ABPM Founder

ABPM Founder Franklyn J. Thiebaud
January 2, 1928 – April 6, 2024

A Letter of Gratitude from ABPM Chairman, Roxanne McCreery

The ABPM community had only just finished celebrating the organization’s 30th anniversary at its annual spring conference in Santa Clara when we received the sad news that its founder, Franklyn Thiebaud, passed away on Saturday, April 6.  He was 96 years old.
Franklyn was one of the earliest senior managers of a Briefing Program, having managed the multi-center Xerox Executive Communication Program in the 1980s. He took early retirement in 1987 to launch his consulting firm, Thiebaud Associates.  His new company’s focus was on helping customer engagement programs — mainly briefing and seminar programs at that time — achieve the highest possible levels of excellence. An important cornerstone of those efforts was to quantify and communicate their effectiveness, which would result in stronger management buy-in and thus funding for next-step goals that would further strengthen and elevate their programs. 
A little context:  When Franklyn was at Xerox, a consulting firm approached him about doing a study to measure the contribution of his program. Like most briefing managers at that time, he didn’t believe it could be done. Sure, there was plenty of anecdotal evidence attesting to the value of briefings, but to quantify their contribution seemed unlikely, if not impossible. The simple answer, explained the consultants, was to ask the customers who attended briefings.  The results of that study were so profoundly impressive that Franklyn became a champion of, and an expert in the field of, measuring the effectiveness of customer engagements.
Under the Thiebaud Associates umbrella, then, Franklyn conducted the first benchmarking study on the “Effectiveness of Executive Briefings” in 1991. Several programs participated in that primary research in which customers of briefings were contacted by telephone and asked a series of questions about their visits. In those days, attending a briefing was a singular experience for most businesspeople. For one thing, very few programs existed … and those were at iconic companies such as Xerox, IBM, Microsoft, Apple, EDS, Dell, AT&T, and a few others. The customers who attended were typically high-level executives who traveled to headquarter campuses to meet with the host company’s C-Suite executives. It was such a unique and memorable experience that those customers were happy to share their outcomes with telephone interviewers who asked them questions such as: Were their business relationships strengthened? Did they purchase solutions that were discussed? Did they purchase more than they otherwise would have? Were their purchase cycles shortened?
The results of that first study were powerful, and Franklyn proudly read them out at what was the first-ever gathering of briefing professionals. That meeting took place at the Infomart in Dallas in October, 1991. Twenty-seven amazed people attended. Were they impressed by the results of the study? Of course! Were they as enthralled with the overhead slides as Franklyn was? (The slides were in color, a labor-intensive process that had involved exacto knives.) Probably. But what most excited them was meeting each other. They didn’t know that there were other people who had similar jobs, with similar challenges needing similar solutions. They didn’t know that there were other people who “spoke the same language,” as they said. And they realized, in that meeting, that there was real value in the creative collaborations that were happening — and that would continue to happen — whenever they came together.
And so, over the next 3 years, as the research became an annual effort, and the October readouts became increasingly important to attendees, they asked Franklyn to form an association. The first ABPM Spring Conference was held 30 years ago, in the spring of 1994, in San Francisco.
Franklyn served as ABPM’s President for 3 years. During that time, he was an inspirational leader who had a deep knowledge of the profession and was a trusted mentor and teacher to his team and to many members of ABPM.  Spring Conferences were highly anticipated and became our largest annual events. The October benchmarking study read-outs evolved into a smaller-format workshop series, where various relevant topics were taught, and a presentation of the annual research results continued for many years. 
During his time as president, Franklyn laid a strong foundation for the young organization. One of his most important contributions to the emerging profession was to set down the early iterations of ABPM’s most important white paper:  The Characteristics of a World Class Program.  The document was, and is, a testament to Franklyn’s exacting standards and serves as a road map to achieving the highest levels of excellence for young and mature programs alike. When Elizabeth Simpson joined the ABPM team in 2000, she brought with her the idea of launching an awards program. The Advisory Board was enthusiastic. One of them said, “Well, we have our criteria in The Characteristics of a World Class Program!”
Most of all, Franklyn was a natural and inspiring leader whose very essence served as a role model to those of us who were fortunate enough to know and work with him. He had the rare ability to be fiercely detail-oriented (which spoke to his high standards) and, at the same time, to be a highly strategic visionary. His own core values, which he lived by both professionally and personally, shaped those of the organization he founded. He was a steadfastly upright and honorable man with a true passion for the work you do in your programs every day. He believed in your profession … and he believed in you. 
At his memorial service, his beautiful family got to the heart of Franklyn’s being with their wonderful stories that spoke to his dedication, values, innate leadership, love for family, faith, service, commitment to excellence, and so much more. As Elizabeth and I were leaving, she said, “so many of Franklyn’s qualities are inherent in what our members do.”  That is so true. In Franklyn Thiebaud you have strong and good-to-the-core ABPM DNA!
Franklyn J. Thiebaud is survived by Betty, his beloved wife of 72 years, four children, 10 grandchildren, and 10 great grandchildren.