Members First ... For 68 Years
Carita Twinem, International President
President's Corner - 9/1/2012

It seems like only yesterday when Chuck Rau, my then-boss at Allis-Chalmers in Milwaukee, poked his head into my spreadsheet- filled cubicle and said, “Carita, there is this organization, Tax Executives Institute, TEI, that I think you should join. It is absolutely the way to get connected to the in-house tax community.” It wasn’t yesterday, of course; it was 1986, and at Chuck’s urging I started to attend meetings of TEI’s Wisconsin Chapter. I started building my own network. About two years later, shortly after leaving Allis-Chalmers and joining Briggs & Stratton, I filed my membership application, and less than three months later, I was admitted to TEI.

Becoming a TEI member in 1988 has turned out to be one of the best professional decisions that I have made. (Thank you, Chuck, for that nudge 24 years ago!) The Wisconsin Chapter was an excellent place for me to start enjoying the benefits of TEI. Marion Youngers, a past chapter president, encouraged me to become active in TEI and go beyond attending meetings to becoming immersed in industry issues — again, solid advice, which I embraced. Local involvement led to local leadership opportunities, and a chance to help shape the direction of my chapter. I was proud to serve as the chapter’s 1999-2000 President. From there, taking notice of the expanding opportunities for women in leadership roles beyond the local chapter, I had the good fortune to meet Judy Zelisko of Brunswick Corporation (in the Chicago Chapter), and she helped guide my development on the national TEI stage, including service as TEI’s Federal Tax Committee Chair.

Why do I dwell on personal TEI history? Certainly not because it was unique. Indeed, it is rather commonplace, and I truly believe it represents an example of the best of what TEI has offered inhouse tax professionals since our founding in 1944: Members helping members, enabling them to develop, grow and thrive. In short, TEI is all about putting members first. So, when I was selected for TEI’s leadership queue, I determined that the theme of my year as president would be “Members First.” I am pleased that the Board of Directors ratified this theme at its first meeting on August 14.

Broadly speaking, “Members First” means listening to our members, advocating for them and the issues of most concern to them, and having TEI leadership truly be representative of the membership at large. This coming year it will also entail carefully examining key facets of our organization, including what we do and how we do it and how we are organized and managed — all in order to identify improvements to our products and services, enhancements to our brand worldwide, and other means of increasing the (already high) overall value of a TEI membership.

To be sure, we are not writing on a clean slate. Rather, we are building on a 68-year record of success, during which our organization has grown from 1 chapter to 55, from 15 members to 7,000 located in 20 countries around the world. The Institute’s success as the preeminent association of business tax professionals worldwide is attributable to never breaking faith with the vision of our founders while remaining sufficiently flexible to anticipate and meet the evolving needs of our members.

I want to express both my and the Institute’s deep appreciation and thanks to my predecessor, David Penney, for his efforts this past year. Dave is an extremely inclusive leader, and I was proud to serve as his Senior Vice President and to participate with him on one of the central initiatives of his term: TEI’s Vision 20/20 Task Force. Through David’s leadership — and the involvement of members from throughout the organization, TEI has developed a strategic plan that will guide the Institute through this decade and beyond. The 20/20 Task Force Report, which was reprinted in the May-June issue of the magazine, serves as the framework for this year’s objectives and tactical initiatives.

Before turning to those plans, thanks are also due to every member of the Institute who served the organization during David’s term — as a chapter officer or director, a committee or task force chair or member, an Institute officer, or a member of the Executive Committee. TEI accomplished a great many things in the last year — from attracting new members, to planning excellent educational programs both locally and at the Institute level, to submitting technical comments to governmental authorities around the globe, to preparing for a smooth staff leadership transition. We were able to accomplish all that we did through the hard work and dedication of scores of members and the focused efforts of our staff.

As demonstrated by the research compiled during our Vision 20/20 project, TEI has a very solid foundation. The Institute’s overarching goal in the coming year is to build upon that foundation in the following ways:

Member-Centricity: We will develop member-service criteria and metrics for each function within TEI.

