CEO Connect Recap: NYSAE’s Supergroup Event

By Denman Wall

(from left) Joel A. Dolci, President & CEO, NYSAE; Michael Thatcher, President & CEO, Charity Navigator; Sandra E. Pace, Managing Director, Steven Hall Partners Executive Compensation; Gerard M. Thiers, CAE, Executive Director, ASAH and NYSAE Chair of the Board; Stephen J. Pasierb, President & CEO, The Toy Association; Maura Regan, Executive Vice President, International Licensing Industry Merchandiser's Association (LIMA); Charles M. Riotto, President, International Licensing Industry Merchandiser's Association (LIMA) and NYSAE Chair-Elect of the Board.

My son – who is a drummer - and I are really into Rock and Roll. It’s something that we enjoy together. We go to as many concerts as we can manage to see. Riding around town, we listen to the radio and play “name that tune” or “name that band.” It makes for great conversation as we talk about the lyrics, the melodies, and the talents behind the music. From time to time, we hear a song by what is known as a “supergroup.” A supergroup is formed when members from other successful bands get together to write and play tunes. When you think of supergroups, bands like Cream, Asia, Temple of the Dog, Travelling Wilbury’s, Damn Yankees, The Highwaymen, and others come to mind.

How does rock and the formation of supergroups relate to NYSAE?

This past June, NYSAE formed its own supergroup through CEO Connect – the organization’s innovative educational program designed exclusively for CEOs, Executive Directors, COOs and CFOs.

Leading the group was Michael Thatcher, President and CEO of Charity Navigator. Joining him on stage was the Critical Issues Panel that featured Vijay Dandapani, President & CEO, Hotel Association of New York City, Sandra E. Pace, Managing Director, Steven Hall Partners Executive Compensation, Stephen J. Pasierb, President and CEO, The Toy Association, and Maura Regan, Executive Vice President, International Licensing Industry Merchandiser’s Association.

The event was held at the spectacular Steelcase WorkLife Center overlooking Columbus Circle.

The theme focused on CEO Critical Issues: Opportunities, Challenges, and Innovations. After a brief introduction by NYSAE CEO and President Joel A. Dolci, CAE, Thatcher set the stage for the rest of the morning by sharing his experiences of transforming a private sector fundraising company to a non-profit organization.

Thatcher called upon Maura Regan to do the first solo. She shared her insights working with Sesame Workshop and its endeavor to rebrand and connect with new audiences through licensing the brand. Her advice: Partner with those who wish to tell your brand story. Of concern from audience members were entry barriers and expenses related to protecting one’s intellectual property. According to Regan, organizations should first look to protect their names, trademarks and copyrights and consider what best in class organizations do, and then move from there.

This created a near-perfect segway to Steve Pasierb, the second soloist, because of the toy industry’s strong dependency on licensing. According to Pasierb, licensing accounts for approximately 37% of the toy business. Pasierb skillfully shifted the discussion towards rebranding an organization that is on its 100th year of existence. Having taken the leadership reigns in 2015, he had to immerse himself into the organization’s culture and brand – to get to know it more closely. Thankfully, he was given the “luxury of time,” which was critical to the success of the rebranding effort. According to all accounts, he led the organization through a “wave of change…not your grandfather’s Toy Association.”

Their approach was not leaving any “sacred cows” hanging around. Everything was up for discussion as part of a transparent, inclusive rebranding initiative that included contributions by staff, members, and volunteers. Their main focus was on improving member value, but realizing that “members define what value is…”

Ultimately, these efforts led to removing the word “Industry” – which conotates large factories - from their name, resulting in a rebranding to “The Toy Association.” Ultimately, this resulted in the rebuilding of the organization’s website as mobile first, a change in their branding materials and a change of focus.

With Pasierb being somewhat new to the Toy Association, this created a smooth transition to the next soloist. Sandra E. Pace shared her insights on executive compensation, of which there is a wide variety of trends in today’s market. Generally, there is a decline in defined benefits programs, but an increase in variable compensation. Compensation tends to be mostly aligned with the incoming person’s experience and background vs. a set amount. Pace also referenced a recent study of approximately 400 non-profits stating less than 1/3 of non-profits pay a bonus to CEOs.

But perhaps more critical to the audience, Pace shared her thoughts on the importance of succession planning. In her experience working with a variety of organizations, they have observed that not enough have succession planning in place as part of their operation.

Lastly, Vijay Dandapani took the stage to share his views and experiences transferring from a for-profit company to a non-profit leader in the hotel sector. In essence, his viewpoint had to shift so that it is now focused on competitive threats to the New York hotel industry. This includes rival rental-market trendsetters like AirBNB and similar services. According to Dandapani, the New York labor union is the strongest in the industry. This makes it much easier to enforce regulations that provide for limitations and restrictions on short-term rentals.

In the final act, the audience expressed their gratitude to the presenters, who left the audience with final thoughts about the biggest challenges facing the industries they work in. Succinctly: the Internet, regulations, and merging of businesses.

The after party concluded the morning.

Be sure to join NYSAE this fall as we put together even more supergroups!

Mic drop…