A New CEO, a New Era for ASAP
A new CEO oftentimes means a new era. On Nov. 13, ASAP gets its new beginning of sorts when Nicole Boston, CAE, takes the helm from retiring president and CEO Michael Leonetti, CSAP. Author and speaker John C. Maxwell once said, “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” Boston is a fan of the former, and has achieved plenty of the latter—for herself and for the organizations that she has worked for.
“I’m naturally excited by change and innovation,” said Boston.
A Decade of Success
During his service as president and CEO the past 10 years, as well as his many years before that as an ASAP board member and chair, Leonetti signed up many large-enterprise corporate and global members, oversaw a significant expansion in member programming, transformed the association’s editorial arm, weathered the pandemic, and put ASAP on solid financial footing. ASAP is no stranger to growth, for sure.
And neither is Boston.
While Leonetti was serving as ASAP’s CEO, Boston was at the helm of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), nearly doubling that professional association’s revenue during that span. Under Boston’s leadership, SFPE advanced every aspect of its business. Education and event revenues surged 128 percent, top-line sponsorship and royalty revenue shot up a whopping 562 percent, and a new Brussels-based SFPE Europe entity, which was founded on her watch, more than tripled the number of chapters across the continent.
Collaborative Spirit in Place
As Boston gets up to speed on the alliance management profession, her early education efforts have revealed synergies with some of the work she has done in the past. Prior to her tenure at SFPE, she spent more than a decade as deputy director of Fully Integrated and Automated Technologies (FIATECH), a research consortium housed within the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin that fosters technology-driven innovation in engineering for the capital projects industry, which encompasses large infrastructure projects such as oil refineries, offshore platforms, tunnels, factories, hospitals, airports, and bridges. FIATECH convened owners, manufacturers, and engineering and construction companies to develop critical software integrations and incorporate cutting-edge technologies into the life cycle of large capital projects.
“We brought together large global companies and helped each party understand each other’s needs and processes as they streamlined new technology innovations into robust systems,” said Boston. “We had corporate leaders working together to address challenges one company couldn’t do on its own.”
That innovative collaborative spirit and mindset will be familiar to every ASAP member in every industry, no doubt.
Great Minds and Great Leaders on Speed Dial
As any CEO knows, even the best-managed organizations will hit bumps in the road. Everybody is subject to national and global trends; no one is spared when pandemics, inflation, economic slumps, and other potentially detrimental developments arise. During 2020 and 2021, Boston chaired the Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives (CESSE), a volunteer network of CEOs and senior executives from other associations with a left-brained bent. With dozens of association heads in her Rolodex, Boston can confer with people facing the same challenges her organization is dealing with, whether it be pricing, DEI initiatives, internal governance, or volunteer issues.
“This network is invaluable to me,” said Boston. “It helps immensely to get other leaders’ view of trends in the industry. They also bring a wealth of knowledge and experience from their past successes—and failures. It’s a blessing to have such great minds supplementing what you bring to the table.”
Empathy Means Helping Communities
Boston’s volunteer efforts extend beyond the professional realm. In the past, she has provided tax preparation services to low-income families who cannot necessarily afford skilled accounting services as part of the DC Cash Campaign initiative. At various points in her life, she has also served as part of the Junior League community, the venerated women’s volunteer organization that addresses a variety of societal issues, in Cleveland, Washington, D.C., and Austin. She feels volunteering sets a good example for her son, and it helps her both personally and professionally.
“Volunteering with other boards and organizations makes me more empathetic,” she said. “You have to understand that not everyone is as fortunate as you, and you may not necessarily be exposed to people struggling when you are in your bubble. That’s why it is important to me to be in communities helping people.”
An Outgoing Disposition for Incoming Partners
Empathy is one trait that comes up often in ASAP circles. And Boston shares a penchant for other soft skills with the alliance management community. A self-described “outgoing” person, there’s a part of Boston that laments the pandemic’s legacy of more videoconferences and remote meetings. Like many alliance managers, she strongly prefers to have the option to meet people face-to-face, at least once in a while; it’s much harder to build trust and strong bonds when a relationship is exclusively digital.
“I’m a curious learner. I enjoy meeting and connecting people. Picking up a phone, having dinner, and truly getting to know people goes a long way in being successful—and getting them to answer your next email,” she quipped. “It facilitates better outcomes.”
Bringing People Together
When Boston was pondering her next move, she didn’t want to take a job “for the sake of taking a job,” she wanted an opportunity to find great success. She sees that potential in the alliance management profession.
“Given the complex nature of today’s business world, you can’t go it alone. We are seeing increased specialization across the board. Collaboration is necessary,” said Boston. “ASAP is uniquely positioned to bring people together in positive way. I want to be part of that.”