American Bankruptcy Institute

Executive Director

Client Overview

The American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI), located in Alexandria, VA, is conducting a search for its next Executive Director. With a revenue budget of nearly $9 million and a staff of around 35, ABI is the nation’s largest association of bankruptcy professionals, made up of over 10,000 members in multi-disciplinary roles, including attorneys, auctioneers, bankers, judges, lenders, professors, turnaround specialists, accountants and others. Sterling Martin Associates has been retained to assist with this search.

Founded in 1982, ABI plays a leading role in providing congressional leaders and the general public with non-partisan reporting and analysis of bankruptcy regulations, laws, and trends. ABI is committed to serving its members with high-quality conferences, comprehensive continuing education, effective legal research, and dynamic networking opportunities. ABI is engaged in numerous educational and research activities, as well as the production of a number of publications both for the insolvency practitioner and the dedicated to research and education on matters related to insolvency. 

For more information on ABI, please visit http://www.abi.org.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities

The Executive Director (ED) serves as the chief staff executive of the Association with full authority for the management of its affairs. The ED reports directly to Executive Committee (EC) of the Board of Directors and will be responsible for overall strategic management, administration, operation of headquarters and oversight of all staff. The ED will formulate recommendations and advise the Board regarding the affairs of the Association. Other key duties include interacting with ABI’s volunteer leaders and members, fundraising, marketing, and public outreach. The ED will implement Association policies as determined by the Board and help guide the organization’s strategy. Significant travel is required for the ED role.

Critical Competencies for Success

Leadership Competencies

  • Vision—Thinks in big-picture terms. Sees the whole picture and articulates that broad perspective with others to help create a common purpose that mobilizes people and coordinates their efforts.
  • Trust and Integrity—Is predictable, shares information and power, supports a culture of candor and supports others in their ability to generate trust. Acts by deeply held principles, professionally, ethically, and morally; a strong sense of right and wrong, an understanding that good ethics are good business; functions as a role model.
  • Participation and Community—Inspires people to get involved and pitch in with their knowledge, effort, and enthusiasm. Generates mutual commitment that inspires highest performance from those who work with him/her. Encourages others to support one another and function as a team.
  • Learning—Has self-understanding, understands their own strengths and shortcomings, promotes creativity and innovation, encourages people to refresh their skills and renew their commitment and enthusiasm. Takes initiative to stay current in appropriate areas including association management.
  • Diversity—Actively encourages and cultivates an appreciation of the positive aspects of people’s differences and encourages a culture of mutual individual respect.
  • Creativity—Pays close attention to people’s talents, leans on their strengths, manages around their weaknesses; encourages independent, challenging thinking.
  • Efficiency–Invests in technologies or practices that improve productivity of staff and volunteers
  • Credibility—Is recognized as an effective leader by staff, ABI leaders and members, leaders at related associations, and professional peers. Reflects the organization’s values.

Strategic Thinking Competencies

Organization Mission and Strategy: Works with EC, Board, and staff to ensure that the mission is fulfilled through programs, strategic planning, and community outreach. Responsibilities in this area include: implementation of ABI’s programs that carry out the organization’s mission, strategic planning to ensure that ABI can successfully fulfill its Mission into the future and enhancement of ABI’s image by being active and visible in the community, working closely with other professional, civic and private organizations.

Management Competencies

Organization Operations: Oversees and implements appropriate staff and technology resources to ensure that the operations of the organization are appropriate. The ED is responsible for the following areas: effective administration of ABI operations, hiring and retention of competent, qualified staff who understand and believe in ABI’s mission and are motivated to succeed as a team and signing all notes, agreements, and other instruments made and entered into and on behalf of the organization.


  • Assists the Board/Board Committees in developing an annual plan/program of work with corresponding budget that supports the strategic plan.
  • Tracks status of plans; recognizes when plans are off track; knows when to and can regroup effectively to accomplish goals despite unforeseen obstacles and/or provides timely recommendations to the Board/Board Committees for changes in approach.
  • Assists the Board/Board Committees in developing resources to support the implementation of the strategic plan.


  • Manages time and resources effectively to accomplish multiple objectives simultaneously.
  • Delegates tasks effectively.
  • Deals effectively with unknowns and risk; conceptualizes from ambiguous to specific information thereby helping to reduce risk to appropriate levels.
  • Effectively addresses the unexpected and the unplanned at an operational/tactical level.

Implementing & Initiating:  

  • Maintains focus on defined objectives; has good understanding and knowledge of projects underway, schedules, and progress made.
  • Anticipates problems and takes corrective action to keep projects on track. Sets high standards for organization, staff, and self.
  • Assists the Board/Board Committees to set appropriate performance outcomes and metrics for the strategic and annual plan/program of work.


  • Generates new ideas and/or builds on ideas of others to create change/innovation within the organization. Continuously seeks new ways, methods, and streamlined approaches to produce results. Free thinking; not bound by the organizational “box” in approaching new ways to solve problems.
  • Looks for opportunities for the organization to expand its influence and/or market.

