How opening satellite offices brought an association closer to its global members.
From its perch in Lexington, Kentucky, the International Coach Federation could only do so much for its members in places as far-flung as Europe and Australia. Although challenges posed by geography, time zone, language, and culture were daunting, ICF nonetheless explored ideas for bridging the divide.
In 2007, the ICF team started by looking at their goals: Improving responsiveness to members’ needs was a top priority. For instance, Executive Director and CEO Magdalena Mook says her team was concerned that an international member’s email could go unanswered for 24 hours simply because of a difference in time zone. “So we recognized the importance [of having] some people closer to where our members are,” she says.
That’s when they honed the idea of dispatching a group of satellites— or Regional Service Centres—on continents where ICF already had members. Staff working in the RSCs would be closer to international members and would be able to converse with them in their own languages.
But it wasn’t an easy or cheap proposition, says Mook. The board deliberated over questions like “Is it sustainable?” and “What kind of growth in membership should we be able to generate by offering these services?”
“But you know, if you don’t take a risk, you probably don’t get much success either,” Mook says. “And lucky for us, it turned out to be very successful.”
ICF established its first two RSCs in Brussels and Sydney, run by ICF staff, later adding others in Moscow, Kuala Lumpur, and Buenos Aires. A dozen years ago, ICF had 8,000-some members, about 80 percent of those residing in North America. Now, it has almost 30,000 members, and less than half are in North America.
“Without a doubt, the growth of the ICF could not have been sustained, much less supported, without our RSC colleagues,” Mook says. “It is not only a question of local presence but cultural sensitivity, access, language capacity, and just sheer market intelligence that these individuals provide. They are trusted partners to the chapter leaders and also definitely providing member service to those in their areas.”