The Campbell Report
Following the 2005 ICCF Congress in Villa
La Angostura Neuquen, Argentina the question was, "Who
is Michael Millstone?" When there was no candidate to fill
the vacant Financial Director position on the Executive Board
he stepped forward and offered his services. As the ICCF-U.S.
archivist I've worked with him in his position as a tournament
director in the USA championships. But, along with others, I
didn't really know him. I took this opportunity to invite him
to do an interview to introduce him to the ICCF community and
was delighted when he instantly agreed. Following is the result
of this email interview.
-- J. Franklin Campbell
of IM Michael Millstone (USA)
ICCF Financial Director &
Direct Entry Coordinator
by J. Franklin Campbell
(posted 6 November 2005)
- What is your background with ICCF? What volunteer work
have you done for ICCF in the past? What are your goals as
a player? I understand you will be playing in an upcoming
Olympiad on the USA team.
Even as a child I was always interested in chess, but
never really considered it more than a passing hobby until
I graduated from high school. I joined the United States
Chess Federation (USCF), and played a few OTB tournaments
but quickly discovered that I don't have the patience
to sit across a table for hours on end. Correspondence
chess seemed a natural fit for me. I tried a section or
two through USCF but soon desired the international experience
and flavor that ICCF provides. I'm not exactly sure when
I joined ICCF, but the 8+ shoeboxes of postal cards attest
to my consistent play over the years.
When I started playing correspondence chess some 25 years
ago, my goals were to achieve an IM title. I received
that in 2003. At this year's Congress, when I was introduced
to George Pyrich, it was explained to me that he was instrumental
in the creation of the SIM Title. I jokingly cursed him
for that. Let me explain - having achieved my lifetime
goal of IM, I figured I could sit back, relax, and truly
enjoy my chess games without worrying about achieving
norms and titles. There is no chance I would ever get
close to a GM title, so I was in a comfort zone. Now the
SIM title was created and there may be a possibility ….
ever so small, but now it is back to the grindstone. I
do have one SIM norm and am struggling to get the last
point I need in Chessfriends Rochade 5171 - 15th Year
Unfortunately, my last two opponents are incredibly strong.
One of them, Angel Acevedo was awarded the Grandmaster
Title at this year's Congress and has a slightly superior
position. I was pleased to be on hand for his award and
congratulate him warmly. I considered the DMD, but he
appears very fit and I feel I would fall first.
Perhaps it is just me, but I am still
humbled to be in the company of Grandmasters - their accomplishments
are quite inspiring. Maybe it takes another 25 years to
get a SIM Title, maybe with all my new duties, I'll never
achieve it - but the journey is worthwhile.
I was honored to play in my first Olympiad (OLYMPIAD
XV - Preliminaries - Section 2) for the U.S. and am looking
forward to joining with fellow teammates in this year's
17th. I love the notion of team competition and welcome
the opportunity to joust with fellow chess players.
- What is your personal situation, i.e. what is your job,
age, marital status, where do you live, anything special you
can tell us to give us a better understanding of just who
Michael Millstone is and what kind of a guy is he?
I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. My parents loved
to travel and frequently took me and my two brothers on
many trips around the world. I believe that contributed
to my global perspective.
All I ever wanted to do was fly airplanes.
All the money I earned from odd jobs while growing up
went towards flying lessons. On my 18th birthday, I took
the examinations for Commercial Pilot with single, multi-engine,
instrument, and instructor endorsements. My intentions
were to fly for the airlines. Unfortunately, a small medical
setback prevented me from being granted the top medical
certificate needed and I was forced to redirect my career.
Still wanting to be around airplanes, I enlisted in the
United States Air Force, where for my entire career (until
retirement), I was involved in Space and Satellite Systems
(think of satellites as airplanes flying really high and
The Air Force was wonderful, taking me all over the world
on business and pleasure. I have had the opportunity to
live and work on 6 of the world's seven continents and
if Dinand starts to do some real work, perhaps I'll get
my 7th. Personal note: I met Dinand Knol at this year's
congress and am grateful for all his patience and education
he provided me. In turn, he got to call home (al la ET)
and chat with his family using my satellite phone.
