts there and close with one final baseball reflection as I encourage your participation in developing your local chapters, remember the whispered line from one of the greatest base ball movies ‘Field of Dreams’- “ If you build it , they will come”