James Mendelssohn, chairman of MSI Global Alliance, was nominated for the 2017 TA & IAB lifetime achievement award
James Mendelssohn was appointed Chief Executive of MSI Global Alliance in 2000, 10 years after the association was founded. He inherited an organisation which had grown quickly in its first few years but which needed structure and strategy to take it to the next level.
Fresh from an MBA course at Bath University, James energetically set about continuing the growth of members whilst also professionalising the organisation. Over a period of 12 years as CEO, he more than doubled the size of the organisation from just over 100 members to 235 turning MSI into a highly respected, leading, multidisciplinary association. But equally, over this period of time, James himself became a respected leader both within MSI and throughout the accounting and legal network worlds.
With an enormous capacity for work, James travelled extensively seeking out new members. His gentle persuasive skills encouraged firms to join MSI and remain long term members, with less than 5% churn over his tenure. He developed a stimulating conference programme comprising international, regional and local meetings such that each firm was able to attend meetings and gain maximum value from them.
Internally, he was keen to recruit and develop staff which were highly responsive to the needs of members and he sought innovative ways to improve MSI. Technologically ahead of his game, he was one of the earliest proponents of a blog, he was one of the first to introduce a member intranet to facilitate communication and referrals between members and he was an early user of social media.
Given the progress made by MSI and James’s standing in the professional world, he was increasingly sought out to comment on developments in the network/association world, most notably by the IAB and by his peers as network/association CEOs. He was a founding member of the London Executives group of accounting networks/associations CEOs and, in his dealings with his peers, he was viewed as a voice of calm reason who understood the strategic challenges and the means to tackle these by organisational change.
After 12 highly successful years, James stood down as CEO of MSI. It was no coincidence that, in the year he stepped down, MSI was chosen as IAB Association of the Year – a clear recognition of what James had nurtured and developed so effectively. He had decided that he wanted to pursue new pastures. He took on the chairmanship of two charities (an African educational charity and a young offenders charity) and did some consultancy work but the MSI Board was keen to appoint him as MSI’s first non-member chairman and keep him closely involved in MSI – a real compliment to his talents. Over the past 6 years, he has added much as Chairman. With an unequalled knowledge of MSI and the network/association world, he has been able to guide the board appropriately and develop a clear strategy for the organisation. But he has also been able to provide exceptional mentoring to his successor CEO. He has ensured that, whilst there has been change at the helm, the ship has remained steady thereby ensuring MSI continues to evolve and develop.
At the end of 2017, James will be standing down as Chairman after 18 years of service to MSI. Announcing his retirement to MSI in May, James wrote “Whilst I will undoubtedly miss MSI, I have absolutely no doubt that the timing of my departure is right – both for MSI and for me personally. MSI is in a strong position and in safe hands, and I am very confident that it will go from strength to strength in the years ahead”.
James will be very sorely missed by MSI and the wider association/network community but his legacy will endure. He has taken an organisation from adolescence to maturity, fully utilising his diplomatic, organisational, strategic and personal skills. MSI is indeed “in a strong position” but this is in very large part due to his tireless energy and commitment.
For his 18 years’ commitment to MSI and for his contribution to the wider network/association James is highly recommended for the Lifetime Achievement Award.