Anyhow, after I retied from the Air Force I continued
with various positions also in the Space and Satellite
career field with one brief stint outside the norm - I
like to call it a "Career Sabbatical."
After the dot com crash in the late 1990s,
my wife and I moved to Las Vegas where I took up several
positions in the casino industry - finally ending up as
a casino supervisor. I was always fascinated with the
industry and wanted to learn it firsthand - from the inside.
A truly invigorating experience, but also with its downfalls,
so after three years I returned to my original career
field and a position in Virginia.
While at Congress, I found out my wife had just purchased
a house for us in Leesburg, Virginia (about 50 km northwest
of Washington D.C.). So, for as long as we are here, if
you are traveling through the Washington D.C. area, please
look us up. I am a BBQ fanatic and have an oversized BBQ
that is usually on at least 6 days a week, rain, snow,
My wife Debbie and I have been married for 15 wonderful
years next June. We both enjoy reading, and traveling,
listening to music, and many sports. In the past, we were
both addicted to Volksmarching and while living in Germany
we really took advantage of the many events and walked
lots. Most weekends, I would usually walk one or two marathons
(52km) and was really getting into shape. Sadly, there
are not as many events in the U.S. and I have a list of
excuses that prevent me from enjoying this sport more.
- What is your background and experience that qualifies
you for the work of a Financial Director? Do you have educational
and/or work experience in this area?
Well, educational wise - I believe I'm qualified. I have
a Master's Degree in Business with majors in both Finance
and Accounting, and am currently pursuing (about 68% complete)
a PhD in Business with a specialty in organizational management.
I have also taught business and investment courses at
the college level.
Experience wise - perhaps less since my
chosen career field isn't necessarily aligned with accounting
and finance. However, as a manager for more than 15 years,
I have supervised many sections and work groups including
financial planning and budget responsibilities. In two
different companies, I have had sole responsibility and
authority for annual working budgets of over $1 million
- You have taken the additional position as Direct Entry
coordinator. John Knudsen has described this as a full-time
job. Do you anticipate being able to perform both jobs, or
will you be recruiting additional people to help you? I believe
John is already acting as a consultant, based on his work
as the former DE director, but perhaps you have other people
also lined up to help.
Notwithstanding all politics and opinions surrounding
the Direct Entry (DE) program, I note two things: 1) it
was approved by Congress, and 2) I think it is critical
to recruit new chess players to ICCF.
I view the DE program as one of the major responsibilities
of the Finance Director (FD) and how it is ultimately
setup and managed will certainly be my responsibility.
John has done an incredible amount of work and has provided
me excellent opinions and recommendations. John and I
have spoken several times and it will be his decision
how and to what extent (if any) he wants to continue in
the future. John is an example of one of the many tireless
volunteers who has given more than expected to make ICCF
function as great as it does.
I have already had some excellent qualified people volunteer
to help and shortly I'll be forming a DE working group
to implement the DE program. My thinking is that some
(many) of the things that John was having to do manually
could be integrated into the web pages and performed automatically.
Along with that, I've been actively searching for reasonable
payment systems and am meeting with several bank managers
to look into merchant accounts and explore payment methods
in multiple currencies.
Another idea I'm toying with (and will be running this
by the Marketing and Public Relations Commissioner) is
possibly tying some elements of the DE program into both
offices. Since we are targeting new members, perhaps we
can do more than facilitate their entry into a couple
of tournaments. We want them involved in more tournaments
and to get affiliated with their National Federations.
Perhaps a periodic automatically generated e-mail from
the President or National federation thanking them for
participating and offering suggestions and directions
for joining or future participation. Just some random
thoughts on the long flight home.
