2001: Damage Control

When John Gibb came onboard as President, he resolved a number of problems that had plagued AUGI since its inception. Here were a few of them:

1. Certain people within AUGI had managed certain programs and resources and knew exactly what they were doing and what was required to keep on doing what they were doing. But if any of these people fell out of the picture for any reason, it left the rest of the Board (indeed the rest of the organization) hanging. John wanted a Plan B if Plan A ever fell through. Imagine that!

2. The trips for the Board to meet face to face with Autodesk were getting expensive, yet the activity level of the organization was increasing and AUGI was struggling to keep up. Now that AUGI had complete budget control, it made sense to start allocating funds according to membership interest, being more frugal about Board resource spending, and most importantly, to find alternative means of communication among Board members that weren't so costly. This was the year that monthly group phone meetings really took off.

3. Members new to the Board of Directors rarely had any idea what their duties and responsibilities were, let alone what they could and could not expense, expect in the way of required travel, and days off for AUGI business. There really was no manual for being a Board Member, and it made sense to put one together so that members could know what they were really volunteering for.

There were other concerns John had about the organization, but these were very high priorities for him and over the course of a year he managed to convey that concern effectively to the organization. Things make a lot of sense now at the leadership level, especially for newbies.

I think every President goes through a period of hell with AUGI that cannot be avoided... the issues vary each year, but at some point the President is put through fire and the organization has always benefited by the character of these people when they survived it. John's biggest crisis this year was unreliable provider services and technologies that plagued the organization's website reliability and online resources, from unstable mail lists, which would send 19,000 copies of a newsletter to one member's address to having the website completely crash. The leadership folks took some pretty heavy criticism from AUGI members for things that very often were beyond the leaders' control. After trying out many new providers and spending a lot of hours beating on provider tech support staff, things finally stabilized in late fall.

Some of this chaos was due again to mind-boggling increases in membership making demands of online facilities that were simply underpowered to handle them, and some of it was due to outright incompetence on the provider's staff. We owe a great deal of gratitude to John and the Board this year for taking the heat (and we're grateful to membership for understanding our predicament). We also owe webmaster Stephen Cotton a big thank you for beating on the provider's doors when they failed to fix things time and time again, and to Scott McFarlane for shifting into 'enough of this, we'll do it ourselves' mode and whipping this site into a powerful data-driven machine.

With Autodesk giving AUGI less support through manpower, AUGI had to pick up the slack. Part of our agreement with Autodesk for the budget promises was that AUGI would hire a manager to cover the duties that previously had been done by Autodesk internally. Some of these responsibilities were key to the organization's success and included getting some behind-the-scenes work done for AUGI Board meetings such as arrangements for rooms, meeting facilities, travel, meals, etc. Other responsibilities included coordinating and maintaining contact information for projects and personnel within AUGI to projects and personnel within Autodesk. For this AUGI created their Logistic Liaison position.

Another MAJOR project was that of continuous growth and maintenance of our website. Someone had to be not only familiar with all the aspects of keeping a website such as ours growing, but they also needed to be very familiar with AUGI as an organization. AUGI was very pleased to be able to contract a Web Manager this year as well.

For the second year in a row, AUGI held its Annual General Meeting in Las Vegas. The event happened only two months after the shocking September 11th event, and this next statistic may blow your mind. I spoke with the hotel facilities manager one night during the event about the impact September 11th had had on the MGM Grand and conferences in general held in Vegas (my wife and I lived in Vegas for seven years and I have worked in its conference industry companies since the mid 1980s)... a lot of people have no idea that conferences make up over a 1/3 of the city's true economy. The facilities manager told me that more than 2/3 of the scheduled conferences for that season had been cancelled due to the airline crisis, and that the remaining 1/3 had more than 60 percent cancellations in attendance.

Now here's the amazing fact: our event, Autodesk University and the AUGI Annual General Meeting, not only did not get cancelled (a user-based, user-paid-for conference no less), but our attendance actually went up from the previous year by 15 percent. We had the single largest turnout of any Annual General Meeting in the history of the organization during the greatest tourism crisis Vegas has ever seen. And the manager's comment on the inexplicable attendance increase: "I had no idea software users could be this dedicated to a software conference. We knew you guys were serious last year, but I had no idea..."

In the words of Darth Vader, "Impressive. Most impressive."

The success was, no doubt, due to the success of the previous year's event (word spread like wildfire throughout the user community that things with AU and AUGI were back on track and stronger than ever after a dismal four-location AU event two years prior), the increased membership size of AUGI in attendance resulting from free membership and the fact that Vegas has been our most financially accessible venue for the event—ever. It is my sincerest hope that Autodesk VPs will never forget this factoid (that users still found this event worthy of attendance in mass numbers at a time of incredible travel risk and financial crisis) if they ever doubt the need for holding this event again.

The following members were elected to the Board of Directors for 2002:

President: Yoshi Honda / Pacific CADD Services, Inc.
Vice-President: John Clauson / Indak Mfg. Corp.
Vice-President: John Gibb / CFI
Secretary: Marv Muston / Turner Associates
Board Member: David Kingsley / CAD TV Corp.
Board Member: Peter Jamtgaard / Cordeck Sales, Inc.
Board Member: Bob Diaz / Community College of Southern Nevada
Board Member: Elise Moss / Moss Designs
Board Member: Keith Siville / Consultant
Board Member: Beth Garrison / CAD Fuel Design
And serving by appointment:
Treasurer: Donnia Tabor Hanson / MossCreek Designs
 

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