Marriage with vendors – An Association Exec’s Perspective

Guest article by Mary Pat Paris

I agree with your analogy to marriage when selecting an AMS vendor. As with any relationship, there are two sides to consider and I want to offer some thoughts from the association perspective.

Trust that each has the other’s best interest in mind. Don’t assume the association is trying to put you out of business by squeezing every penny from you; we want you to stay in business for a long time so you can continue to support us. Remember that we answer to our members for the money we spend, and that our essential difference is for profit versus not-for-profit.  They say opposites attract, and even though we come from different cultures, we can learn from each other.

One vendor I worked with was surprised at the lengths to which we had to go to obtain unbudgeted funds for an unforeseen cost. By bringing him into the process we had to go through, he got a better understanding of why we negotiated so fiercely, and in the end, provided me with additional tools to justify the expense.

Communication. Ask your association clients what keeps them up at night and where they see the association community going. Then listen carefully. Don’t worry if you can’t provide immediate or complete solutions. Just like a good marriage, knowing you understand and empathize with our concerns goes a long way.

Forgiveness. Forgiveness goes both ways. Whether it is a billing error or a poor decision we make during the implementation, we need your forgiveness, too.

During one AMS conversion, I insisted on a specific report solution against the advice of the vendor. When the solution I selected failed, it put the entire team on edge and behind schedule. I offered a heartfelt apology, and in addition to accepting it, the vendor went above the call of duty to get us back on track. Knowing that both sides will make mistakes and we will work together to correct them, is a great foundation for a relationship.

The best of marriages take work. An association/AMS vendor relationship is no different. If we practice the basics for a good marriage – trust, communication, and forgiveness – both organizations will gain.

Mary Pat Paris has 30 years of experience in association management, most recently as CEO of the International Registration Plan. She left association management in May to start a consulting company, MPParis, LLC. She can be reached at


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