Dana J. Murn, CAE, Associate Director/Progam Manager at AMPED Association Management
Dana has been a work-from-home adopter and advocate for over a decade.
She has broad-based knowledge of the overall workings of associations and nonprofit organizations as well as board and sub-board level communication along with specific expertise in membership and online education strategy, as well as strategic planning.
She is a highly-skilled problem solver with the unique ability to think strategically and follow through with implementation.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Women in Leadership
- Managing Up
- Working from home
- Remote Teams/Culture
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:02] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Association Leadership Radio. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:16] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Association Leadership Radio. And this is going to be a fun one. Today on the show, we have Dana Murn with Amped Association Management. Welcome, Dana.
Dana Murn: [00:00:27] Thanks, Lee. So happy to be here.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:29] Well, I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about Amped. How are you serving folks?
Dana Murn: [00:00:35] Sure. So, you know, honestly, I’ll be completely transparent. I’m new to the association management space. I’ve got ten years of directly working for an association. So association management’s a little new, but I’m getting a chance to work with various clients now, and that’s pretty exciting. We work with a number of different associations in different spaces. We’ve got, you know, a headquarters in D.C. and a headquarters in Middleton. Our owner, Linda Patterson, is just really on fire. She’s doing some really amazing things in the association space. She’s actually the Treasurer on the assay board. So we’ve, we’ve got some movers and shakers over here.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:25] Now having worked in the association world in the sense that you were part of an association, was that your career path you went directly into associations or did you work in traditional businesses and then moved over to the association or nonprofit world?
Dana Murn: [00:01:39] You know, it’s funny, I think about my kind of stumble into associations and it really was just that I actually graduated like right during the time when the economy was not great and I was unlike a lot of my other peers who ended on ended up going on to some additional educational programs. I was like, I’m ready to get out there. So I took a job as an administrative assistant for a tax consulting firm, and I was working with individuals who had not paid their taxes in Wisconsin or to the IRS, which, to be completely honest, I was not aware that there were so many people that had been doing that, and it was a great learning experience. But I really it wasn’t ultimately in the cards for me, so I ended up looking for a different job and I stumbled into associations really just because I read this description online and I was like, That sounds like something I can do. And this sounds like an organization that’s doing some pretty cool things. And that’s how I ended up working with credit unions, actually.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:47] So then you saw kind of what that world is like. Were you a member kind of of any associations prior to that? Like, did you join the chamber or any kind of other groups?
Dana Murn: [00:02:58] No, honestly, that was my first soiree into associations. And I mean, as soon as I dipped a toe in, I was in all the way. Honestly, it just I’ve enjoyed every single person that I’ve come across working with associations. I’m now a member of the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives and I’m a member of RSA as well. I’ve done some other some other things with some other organizations, but those are really my two main associations that I’m a member of. And then honestly, I’ve gotten the chance to meet some really amazing individuals who work for all sorts of associations throughout the United States.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:40] And then now you’re worked with Amped. And I don’t know if everybody if this is common knowledge to everybody, but Amped is an organization that runs associations for a variety of associations. Right. Like the you know, they say there’s like it’s like Russian nesting dolls. Like there’s always another you know, there’s an association for associations. Associations. And it’s one of those things that a lot of folks may not realize that there’s professional association management companies that runs several different and it could be in the same office like, you know, next door could be one and then door down could be a totally different one.
Dana Murn: [00:04:15] Yes, yes, definitely. Yeah, that’s exactly and that’s exactly how we are. We are our company is actually built on we’re we’re an accredited association management company. So we have very high standards in terms of what we do for our clients. And then we also aside from actually like handling day to day operations for some associations, we also do some integrated services where we’ll come in and we’ll handle certain aspects as necessary, just depending on the scope that’s needed by a particular association.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:48] And that kind of service can really help a new or a smaller association really kind of have a bigger feel and a bigger kind of footprint because they can provide a bunch of services. There’s an economies of scale. In certain instances that help these smaller emerging associations really thrive?
Dana Murn: [00:05:06] Definitely. I mean, you know, I’ll the example I’ll give you is just marketing, marketing power in general. I mean, you know, typically if you really depending on the size of the association, you could have a pretty large either marketing department or need to be outsourcing marketing at a pretty high cost as well. And we’re actually able to keep a lot of those things in-house with our association management company, and that savings goes right on to our clients.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:33] Now, as part of your services, do you help them with kind of like annual conferences or galas or those kind of big events?