Financial Management

Financial Performance and Viability: Develops resources sufficient to ensure the financial health of the organization. Responsible for the following areas: fiscal integrity of ABI, to include submission to the Executive Committee and Board of a proposed annual budget and monthly financial statements, which accurately reflect the financial condition of the organization, fiscal management that generally anticipates operating within the approved budget, ensures maximum resource utilization, and maintenance of the organization in a positive financial position. Assists Board/Board Committees in developing and maintaining appropriate reserves and reserve policies. Also, assists Board/Board Committees in working with experts to develop and maintain appropriate investment policies; implements investment policy.

Public Engagement

The ED serves as the face of ABI and is responsible for developing relationships with relevant contacts and committees on Capitol Hill. ABI serves as an independent resource and provides expert knowledge related to the bankruptcy and insolvency sectors. For example, the ABI Commission on Consumer Bankruptcy was created in December 2016 to research and recommend improvements to the consumer bankruptcy system. The Commission produced a report that provided recommended improvements to the consumer bankruptcy system, a resource that can be used regarding best practices by judges, trustees, and lawyers in the field.

Board Competencies

Board Governance: Works with the Board and other volunteer leaders in order to fulfill the organization’s mission. Responsible for the following area: leading ABI in a manner that supports and guides the organization’s mission as defined by the EC and Board of Directors, communicating effectively with the EC and Board and providing, in a timely and accurate manner, all information necessary for the EC and Board to function properly and to make informed decisions. Keeps President/Executive Committee informed of appropriate matters in a timely way; willing to convey negative information; provides succinct information with appropriate detail. Provides useful guidance/advice to assist the President/Executive Committee in making appropriate decisions. Supports and implements decisions made by President/Executive Committee. Diplomatically assists Board in considering potential officers, committee chairs, and other representatives in best interests of organization. Oversees the preparation of effective presentations for delivery by ABI’s Officers.

People Competencies

Proficient in developing and maintaining relationships:

  • Within ABI (e.g. Past Presidents, members, customers, existing and potential sponsors, suppliers/vendors, staff, and potential partners).


  • Selects best candidates for key staff positions; interviews, evaluates, and selects individuals for proper fit with organization, management philosophy, and ability to integrate with team approach.
  • Establishes effective standards related to duties and responsibilities of staff, including virtual staff.
  • Reviews direct reports and ensures other staff are periodically evaluated in a job-related manner consistent with job descriptions, performance outcomes as well as strategic and annual plans.
  • Recommends and establishes effective compensation plan and competitive benefit plans for ABI Staff, using appropriate salary surveys.
  • Ensures training of staff members under direct supervision and organization wide as evidenced by effectiveness of employees at assigned tasks.
  • Counsels employees regarding performance; ensures appropriate counseling of problem employees; documents difficulties; terminates without undue hesitation in the best interests of the organization involving experts as appropriate.
  • Encourages staff to pursue related higher/continuing education.
  • Assures staff members function effectively at Board and committee meetings and are informed and aware of their roles.

Communication Competencies

  • Effectively and professionally represents and promotes the Association with internal audiences and with external audiences such as related associations, governmental agencies.
  • Listens actively and generates effective two-way communication.
  • Prepares effective and timely written correspondence with Board and public.
  • Prepares and delivers effective presentations to the Board and other audiences.

Requisite Qualifications, Characteristics, and Experience

  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent from an accredited college or university (Law degree a plus)
  • Knowledge of bankruptcy law or insolvency sector
  • Ten or more years’ experience as a senior executive with a nonprofit association or other organizational management experience   
  • Experience in government relations a plus
  • Experience serving as a spokesperson for an organization
  • Transparent and high integrity leader
  • Strong business skills. Solid, hands-on, budget management skills, including budget preparation, analysis, decision-making and reporting
  • Strong organizational abilities including planning, delegating, program development and task facilitation
  • Ability to convey a vision of ABI’s strategic future to staff, Board, volunteers, and donors
  • Knowledge of fundraising strategies and donor relations unique to nonprofit sector
  • Skills to collaborate with and motivate Board members and other volunteers
  • Exceptional written and oral communication skills
  • Ability to interface and engage diverse volunteer and donor groups
  • Demonstrated ability to oversee and collaborate with staff
  • Strong public speaking ability
  • Certified Association Executive (CAE) certification a plus


A competitive compensation package will be offered to attract an outstanding candidate.

To apply, please send a cover letter and current résumé (Microsoft Word® format preferred) to [email protected]. A well-written cover letter, outlining how your experience fits the requirements of the position, will be an important factor in considering your candidacy.

ABI is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer committed to inclusion and cultural diversity in the workplace. Employment selection and related decisions are made without regard to sex, race, color, age, disability, religion, national origin, sexual preference, genetic information or any other protected class.


For more information, contact:

Sterling Martin Associates
1025 Connecticut Avenue | Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20036

David S. Martin | Managing Partner
[email protected]

Leigh Beal | Vice President, Executive Recruiting
[email protected]