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Meet Our Team

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The Markens Group (TMG) is thrilled to partner with IMFA, and serve as your new management company. We are excited to meet you all and help your association grow and thrive!

 

About The Markens Group

Founded in 1988 by Ben and Jennie Markens, TMG is a full-service association management company headquartered in Springfield, MA. They have a staff of just under 20 association professionals with a variety of specialized skillsets from event planning to marketing/communications and financial management. One of the benefits of partnering with a company like TMG is that IMFA will have access to these specialty services at the amount we need—without having to hire full-time staff for each functional area.

TMG has a simple, people-focused approach to association management: they connect those with common interests and needs to solve problems, share ideas and best practices, have fun, win, and close gaps. They use proven methods to accelerate growth in member recruitment, retention, and engagement while optimizing back-end efficiencies. Ultimately, TMG works with associations because they are communities of interest and kinship focused on mutuality, common interest, and collective gain. Associations also provide a sense of belonging, inclusiveness, interconnectivity, and reciprocity to their stakeholders. This is important because all human beings want to belong and feel connected with one another.

“When we began TMG more than 30 years ago, we agreed to live by two basic principles: we would only do it as long as it was fun, and we would resolve any dispute or disagreement by answering, ‘What’s fair?’” says TMG president, Ben Markens. “We’re excited to marry our core values with our proven association management skills to benefit IMFA. Or, to put that in a different way, we are excited to welcome IMFA to the TMG family!”

It is also worth noting that TMG is one of only about 80 companies worldwide to be accredited under the Association Management Company Institute’s (AMCI) standard for management best practices. Although association management companies are not required to be AMCI compliant, accreditation demonstrates a commitment to procedural excellence. Accreditation requires that TMG develop and document standardized procedures, such as using written contracts, conducting evaluations to measure client satisfaction, setting financial controls, conducting employee evaluations, and establishing record-keeping protocols. A third-party auditor ensures that these procedures are in line with the AMCI standard and that TMG is effectively carrying them out on a day-to-day basis.

Finally, TMG is a certified Great Place to Work®, aligning with their philosophy that happy employees lead to happy clients.

 

Meet the Team

Say hello to a few of the faces you will most often see working with IMFA!

Ben Markens
Ben Markens

Ben Markens

President, CEO

Ben@markens.com

As a child, Ben grew up in a racially diverse neighborhood in Chicago. After moving to the east coast he watched, with curious eyes, as his father worked as the CFO of a camera business. During college, he worked on the camera company’s assembly line with people from very different economic realities. These experiences sparked Ben’s interest in supporting community and building business—two aims that would remain consistent throughout his career. 

The next leg of Ben’s career began in a paperboard and folding carton manufacturing company. Working his way up to Plant Manager in only five years, Ben mastered the skills he would soon use when he made the bold decision to break out and start a management consulting firm with his dear friend, Andy, and his wife, Jennie. That was 1988; The Markens Group was born. Before long, Ben was traveling across the country, helping companies create tighter operating controls, superior performance, and increased profits.

It was also during Ben’s early career that his purpose or “why” began to crystalize. Through his work, life, and travels, he realized how disjointed our communities had become. Ben is on a personal journey to reconnect people with one another and improve comity and civil discourse. “I want to make a significant contribution to making a stronger community because I have a vision of how we can do it well, because I can, and because I care.”

Soon would come a perfect opportunity to combine both his business skills and his desire to create connected communities. 

Ben did much of his consulting work in the paperboard packaging industry where he’d begun his career, often volunteering for the industry’s association, the Paperboard Packaging Council (PPC). (Associations are communities of interest that unite like-minded people to solve problems and grow together—right up Ben’s alley!) When PPC began to suffer from decreased engagement, shrinking membership numbers, and lost revenue, they asked Ben to take over. With a newly expanded TMG team, Ben used his business and leadership skills to turn the association into a newly thriving organization.

The success of PPC marked a shift in Ben’s thinking: if TMG could help one struggling professional community, why not others? From then on, our company grew a new client base: associations, professional societies, and various other nonprofit member organizations. Along the way, our team grew—and so did the recognition. TMG has become a nationally accredited Association Management Company and has been officially certified, year after year, as a “Great Place to Work.”

