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ISA Northern California Section




Section Business

ISA NorCal Section Business Plan

August 12, 2009 (Draft – For Review & Comment Only)


NORCAL Section of ISA is a California 503c Corporation.  As such we are a not-for-profit business and are required to follow our By-laws when executing our business functions.  During the last several years the Section leadership has been evaluating the various options for enhancing ISA membership value at the local level.  This Business Plan discusses many of those options and how they have evolved into our current business plan.  However, it should be recognized that good business plans are constantly being reviewed and adjusted to meet changing market conditions.  


Insert Section history as appropriate.


The debate over what has caused the precipitous drop in ISA membership locally could go on for hours but we believe there are several key elements that must be considered when developing a business plan:

The Internet and the Information exchange it enables,

The traffic congestion in major metropolitan areas,

The “Flexible” work schedule,

The elimination of a large number of jobs formerly held by our members (and potential members) in the area.  

Competition for potential ISA members by “specially” focused organizations,

The changing nature of the skills required to do Control Systems Engineering work.

While one could argue there are other factors, we could also argue that it is really all about available time and the “reward” received.  It is the Board’s opinion that the factors sighted above have played a significant role in the declining ISA membership numbers.  At the same time we believe they also offer a significant opportunity to provide high quality membership services and increase our local membership.   


Many volunteer organizations must rely on the volunteer leadership services of their members to survive and at the local level our section is no exception.  We need our members to accept leadership positions on our Board as well as on committees that provide member services during the year.  We do not pay our members for their time when fulfilling their responsibilities, but we do pay for pre-approved expenses that they incur.  This is a change from the practices of earlier years where employers would normally pay these costs.  

The section income must be sufficient to cover basic expenses of the section that include insurance, communications cost, and government imposed fees and taxes.  In addition we need to have a business plan that results in additional income to cover leadership participation at both the District and national level.  This business plan will identify the activities and the budget process to meet the following goals:

•   Provide valued member services at the local level; training and networking opportunities.

•   Advocate for our members services at the district and national meetings.

•   Attract new members at all age levels to advance the practice of the process control profession.

•   Support our student sections through active participation in on campus informational sessions.

We recognize that many of our potential leaders either work for themselves or for companies that will not cover travel and personal expenses incurred when representing the section at national meetings; in some cases the company requires that vacation time be used for these activities.  It is clear that if we do not pay these expenses our only source of leaders would be those in organizations where the expenses could be justified by potential sales income.  We believed this would have restricted our potential leaders to individuals from the larger controls companies and that would change the nature of our local section as well as that of the ISA.     

The ISA NorCal Section is currently in excellent financial shape.  Over the last several years our newsletter, the training classes, and dues rebates have allowed us to develop sufficient reserves to fund our bi-annual technical conference, pay Board meeting expenses, and cover leadership travel expenses to national leadership meetings.  We also contribute to District 11 expenses, participate in supporting expenses related to proposed Professional Engineering legislation in California and fund two scholarship programs.  

Our long-term financial goals include generating sufficient “profit” from our bi-annual technical conference to fund travel expenses for two section representatives to attend all President’s meetings and the District 11 leadership conference each year.  We want to continue our monthly newsletter, as we believe it is critical to our communication plan, but we are experiencing a decline in ad revenue that could ultimately put the newsletter in its present form in jeopardy.  

The basic concept we will continue to use when developing and implementing our business plan is to rely on volunteer services to provide the real technical value in the products and services we offer our local members.  The “Products” will be priced to provide significant value when compared to similar competing products while breaking even at an appropriate level of membership participation.  

Member Services:

The NorCal Section leadership has the responsibility to provide valued services at the local level to our members.  These services fall into three primary categories: networking, technology sharing, and professional development.  While there is significant overlap in these categories when they are viewed from the perspective of the development of a business plan these three categories allow the Board to focus on specific programs or activities to best meet our responsibilities.  


The two primary communications vehicles we use are the Transmitter newsletter and the web site,  We also use the Internet for promotional and informational notices to our members and others.  The other very effective communication tool is our membership itself aided by focused printed material promoting specific functions.  

The Transmitter is our most effective communications tool and is an integral part of our current business plan.  Revenue from advertising in the newsletter has provided funding for most of our leadership expenses incurred due to participation at national leadership events in past years.  At present we are evaluating the long-term role of the Transmitter with regard to providing financial support for our future activities.  Advertising revenues have dropped off while expenses have increased and at this point the newsletter is marginally profitable.    


One of the most “valuable” services we provide is that of networking opportunities.  While all of our services provide some level of networking opportunities, the events that bring our membership together in an enjoyable social environment provide the best opportunities.  The annual Golf Tournament held in early September is a great networking event, but it is also intended to be a fundraiser for the Robert Galley and Robert Hammaker Scholarship Funds.  

Our bi-annual technical conference held in May of the “odd” number years at the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo is a great networking event, and an opportunity to learn about the latest applications of control systems technology.  This event will become an increasing important part of the financial part of our business plan in the future.  We need to have more membership involvement if this event is to meet our financial objectives in the future.  

