Meet Brian O'Leary, Executive Director, Book Industry Study Group
Brian O’Leary is executive director of the Book Industry Study Group, a U.S.-based trade association that works to create a more informed, effective, and efficient book industry supply chain. He oversees the work BISG does to disseminate information, create and implement standards and best practices, conduct research, and grow membership from companies working throughout the supply chain.
Why did you choose the field of association management and what about it keeps you going?
I joined several associations early in my career, and I always found them valuable in building my understanding of the publishing business as a whole. After I started consulting with book and magazine publishers, many of which were associations, I was fortunate to be appointed to the Board of Association Media & Publishing, based in Washington, DC. I served twice as an industry service partner representative, learning from other board members in the publishing space. When the role at BISG opened up, I was able to draw on those experiences to land the position here.
Even though BISG is a smaller association, the job is complex. That keeps me going, as we have to help the industry make sure that the supply chain for book publishing can handle the challenges and opportunities of things like consolidation, a move to online purchasing, and demand for content across many different formats, with a big nod to the growth of audiobooks. Change takes time, and we have to work hard to help the industry be ready at the right moments.
Which aspect of your career do you consider to be your biggest struggle?
If we believe Myers-Briggs, I'm an introvert, and I've never been particularly comfortable selling an idea or, now, an organization with a lot of ideas. Earlier in my career, that made me impatient when the people I worked for didn't immediately support what I wanted to do. If I could go back in time and change one thing, I'd try to be more understanding of the roles that other people have to play. If you can't convince people to move on something, a good idea is just a good idea.
What advice do you have for aspiring professionals looking to pursue a career in association management?
It's a bias of mine, but two things: try lots of different parts of the industry - membership, accounting, marketing, sponsorship, service, and events, whatever - before you settle into one discipline. The business is made up of a lot of moving parts; learn enough to appreciate each of them, if you can. And for some roles, develop industry-specific subject matter expertise. We represent the interests of the publishing industry, as an example. I can't do my job well if I don't understand it.
If you could pick a personal anthem, what would it be?
"Fortunate Son", by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Almost everything good about music, in 2:21.