- How did you get involved with Ruth Ann and the financial
work you did for ICCF before Congress?
About three years ago, I was inclined to start giving
back to this wonderful organization. I had contacted Ruth
Ann and chatted with her about different ways I could
help either my federation and/or ICCF. She suggested a
start in directing tournaments and referred me to several
organizers. Since then, I have been directing some Thematic
Tournaments for Leonardo Madonia (who runs the excellent
Thematic Tournaments office) and Master Norm tournaments
for Daniel Finkelstein as the Title Tournaments Commissioner.
I added some Team Captain duties as well and was looking
for a bit more.
When John announced his resignation from the DE position,
I thought this might be an excellent opportunity to step
up even more. I expressed my desire at first as a Direct
Entry Assistant with the caveat that if anyone else was
interested in the position, I would gladly assist him
or her. Ruth Ann accepted my offer and told me she would
relay that to the EB. In the meantime, she began sending
me some general and background information so I could
be more prepared for the duties.
- Apparently you were not nominated for office, but given
the lack of candidates you stepped forward and volunteered
during Congress. Can you give us the real story of what happened?
Why did you decide to commit yourself to such an important
and time-consuming job? I've heard conflicting reports about
whether or not you had already volunteered for the job before
Continuing from the previous question, although early
in 2005 I was ready to start working on some DE issues,
I invariably ran into situations where the FD needed to
make a decision. Of course, you all know what happened
there. So, until Congress, I continued to read, correspond,
and formulate some initial plans of how to successfully
revitalize the DE program.
In late summer, I guess Ruth Ann realized that the finances
weren't going to get finalized for Congress so she started
to delve into the matters of collecting, preparing, and
transitioning all the books to the new FD. By the time
nominations were due and nobody had volunteered, panic
started to slowly set in. That was when Ruth Ann suggested
I should consider attending Congress.
So I started to do the research and as many of you realized,
this was no easy trip to plan. Although I must say that
the organizers did a great job of attending to many of
the transportation and logistics details - making the
journey much smoother.
My initial intentions were to attend, meet and interface
with as many people as possible. By attending, this would
allow me to evaluate the DE position better and understand
the expectations of the Member Federations. Never did
I think for one moment that no one would step up to assume
the responsibility of such an important position of Finance
Little did I know that if nobody volunteers, the EB can
nominate anybody. I had toyed with the idea and briefly
discussed the possibility with several delegates including
Ruth Ann and Max, I never considered the remaining sequence
of events possible. Thomas Edison was once quoted, "Opportunity
is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls
and looks like work." And here it was staring me in the
Max submitted my nomination, I was asked to provide a
verbal CV which I did, then the delegates voted and I
was chosen. From my perspective, the entire process was
over in about 3 nanoseconds. And while there was some
consternation later from some people, my view is twofold:
1) Ruth Ann has (and still is) performing a tremendous
and time-consuming service of retrieving and recreating
the books to have financial reports in time for Congress.
No one asked her to do this and her acknowledgement of
the problem and selfless devotion to ICCF to fix the situation
is even more admirable. Add to this that her duties as
NAPZ Zonal Director and it becomes almost overwhelming.
2) I didn't notice anybody stepping up to the plate (an
old American baseball saying) to assist Ruth Ann and I
didn't see any nominations for FD. Since I couldn't do
the DE job effectively without direction and input from
the FD, and no one wanted the position … and here we are
- I was excited to see that you actually attended Congress
this year. This indicates a high level of interest and commitment
to the future of ICCF, given the time and money you spent
to be there. Why did you go all the way to Argentina to attend
this Congress? Was this your first Congress?
This was my first Congress in person. I felt it was necessary
to demonstrate a commitment to the Member Federation that
I was serious about accepting responsibility. Plus, I
was completely selfish. Here was an opportunity to visit
a fabulous country, represent my country, and meet two
world champions and the honorary ICCF president. Well,
I got two out of the three and I'm sure I'll meet up with
Alan at some opportunity. I was saddened at Med not being
able to attend, but we have communicated already and we
may even get together at some time before next congress.
