The strength of any best-practices industry organization is the quality of volunteer leadership it attracts.

And one of the staples behind the continued upward trajectory of the Association of Independent Manufacturers/Representatives is the top-notch individuals it has going through the various chairs on its Executive Committee. AIM/R currently features seven positions on its Executive Committee and nine individuals with director roles.

“In the past in other trade groups I’ve seen the wrong candidates get elevated to lead for the wrong reasons and nothing will kill a group faster,” says Bill Freeman, of Orlando, Fla.-based Spirit Group and a former AIM/R president. “Recent AIM/R boards have worked hard, so we’re on a very good track with a strong board in place. It’s important future boards continue to enlist the best among us to lead our association.”

Freeman and other rep executives contacted for this story stress volunteering for a board position must be done for the right reasons. “You must have a passion for what we do and what AIM/R is all about,” says Rick Root, of Seattle-based Bailey Sales and the current AIM/R senior vice president and host of the 2017 annual conference. “You have to be all about the membership and how we keep moving forward together.”

Freeman notes being on the AIM/R board requires a time and sometimes resource commitment. “It’s important we continue to have strong leaders who have been successful and want to give back to our industry to enhance our professionalism as well as improve communication and collaboration within our supply chain,” he says.

Alan Guidish, president of Hermitage, Pa.-based Preferred Sales Inc., and also a former AIM/R president, says his time on the Ex-Com was an eye-opening experience. “I got the opportunity to work with and have conversations with the brightest minds in the business, board people and AIM/R members,” he says. “My time on the board was extremely rewarding — just listening to some of these conversations about business and the vision these folks have. I miss that aspect.”

Pete Lewnes, Preferred Sales’ CEO and also a former AIM/R president, calls the association’s board setup worthy of a college case study because of its successes over the years. “It’s the proper way to grow an organization,” he says. “These reps have gone through the chairs over the years and have used their talents to help augment this organization. Through networking, they brought in even more talent that has been a real springboard and has taken things to the next level. When all these young agents see AIM/R as a dynamo organization, it’s a byproduct of how the people before them paid a big price to get this thing done properly and be a positive factor in the industry.”

Root says being part of the AIM/R leadership is not about individual accolades. “This isn’t about Rick Root or Charlie Parham (Pepco Sales and AIM/R’s senior VP industry and public relations) or Stew Chaffee (Rich-Tompkins Co., and AIM/R’s chairman). It’s about the common interests of our membership. As a volunteer, we have a fiduciary responsibility to covet, protect and advocate for the membership.”

And as current AIM/R President Tim Morales (Alabama-based Tim Morales and Associates) points out, that responsibility also includes upholding and advancing the role of the independent rep. “For decades the independent manufacturers rep channel has been the fastest, least expensive and ultimately the most effective path to market,” he says. “At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of AIM/R leadership to make certain this never changes nor is the fact lost in the whirlwind.”

Michael Hobbs, of Florida-based Carr Co. and also AIM/R’s VP of finance, notes his involvement in AIM/R is a chance to return the favor. “One of the biggest benefits is giving back to the industry,” he says. “For my agency and my family, this has been a great industry and it’s given us a lot. Now, I have the opportunity to give back to the industry and pay it forward.”


This article was originally titled “Giving back” in the June 2017 print edition of Supply House Times.