I remember well the first time I met Sarah Daignault and Will Hancock, NBOA’s first executive director and deputy executive director respectively. I was a senior staff member at the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) in the early 2000s, and each year they would visit the NACUBO office and meet with the CEO and myself to talk about NBOA and their vision for the association to serve independent school business officers. They immediately impressed me as smart, passionate and perhaps most of all, determined. I could not have imagined during those visits, that the very association that they were evangelizing would become my professional home for the past 13 years.
During my early tenure as NBOA President and CEO, I was often asked, What is the biggest difference between a business officer in higher education and independent schools? The most obvious answer is the access to staff and financial resources, but that’s overly simplistic and doesn’t do our profession justice. The far greater and substantive distinction, in my opinion, is the proximity or personal connection that business officers and business operations staff at independent schools have to their school’s mission. Those who dedicate the majority of their careers to this work have their schools in their heart and soul. That feeling is palpable each and every time I’m in a room of business offers. It is, to be frank, contagious and has seduced me to put my heart and soul into the work of NBOA. And, for me, it has turned into the professional opportunity of a lifetime!
As we recognize the 25th anniversary of NBOA, it’s truly a celebration of the vision of the founding member schools who had the foresight to establish a national organization that could support, develop and advance the business practices within a PK-12 independent school environment. In fact, one of the most important aspects of NBOA’s work today is how the association, with the generous insights of volunteers and business partners, continuously informs the practice of business, finance and operations at PK-12 independent schools across the country and around the world. Nobody decides early in their educational pursuits to be an independent school business officer. (Incidentally, I have met one notable exception in NBOA’s friend and colleague, Matt Rosen, director, financial operations, Friends Select School, in Philadelphia. Good choice, Matt!). Therefore, it is incumbent upon NBOA to define, develop and deliver professional development and resources that enable business officers and their staff to become the capable, informed and strategic contributors our schools need.
NBOA accomplishes this through publications such as Practical Guidance for Independent School Business Operations and The Business of Independent Schools: A Leader’s Guide. It’s also accomplished through original research reports such as the Financial State of the Industry and our flagship magazine, Net Assets. Of course, the NBOA Business Officer Institute has become the “must-attend” program for new and newer business professionals and provides an immersive opportunity to train future independent school business leaders. On the other end of the professional development continuum, the NBOA Leadership Academy serves to solidify business officers as strategic partners to the head of school, trustees, colleagues and leaders throughout the educational enterprise. And without exception, our robust webinars, online workshops and course offerings provide support throughout the year to meet varying needs at different stages of your professional journey. This is not to mention NBOA’s custom-built data platform, BIIS, and the numerous other resources NBOA now offers.
I can only hope that the NBOA founders look at the seeds they planted and are proud of the profession that thousands of individuals take tremendous pride in performing today. And further, that NBOA is the professional home for independent school business officers, controllers, human resources professionals and other business operations staff.
There is no way to overstate how this work would be meaningless without the individuals who contribute to the one-of-a-kind NBOA community. Like few other professions, you freely share your lessons learned, insights, solutions and even missteps with your colleagues without any sense of competitiveness or ego. Early on in my time with the association, I learned the NBOA mantra: “We don’t want any of our business officer colleagues to reinvent the wheel.” What was true then is true today. It’s what I have described as NBOA’s “secret sauce.”
NBOA started 25 years ago with 23 business officers who instinctively knew that this profession was unique and demanded an association that would help practices evolve and its practitioners prosper. And since that time, every single person reading this blog has contributed to this goal and continues to do so today for the next generation.
We are going to celebrate these achievements in style at the 2023 NBOA Annual Meeting, February 19-22 in Los Angeles, in addition to delivering the incredible professional development that you expect from our annual conference. Recently, I had the opportunity to join Howard Teibel’s Navigating Change podcast to reflect on the last 25 years of NBOA and share our plans to CELEBRATE! this major milestone at the Annual Meeting. In the episode, we discussed not only the meeting, but what’s top of mind for business officers today. As we look back, we must keep looking ahead as well.
I hope you plan to join us next month and throughout 2023 both to honor the association and to look ahead to another 25 years of innovation and elevation of independent business and operational excellence. We have so many reasons to be both grateful and proud, and so much work to continue pursuing together.