Bill Brown became the new Executive Director of the American Massage Therapy Association on May 17, following the retirement of former ED Shelly Johnson.
Brown has been with the American Massage Therapy Association for 8 years, the past two and a half as Deputy Director. He has a degree in Political Studies from the University of IL and is bringing a lot of experience to the table in association management, and industry and government relations. Prior to joining AMTA as the Director of Industry and Government Relations, he worked in industry relations for the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, as the Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs for the International Interior Design Association, and as the Director of State Government Affairs in the IL Office of Banks and Real Estate. I recently had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his background, philosophy, and how he sees the organization moving into the future.
1. Tell our audience something about your background, like where you were born and raised, where you went to college…inquiring minds want to know!
I think this is actually the hardest question, forcing me to talk about myself. So here it goes. I was born in Erie, Pennsylvania and moved to the Chicagoland area when I was just a youngster and grew up in Illinois. My parents were small business owners and worked in a small printing company. I moved to Springfield, Illinois when I started my career working in state government. I worked in the legislature, as a regulator and for local government before taking a short break to run my family’s printing company for a couple of years while my father had some health issues. After we sold the company allowing my father to retire I went into association management. I began working in government relations setting up new programs for two associations. When I came to AMTA I really wanted to find a place to grow and be able to utilize my skills — and found much more. AMTA has provided a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere that I hope everyone can experience some day.
2. When you were job-seeking, what was it about AMTA that jumped out at you that initially made you want to come to work for the organization?
AMTA has a good reputation and organizational stability. That isn’t always true for associations. I also saw an opportunity for long term growth with the association, and the potential of having a positive impact.
3. When you earned your degree in political science, were you thinking of getting into politics on a broader scale such as running for public office or working for the government? Or do you think that might be in your path in the future?
I’ve always wanted to make a difference in what I do. Public policy is important to me, but I really see myself able to make a difference working in an association.
4. If you had to describe AMTA in one word, what would it be, and why?
Not to dodge your question completely, but I want to give you three words – massage therapy profession. AMTA’s board, its other volunteers and our staff take our mission seriously. We are about serving our members (massage therapists, students, schools and educators) and advancing the profession. So, AMTA wants to improve opportunities for all massage therapists in the profession. We see AMTA as working to represent and advance the entire profession, whether it is working with our members, the public, other healthcare providers or employers.
5. As you’re settling into your new position as Executive Director, do you have any immediate pet projects you’d like to implement?
My primary responsibility is to implement the decisions of our board of Directors. Our board has many ideas to serve our members and advance the profession. I direct our staff to execute them to the best of our abilities. That means providing excellent customer service and promoting a sense of inclusion.
6. What do you perceive to be the biggest challenges facing massage therapists today?
Our members tell us what is most challenging to them. A challenge we hear most often is trying to make a good living as a massage therapist in a tough economy. The right to practice and public acceptance of the real value of massage therapy and being treated as professionals are also important challenges today.
7. What do you think AMTA is doing to help therapists meet those challenges?
AMTA and our Board of Directors are especially focused on trying to bring new clients to our members. That’s why we began our multi-year commitment last year to our Consumer Awareness Program. We are proactively approaching national and local media and the health care community every day to educate them about the benefits of massage therapy for health and the importance of finding a qualified massage therapist. We encourage consumers to look for an AMTA member for their next massage.
We provide a wealth of continuing education, so massage therapists can advance and grow professionally. Many of our continuing education classes are offered free to our members. We have an online Job Bank and new student scholarship program that will be both expanding this year. And, our chapters provide advantages for massage therapists they can’t find anywhere else – networking, support, continuing education, a chance to impact the direction of the association, and a very successful mentoring program. All of these address the challenges in the profession and for massage therapists to be successful.
8. AMTA has been participating in the Leadership Summits with representatives from the other professional organizations since they began. What, if any, value do you think has been the outcome of those meetings?
First and foremost are the collaboration and fostering of relationships and camaraderie among the various massage therapy organizations. This is vital if we want to make the profession better and more beneficial for everyone. We each have a better understanding of our respective roles in the approaches to the profession. And, of course, the Entry Level Analysis Project (ELAP) is a very positive outgrowth of these meetings. The closer we can work together the stronger the profession becomes.
9. As one who is very experienced in government relations, do you plan for AMTA to be more proactive in the individual states on that front, such as lobbying against detrimental legislation?
We will be continuing our board-approved approach to government relations. There is a lot to do there. That means supporting our chapters’ work, and understanding the unique characteristics and needs of each state. We will continue to be proactive on licensing, because our goal is to have fair and consistent licensing in all states that can lead to future portability of massage therapy practice.
10. Some massage therapists avoid joining any organizations because the perception is that they are all about cliques and politics. What would you say to those people to change their mind and persuade them to join AMTA?
I believe they will like it. AMTA is about our members. We listen to all our members and develop products, programs and services that benefit all of them. If someone is unsure about joining AMTA, I want them to come check us out. There are many ways to participate in AMTA and to engage with others in the profession. Do you want to mentor new massage therapists or do you need a mentor? Look at AMTA. Do you want to network with massage therapists and learn from them? Look at AMTA. Do you want to see your association actively promoting its members to the public and trying to get you new opportunities for new clients? Look at AMTA. I believe that if a massage therapist experiences AMTA they will join.
11. Is there anything else you’d like to say to all the massage therapists out there?
Give us a try and I believe you will want to be a part of the family. I realize there are choices out there but I truly believe in AMTA and our members, and that we are the right choice for massage therapists.I feel the same way about massage therapy. We want more people to experience massage therapy for themselves because when people that try it, they see the value and what it can do for their health and overall wellness and come back for more.