Meeting Professionals International last month announced it had tapped board member Bruce MacMillan, president and CEO of the Tourism Toronto convention and visitors bureau, to be president and CEO. The appointment fills a post vacant since former CEO Colin Rorrie left abruptly in March.
Association leaders then signaled they planned to shift to more of a corporate management structure and opened positions for a CFO, which on July 3 was filled by Greg Lohrentz, and a COO.
"The COO position will be one of the first things that I start looking into," MacMillan said. "That will be a critically important role in what the future of MPI looks like."
MacMillan said he was approached by the CEO search committee for the position, but declined to offer a specific timeline on when the decision was made. He will begin his new job in December.
At the top of the 2007 to-do list for the meetings industry's largest organization is ensuring that members are successful at their own companies, MacMillan said. Beyond that greater and abstract goal, Dallas-based MPI faces more immediate challenges in determining exactly for what its more than 21,000 members are looking.
"My vision for the go-forward is: What does success look like for our members and how can MPI be a key element in delivering success for our members in a challenging time?" MacMillan said.
MPI will use all of its "touchpoints" to determine member needs, MacMillan said, including its Web site, chapters, events and magazine.
"We know our retention is up, we know our membership is up and we know our attendance at events is up, and that's a good thing. What we need to be regularly asking our members is: 'Are we making you successful?' I don't think we've asked that question yet," he said. "In shaping a picture of what success looks like, the only way we'll find out is to ask."
That determination will mostly be through membership surveys, MacMillan said, and the COO will work to establish better communication with chapters.
"The other side is really the growth opportunities: Where is MPI going to grow to evolve its business? Obviously, we want to continue to deliver value for our current members. We're at all-time highs for membership and for retention rates, but there are a lot of opportunities out there," he said.
The fastest-growing membership category is in Europe and the organization will be looking into how to best grow chapters overseas, he added.
In its release announcing the hire of MacMillan as the new CEO, MPI noted that he is a proven "change agent" and that under his three-year leadership, Tourism Toronto grew from a staff of 49 and budget of $8.5 million to its current 75-person, $28 million operation.
MPI has 75 employees and an $18 million budget, with offices in the United States, Europe and Canada.
"With a background in corporate and association management, Bruce is a proven change agent with the strategic business skills, international experience and industry knowledge necessary to drive the development of an organizational structure and business model that will take MPI, its members and chapters to new levels of success," said Katie Callahan-Giobbi, MPI CEO search committee chair and senior vice president of sales for LA Inc., Los Angeles' convention and visitors bureau, in the release announcing MacMillan's hire.
However, MacMillan shied from specifying any structural changes within the association other than the addition of the CFO and COO positions.
"We need to align our structure and our strategy with delivering value to our members and making our members successful—you're going to hear me say that a lot," MacMillan said. "That's what we're in business to do."
MPI's rapid growth during the past few years has presented a challenge in keeping the organization relevant and forward-looking while meeting the logistical needs of so many new members. MacMillan said it is essential to continue innovation at MPI.
"The change outside our industry has been massive, and if we're not changing as quickly inside our industry or organizations, then we're falling behind. I'm not one that likes to ever fall behind and I'm very proud of what our management team has accomplished this year," he said.
MacMillan has been in the meetings industry for 17 years and a member of MPI for about 13 years.
"MPI has been a big part of providing me with the skills to be successful. You get out of it what you put into it," according to MacMillan.
Education and networking have been two key benefits for MPI members in years past, and MacMillan said he has also gained skills by being involved in the association leadership.
"It allows you to get involved—whether it's on a committee or chapter board—and to develop your leadership skills," he said. "It's is a great value proposition."
MacMillan also served as MPI's vice president of marketing and digital services for more than two years prior to joining Tourism Toronto.
He is a past chair of the the association's Information Technology Committee, which oversaw the development of MPI's career-development tool MPI Member Solutions (Meetings Today, March 6),
and a member of MPI's Toronto chapter, where he won the President's Award in 2004.