Dana Murn: [00:05:40] Yes, actually, for one of the clients that I’m I’m working on, we actually just wrapped up their annual conference that was virtual. And that was the second time that they’d done it. And it was it’s actually their virtual conference is is performing better than their annual conference was doing in person in 2019. So, you know, we’re getting into all sorts of different learning curves with our with our clients, which is awesome. You know, the the pandemic really changed up how a lot of them were doing their education and, and their events. And we did the we did the same thing. We switched up right along with them.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:20] And then I think another advantage of an organization like Amped is that you kind of can really see best practices and really share that knowledge across the board so that you can smooth out a lot of people’s learning curve and they don’t have to go through that kind of rough time of of learning something. You can say, oh, this is working well here. I wonder if it’ll work in this totally different, you know, not a competitor at all, but a different world. And a lot of times that’s so.
Dana Murn: [00:06:47] Definitely I mean, it’s really great to not have to reinvent the wheel if you’ve got a framework that you can look at and go, okay, this could possibly work for this client. It’s really nice to be able to say, okay, this, this worked for them. Let’s see what can work for about this framework for this client. And you’re not starting from ground zero every single time, which is it’s it’s great for the client and it’s great for us as associate directors and executive directors.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:14] So now was that a difficult transition to go from an association where you’re like heads down and you probably knew all the ins and outs and all the nuances of the the association you were working at. And then you come here and then it’s kind of like you get plugged in, played into a, you know, it could be a variety of experiences over the course of your career there.
Dana Murn: [00:07:33] You know. Li It’s funny you say that because while I was at a traditional association for I mean, I had been at two, I worked for a credit union association, and then I worked with I worked with cosmetic dentists the last five years while I was specifically in like the membership role at my at the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, I actually was kind of all over the place at that association. I would I was helping out with anything and everything. So as much as I was like the head of membership, I was doing online education, I was doing, you know, strategic planning. I was doing all sorts of different things that were necessary, as we often do in association space when you need to wear all those hats. So honestly, the transition to association management hasn’t been as as big of a shock as I was worried it would be. It’s actually been pretty smooth and I’m very grateful for that. In fact, I’ve actually been able to take a lot of my direct association experience and apply it to association management, which is awesome.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:44] Now talk about women in leadership roles and associations. Is this something that you feel there is more women in leadership roles in the association world maybe compared to your pre association world life? Or is it something that, you know, we’re all trying to get better at? Like, how do you see women in leadership nowadays?
Dana Murn: [00:09:05] I think that honestly associate the association space is one of, from what I’ve seen, a better place where you see more women leaders. But I do think that we can definitely we can definitely be better all the time. There’s always room for improvement. I think that, you know, overall, it seems to me like the association space is fairly dominated by women, which don’t don’t get me wrong, that is not a bad thing all about I’m all about the girl power. But, you know, I think that when it gets up to those higher leadership positions, you know, it’s really important that we keep advocating for women when they make sense in those positions. I’ve been lucky enough to work not only for an executive director who was female at my last association, but I’ve been able to work. Associations that really did elevate women within the executive leadership team. And I always felt really blessed to work with associations that felt strongly about making sure that they were representative. And now I’m even more lucky because I’m working for for a woman run company now, too. So I’m all about women in leadership.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:22] Lee And what about the pandemic and culture of the organization? Pre-pandemic, you know, there was you know, it was traditional to that. You’re working at the office, we’re all coming in. And the pandemic kind of blew that up. And now all of a sudden, people are working remotely and then, you know, the remote sounds good on paper and it’s like now you can get the best of the best no matter where they are. But there’s something to be said by that. We’re all in the same place and we can bump into each other. I can look over your shoulder. I can kind of sneak into a meeting and then meet somebody. And those kind of accidental collisions where, you know, that that serendipity can occur is is harder to orchestrate when everyone’s virtual.
