The Association was formed at a Denny's restaurant in 1999. Originally named Financial Executive Networking Association, the idea was to form a group of senior-level financial professionals for the primary purpose of sharing job leads. The initial meeting included six financial professionals at varying levels. The meeting was successful as members recognized that they not only had much in common but also realized the benefit of getting together and networking. As the group evolved, the focus continued to be on sharing job leads and the importance of networking was considered a secondary benefit. Although many of the members were reluctant to share real leads, the group gelled well together. As the group progressed, it became apparent that the members had many more needs than just the sharing of job leads.
Members' needs included assistance with resumes, developing additional contacts, networking, interviewing issues, how to market oneself, handling tough interviewing questions, salary negotiations, and many other issues unique to the executive-level search. The Association's focus gradually changed from job leads to search assistance. The small size of the group allowed the members to bond with each other and trust between them increased. As a result of this trust, the members felt free to share issues they believed were inhibiting their job search. The value of the Association's had turned the corner. Job leads were important as a way of attracting new members, however, once a candidate attended a meeting or two, job leads were a secondary reason for continuing to come to the meetings. The primary reason was to network.
Within a year, the group had grown from 25 to over 50 members attending the bi-monthly meetings. Many of the original members had found jobs and some had found a job that didn't work out as well as hoped. They returned to the Association meetings once again for assistance. Aside from the Association's growth, the fact that members returned to the meetings a second time was clear evidence that the Association was indeed valuable. With the growth of the Association, new challenges arose. The closeness of the members was harder to maintain, a small conference room was no longer adequate, costs started to increase, communicating with all the members became difficult, and just keeping track of the members was a challenge. One way to deal with some of these issues was to establish a website and a member roster.
By late 2000 the Association was consistently attracting more members. Most meetings were full with 45-60 members. As the economy worsened the demand on the Association to expand to other functions was apparent. In the summer of 2001 the name of the organization was changed to the Senior Executive Networking Association. This allowed all VP level executives and higher to join the Association. In addition, in November 2001 the Orange County Register published a two-page article explaining the benefits of our organization to the business community. This resulted in a swelling of members attending the meetings to 65-70 people. Although the majority of members had a financial background, it wasn't long before the bi-monthly meetings were evenly balanced by function and industry knowledge. The benefits of cross-functional networking substantially increased the value of the Association for its members. In addition, the Association was able to assist those past members now employed with resources beyond their normal contacts. The Association's collective knowledge was now being utilized to benefit those in transition and the companies that employed our members.
Realizing the enormous talent of the Association, in late 2001 Sponsorship Agreements were offered to local companies that typically marketed to the members of the group. These sponsors now had access to a group of executives twice per month that would normally take years to develop. In return for this level of access the sponsors paid a monthly fee and agreed to be a resource for the members. Within six months our sponsors included a nationally recognized law firm, a benefits consulting firm, a CPA firm with offices in six states and the largest Southern California independent outplacement firm that has affiliations nationally. These sponsors created a win-win situation for our members and themselves.
Due to swelling numbers of members now attending the bi-monthly meetings, the personal contact and trust between members was no longer possible. The ability to deal with an individual candidate's needs as they arose during their search also became impossible. In late 2001 local Search Teams were established. These small break-out groups met weekly or bi-weekly throughout Orange and Los Angeles counties. They, in effect, mirrored the Association as it was originally established. This allowed the members to rebuild trust and address the issues as they arose during an individual's search. These teams proved extremely valuable as a way of continuing the personal touch the Association was originally designed to provide. By early 2002 there were four Search Teams with more than 40 members meeting regularly.
In January 2002, the story that originally appeared in the Orange County Register was picked up by the Associated Press and ran in newspapers all over the country. Within days of the article appearing in the paper inquiries were coming in by members requesting to join the Association. These requests demonstrated the need for similar associations around the country. In order to fulfill these needs in 2002 the Senior Executive Networking Forum became the American Association of Senior Executives. The Association decided to set up chapters in strategic cities around the country. These chapters would further expand the networking capabilities of the members, add marketing value and contacts to the sponsoring search firm, allow these firms to compete on a national level and quickly fill searches in other states. This gave instant credibility to the search firm as having a national presence and created a magnet for new members to get involved in the Association. It is the objective of the Association to provide these benefits and expand the services to its chapter-sponsored firms, thereby creating the largest and most valuable networking organization in the country.
In 2004, a board of directors was established and a program committee was selected. The board of directors decided to enhance the value of the organization for the membership by balancing business resources with career coaching. The program committee developed a new format for the Thursday group meetings utilizing business speakers, sponsors and members to provide an educational format for the membership. The programs have been well received through 2005 and continued to evolve in 2006.
2006 saw a major shift for our focus. The AASE has evolved into more that just a career management organization. Our members demanded more and the focused changed to, "Providing connections and resources for the corporate executive." Over the last 7 years our pool of seasoned executives has been a solution for many companies charting new waters. Regardless of industry or function, the AASE has the talent companies need to maintain the edge over the competition and members actively tap into that talent pool.