Even better was to meet some of the sharpest minds and
tireless people who do so much for ICCF, often behind
the scenes. I don't want to name names for fear of excluding
anyone, but just being around these people would give
anybody the inspiration to do more for this organization.
- Though I'm sure there is still much work to do, what
are your preliminary conclusions about the financial status
I'm going to hold off on offering an opinion of the financial
status other than what was offered at Congress. Ruth Ann
is going to continue to work the books and try to get
an accurate end of 2004 audited report. Then we will be
working the 2005 end-of-year invoices and hopefully achieve
a smooth transition towards the end of this year or early
This might be a good place to provide my business sense
and rough plans of conducting business. I am going to
run this office very much like a business, mindful of
costs and efficiencies with two basic premises: 1) I am
very process oriented - meaning that I don't like a lot
of ad hoc process and procedures. I (and the various groups
I form) will define and implement processes for most (if
not all) things we do. This allows for consistency in
execution, accurate measurements, and visibility into
activities. As I'm a big proponent of continuous improvement,
having sound processes in place allows improvements to
happen. Plus, it also allows for a smoother or seamless
transition when officials change. 2) Customer focused
- from my position I recognize three customers - a) first
is my boss, Med. Med needs to have the vision and provide
the direction. My responsibility is to follow his lead,
provide him with all the necessary information for him
to do his job successfully, and basically, make him look
good, b) The Executive Board. The EB provides focus and
oversight. From my perspective, nothing I do should be
invisible to the EB, and c) The Member Federations (through
their appointed delegates) - my real customers.
To me, communications is one of the most vital elements
of success in this type of organization. To that effect,
I'm working on a comprehensive communication plan that
will address the following four parts:
- What information should be disclosed?
- Who receives this information?
- How often?
- Via what method?
I was reminded that some financial information needs
to remain somewhat confidential; however, I think this
will need to be defined and published in the overall communications
- I'm not clear on the purpose of auditing the annual financial
reports. Could you clarify what this process is and how it
affects your work?
Proper oversight is essential to me. I
don't want to work in a vacuum and my customers should
expect (they should demand) that proper auditing and safeguards
are documented and in place. Everyone should feel secure
about our financial state at any time. My goal in 2006
is to put such measures in place to successfully quash
any financial crisis rumors (unless they really exist).
I will be reviewing the current audit procedures and
will provide any recommendations for improvement to the
EB. I'm also considering the establishment of a financial
investment committee under the FD office to separately
evaluate, recommend, and measure investment performance
of ICCF funds.
- Do you have any final words for the readers who are anxious
to learn something about you?
Although I have an overall perspective of the role and
responsibilities I'm faced with, I will continue to learn
and educate myself on the nuances of the job. I'm thankful
for all those who have expressed confidence in me and
will work hard to meet your expectations of the FD.
One last thing - in regards to the TCCMB.
Although I think it is a wonderful forum for the exchange
of thoughts, opinions, and ideas, I will probably excuse
myself from getting embroiled in discussions through that
format. I will periodically read interesting threads as
it will probably present itself many excellent ideas and
possibilities for improvements. Please don't be offended
if I don't respond to the board. If you want to offer
any suggestions, ideas, or questions specifically related
to the FD office (preferably of the constructive nature),
please e-mail me directly. Many of you have my personal
e-mail address and I should get an ICCF one shortly.
If you have gotten this far, my many thanks for all the
support I have received and I look forward to serving
all of you in terms of excellent service.
Warmest Regards and Amici Sumus,
ICCF Finance Director
Direct Entry Administrator
International Correspondence Chess Master
Overall Good Guy (or so says my wife)
2005 J. Franklin Campbell, All Rights Reserved.