Transitions and Strategic Alliances
By Ken May
It is my privilege and honor to introduce myself as president of the National Association of Fire Equipment Distributors for the next two-year term. Over the past ten years, I have served NAFED as a regional director, treasurer, executive committee member, and conference chair. I have been a fire equipment distributor for over thirty years and am currently general manager of the Cleveland/Akron, Ohio, operation of the Silco Fire Protection Company.
During my prior service I had the privilege to work with past presidents Rick Malady, John Gioseffi, Larry Angle, Darrell Hefley, and most recently the immediate past president, Clayton Norred. These gentlemen have set the bar quite high, but it is my endeavor to meet or exceed the requirements and expectations of the presidency.
For the past year I have been working with Clayton preparing for the transition from his term to mine. This is very important so as not to lose traction and momentum on key ongoing initiatives and projects. I was quite pleased to see that Clayton and I shared a similar vision for NAFED’s future and agreed on many current issues.
On behalf of NAFED and myself personally, I want to thank Clayton for his professional leadership and service as our past president. His class, charm, and wit will also be hard to follow, but he is not wandering off into the sunset just yet. He will continue to be a tremendous asset to our board as past president and executive committee member.
The Next Two Years
Now let’s talk about what I will be focusing on during my term. No, I’m not going to tackle world hunger or health care, but it is time for change.
Last fall the facilitator of NAFED’s strategic planning session asked the board of directors an interesting question: “Is it the board’s responsibility to represent your membership, or is it the board’s responsibility to represent the fire protection industry?” This was a very important question to consider as we went through the strategic planning session to map out our mission, goals, objectives, and action plans. The answer of course is “both.”
The board has a responsibility to assist members in improving their businesses as well as to represent the fire protection industry on a state and national level. As a result of the planning session we have rewritten our mission statement to read as follows: “NAFED’s mission is to contribute to our member’s success by improving their business performance, technical competence, and professional image in the fire protection industry.” This was the easy part.
In order to develop a strategic plan to contribute to our member’s success, we need to determine what our members’ needs are. The strategic planning committee knew that the majority of you, the distributor members, perform portable extinguisher and pre-engineered systems sales and service. We knew that over the years more and more of our members have added exit/emergency light sales/service, and some members added engineered and special hazard systems. What we didn’t know was to what level our distributor members participated in these other markets, so we sent out an online survey to find out. With approximately 20 percent of our membership responding, it validates the survey and the information gathered.
Not totally unexpected is that the survey results show that 100 percent of the respondents offer portable extinguisher service, 85 percent work with pre-engineered systems, and 83 percent offer exit/emergency light service. What is surprising, however, is that over 50 percent of respondents perform engineered system, special hazard, sprinkler, and fire alarm service and sales.
This information validated what many of us have suspected: the typical distributor member profile has changed over the years. Without losing sight of our member’s core business, we need to offer more technical, marketing, and sales training in these other markets. I believe one of the most effective ways we can accomplish this is by developing strategic alliances and partnerships with other fire protection industry associations that represent these specific markets, i.e., Fire Suppression Systems Association (FSSA), Automatic Fire Alarm Association (AFAA), and American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA), to name a few.
These alliances will give us the resources needed to better train our members in these more technical markets and can assist both partners of the alliance in promulgating industry codes and standards and advancing lobbying efforts when the need may arise.
NAFED Meetings with State Associations
Another project that we will be working on is the development of NAFED chapter or affiliate memberships for state associations. Prior to the Las Vegas and New Orleans conferences, meetings were held by the presidents of the various state fire equipment distributor associations. One of the purposes of these meetings was to discuss what support could be offered to the state associations.
The type of support needed by the associations differs as some are just starting the organization process while others have been in existence for years. As a result of these meetings, we are currently exploring the development of chapter and/or affiliate NAFED memberships for the state associations. This is a model used by other industry associations with great success for not only the members but also the industry. Significant effort will be required to effectively put together this type of program, and although I don’t have anything concrete to offer as of this writing, I will keep you posted.
Over the next two years I will do my very best to develop these strategic alliances and implement the action plans necessary to meet our goals and accomplish our mission. This task will be shared by board members, volunteers, the executive directors, and staff. I could not ask for a better team of qualified and dedicated members.
I also ask you, our members, to support the association by attending the conferences, purchasing our products and services, paying your dues on time, volunteering for board and committee positions, and most importantly, communicating your opinions and/or comments on what is working and what is not.
©2012 National Association of Fire Equipment Distributors, Firewatch! magazine June 2012. Reprinted with permission.