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Challenge for a new year: building upon past successes

Challenge for a new year: building upon past successes – President’s Page

Betty M. Wilson

Transitions can be daunting and traumatic. Whether involving your tax department, your company, your professional association, or your personal life, transitions can be either energizing and uplifting or discomfiting and even a bit ugly. The key to ensuring the former and minimizing the latter is careful planning and sincere, mutual respect among all the affected parties. In stark contrast to the political transition underway in the United States (and evidenced by the recent conventions in Philadelphia and Los Angeles), TEI’s recent change of leadership was uncommonly smooth and amicable. The absence of ill will, insult, and abuse in Institute transitions, the continuity and unity of goals, is not new — indeed, a hallmark of TEI has long been its congeniality — but in light of what many of us encounter in other aspects of our lives, we would do well not to take the smoothness of TEI’s transitions for granted.

The credit for TEI’s most recent transition belongs first and foremost to my predecessor as President, Chuck Shewbridge, and then to the Institute’s staff. They helped to prepare me and the Institute for the change. I thank them, and all of the members who made my journey to TEI’s presidency possible. I also owe a special debt of gratitude to the members of the St. Louis Chapter where I began my TEI career nearly 25 years ago. Thanks, too, to my former colleagues at ITT Financial and Caesars World, whose indulgence and support made it possible for me to serve as a member and then chair of TEI’s Corporate Tax Management Committee, as a member of the Board and the Executive Committee, and then an officer. Finally, I want to acknowledge the commitment of my new employer, MGM Mirage, and the unwavering support of my husband Jerry, without whom I could not succeed.

A Hard Act to Follow

Let me return to Chuck Shewbridge and his accomplishments. Chuck was on the go throughout his term as president. He was the one under the figurative Klieg lights, repeatedly testifying before Congress on corporate tax shelters and interest and penalty reform. He was the one who led the delegations to the Institute’s liaison meetings in Washington and Ottawa, who affixed his name and hence his reputation to each and every position paper that TEI filed, and who presided so ably over the Annual and Midyear Conferences. Chuck devoted an extraordinary amount of time and effort to TEI, and the organization is the better for it.

But Chuck’s contribution goes beyond these critically important items. He was also the one who set the direction of the Institute in terms of implementing our ambitious strategic plan and keeping us on course. He was the one who pressed ahead with our plans to replace the Institute’s database with a modern, fully connected system. (After completion of a comprehensive design study, the contract for the replacement system was signed on August 2.) And he was the one who kept me and TEI’s other officers informed of, and involved in, TEI business. Thus, by his daily actions, he made a smooth transition not only possible, but inevitable. To him and to his lovely, gracious and fun-loving wife Jo, I offer my personal thanks and my professional admiration. I also offer the promise that I will continue to call on Chuck for his wise counsel, most immediately as chair of the Institute’s Internal Affairs and Nominating Committees.

TEI’s Strategic Plan: Guidepost for Future Action

One of TEI’s accomplishments during Chuck’s term as president was to make considerable progress on the implementation of the Institute’s strategic plan. You may recall that the plan sets forth five goals: (1) provide high quality education responsive to the needs of members and their employers; (2) maximize and facilitate networking opportunities for members; (3) expand and enhance the effectiveness of advocacy efforts; (4) attract and retain members; and (5) ensure an efficient and effective organization.

A year ago Chuck appointed task forces to address three critical aspects of TEI’s work: enhancing volunteerism among the members; increasing the effectiveness of the Institute’s advocacy efforts; and improving the marketing of TEI’s educational programs (especially our conferences). The three chairs — Hank Pasniewski, Ray Rossi, and Dave Bernard — did an exceptional job of reaching out to the membership and assembling diverse groups of interested, experienced, and even visionary tax professionals. The end product of their efforts was three excellent reports that were presented to the Board of Directors in connection with its meeting on August 8. I thank them for their Herculean efforts.

Objectives for the Year

The Board is now in the process of analyzing the three reports, which contain numerous recommendations, some that most members may agree with, some they may oppose, and some that may raise additional questions. In other words, the task forces have done exactly what the Board asked of them: They have given us much food for thought. One of our objectives for the year is to work our way through the reports and to decide which recommendations should be approved and which may need additional refinement. In this process, your help is needed. By the end of the August, executive summaries of the three reports will be prepared and posted on TEI On-Line. We will also have set the schedule for Board consideration of the reports. I invite you to post your comments on line or, if you wish, to send a private e-mail message to me at Betty_Wilson@lv.mgmgrand.com.

Although completing action on the task force reports is the Institute’s first goal, it may not be the most important. From both an operational and a long-term strategic perspective, I believe that “honor” belongs to the goal of implementing the Institute’s new Association Management Database, including its Internet component. Once fully implemented, the AMS will make TEI a more efficient and user-friendly organization. For example, members will be able to register for conferences and pay their dues on line. Prospective members will be able to apply on line. And by accessing the database, our members will be able to reach out quickly and effectively to their colleagues, exchanging information and possibly forming ad hoc coalitions. Coupled with a more robust Internet presence (and the merger of TEI On-Line with its public website), the AMS will help TEI make progress toward all five of its goals. Although it is risky to make predictions about when our AMS will be fully operational (ask anyone whose company has gone through the installation of a relational database such as SAP or PeopleSoft), I remain hopeful that TEI will go fully live by our Midyear Conference.

At its August meeting, the Board of Directors set two other objectives for the year. We will continue our review of TEI’s structure in light of the Internal Revenue Service’s establishment of the Large and Mid-Size Business Division. The new industry-based structure has the potential to affect our chapter and national liaison efforts, our advocacy initiatives on tax policy and administration issues, and our educational programs.

And returning to the subject with which I began (orderly transitions), we will work to refine the professional development plans for all members of the Institute staff and develop a clear succession plan not only for key members of the staff but also TEI’s volunteer leaders. We have been fortunate to enjoy the benefit of a highly competent, professional, and stable staff. Given the dynamic nature of the tax profession these days, stability and continuity are not things that happen by accident … in companies or in associations. Please be assured that your Board will focus the necessary attention on this important topic.

Last by not Least

I have personal goals of thoroughly enjoying my year as TEI president, contagiously spreading enthusiasm about this most special of organizations, and making it easier for members to enjoy the benefits of membership and the rewards of active participation.

I am extremely excited by our upcoming Annual Conference. To be sure, our educational sessions will be terrific. But we have also made several changes to encourage member interaction. For example, the Sunday evening function has been transformed into a California-style Beach Party (everything but the sand!) that will emphasize informality (and feature a Hawaiian shirt contest). We have also adopted an all-casual, all-the-time dress policy for the conference. So feel free to leave your suits at home; just pack whatever you need to be comfortable. Finally, we have revamped the reserved seating policy at our banquets and will be minimizing the use of head tables in order to afford our members more opportunity to mix and mingle with each other and our leadership.

I am confident that, by working together, we can break down the barriers that often divide us, make TEI a better organization, and have a great time along the way. I encourage you to share your ideas for improvement.

Betty M. Wilson International President

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