Ben likes to joke that he can be a “pretty good braggart.” Still, his proudest accomplishment stems from his original vision—to do good work, foster community, and make people’s futures just a bit brighter. This includes creating a culture of kindness and respect where teammates are both self-actualized and self-directed to deliver with excellence. 

Anyone who works with (or knows) Ben knows that he isn’t always focused on the serious things in life. Yes, he has many practical tips, but he’s also known for his knee-slapping, belly-busting jokes (well…we’ll let you determine that). He has a story (joke) for all occasions. He also loves to make himself laugh and often says, “I kill me.”

Outside work, Ben loves to spend time with his family, serve on numerous nonprofit boards, and walk the many hills of his town, Ashfield, Massachusetts, where he has exceeded 10,000 steps per day, 365 days a year, for over six years without a miss. Obsessive and compulsive? Maybe! But he’s also compulsive about community, elevating our team, and making a difference.

Emily Leonczyk
Emily Leonczyk

Emily Leonczyk

Executive Vice President 

emily@markens.com

A consummate and caring leader. A marketing powerhouse who stops at nothing to achieve results. A mentor, a dreamer, and a strategic thinker, Emily serves our clients with foresight and focus on every step on the path toward success.

For every client campaign she oversees, Emily aims to curate an experience that emotionally and strategically connects the audience to a brand, down to the smallest of details: How does a web page make a visitor feel? How does the paper selection for a newsletter add to the sensory experience? Emily’s fierce commitment to excellence demands a lot from her team, and she often pushes her colleagues out of their comfort zone, igniting their creativity. That’s another reason we value Emily: she’s committed to nurturing the growth of others.

Emily attributes her work ethic to growing up with an entrepreneurial father and two older brothers whose shenanigans taught her to stand up for herself. “If I put my mind to it, I can do it,” Emily says. The proof lies in the pudding––Emily’s leadership in rebranding clients has brought forth substantial growth in association membership, often engaging young professionals in the field, as well as bringing new clients on board. Outside of work, Emily similarly curates high-end experiences––albeit it culinary ones—for friends and family. Word on the street is that her daughter Sienna has become quite the little sidekick sous-chef. Talent clearly runs in the family!

Kristen Wing
Kristen Wing

 

Kristen Wing

Senior Account Manager

Kristen@markens.com

Brian Westerlind
Brian Westerlind

Brian

Brian Westerlind

Vice President Communications

bwesterlind@markens.com

Brian is a persuasive storyteller and an agile communicator. Creative and intuitive, his skillful use of language allows him to craft unique and consistent voices for our association and non-profit partners. A master of all things communications, Brian is known for his strategic messaging and thoughtful planning; he looks into the future, arming us with communication plans for the best-case scenario and any bumps along the way.

As our lead editor (Oxford comma, please!) and overseer of collaborative pieces, Brian has a knack for churning out consistently compelling content. “There’s so much behind-the-scenes work and thought that goes into our marketing and communication pieces,” he says. “Sometimes it can take days to find that one perfect word or phrase.” (Brian admits that his best ideas often come to him in the shower.) 

A balanced leader, Brian holds the team to the highest standards while infusing the workplace with a healthy dose of fun. His contagious laugh is a reliable destresser when the assignments pile up. Outside of work, Brian creates collage art, practices mindfulness, and crafts short stories––all of which confirm our theory that his creative mind truly knows no bounds.

Kate Smith
Kate Smith

Kate Smith

Vice President Operations

kate@markens.com

Focused. Dedicated. Driven. Kate Smith is a force to be reckoned with. As our VP of Operations, Kate’s go-the-extra-mile attitude ensures that all of our clients are happy and that our work has surpassed their expectations. Kate oversees the membership and event operations of every association we serve. She’s also our lead event planner. Ask attendees what makes our conferences so exceptional and you’ll hear about programming, community, and feeling welcomed with open arms. Kate is the driving force behind setting the bar so high. Her work ethic stems from her desire to make the world a better place. “I believe in spreading the widest influence for good and leading by example,” she says. “Our challenge is to improve our communities, both locally and globally, every day.” In her spare time, Kate volunteers at the Dakin Animal Shelter. Lucky are the furry friends who receive the attention Kate brings to everything she does.

Nancy Asche
Nancy Asche

Nancy Asche 

Meeting Coordinator

Nancy@markens.com