Dana Murn: [00:11:10] Definitely. It’s as someone who’s been working remotely on and off since I actually started my career, I started out being semi remote a couple of days a week. I continued that when I was working for my my association that worked with credit unions, I worked at least one day a week when I was from home, when I was working for cosmetic dentistry. And then I actually had an opportunity to move closer to family and I couldn’t pass it up. So I was actually thankfully still in driving distance. And it’s similar now with my new with my new company being with Amped, I’m within driving distance, but it’s far enough where you don’t want to make that commute every single day. There’s definitely something to be said, however, to being in the office. I love being remote. I get so I really do find that I am a very productive individual when I’m working from home, which I know not everybody can say. But I do agree with you that there’s a lot of there’s a lot of synergy that happens in person in the office that if you’re not there, you know, I would say, at least for me, a monthly or quarterly at the very least, I think that’s kind of important. I get it. If you’re if you’re getting the opportunity to move farther away and it’s a good life choice for you not being, you know, not having to miss out on an employee that is providing value. But I personally really like where I’m at from being able to work remotely. But when I need to be in the office, I can get into the office.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:48] Now when you are you mentioned your you’re very productive and you probably wherever you would be, you would be very productive. Do you have any tips for folks out there when it comes to productivity or there are some techniques you’re using or tactics that you’ve learned that help you be more productive?
Dana Murn: [00:13:05] I really have taken on an article that I read that was put out by the Harvard Business Review about time boxing. And that has really been something that’s changed how I work. I used to be one of those people. I mean, I’m still am I’m very much someone who manages a lot of their projects using my email inbox. I use color coding and flagging and all sorts of stuff to keep my inbox looking really organized. But at the end of the day, if I’m to in my email, I’m not getting my projects done. So I have found that being able to say, okay, I’m going to spend an hour on this project or 45 minutes on this project and really getting heads down and then coming up for some air and then going back down deep into a project has made me far more productive than I used to be, where I felt like I was kind of moving from project to project a little more aimlessly. That has been a huge game changer for me.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:03] Yeah, I agree with you 100%. I am a big fan of time boxing and I was telling my team people break promises to themselves all the time. You know, like you say this week, I’m going to do I’m going to exercise or whatever. Like you say all this stuff to yourself, your internal dialog, but when you put it in your calendar and it’s blocked and it’s like I’m exercising now at 2 p.m., then it’s like, you know, I make appointments, I don’t miss appointments. So that just, you know, ties into my personality. So if it’s in the calendar, I just show up, you know, I don’t think about it. I just show up.
Dana Murn: [00:14:39] And, you know, I think the other thing that I found that’s really important, too, and this was another Harvard Business Review article I was reading, was about like when you’re most productive, that was another game changer for me going, You know what? It’s okay that my, like my most productive hours are going to be from like 7 to 2. Like, that’s when my. Real brainpower needs to be added to a project. I can work on some of the other stuff after that time when my brain maybe isn’t firing at its highest level. But like, let’s let’s be let’s be cognizant of when we’re when our brain is being, like, the most active and when we’re firing at our best, rather than trying to be like, Oh, well, I got to hit a 9 to 5. I got to I got to make sure I’m productive that whole time equally. Like, that’s that’s not that’s not at all how things really are. We can all be honest about that. So let’s just, let’s be like, Hey, it’s cool. I know when I’m going to be getting my, my, my major project work done and I’m going to leave this stuff that doesn’t require as much of my brain power to the times when I know that I’m not going to be firing on all of my cylinders.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:48] Now, was that something you just self discovered, like on your own? Just, you know, because it sounds like you’re a lifelong learner, so you’re always reading and you just stumbled upon this. You’re like, Hey, this really resonates with me. Or Did you take part in some training where you learn this? Like, how did this kind of self knowledge come about?
Dana Murn: [00:16:05] So, I mean, I had read a couple articles about, you know, I’ve always been a person who’s believed that 9 to 5 is fairly rigid. So I’ve always been interested, as you say, as a lifelong learner, to read about kind of schedules and when people are most productive and things like that. I did actually attend a session in person where we did have a keynote speaker that talked about, you know, when when you’re most productive and how to utilize that best. And it totally resonated with me. I was like, why? Why do I keep trying to make myself work on like the projects that are really, really crucial to, to what I’m doing at times that are not when my brain is at its best, like, let’s reframe this and let’s make sure we’re, we’re putting our brainpower in the places that it makes sense. That helped me out so much when I kind of unlocked that and went, Hey, you know what? It’s okay. Like you’re going to ebb and flow on when your brain is at its best and that’s okay. Like that’s totally normal.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:08] Yeah. And that, and sadly some people don’t realize that and they get burned out, you know, they’re like, Oh yeah, they just are just trying to fit that round peg into this square hole and it’s not fitting and they don’t get it. And they’re just like, you know, I’ll work longer hours, you know, like they just keep making it worse.
