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Fostering Association Engagement With Molly Alton Mullins of SEVEN12 Management

Episode: 95

Associations have long touted in-person events as a critical benefit of membership. However, in the wake of the pandemic, folks have grown more discerning about their time–and what they do with it. Molly Alton Mullins, CEO of SEVEN12 Management, helps these organizations amplify their impact through innovative engagement. Jason chats with Molly about how her company enhanced its value proposition during the live event hiatus, the dynamic interpersonal changes taking place as conferences resume, and inspiring long-term membership involvement.

The Midwest in March isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time. Still, after two years of Zoom meetings, Molly couldn’t wait for the in-real-life conversation and collaboration at this year’s University of Distribution Innovation event. It was great to get close to 600 distributors all together in a room, learning from each other, all different industries but essentially the same types of challenges, the same types of opportunities. There’s no question that digital platforms helped most people maintain connections during the pandemic, but community really thrives when that face-to-face happens in the same space. On-site, the relationships that you makethere, they’re that much more intense, Molly says.

Molly is well-versed at fostering environments in which interaction flourishes. She spent time in the political fundraising arena and government affairs, honing her strategic-minded, relationship-focused perspective. Since coming to SEVEN12 in 2016, she’s applied that approach to grow the company’s portfolio, expanding its menu of benefits and services and extending its expertise to verticals as diverse as distribution and mental health professionals. Regardless of industry, Molly says association members want the same thing from their experience: They want the opportunities to do workshops and hear from their peers and learn facts and things like that. Members also crave in-person exchanges. They want to engage, and they want to touch and feel and laugh and love and do all those sorts of things because they don’t ever want to lose it again.

As safety precautions lift and conferences ramp up, Molly says it’ll take more than the status quo to entice folks to sign up for association membership. It’s great to learn a great story, but people want more than that, she says, especially if they’re attending a destination event. People rightly demand more meaningful interactions now, whether through workforce development, mentorship, or peer-to-peer connection. Molly and her team are poised to deliver on those expectations.


University of Innovative Distribution


I love distribution. I love manufacturing. Those are my favorite clients on the planet. Always will be.

Our events are never going to go away; your face-to-face interaction, you’re never going to replace. But I will tell you that I look at conventions a lot differently now than I did two years ago, and I don’t want to hire speakers to just sit in an audience and talk to my members.

You see more people walk through the audience, introduce themselves, connect, ask questions. That engagement is what we crave as humans. I like to see that in our events and in the spaces that we create for our clients. and our members.

At the end of the day, everybody is looking for training; everyone’s looking for people, everyone wants to retain, everyone wants to grow, everyone wants to improve margin. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling hoses, you’re selling flowers, or you’re helping people with medical trauma; it’s the same things that you need.

Mentorship is one of those crucial elements for retention. The biggest problem that we see across the board is the mentor, and the mentee thinks that the other party wants something different than what they actually want.

We’re not this isn’t antitrust violations that we’re sharing the pain points that we experienced as competitors. We’ve done the same business over and over again, so what my value is is what I bring to the table. By talking to a competitor about our challenges ain’t going to change my value; it’s just going to learn more, to make us both benefit from it. So I don’t know. I think there’s nothing better than healthy competition and I think you can’t learn from anybody that’s not doing what you’re doing.

At the end of the day, when you leave a board, I want you to get more value out of it than you actually put into it. And I know that seems odd because you’re volunteering your service, and you think that you’re here to contribute, which is lovely, but I want you to take more value back.






Distribution Talk is produced by The Distribution Team, a consulting services firm dedicated to helping wholesale distribution clients remove barriers to profitability, generate wealth and achieve personal goals.

This episode was edited & mixed by The Creative Impostor Studios.

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