Last month marked the end of my fifth year as KCBA executive director. I'm definitely no longer the new guy, and yet still a far cry from what predecessors such as Helen Geisness have achieved. That said, a lot has happened at KCBA during this period, so I thought I'd use this "quintennial" anniversary (not as impressive as "quasquicentennial"!) to reflect a bit on some of the things that were the toughest to tackle and some of the things of which I'm particularly proud.
Without a doubt, the toughest period for me was my second year on the job, 2009, when the reality of the recession hit the bar hard. Our revenues had shrunk by almost 15%, most notably through a decrease in grant funding for our pro bono programs. Even by drawing down reserve funds, the gap was too great to sustain moving forward.
The board and I worked closely together to examine the limited options; ultimately the board accepted my unhappy recommendation to eliminate several staff positions in office administration, diversity, and pro bono. Many of our remaining staff took the decision very hard, and to say I wasn't the most popular guy in the office would be an understatement. I remain convinced I made the right recommendation to the board about cutting staff, but we faced a difficult period of low staff morale during this period.
Finding further ways to stretch our new smaller budget was an important challenge for me to tackle and this meant looking at new ways to provide mission-critical support services, primarily though outsourcing some back-office staff functions. The first focus was in our accounting/finance area. For many years, the bar had the benefit of a full-time finance director to monitor budgets, audits, investments and related functions. Since I had some experience in this area myself, I chose to take on a larger role in financial oversight with the assistance of a contract CPA.
As part of that restructuring we eliminated the finance director position, saving us $40,000 per year net that I could use to protect KCBA services from additional cuts. Three years later I can report that the bar's independent auditors have consistently given our accounting systems high marks.
Another area for potential outsourcing was in technology. Over the years, we had two staff "generalists" in technology who had done yeoman's work in learning about new technologies and implementing them. However, maintaining two full-time positions left KCBA with no remaining financial resources to tap into the significant technology expertise available in our region of the country.
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