New Management Takes Helm at ATA

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Next week will mark yet another era in the history of the American Teleservices Association when new management on Monday takes full control of the organization's daily operations at a new headquarters.


Tim Searcy, the new executive director, has moved the ATA's administrative base from Washington to Indianapolis. Searcy, a former chairman of the ATA, replaces the president of the ATA's former management firm as chief executive of the association.


With the new management comes a redesigned Web site at ataconnect.org and a new weekly e-mail newsletter, Searcy said.


In Searcy, the ATA has a chief executive who is an industry insider. Searcy formerly was president/CEO of teleservices agency Optima Direct, whereas the most recent executive director, Jason Clawson of the ATA's former management firm Management Options Inc., had no prior ties to the industry.


However, though Searcy's position has been described as an in-house executive for the ATA, technically he is an outsourcer. Searcy has formed a company, Catalyst Solutions, which has a contract to manage the ATA.


Searcy, who described the difference as "technical," said the ATA was not just "trading out association management firms" and that the group would be his only client. Management Options had staff dedicated solely to the ATA but also managed many other clients and had other business lines.


The switch will save the ATA 15 percent to 20 percent on the cost of management versus its contract with Management Options, said Tom Rocca, chairman of the ATA's volunteer board of directors. The money will be reinvested in events and legislative efforts.


Some of the savings comes from the new location. Association expenses such as real estate, staff salaries and printing are lower in Indianapolis than in Washington.


The ATA chose an outsourced relationship with its executive partly due to a bad experience with in-house employee management, said Bill Miklas, ATA board member and former chairman. Its last in-house executive director, J. Scott Thornton, left in July 1999 under allegations that he mismanaged $310,000. At that time the group was based in California.


A contract relationship with Searcy makes it easier for the board to oversee management, Miklas said. Board members, who are part time, won't have to worry about management details such as employee raises and reviews, but will have the chance to review the contract and hold Searcy accountable.


The ATA will maintain a Washington address. It secured use of the office of Mitch Roth, the Washington attorney who replaced C. Tyler Prochnow as ATA legislative counsel.


Searcy is finalizing the ATA's new staff. Some of the ATA's membership services work will be handled by Indianapolis-based Mobius VP, to which the association will outsource its back-end operations.


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