Education: We will examine alternative means to deliver tax technical, policy, and management content in a cost-effective way, including webinars, video-conferencing, and other distance-learning options.

Advocacy & Government Liaison: We will constructively engage with tax authorities at all levels, including quasi-governmental organizations such as the OECD and the United Nations. We will also explore recommencing liaison efforts with the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. More generally, we will seek opportunities to expand our advocacy activities in different jurisdictions. A key challenge, of course, will be to chart an appropriate role for TEI in the tax reform debate in the United States. While our diversity may preclude the Institute’s becoming involved in some issues, I am truly convinced that we will be able to meaningfully contribute to the debate by leveraging TEI’s industry breadth and deep expertise.

Optimizing TEI’s effectiveness depends on setting and, as necessary, adjusting priorities. To enable the Institute to do this, we will seek to identify specific advocacy priorities by committee, with a special focus on opportunities to frame and shape tax policy and administration. We will also take steps to increase the transparency of TEI’s advocacy process and to enhance the ways in which members can engage, for example, by creating a collaborative workspace on TEI’s website for members to participate. Finally, we will take steps to ensure that our processes do not undermine our effectiveness, by reviewing the approval process for TEI’s advocacy submissions.

Membership Recruitment, Retention & Networking: TEI cannot be all things to all people, but I believe we can better focus on efforts toward particular segments of our membership. Thus, during the year, we will seek to expand our outreach to Chief Tax Officers and to strengthen our CTO network by improving the collaboration and coordination among TEI’s chapters and regions. (We will also continue our Institute-level efforts by hosting CTO-only sessions at the Midyear and Annual Conferences and evaluating whether to hold quarterly conference calls to build our network.) In addition, we will share best practices for increasing CTO participation among chapters and regions (as well as utilizing the most effective practices at the Institute level).

Governance & Management: To ensure that the Institute’s leaders (including those in the chapters and the committees) reflect the organization’s richness and diversity, we will review the recruitment and selection processes for Board and committee membership.

We will assess our current governance and management structure. With minor modifications, the Institute’s organizational structure was put in place more than half a century ago, when TEI’s membership was a third of what it is today and the number of chapters was less than half, and the number of countries was 2 rather than 10 times that number. If you add in the role of technology, it is clear that, in 2012, “it’s not your parent’s tax profession.” Thus, it is both logical and prudent for us to take steps to ensure that the Institute’s structure facilitates nimble operations.

Global Operations & Initiatives: Apropos our global expansion, we will assess the potential for expansion in Australia and Brazil (or, more generally, Latin America). We will also complete implementation of the recommendations of the Global Tax Advocacy Task Force, which completed its work earlier this calendar year.

Marketing, Communications & Public Relations: We will assess and implement the most effective methods for communicating with members and other stakeholders (including print, electronic, Internet, and social media). To this end, we will evaluate myriad networking channels and deploy the most appropriate communications and collaboration tools.

Chapter Development & Relations: Finally, we will study the current scope and objectives of the Institute’s annual Leadership Seminar — our orientation for new chapter and regional leaders — and formulate recommendations for modifying content and format to best serve the target audience.

When I outlined these goals for the Board in August, I readily acknowledged that they were ambitious. I have the utmost confidence in TEI’s leadership, committee chairs, members, and staff to translate these goals and objectives into concrete results. At the Board meeting, I asked members to consider which goals they would like to work on, and I have been gratified by the responses, both at the meeting and afterward. That said, I would happily welcome more participation. As the adage goes, “Many hands make light work.” The depth and breadth of skills in our membership encompass not only technical tax capability but also project management and other skills. Can you imagine if every TEI member devoted a single hour a month to Institute business? That would generate 84,000 hours of effort to power TEI’s education, advocacy, and networking projects.

TEI is the preeminent tax association in the world. It has been my privilege to work with the best and brightest on TEI advocacy and development for over 20 years. To serve this extraordinary community as President is an unparalleled honor. With your help, we can make TEI an even more member-focused organization — the trendsetter for excellence in tax education, networking, and advocacy in an ever-changing, global environment.