Dana Murn: [00:17:24] Right? And I think that’s the hard part. You know, I think that’s one of the things like as much as the pandemic was really a game changer in some aspects, in a good way. And I totally know that it was not a game changer in some some bad ways, too. But I think from a from like a work perspective and scheduling and understanding and appreciating work life balance, the companies that I think are really getting it and understanding it are realizing that micromanaging the time of their employees and saying, if you’re not doing if you’re not working 9 to 5 with your butt in a chair, they’re losing out on the productivity that could be happening from those employees because there’s so much research out there that says there’s not it is not the right model to get the most productivity out of your employees by making them sit there in a 9 to 5 situation. Like, let’s understand that, that there’s a bit more of a continuum to when people can, can and do get their their job done. And that’s one of the cool things I like about Amped is we have some core hours set up where we go, you know what, you really need to be available between nine and three. But if you’re someone that work wants to get online at six and that’s okay and you’re still getting things handled for your client, that’s okay. Or if you’re someone that would prefer to work till six at night, like that’s fine to adjust your hours. Just make sure that you’re getting your work done. Like, that’s really the end. That’s the end goal.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:56] Right? And a lot of companies lose sight of what the real objective is. It’s not to work 9 to 5. It’s to get the job done and have happy clients.
Dana Murn: [00:19:05] Definitely. Well, happy clients and happy employees. Right. I mean, it’s it’s you want them both. You want it on both sides. So I think that’s the the cool thing about what’s happened now with this kind of revolution about where work is being done, how it’s being done. I think there’s a lot of really awesome things going on that make work life balance more achievable than it than it ever was.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:29] Yeah, I agree 100%. And and look, those companies that are really rigid are probably realizing by their turnover rate that maybe something’s amiss and they just aren’t connecting the dots, that it could be their rigid ness. That’s a problem.
Dana Murn: [00:19:44] Definitely. And that’s that’s a conversation that I know. I’ve got some friends who work for some more rigid companies, and some of them have have actually taken an even an even more harsh stance on what their expectations. Ah in terms of 9 to 5 people in seats like in the office. And those are the ones where you’re seeing a lot of turnover.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:07] Yeah, I was I heard some horror stories like they’re checking like keystrokes and you’ve got to move the mouse like so many times an hour, you know, because they’re, you know, it has to be like you’re working at all times. So, I mean, it’s just I mean, in today’s world, that seems so outdated.
Dana Murn: [00:20:24] Right. Especially when they’ve got way better tracking software out there. Li I mean, come on, keystrokes and mouse movements, there’s they know that there’s other stuff that can track what they’re doing. Like let’s not act like that’s the best way to do that.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:39] So now at AMP, what is kind of the ideal client profile like? What is an association that’s a great fit for AMP? Like what are some of the maybe the pain that they’re having or some of the, you know, goals that they’re having where amps can help them.
Dana Murn: [00:20:53] So amps can can really. So I’ll, I’ll let me step back. I think that Amped can be a good fit for associations that are looking for, you know, someone who an organization that’s looking to do something different. They’re poised to consider how they can do things differently. And they’re looking for an organization that can support that kind of change. You know, we do full I mean, we do full service association management. So we handle we can handle clients. You know, one of the clients I’m working with right now, they have just under 3000 members. We have other state associations where they’re much larger. We have an association that we manage that’s out in California. That’s pretty large, too. I mean, we we kind of, you know, we’ve got the gamut in terms of clients. I would say that a fit for us is really someone who’s looking for something full service, and they’re looking to make that change to a more innovative association management company that’s doing things differently. We’re applying creative solutions and new principles, and we’re working on making sure that our association clients are growing well.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:15] If somebody wants to learn more about the website.
Dana Murn: [00:22:19] Oh, sure, it’s manage associations dot com.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:23] That’s pretty straightforward.
Dana Murn: [00:22:25] It is.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:27] Well, Dana, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Dana Murn: [00:22:33] Thanks, Leigh. I appreciate your time and I appreciate the invitation to come on your podcast. It’s awesome.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:38] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see y’all next time on Association Leadership Radio.