The “monthly” meetings have become less regular during the last ten or so years and their attendance has also been declining.  However, well-attended meetings are still great network events and a good opportunity to learn something new.  Tours of “state of the art” facilities implementing the latest technology in control systems and facilities of companies that are technology leaders in their industries have proven to be our most popular section meeting events.  

All the above events are intended to bring together our members in an environment where they can explore their personal and professional interests.

Training Programs:

This area has become the most important element of our business plan from the perspective of membership services.  As our more senior members retire taking with them their years of experience and knowledge your leadership recognizes one of our primary responsibilities is to find a way to preserve this knowledge and experience for the future of our profession.  To that end we have been developing quality courses in basic technical areas of our profession.  We are also working on identifying other courses of interest to our members.

Existing Courses:  Details of this section need to be work on

Control Valve Basics – (Course description)

PLC Basics – (Course description)

CCST Exam Review Course – This is the same course ISA teaches at RTP and charges significantly more than the NorCal section does for our course taught at the California Maritime Academy on three consecutive Saturdays and we include lunch.  


Courses Under Development:

Control Systems Engineer P.E. Exam Review Course –

Boiler Controls for Power Plants –

Fluid Flow Basics -

Management Services:

The most difficult job for our Board is to find new leaders willing and able to devote four to six hours per week to implementing this business plan.  We cannot emphasize how important it is to bring in new leadership candidates; they bring new ideas, new tools, and new energy to our management team.  We know four to six hours per week sounds like a lot, but that would include travel time to meetings or events.  It is also important that these “new candidates” have the opportunity to learn and demonstrate the necessary skills prior to being thrown into the job.  Too often volunteer organizations have taken anyone who would say, “Yes” with disastrous results.

Board Meetings:

The ISA NorCal Board of Directors meets monthly, usually during the first week of the month starting with refreshments at 5:30 pm.  We attempt to select a location that will minimize travel time for all Board members attending as well as minimizing cost for the meeting.  These meetings will typically last until 7:30 pm.  The primary purpose of the meeting is to make final adjustments in plans for near-term upcoming events, review financial statements, discuss reports on major events like the golf tournament and NorCal TECH, and assign tasks to insure the successful implementation of our business plan.  

Event Chairs:

Our major events are the annual Golf Tournament and the bi-annual NorCal TECH conference.  Each of these events will have an Event-Chair and an Assistant Event-Chair.  The Assistant Event-Chair will (hopefully) become the Event-Chair for the next event.  

The annual Golf Tournament will have a committee of no less than four members including the two “Chairs.”  Each member of the committee will be given the responsibility of contacting potential “sponsors” of foursomes with the goal of getting payment by these sponsors for thirty foursomes by June 30th for the September tournament.  To facilitate obtaining these commitments all contractual and pricing details will be finalized by May 1st.  The goal of this event is to raise money for the Robert Galley Scholarship Fund.  The pricing structure for participation in the event should include an additional $10 per player to go into this fund.  If we have one hundred and twenty paying players that will result in $1,200 for the fund and allow the section to award a $750 annual scholarship while building the fund by $450.  The ultimate goal would be to award two scholarships totaling $1,500 by using the proceeds from the tournament and the investment income from the “Fund.”

The Bi-annual NorCal TECH will have a committee of no less than seven members with a separate “Conference Committee” of one session developer for each “track” of the conference.  The NorCal TECH Conference Event-Chair will have an Assistant Event-Chair that will support him or her in all aspects of the event.  There will be three other “Chairs” on the NorCal TECH Committee: The Facilities Chair (normally a member of California Maritime Academy staff), The Technical Conference Chair who also chairs the Conference Committee, and the Networking & Exhibits Chair who is responsible all the food service for the event and the Wednesday evening networking and exhibits event.  These three Chairs report to the Conference-Event Chair and each will have an “Assistant-Chair” to help them and to develop for the next NorCal TECH with the exception of the Technical Conference Chair.  The Technical Conference Chair will identify one or more members of the Conference Committee as potential candidates for the role as his or her successor.  

The ultimate goal of this event is to attract approximately five hundred pre-registered attendees over the two days each paying $70 for total revenue of $35,000.  Assuming we can keep our food and beverage cost below $30 per attendee that would result in $20,000 to cover “other expenses” without any exhibitor income.  Past experience would place the other expenses at about $5,000 and assuming half of this could be off-set by exhibitor income we should net $17,500 to cover leadership and other expenses for two years.    

Training Program Coordination:

(National and District 11 Leadership Meetings)

There are currently two President’s Meeting per year and one District 11 Leadership Conference each year.  If we send two people to each event at a budgeted cost of $1,500 each for the President’s Meeting and $500 each for the District 11 meeting that brings our total cost per year $7,000 for participation in the Nation ISA.  We also have contributed to the “District 11” fund in the past based on the support our section gets from the District 11 VP.  In addition we have supported and will continue to support the “California Legislative Council of Professional Engineers” (CLCPE).  





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